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.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Marathon Number Six - Week Five

Week five of the training plan looks like this:

Sunday, Rest or cross training
Monday, Lactate threshold 9M w/5M @ HMP
Tuesday, Recovery 5M
Wednesday, General aerobic 10M
Thursday, Rest or cross training
Friday, Recovery 5M
Saturday, Long run 16M w/10M @ MP


Weight: 177

Health: Fair. More back pain than usual and I have developed an open sore on the top of one of my toes.


Sunday - Because I took Saturday as a rest day, I needed to get in a few miles.  I ran 5 in the neighborhood.  The first four easy and the last one at marathon pace.

Monday - This workout is not one that I look forward to, 9 miles with the last 5 at half marathon pace.  I'm typically nervous going into these and will spend the warm-up miles convinced that I won't be able to hit my paces when the time comes to speed up.  I don't think I've ever done a tempo run where I didn't hit my paces, but that doesn't stop me from trying to psych myself out of it.  I feel pretty good about the run, although I have my doubts about my ability to actually hold that pace for 13.1 miles.  I thought about that a few times when I was running it, but I just kept telling myself "fake it til you make it".  Here are my splits:

Tuesday - Just an easy paced five miler on campus.  The weather wasn't quite as warm as I expected so I was a bit under-dressed wearing just shorts, a long sleeve tech shirt and a light sweatshirt. I briefly thought about heading to the gym and running on the treadmill but decided to stick it out. It wasn't too bad as long as I stayed in the sun so I opted to run the one mile loop three times instead of going out to to the one mile walking trail.  The trail is lined with trees and I love the shade it provides in the summer months, but not so much on days like that one.

Wednesday - The workout for the day was ten miles at easy pace or what Pfitzinger refers to as a "General Aerobic run."  I joined a couple of guys from work after running a couple warm-up miles on my own.  One of the guys said he didn't have much going on in the office so he ran the last 8 miles with me which was very nice.  We stuck to running on campus and chatted about running, the FDA, running and a little bit of pop culture (past and present) and also running.

By chance, I happened to glance at my yearly mileage total over on the right side of the screen.  At the time the number was 1430.  I try not to get too caught up in that sort of thing, but 1430 is pretty close to 1500 and 1500 is a nice round number. So I took a look at my training plan and, if my math is right, calculated that I will have 1498 miles for the year if I stick exactly to my plan. I would probably get the extra miles just by running over a little here and there for the next 10 days but no need to chance it.  I'll have to pick up a couple miles on one of my rest days.

Thursday - Of course the best weather of the week shows up on my rest day!  It was sunny and in the low 50's so I got out and jogged a couple miles to take it in.  Now, as long as I stick to the plan, I'll hit exactly 1500 miles for the year.

Friday - I took the day off of work for the upcoming Christmas weekend and jogged a nice five mile recovery run.

Saturday - I lost a lot of sleep worrying about the MP run that was scheduled for this day.  In the end, the weather just wouldn't cooperate.  So I bagged the 16 miler and just ran 7 at easy pace through my neighborhood.  I pushed the the 16 miler off to Monday.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Marathon Number Six - Week Four

Week four of training looks like this:

Sunday, Medium Long Run 14M
Monday, General aerobic + speed 8M w/ 10x100m strides
Tuesday, Recovery 5M
Wednesday, General aerobic 10M
Thursday, Rest or cross training
Friday, Recovery 4M
Saturday, Medium-long run 15M


Weight: 177

Health: Good overall. My right Piriformis is still sore but manageable


Sunday - My training plan has me doing all my long runs on Saturday and taking Sunday as a rest day.  However, I really wanted to run with my friends Linda and Jesse this weekend as I haven't been able to run with them for several weeks now.  The only way that was going to work was for me to switch my long run to Sunday, so I did.  Linda organized an informal group run with our local running club (The Frederick Steeplechasers) so we got to enjoy the company of a few other runners which was a nice treat.  It's always good when you have a group to run and chat with to pass the time.  We met at the Frederick fairgrounds and planned to follow the Frederick Running Festival half marathon course.  The weather was cold and we even had an unexpected dusting of snow to surprise us!  We ended up having a group of six for the first 7(ish) miles and then five of us ran the whole thing.  Due to a little logistical error we ran long and wound up with 14.3 on the day. That was fine with me because I had 14 on my schedule anyway.  No one else complained too loudly.

All in all, it was a nice run with good company.   Afterward I went home and had pancakes and eggs. A great way to start a Sunday morning!

Monday - Because I had run long the day before, I decided to skip doing the strides at the end of this workout.  I just ran 8 at recovery pace and called it good.

Tuesday - I had a nice, relaxing 5 miler with a couple people at work.  There are a few groups that meet up to run together on campus. This group is organized by a guy named Chuck on the opposite end of campus from me and they typically run 3 or 4 miles at lunch.  Chuck is usually up to adding a mile or two when I want to go longer but I was able to get an early start and ran a little over a mile before I met up with them.

After work Cindi and I hit the fitness center at work.  Cindi used the eliptical machine and I did some upper body stuff and my PT exercises.  After that I stretched and used the foam roller.  Because of all that, I was pretty hungry and slipped up big time after dinner with a piece of chocolate mousse cheesecake.  This is why my weight won't budge.

Wednesday - I met up with Chuck and another guy, Dave at work to get in my 10 miler.  They weren't planning to run as long as I was but I thought having some company for at least part of the run would be nice.  We were joined a couple miles into the run by another runner, Kathryn.  I ended up having company for 8 of my 10 miles.

I set my Garmin for "other workout" so I could use it as a timer at the gym Tuesday night and forgot to switch it back.  I ran the first mile with it set like that and reset it when I met up with Chuck and Dave.  If you look at my log (links are over on the right side of the page) you'll see a 1 mile run and 9 mile run; that's why.

Sometimes I don't like running with other people.  I'm something of an introvert and carrying on a conversation with people I don't know very well can be stressful to me.  However, I have enjoyed my group runs a lot lately.  It's nice to hear other people's opinions on the world and the conversation is a nice distraction when you have a lot of miles to run.  I have run just about everywhere there is to run on campus and in the surrounding neighborhoods so the thrill of discovering a new route is non-existent at this point.  So when faced with the choice between running the same boring loops around campus alone or having some company along the way to help pass the time, I'm leaning more toward the latter.  Most of the people in the group run their easy pace a little slower than I do, so that's a bonus too.  We averaged 9:00 on this run, which is about 30 seconds slower than my usual pace. My legs felt great the next day.

Thursday - A rest day! Just in time for the cold front to move in with 30 MPH winds.  No running or cardio on the schedule.

Friday - Because the weather forecast for the weekend was pretty ugly, I decided to do my long run Friday.  I took the day off of work and ran 15 miles through my neighborhood.  The starting temperature was 18 degrees and it didn't warm up much from there.

The development I live in isn't that big and most of the roads leading in and out are too dangerous to run on. That makes long runs close to home very dull, with lots of running up and down cul-de-sacs.  I wrote on Facebook afterward that the best thing I could say about that run was it was over and that about sums it up.

Saturday - Cookie making and drinking. Enough said.  I ate and drank too much but I don't regret it at all!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Marathon Number Six - Week Three

Week three of training looks like this:

Sunday, Rest or cross training
Monday, General aerobic 10M
Tuesday, Recovery 4M
Wednesday, Lactate threshold 8M w/4M @ HM pace
Thursday, Rest or cross training
Friday, Recovery 4M
Saturday, Medium long run 14M


Weight: 180

Health: Other than being fatigued, I feel OK.  Piriformis is holding steady.


Sunday - Grocery store, decorating for Christmas and football.

Monday - 10 miles of General Aerobic running.  My heart wasn't in it, but I got it done.  I took Copper with for the first slow mile then dropped him off and worked my way through the neighborhood a couple times.

Tuesday - 4 miles on the treadmill because it was raining.  I was supposed to run it at recovery pace but I hate running on the TM and ended up bumping the speed up so I could get it overwith.  8:15 avg pace.

Wednesday - I ran this one at work.  I did the first 4 at easy pace and headed over to the loop that is not quite a mile and did the HM pace workout there.  I think I ran this too fast but I didn't struggle much holding the pace and wasn't sore or overly fatigued afterward so maybe I did it right.  HM splits were 7:25, 7:13, 7:19, 7:18.

Thursday - Rest day.  I didn't so much in the way of cross training aside from push-ups. The office Christmas party was this day.  I ate way too much as usual but made up for it with a light dinner.

Friday - I'm proud of this little 4 mile recovery run because I was disciplined and kept my pace where it belonged, 8:38 avg pace.

Saturday - I pushed my long run to Sunday so I could join my training buddies for a change.  So instead of running I rode the indoor bike for an hour and then took Copper for a 1.5 mile walk.  I also did two sets of 30 push-ups.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Marathon Number Six - Week Two.

Week two of training looks like this:

Sunday, Rest or cross training
Monday, General aerobic + speed 8M w/ 10x100m strides
Tuesday, Rest or cross training
Wednesday, General aerobic 10M
Thursday, Rest or cross training
Friday, Recovery 5M
Saturday, Medium-long run 13M w/8M @ MP


Weight: Still 179. At least I made it through Thanksgiving week without getting any fatter.

Health: Both Piriformis muscles are sore.  Stretching helps.


Sunday - Scheduled rest day from running.  I did one set of stretches for the Piriformis, some push-ups (2 sets of 30) and went for a slow 3 mile jog with Cindi and Copper. We drove down to Little Bennett Park and hit the trail.

Of the three of us, Copper easily had the most fun.  He trots along beside us with his doggy grin on display as if there is nothing in the world he enjoys more.  As problematic as he can be at home, when we are out he is very obedient.  When other people are on the trail, he falls in beside me without needing to be told.  I always place myself between him and other people or dogs that are on the trail and he knows that he isn't allowed to go say hi.  For the most part, he shows no interest in other people but he will sometimes show interest in other dogs.  Occasionally I will have to remind him to heal but that isn't necessary very often.

When we get home he is typically more affectionate than normal for about an hour or so.  I guess dogs get an endorphin buzz from running just like people do.  Unfortunately the buzz doesn't last and he eventually reverts to his anxious self.

Monday - This workout is challenging.  I ran seven miles at relaxed pace and then did the strides.  By the time I was half way through I was pretty well spent.  It's difficult to focus on proper form after you reach the point of exhaustion. I tried.

Tuesday - This was a scheduled rest day (SRD) from running.  I was grateful for that because it was raining steadily most of the day.  On my lunch break I jogged over to the covered picnic area on campus to do my PT exercises.  I'll try to describe those:

The first exercise is to stand on one foot about a 18 inches away from a picnic table.  Bending at the knee, you extend the raised foot behind you in a straight line while you reach out and touch the bench of the picnic table with your hand. I do two sets of 20.

The next exercise is simply to stand on one leg and slowly sit on the bench.  The idea is to do it slowly and in a controlled way.  I do two sets of 10.

In between those sets I do push-ups and crunches.  I did 80 push-ups and 50 crunches.

After work I went to the gym with Cindi.  I did some stretches but got bored while waiting for her to finish her workout so I ran 2 miles on the Treadmill.

Wednesday - This is the dreaded mid-week "medium long" run.  I don't know if everyone dreads these, but I do.  Trying to carve out 90 minutes to run on a weekday is tough.  This time of year, with such little day light, it gets harder to make it work.  For me, the choice is either get it done before work or on my lunch break.  I don't run after work very often.  The weather forecast for today made the choice easier; rain early but clearing skies by lunch time.  So I took a long lunch to run and will make up the extra 40 minutes at the end of the day.

The run itself was OK.  I've run around campus so many times that I know the distance between most areas by heart.  Since I don't really care for running in circles, the challenge is to find a route that doesn't repeat too many times.  I struggled with some mental fatigue and kept second guessing my route.

Should I do the walking trail twice?  I hate the walking trail, it's hilly and the pavement is in terrible shape.  Maybe I'll just go do the one mile loop out on New Hampshire Avenue a bunch of times? Then I won't have to think about it.  I hate doing loops, screw that.  etc, etc...

Those inner conversations can be maddening after a while.  That's one of the reasons I enjoy running on the towpath so much.  For a 10 mile run I run 5 miles out and then turn around.  Zero thinking about the route which leaves me more time to obsess over my pace and other shit that doesn't matter.

Thursday - Scheduled rest day.  I actually rested for once. The only cross training I did was push-ups.

Friday - My Friday recovery run was decent.  I tried to mix it up by hitting some parts of campus that I don't usually run. More for a change of scenery than anything else.  I was thinking about the workout that was on the schedule for Saturday and made a real effort to keep my pace slow and relaxed. I ran the last mile a little faster than I wanted to but my average pace was 8:35.

Saturday - The workout for this day was to run 13 miles with the last 8 at marathon pace (MP).  I'm not sure how you are supposed to know what MP is so early in the training cycle.  I know what I would LIKE my marathon pace to be (7:50) but I don't know how realistic that is at this point in time.  I have run a marathon faster than that, but that was two years ago and I was in better shape than I am right now.  I wasn't sure what my true MP was, but I decided I would shoot for 7:50 and be happy if my average was anything under 8:00. MP workouts make me very nervous.  I woke up a couple times the night before thinking about this one.

I opted to do this workout on the C&O Canal towpath. This should come as no surprise to anyone because it's my favorite place to run. I decided to park at Noland's Ferry and run 2.5 miles upstream, then return back to my car so I could take in an energy gel and some water before tackling the MP portion of the workout.  The temperature was in the upper 30's at the start. I decided to wear shorts, a long sleeve tech shirt and a lightweight quarter-zip sweatshirt.  I also wore light gloves and a knit cap.  I also packed a few other pieces of gear that I could change into if I decided I was too cold (not likely) or too warm (more likely).

I was cold for the first mile but I knew I would warm-up soon.  Keeping my pace slow for the warm-up miles was foremost on my mind.  I tried to enjoy the scenery and distract myself from worrying over the upcoming MP miles. By the time I hit the turn around point I was too warm and decided I would make a change when I got back to the car.  I jogged the 2.5 miles back, ate the Lemon-Sublime Gu that I left in the car and drank some water.  I ditched the sweatshirt in favor of a light running jacket that has holes cut in the sides to vent out the heat and took off down the trail in the other direction.  Splits for the first five miles: 8:45, 8:26, 8:39, 8:17, 8:30. Average pace was 8:33.

I headed downstream toward the Mouth of Monocacy Aqueduct. The first mile I really struggled to find my pace.  I was going too fast at first but then over compensated and slowed down too much.  In the past I have been good at finding the pace I want and locking into it.  I struggled with that this time.  The first mile was 7:44 which is close to what I wanted but a little too fast.  I tried to back off just a little but my second mile was also at 7:44.  I was concerned that I would be able to hold that pace but when the third mile came in at 7:45 I just went with it.

I know that a 5 second difference doesn't sound like much and it really isn't that big a deal, HOWEVER I pride myself in being able to dial in my splits very close to what I want.  Not being able to do that tells me either I'm in better shape than I thought or I had to push too hard to run that fast.  MP never feels easy to me, even when I ran a 3:21 in 2014 it didn't feel easy the entire race. The difference then is I KNEW when I was running MP and when I wasn't.  This time I was looking at my Garmin way too much to see my pace instead of feeling it.  Maybe I'm over-thinking it and I'll develop the feel for that pace again over time.

On the positive side, I ran 8 miles faster than my goal pace at the end of hard week.  My legs were tired going into it but I have no soreness today (Sunday) at all.  I'm taking a rest day and trying not to eat everything in sight because my weight still hasn't budged.  Tomorrow starts another week of training with a 10 mile easy run!

Saturday, November 26, 2016


I ran in my first ever organized race today. The White Oak Classic is sponsored by the FDA (where I work) and takes place on the FDA campus off of New Hampshire Avenue. I guess I got a little excited by running with other people and feeling a little competitive because I finished with a personal best time of 29:15. I was thrilled to make it in less than 30 minutes! I'm sorry I didn't take any pictures but I didn't feel like carrying my phone through the race.

Note: I found this in my "Drafts" folder today (11/26/2016).  I thought it was funny, so I published it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Marathon Number Six - Week One

I was out for a walk today and decided that I want to write more.  I'm going to run another marathon and writing about my training will give me a good excuse to do just that.  My goal is to post once a week (at least) over the next eighteen weeks to record my progress.  So, here goes...

Race: The Two Rivers Marathon.
Goal: I need sub 3:30:00 to qualify for Boston again. I'm shooting for 3:25:00 (7:50 avg).

Weight - 179.  This is about 9 pounds heavier than where I need to be.  I have added a little bit of muscle in my upper body by lifting weights and other exercises but that can only account for a pound or two at the most.  For some reason, my resolve to avoid junk food has been very intermittent for the past couple months.  I can do well for a few days but then I find myself screwing up and I can't seem to stop myself from overeating.  I need to drop the weight very soon because once marathon training kicks into high gear it will be very difficult if not impossible.  Training requires a lot of calories. Trying to lose weight and run a lot of miles leaves you feeling exhausted all the time and increases your chances for injury.  It is time to get this shit under control!

Injuries - Nothing acute, but I'm recovering from Piriformis syndrome.  I struggled with this all summer but finally broke down and went to see my PT.  I've been rehabbing for a couple months and making good progress.

Training Plan - I am using a plan from Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger.  It'a an 18 week plan that caps at a 55 mile week.  I've used this plan in the past with mixed results.  The most success I've had with this plan is when I added a some easy paced runs to bump each week up by 7-10 miles.  I don't plan to do that this time around, but I will get some cross training on an indoor bike.

Training Buddies - I plan to run the marathon and as many weekend long runs as possible with two friends, Linda and Jesse.  We have run a lot together in the past year.  All three of us run at about the same pace and enjoy each other's company.  It's nice to have people to chat with when you're slogging out a 2 hour long run!

Week One
Sunday, Rest or cross training
Monday, Lactate threshold 8M w/4M @ HM pace
Tuesday, Rest or cross training
Wednesday, General aerobic 9M
Thursday, Rest or cross training (Thanksgiving)
Friday, Recovery 4M
Saturday, Medium long run 12M

I'm writing this on Tuesday, so I've only had one actual workout so far.  Well sort of anyway. Week one of marathon training has been a bit of a shock to the system for me in the past. Even though I have a decent base built up, hitting those workouts in week one has been a struggle.  This time around I decided to follow the first week for two weeks prior to starting but with the mileage reduced a little bit.  I'll update this post at the end of the week and let you know how that works out.

The weather on Monday was cold and very windy so I opted to do the lactate threshold workout on a treadmill at the gym.  Like a lot of runners I know, I don't enjoy running on the treadmill.  However, with the high winds I felt like the best chance for me to actually hit and hold HM pace was to dial up the pace on a TM.  I ran the first 4 miles at easy pace (~8:30) and the last 4 miles at 7:40.  I probably could have gone faster but I didn't want to push my luck.

Tuesday is a cross training day.  I did all my PT exercises and stretching.  In addition to that I did a few curls and 60 push-ups.  I also took the dog for a 2 mile walk.

Wednesday called for a 9 mile general aerobic run.  I did that run in my neighborhood and it went fine.

Thursday was Thanksgiving.  I did a pretty good job of not over-indulging while still having a good time.

Friday's recovery run was fun.  Cindi and I took Copper down to the C&O Canal towpath.  Cindi ran four mile and I ran five.  I ended up doing 2.5 at her pace and 2.5 at mine.

For my "medium long" run on Saturday I decided to go back to the towpath.  I had an "oops" moment where I didn't hit the start button on my watch. I don't know what happened; either I forgot to start it or I made a mistake.  Whatever the reason, I ended up running about a half mile or so without my GPS so I had to guess where to turn around.  I got pretty close.

The run itself was OK although I wasn't feeling my most energetic.  I slogged it out and wound up with 8:21 average pace.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The 2016 Army Ten Miler

This should be brief, but it isn't....

tl;dr version
I ran the Army Ten Miler on October 9th.  I finished with a time of 1:15:25 (7:33 avg pace).

This was my second ten mile race, but the first one I entered (the 2015 Cherry Blossom) was cut to 9.5 mile because of an accident on the course. So technically, this was my first.  Either way I got a PR because my time for Cherry Blossom was 1:16:34.  The Army Ten Miler is large race with a field size of about 35,000

I entered this race months ago but didn't train for it specifically.  I was training for a November marathon up until mid-September but changed my mind about that.  I got in some long runs up to 20 miles before abandoning marathon training.  After the 20, I focused on shorter distances and tried to see how well my legs responded to getting in some speed work.

Race Day
The race begins and ends at the Pentagon in Washington, DC.  Because the DC Metro is trying to recover from years of neglected maintenance, they aren't opening early for anything right now.  With an 8:00 start time, that meant I needed to find another way to get downtown.  Parking was very limited and I don't know the area very well so I was nervous about arriving late.  I planned to run the race with my friend Linda, but she was in the same boat as me.  Cindi saved the day by volunteering to get up before dawn and drive us to the race.  The plan was to meet Linda at the Shady Grove Metro station where would leave her car, drive to the race and then take Metro back so Cindi wouldn't have to come get us.  This ended up working out great.  A few days before the race I was contacted by Evan, another local runner looking to carpool.  So he met me at my house at 5:15 on the morning of the race and we set off to meet Linda.  We got about half way down the road when I realized that I had forgotten to put on my Garmin and it was too late to turn around and get it.  I only freaked out for a couple seconds and then I laughed.  I quickly decided to just roll with it and run the race by feel.  I sometimes think focusing on what the Garmin is telling me can dictate how I run the race too much.

Cindi dropped us off near the start and we checked bags, used the port-o-John and found our way to through the corrals. The Army Ten Miler has a wave start.  When I signed up for the race I chose a projected finish time that was a lot slower than I planned to run.  Linda and Evan were both in Wave 1 but I was in Wave 2.  With a little encouragement from my friends, I walked up to Wave 1 with the faster runners. Because it was cold and windy, everyone had extra clothing on to keep warm so my green bib was covered up.  Once we got up to the wave 1 corral we ran a little to warm-up and settled into a spot about 2/3 of the way back.

The Race
Once the gun sounded it took about 2 minutes to get to the start line.  I felt myself reach for my wrist as I crossed the timing mat even though I knew my Garmin was still sitting safely at home on the charger.  The field was crowded but not so much that I felt held back or needed to do a lot of zig-zagging to pass people.  We got to the first mile marker and I was pleasantly surprised to see there was a clock there with the gun time.  I made a mental note of the time and hoped that there would be one at the next mile.  When I got to mile marker two I was happy to see another clock running. My mile time between 1 and 2 was at about 7:35.  To reach my goal of sub 1:16:00, that was about where I needed to be. So while I didn't have the constant input from my watch, I was at least able to see how well I was staying on pace as each mile passed.

The course takes you through downtown DC and past a lot of monuments and memorials.  However, we could have been anywhere as far as I noticed.  When I'm racing my focus is almost entirely on trying to maintain good running form and keeping my pace under control.  At one point I glanced over to my left and saw the Washington Monument rising up into the sky but otherwise I couldn't really tell you what we passed and when.  I'm always impressed by how well other people remember race details.

After the first few miles it seemed like I was holding pace right around 7:30.  I was a little surprised by that but the effort felt like something I could sustain for the entire 10 miles so I just went with it.  By the time I passed the 8 mile mark I was ready for the finish line.  Using my crude math skills, I determined that I still had two more miles to run.  Mile 9 was right at 7:30 pace and I tried to give a little kick for mile 10 but I don't think I manged to go much faster.  After what seemed like an eternity, I spotted the finish line but I didn't have anything left for a sprint.  I was just fine with that because I wasn't in the mood to throw up.

I forgot to check the gun clock as I crossed so I didn't know my time until later that evening when I was able to look it up on the race website.

Net Time: 1:15:25
Gun Time: 1:17:01
Overall Place: 1917 out of 24,077
Gender Place: 1637 out of 12,777
Division Place: 94 out of 1335

I met up with Evan first and we traded war stories until Linda found us.  We chatted and shared our thoughts on the race as we made our way back to pick up our bags and jump on the Metro.  I got home around noon and had a great breakfast and spent some time in the hot tub.  Later I watched the Redskins beat the Ravens and had a beer and some pizza.  You can't ask for a better day than that.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Frederick Half Marathon 2016

I ran the Frederick Running Festival Half Marathon on Sunday May 8th.  I finished in 1:42:17 which is a PR by 1:07.

This race is practically right in my back yard and was the first race longer than a 5K that I ever ran. That was in 2010 and I have run it four times since then.  I missed 2011 and 2015 due to injury.

I didn't register early because I ran The Boston Marathon in April and I have a history of getting injured while running marathons.  After recovering from Boston I felt pretty good so I decided to sign up.  I got in touch with a couple of friends, Linda and Jesse that I did a lot of training runs with over the winter to see if they wanted to run it together.  Both of them had other goal races either the week before or the week after but Linda said she was signed up.  We agreed to run it together at "fun run" pace.

The night before the race Linda and I made plans to meet up near the 1:45:00 pacers. I have to mention that Linda ran a HM the weekend before in 1:36:xx AND had a bike race the day before this race. I love running with Linda because she is faster than I am and easy to talk to. It's good to run with people that push you, even when they aren't trying to.

On race day my legs felt like spaghetti in my warm up run and I thought 1:45:00 might be too fast for me.  Linda and I found each other near the pace group as planned and agreed to stay with them for a while and then drop back if necessary.

The race started and we were off.  Linda and I chatted about races, kids, Mother's Day plans and anything else that came to mind for the first few miles. As we reached the 3 mile marker I noticed we we had passed the 1:45 pacers.  The pacers sounded like they were a lot of fun and I could hear them behind us cheering on their group but I never saw them again.

As we progressed through the course I mentioned once or twice that we were moving a bit faster than planned.  I tried to slow down a few times but eventually I gave up and just went with it.

I'm not very good at remembering details about races.  The course winds through Frederick and is mostly flat.  There is nice crowd support in some places but it isn't like a big city race.  We went through the main drag (Market Street), around Baker Park and through Hood College. The only notable hill comes shortly after passing the 11 mile mark.  It's long but not overly steep.  Once you climb that you've got it made.

I finished feeling good and was surprised later to see that I beat my PR.  I haven't trained for a goal half marathon in a couple years because I have focused on running the marathon distance. I know that this PR is "soft" for me because I ran a 1:41 first half split in a marathon.  I think I could probably get down to a 1:37 or 1:36 if I train for it.

Since this wasn't a goal race, I decided to experiment with recording my splits manually instead of using auto-lap.  I did pretty well, only forgetting to press the button twice.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The 2016 Boston Marathon

Scroll down to the bottom for the Readers Digest condensed version

On April 18, 2016 I ran The Boston Marathon.  I qualified for this race on November 17, 2014. Because of the way the Boston Athletic Association does things, it is possible to qualify to run in the marathon with a lot of time to wait.  As it turns out, that was for the best because after my qualifying race I battled an Achilles injury for the entire year before my training started.  When I registered for the race in September, I had serious doubts about if I would actually be healthy enough to run it. Still, I was (and still am) convinced that this was probably going to be my only shot to run in this most famous of marathons so I registered and hoped that my body would heal and my qualifying time would be good enough to get in.

This was my 5th marathon.
The Shamrock Marathon, March 2012 - 4:29:52
Rock n Roll DC, March 2013 - 3:54:51
Marine Corps Marathon, October 2013 - 3:53:18
Potomac River Run Marathon, November 2014 - 3:21:39

Qualifying Standards:
For those that don't know (runner friends can skip this part).  Boston is one of the few races that you can't just register and run.  You have to qualify by running another marathon within a certain amount of time. If you're interested, you can read all about the qualifying standards here. The standards are adjusted by age so old people like me don't have to run as fast as a college kid.  The time I needed to meet was 3:25:00.  In recent years, just beating your BQ (Boston Qualifier) time hasn't been enough.  The increased popularity in marathons has meant more and more people trying to run Boston. Since the race organizers take the fastest runners first, you now need to come under your BQ time by a significant margin to get in.  I ran a 3:21:39 in the Potomac River Run marathon giving me a 3:21 margin. The cutoff this year was BQ - 2:28 so I had made it in by almost a minute.  Of course I didn't know that until about two weeks after I registered and had to wait on pins and needles along with the rest of the "just barely" qualifiers.

My training plan for this race was to loosely follow the Pete Pfitzinger 18 week plan that tops out at a 55 mile week.  Because of lingering pain in my right Achilles, I decided to substitute one or two of the "junk mile" runs with equivalent time on an indoor bike.  That plan worked out well for the most part. It cut down on some of the leg fatigue and my Achilles issue gradually improved over the course of the 18 weeks.  I was even able to hit some tempo runs close to my faster paces that I was running in 2014 when I qualified. As the weeks passed I was gradually riding the bike less and running more and my confidence grew.

Everything really seemed to be coming together well until about 6 weeks before race day I took a hard fall and broke my clavicle.  A week after I injured it, I had surgery to insert a plate and some screws to hold it together.  I was able to resume running a few days after the surgery but I had to take it very easy and be careful not to fall again.

I traveled to Boston with my wife Cindi.  Neither of us had visited Boston before. We didn't have firm plans to see anything particular during our trip.  We thought it would be nice to visit the Samuel Adams brewery and go on the tour and we also wanted to visit the bar that the TV show "Cheers" was loosely based on.  We both knew it would be pretty low key because I wouldn't want to be on my feet too much the day before the race.  We flew in Saturday morning and took a cab to our hotel which is just a few blocks from the finish line.  We checked in and then headed to the expo right away.  Of course the expo was packed but we shuffled through the crowds as best we could. I bought the jacket and a few other things while we were there and then we beat a hasty retreat.

After leaving the expo, we took it easy the rest of the day Saturday. On Sunday we did a few touristy things but not much.  We took a nice walk along the Esplanade and enjoyed the sunshine and some ducks that paid us a visit.
Duck butts
We went to Cheers for lunch and had a beer or two.  While we were there we talked with some other people in town for the race and enjoyed the atmosphere. Although we didn't venture out very far from our hotel and the areas surrounding the race, we liked the city and found the people there to be very welcoming and gracious hosts.  I was given congratulations by several random strangers as we walked around town which was nice. The people of Boston love their race.

You can be jealous now.
Shakeout Run:
Sunday morning I met up with a couple of online running friends for a four mile shake out run along the Esplanade.  During the run we saw some celebrities in the running world. We passed Desi Linden, Bill Rodgers, Bart Yasso (and about 50 of his friends), and finally Joan Benoit Samuelson who is a personal hero of mine.  One of my friends had run Boston three times before so us newbies asked her some questions along the way and gladly accepted her advice about the race itself.  Because we were starting near each other, we agreed to meet up at 7:00 and ride the bus to Hopkinton together.

The Course:
The course is a point-to-point starting in the small town of Hopkinton and ending in Boston.  The first four miles are a steady downhill and then it is mostly flat until mile 16 in the town of Newton.  I had heard a lot about "The Newton Hills" during my training. They are the four moderate hills that start at mile 16 and end at mile 21. From there the course is mostly downhill all the way into downtown Boston.

It was a huge relief and comfort to me to be able to tag along with a race veteran who was such good company.  I met my friend at the planned time and we hopped on one of the many big yellow school buses to ride out to Hopkinton. There was a little traffic along the way but we passed the time chatting and before I knew it we were at the Athlete's Village. We posed for a couple pics, got in line for the port-a-john and then relaxed on the grass to wait until they called our wave.  My friend brought one of those thin sheets that act as a thermal blanket that they hand out at the end of races to sit on so we wouldn't get wet. It's good to have smart friends!  We ran into one of her friends who was also in our wave and we hung out together to pass the time. The three of us chatted for a while until Wave 2 was called and we headed out.

Why is the brim on my hat always crooked?
From the Athlete's Village to the start is about a mile walk. There is another port-a-john stop along the way which we took advantage of then wished each other well as moved into our respective corrals.  I was in Wave 2, Corral 5.  I lined up at the very back of my corral because I planned to run much slower than my qualifying time.  We only waited a few minutes and then we were off!

Race Plan:
My plan was to run as conservatively as possible all the way until Newton. The weather was warmer than what I was used to and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Either one of those can cause me trouble when running.  I had 5 Gu energy gels with me and planned to use one every 5 miles. I have used this fueling strategy in the past with good results.  Because of the higher temps, I also planned to take in water at every aid station on the course. Boston offers water and Gatorade stops every mile starting at mile 2.

Early Miles:
Right after the start I realized that I forgot to turn off the auto-lap feature of my watch.  I wanted to record the splits myself by pressing the lap button at each mile marker because in a big race the mile markers and the GPS are usually a little bit off.  It isn't a big problem for shorter distances but as the race goes on your watch gets more and more out of sync with the actual course.  My watch measured the course at 26.4 miles.

The whole "run as conservatively as possible" thing didn't happen nearly as well as it should have!  I knew I would start faster than my planned 8:25 pace because of the early downhill miles but I couldn't seem to back off enough.  I let a lot of people pass me in the first few miles but I still ended up running too fast.  I didn't get my pace under control until mile 7 but I still felt good.  The heat wasn't bothering me as much as I thought it would and there was a nice breeze.  I stuck with the water plan and took at least a few sips at every mile.  I took in my energy gel with a full cup of water at miles 5, 10 and 15.

One of the highlights of the course it the famous Wellesley Scream Tunnel. No, I didn't kiss any of the women lining the side of the course but running past that much screaming and enthusiasm was a real boost. At one point I looked at my watch and saw that it showed my pace at 7:45. Oops!

Mile 1: 7:58, Mile 2: 8:05, Mile 3: 8:17, Mile 4: 8:09, Mile 5: 8:20, Mile 6: 8:11, Mile 7: 8:24, Mile 8: 8:27, Mile 9: 8:17, Mile 10: 8:33, Mile 11: 8:43, Mile 12: 8:26, Mile 13: 8:27, Mile 14: 8:29, Mile 15: 8:41, Mile 16: 8:35

This looks like one of the Newton hills. Lots of people
I arrived at Newton knowing that I had failed to run conservatively enough and I was going to leave hurting.  The first hill wasn't much but I could feel it drain me. I slowed down a lot and just focused on taking shorter steps and keeping good form. The second hill wasn't much of a hill either but it wore me down more. The third hill was harder and I let myself take a 1 minute walk break.  The fourth hill (Heartbreak Hill) was tough too and again I allowed myself to take a 1 minute break to walk through the aid station while I used my 2nd to last Gu and drank some water.

Mile 17: 8:54, Mile 18: 8:59, Mile 19: 8:48, Mile 20: 9:24, Mile 21: 10:05

Final Miles:
Clearing Heartbreak gave me a nice mental boost because I knew the worst was behind me and I could just cruise from here on out.  I got through mile 22 OK but I didn't have much left in the tank.  I decided I would use my last Gu somewhere after mile 23 and hoped it would give me a bump.  When I got to mile 23, I used the energy gel but my body was telling me to stop. In the past when I have reached this point I have been able to sort of mentally go inside myself and block out everything.  I felt myself going there but decided that it really wasn't worth it.  I might be able to shave off a minute or two but I would miss all the fun of being in The Boston Marathon.  I decided to just have fun and really enjoy the crowds.  I gave high-fives to a bunch of kids, tried my best to get the crowds to yell, took a couple walk breaks and soaked in the atmosphere.  I'm so happy that I decided to do that because I got to enjoy it so much more than I would have otherwise.

Mile 22: 8:36, Mile 23: 8:53, Mile 24: 9:42, Mile 25: 8:59, Mile 26: 9:53

For those that don't know, the finish line for Boston is the most well known finish line in marathon racing.  There aren't a lot of 45 degree turns on the course but there are two at the tail end of the course.  Right turn on Hereford, Left on Boylston.  The left turn on Boylston Street was probably the best feeling in the world.  I was glad that I had rested the last few miles because I was able to pick it up and run hard.  I knew that there were cameras all over the place and planned to pay the (outrageous) fees for my official race pics so I made sure to smile.  That really wasn't a problem though because I was truly elated. As the finish approached I tried my best to give a little kick and then I was done.

Post Race:
I checked my watch and saw that I finished with a 3:49:30.  That was good enough for my 2nd fastest marathon and I didn't feel like death afteward.  Mission accomplished!  I met up with Cindi a few blocks away and she bravely gave me a hug and a kiss.  We talked about the race as I shuffled the few blocks to our hotel.  After a long shower and a short nap we headed out for a victory dinner and drinks.

tl:dr Version:
I ran the 2016 Boston Marathon. It was my first and most likely my last Boston. My goal going into it was to take it easy and have as much fun as possible while running 26.2 miles. I accomplished that goal by allowing myself not to focus on my time and soaking it all in as much as possible.  I finished feeling happy with a big smile on my face in 3:49:30.