Sunday, October 26, 2014

Training Pay Off

This Summer was hell. It's not me bitching about the heat, again. This time, I'm talking about the training program CT committed us to. My legs have never felt like rubber with my feet in concrete blocks more. Even in bad dreams, my legs have felt better. What kind of training program is this? It's call the Hanson Method and the concept is running and training on "tired" legs to train the body to learn how to deal with the late miles of the marathon. Stamp "Sucker" on my forehead because I was sold on how this training program's longest run is never more than sixteen miles. Previous training plans that I've used, the longest has always been twenty miles. Soon after CT tricked me into attempting this training with the shorter distance long runs, now freshly signed in blood, that's when I found out about this tired leg philosophy, which is possible because of the ridiculous amount of weekly miles. So, even though it's less, it's really more.

Something worked. My previous 5K record from two years ago, got crushed this summer. The trail run from hell, saw me cut eight minutes from my previous time. Yet, it's still never enough to be super confident it's working. Even though the number of miles logged training for this marathon were easily a hundred more than previous efforts, not doing a twenty mile run, messes with confidence. Another thing, heading into this marathon, I was easily five pounds heavier than I have been. One would think with the additional miles, it would be easy to be lean, I found it difficult to drop to my previous marathon weights. So, lack of a twenty mile training run, being heavier than I have been, had me questioning what was going to happen coming into the fall marathon.

CT in true form, can never just let us run a race without some level of expectations. A couple weeks out, even with nerves, I figured I'd aim to PR. I didn't want to set a specific time for myself, just felt for putting the effort of training, I owed it to myself to attempt to beat my time. There's two levels of expectations that exist in our house, the sane and rational (mine) and crazy (CT's). Coming home to an empty house one night, found not only one, but two hand made signs with times. Mine with a time of 3:20 and it should be noted at one point it did read 3:25, but the five was clearly made into a zero later. Keep in mind my PR is 3:28 something. Nothing, like a little added pressure!

Race day is perfect, cool temps. If a PR is going to happen, this is day for it. Nervous about what would happen after mile sixteen is on my mind, I also promised to run a friend in, hoping to help her with her Boston Qualifying dreams. Spent as much time as I could relaxing and mentally preparing before the start, but just like training, never seems like enough because before too long it's time for the long walk to the starting line.

Wiiiiiiiiissssssh, goes the starting gun. It's rare to run a race where there's not at least a handful of people who don't start where they should. Fifty feet in, way before the very first turn, people are walking! This is a first. I'd never want to discourage somebody that made a mistake, but come on people use your head! I'm glad I wasn't running for time, because I wanted to stab them in the head (walker)!

By mile four I was on the heels of the 3:29 pace group, even though I started behind them. Here's where the voices start, "stay here, push at the end, easy PR". This is a big clump of runners, "it would be easy to push a little more and get some separation". Ugh, here comes the devil, "he's beaten you before, look at that old guy running with you, all this training, you should be faster....3:20 flashing in red".

Miles five to sixteen were a blur. Not sure if the devil fell off my shoulder, couldn't keep up, or gave up but it got quiet. This is racing. The only real thought that I remember was crossing the halfway mat and seeing a very respectable time. Even though I still was conserving for the next thirteen miles, knowing had I only did the half today, there's a good chance I could have lowered my favorite PR. Would it hold up for the dreaded late miles?

At mile eighteen, total surprise. Not only were the wheels still spinning, but it became apparent how well even in my runner's haze, when I saw the 3:14 pace group not very far ahead of me. To be anywhere near that group at this point in the race only made me push harder. Hindsight, this was probably my bonehead mistake for this race.

Mile twenty-three is where training ran out. Tired legs are one thing, and there's something to be said for doing lots of miles to get the legs ready for the pounding, but the first noticeable fatigue were my feet. They were getting sore and I probably didn't do them any favors by decided to run in my least cushioned shoes. Thoughts of getting closer to the 3:14 pace group were gone. With only three miles to go, a PR was happening for sure. The decision to push on, while tired and getting sore, I couldn't justify it. Sure, that 3:20 was still flashing in my head. But, I gave myself permission to take the final three miles easy and not risk hurting myself for no reason.

The final stretch, did feel like it was forever, but crossed the line with about a six minute PR and a just over 3:20 PR with a 3:22. Not bad. The marathon wasn't over yet. After a quick walk through the finish line treats to get my muscle milk, walked back out to mile twenty-five to wait and hope. A few days earlier, I did have a nightmare where I had a bad marathon and didn't finish in time to get back out to run our friend in and it was awful. It wasn't too long before CT and our friend appeared. Not knowing exactly when our friend started, but already kind of knew that unless we threw down a really fast mile (which I know full well I didn't even have in me at this point), it was unlikely she was going to get her BQ time. Still a PR for her as well, but disappointing at the same time.

Can't deny the results of training with this method, it worked. Did I follow the program to a tee, no. That's the hardest part of by this program, so many miles and when life is also happening at the same time, it's hard to dedicate the amount of time to following this method completely. Six days of running with only one rest day takes it's toll as well. Some days, my body said you are insane and need a break. Not saying another marathon is in my future, but if one were, I'd probably use this same method to train.        

Saturday, September 27, 2014

It Happened

Four years of running, four years of complaining, it finally happened. What you may ask? Well, you'll have to wait until the end of this lengthy post to find out.

CT and I have been running a fair amount of races lately. Far less than in recent past, but we finally came to the conclusion that spend a lot of $'s running races. The bling is nice, but it's getting to the point where our walls are covered. We came to the decision this past week that we will only do a few select races from now on. We didn't exactly decide how that decision would be made, but the consensus being we'd stop signing up for any and every race that generated interest. Know where this is going?

Two days after having this conversation, I found this charity "run" scheduled for the coming weekend. The video sold me, but it help that the race was sponsored by our favorite store, Gazelle Sports, and right downtown where we like to hang out. I knew CT would drag her feet some, per our recent decision, but figured I'd try anyway.

CT wasn't thrilled with the idea, she did put up some resistance, but I got her downtown before the start to at least check it out (with the promise of wine). Once there, surrounded by enthusiastic people, seeing some of our friends, she was sold on this goofiness.  Why do I say goofiness? Well, you probably didn't watch the video, but this race is .1K. Next to Olympic sprints, this has to be the only race where you can stand at the starting line, see the finish line, and the view the entire course! Needless to say, we didn't race, mainly because of the amount of people, but true to CT form, we walked side by side until the final few feet where she raced to cross the line before I did.

Is this what happened, that CT beat me? Nah, readers of my blog know it's happened before and probably will happen again. What really happened on this day? Well, I finally found an "easy run"!  

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A Run, for Office on the Campaign Trail

The toughest run, I love to hate, it's North Country time! Still waiting for a run to be easy, it's guaranteed, it will not be this week. This run is brutal, roots, narrow paths, dirt, mosquitoes, exactly what a trail run should be. Someone didn't get the message that is enough, instead hills were added and added and added and that's where the hate comes in. Speaking of hate, lets talk politics.

Let the pain begin, eeeeeeeeeekkkk goes the gun, creeeeeeek goes the joints, as race starts.  The first year, was an epic disaster of having no clue what this trail had in store for me. Last year, conservation was the name of the game plan. This year's game plan, just repeat last year's! Duh! Don't change what worked!

A republican start would be an understatement, last year my first two miles were in the ten minute range which is almost unheard of for me. But, it felt necessary to be conservative. One major difference this year is they split the half marathon into two start times. This really helped thin out crowds on the narrow trails. The bottleneck of people on the trail aided me being conservative. Completely different story this year, from the start there were only maybe ten people total ahead of me.

What fun is being conservative anyway (anyone else sick of the political ads)? First mile, a blistering seven thirty mile. Nothing like sticking to the plan. Whoops, already flip-flopped, my vote. Even though the plan was ditched before the first mile was logged, I wasn't going Toronto Mayor crazy either. The Game Changer starts about mile two, but this is experience (lifetime politician) now talking. As I slowed down and watched a younger kid dart past me, rookie.

The Game Changer is about a mile long hill, it's perfectly placed where it's early enough in the race where you get tricked to using all that adrenaline and energy early. From the bottom, I could already see it claiming one runner who was walking close to the top and the guy in front of me was lagging. Two down, in the polls.

Just before the first water stop, I caught another. This guy had raised his hand that this was his first North Country prior to the race start, so I felt obligated to give words of encouragement as I passed. Hey, I'm not like a typical heartless politician. This whole time, I felt I was running fast, but also relaxed. In my head, I knew I had waited until after mile six before unleashing the beast last year. Since the beast escaped early this year, I wasn't sure what to expect come the later miles.  But, I was doing something right, because I could see the kid who darted passed me in the early going, and I was gaining and I felt like debating him.

At the second water stop, I was right on his back. Here, I stopped to take my GU and the punk didn't even stop for water! Ugh, so close and now I was going to lose him. I got snapped out of my trance when a boy of maybe four years old complained to his mom that I didn't take "his" water. Sheeesh, now I understand this kissing baby's thing. Attempting to make him feel better, I explained that I needed to stop at the table, otherwise I would have grabbed "his" water. Time to hit the campaign trail again, one voter at a time.

This is part of the trail I destroyed last year, think I can even see some of the carnage of broken limbs and claw marks remaining.  My legs felt tired and surge of power isn't here this year, but then again my plan completely changed of how I ran this race, so I figured maintain and see what happens at the end. Speaking of which, boy wonder, now shirtless, is starting to die out. As much as I almost wanted to wait to debate him on the next big hill to demoralize him, that would be dirty politics. Besides, he had slowed to the point I didn't even have wait, the press leaked his inappropriate pictures, and he was done.

The remaining miles were quiet. It truly became a tail run of man versus nature and I was content to let nature win. Anybody left ahead of me, I wasn't going to catch them, I was tired. Shouldn't I have a luxury campaign bus? Anybody behind me, would motivate me to push harder, but I couldn't imagine anybody catching me at this point in the race if they hadn't already. The projections were in based on the exit polls and there wasn't much left to do. The last mile, I even put the brakes on and took it easy.

Crossing the line, I felt pretty good, because ditching the plan did cut seven minutes off my time. Though, finishing felt completely different. Today, I was tired and ready to be done. Last year, it felt almost like I was just getting started when it ended. Two different campaigns, both unique in their own way.

The reason I could never be a politician, logic. Ha, I didn't mean that as an insult (yes, I did), but what I mean is I like numbers too much. Looking at the side-by-sides of my two runs, it's interesting. Of course starting out faster this year, all the early miles were much better. But, I really expected the final miles to be so much better last year when I was on that incredible runner's high. Instead, besides the final mile where I completely relaxed, my miles were still faster this year.  Never would have expected that, but it tells me that training program I'm doing is working.

When the polls closed and the results were final, finished second in my age group and seventh overall! Not good enough to get me elected, really who wants that job anyway? This office nerd is running the hell out of these trails.



Sunday, August 17, 2014

In My Grasp

It's "my trophy" weekend. Even though it's said like that, I didn't name it. The name comes from CT since the first time she saw the hardware given to the winner, suddenly it became her trophy and the name stuck. Even though it became her quest, it really did become "my trophy", last year. It was unexpected, but winning felt pretty damn good. This is going to be the year, we both come home with "my trophy".

There are so many things I enjoy about running, one being although you are really competing against others, it's really just a battle with yourself. Take two weeks ago for example, crushed my previous PR and only got third place, hell I could have got seventh, it meant more to me knowing that I bested myself. Something changed this week though.

The week before this race, there are some powerful forces at play, voodoo, black magic, but it goes beyond coincidence, injuries. This is the third year in a row that one of us has got injured the week before this race. Mom injured her knee and made the mistake of visiting the doctor prior to the race, which of course you never do until after, especially when she always follows all the rules. Of course the doctor is going to say, don't do it. CT has been back to her old form, even faster, until she pulled her calf muscle something awful. In CT's case, a doctor isn't going to tell her what she is or isn't going to do, but she wasn't going to be at 100%. Suddenly, things changed from this great weekend where we were all going to get awards, to being unsure what would happen and I felt this added pressure of having to do well to compensate.

Lining up, there were the usual suspects. Maybe it's only me, but imagine everybody does it, calculating who the competition is. I think I spotted the guy who sent his girlfriend to ask me my time last year, figure he's got a target on my back or is it that guy in the orange? Rrrrrrrrrrip goes the gun. More like exploded out, can't remember the time I've started a race this fast, but it was a bolt.

At the first turn, there were maybe six people ahead of me. Four were clumped together, the typical high school age kids who would win the whole thing with their ridiculous youth times. The other two were much younger kids who would burn out before the next turn. Here it is, mine for the taking, just have to maintain, and get "my trophy". Closing in at the first mile, I could feel breathing down my neck. Somebody was there, but who? Beep, first mile, glancing at my watch 5:55! I've never ran a mile under six minutes, ever. While excited, it also made me wonder if I didn't start out way too fast, no sooner did I think that then the breathing down my neck stopped as I got passed by not one, but two people. One of which didn't matter, the woman who always wins this race, but the other...Mr. Orange.

The worst part of the course is the second mile, when it transitions between wooden walkways, to grass, another wooden walkway and suspension bridge. How bad do I want it? I kept asking myself that as Mr. Orange continued to pull away. He built a lead, I fought with myself and told myself enough! He wasn't allowed to pull away anymore. With all the surface transitions, I knew this mile would be slower, yet it still felt crazy fast, yet I wasn't dying. Then I saw it, just before mile two, with the hill, Mr. Orange started to slow.

Just past mile two, only two turns remain and plenty of distance to see what's ahead.  The woman is way up there, almost to the next turn.  Mr. Orange is now within striking distance and now my mind turned to strategy. Do I slow with him, conserving energy and wait until closer to the finish to take him? Or do I pass him now, hopefully demoralizing him, and maybe worry about him coming from behind? As I debated this, it got answered for me, he slowed even more. At this point, I was already running more relaxed, so I just passed him. He'd have to have two other gears to take me, because I still had a spare for sure.

Only one turn to go now, heck I'm even gaining on one of those high school kids. Then EVERYTHING changed as that high school kid made the final turn, I could clearly see this "kid" had the receding hairline. It was too late. Even with another gear, there simply wasn't enough distance left. How did this happen? Maybe, that hairline meant even older and not in my group. I've waited four years to get in the 19's in this race, here it is, yet the pain wasn't from my tired heart as I crossed the line, it was from my gut that told me I lost "my trophy".

The second place medal in the picture sums up then entire situation. Six, seconds behind. Never had a race play out like this. Determination, excitement, doubt, fight, resilience, calm, confidence, shock, pain, and anger all within three point one miles.

For all those emotions in a few miles, the next day was even worse, I think I stewed all day. It was a looooong slow simmer all day. Jump back to the second paragraph (aptly 2nd for a reason), something change today. Simply wanting to get better works for every race, but this one. This is the one race I want to win and expect to win. Consider "my trophy" on loan, because next year it's coming home with me!    


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Weighing In

It's been a while. Based on my previous entry, I probably should have at least did a few updates instead of leaving it "hanging" in a cloud of despair since it's been a few months. Whatever happened to my foot at the River Bank Run lasted for a few weeks, but went away. I've been running since, just haven't been doing any races, hence the quiet blog, but here we are again. So, what's up?

CT and I have been putting in miles training, but decided that we would really cut back on our races this summer. There are only two races we cared about, the one for her trophy and the brutal trail run that we love to hate. At least, that was the plan until this weekend rolled around and CT decided we needed a warm up 5K as preparation for her trophy run. That fact she decides this for her training, also means I have to do it too, funny how that works.  Not only do we have to pre-5K for her trophy run, but we had to pre-pre-run this 5K course so she could be mentally prepared for this practice 5K. Can you see what I have to deal with? Ridiculous, who takes running to this level?

Ugh, okay pre-pre-running the course didn't help my confidence. I know getting older means getting slower and as much as I want to deny one is happening, both are happening. The goal has always been getting in the 19's for a 5K and it's happened once.  Low 20's have been norm. After my pre-pre, I wasn't even sure the 20's were possible, I might be lucky to stay in the high 20's and even maybe flirt with 21. Here's where the picture for this post comes into play.  Yes, this me actually weighing my shoes. Now, who's the crazy one? Had to do it, need every edge I can get.

Race morning, first thing I do is jump on the scale. Again, another blow to the confidence. Not feeling fast already, now have the scale telling me I'm running heavy. Sure glad I saved three ounces picking my shoes! One strange omen was the time on my watch when I picked it up to put it on. It read 6:27, which just happens to be the exact pace per mile I'd need to get back in the 19's. Is this a sign or is it a cruel joke tormenting me?

Time to weigh in for good, cha-ching goes the starting gun (okay I made this sound a register, because scales don't make sounds). This is one race where the first mile is the hardest, it has the most incline of this fairly flat race, so in this respect it's the perfect use of that extra adrenaline. 6:08 when my watched beeped, signalling the first mile. That's respectable, but mile two will be story maker. In my head, I was very surprised I clocked a mile that fast because it's seems like it's been a while, but also wanted to stay very realistic, but felt confident slipping in the 21's wasn't going to happen.  6:18, as the second mile beeped. Wow. Suddenly, thoughts of being lucky to get in the 20's switched to PR.  Mile three wasn't easy, but I also didn't feel like I was doing everything possible to hold the wheels from coming off.  When it clicked, it read 6:28. Even with bad runner math, I knew I was going to be in the 19's at this point.  Just had to finish the last little bit, when I could finally see the clock the three extra beats left on my maxed out heart got used up seeing a 19:05 on the clock.  NEVER would have thought low 19's would be possible. 19:16, when the scale finally stopped! Twenty-seven seconds faster than my 5K PR from two years ago!

Most days, I hate what the scale says, but today it weighed in right.


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Win the Battle, Lose the War

The River Bank Run has always been my salvation the week after Kalamazoo punches me in the face. What started as simply needing a confidence booster, has now changed to wanting to continue my status in the "special" club.  Once you have the perks, experience the perks, they are hard to give up.

The perks, as great as they are, didn't live up to exceptions. I strolled up to the police officer guarded door with my shiny yellow bib expecting access for my entourage, only to be told it doesn't work that way anymore. No friends, no family, yellow bib only. What fun is this club if it's a club of one? It's not, which makes the rest of the story that much more confusing.

The start, seemed crowded, yet not like years before. It always seemed like we were running on top of each other until about mile eight, this year there was actually some gaps of space. It is surprising and depressing at the same time how many people are able to run with me. I'd really like to write most of them off as results of the rampant drug problem, thanks Lance, but for now I'll pretend they are all WAY younger than me. This is the point where I did finally see some people start to struggle with the rising temps or maybe they started too fast.

At mile ten, I started feeling something a little different.  My right foot, it's always the right side, began giving me twinges of pain. Running logic told me it was the damn roads.  I've complained, make that bitched, about the unevenness of this course almost every time it's been under my feet.  Doesn't matter if it's the marathon, the half, this 25K, all of them share this route and the first few times I even thought I was being a baby about it, but seriously there is something to this thing. I attempted to adjust as best I could find the flattest ground I could, while now actively trying to run in the few shady spots left.

Mile twelve, my foot pain became obvious there was more to it than simply running some miles on uneven roads, there was something wrong going on. Up until this point, I was hanging right with the 7:30 per mile group. To stay in the "special" club, the average needed  is 7:47 per mile, so I had some breathing room, but really couldn't take a break either.  The question became, how bad do I want to stay in the club or do I shut it down to hopefully prevent damaging my foot or at least making it worse? Ego, thick headedness, stupidity, desire to stay in the cool club that wouldn't even let me bring my friends, won out.

The last few miles were hard, painful, and hot, but I managed to fight through it to continue the streak of eligibility for the club. After, it felt like walking on a marble under my heel, sure hope it was worth it.

*Update* - Two days after, still could barely walk on it. Been icing it like crazy.

*Update 2* - Ten days after, haven't been able to run yet    

Sunday, May 4, 2014


Three years, three humbling experiences. The Kalamazoo Marathon has my number. Inexperience, overconfidence, fear, so far have been the results, what will this year bring? Some friends refuse to do it. Others ask me why I continue to do it. Not even sure how to answer. It's not a rivalry, because it's completely one sided at the moment. The course is awful, the only miles I like are the first five. The weather, is always warming up at the worst possible time. It might be simply be because this is my city.

Two days after I committed to doing this race again, I mean officially by signing up and paying money to force myself, I found out the course had changed. They actually managed to make it more difficult, as if that's been the reason for my struggles, yeah, it's been too easy. So much of running is mental and I have to be honest, this is where I checked out. I can't say it's the whole reason I cut back my training, but it definitely played a factor. There is just something about this course that feels like kryponite to me. Even training runs on it, when the mileage is less, mentally it messes with my psyche now and easy runs end up stirring up memories resulting in bad times.

Lack of training, how does Murphy's Law get me? Why of course by giving me the lowest temperatures for this race since I've been doing it! Figures! Whoooosh! Went the start of the gun this year. While I got some reprieve with the temps, the wind was out in force.

The early miles were uneventful. My head was stuck thinking about the course changes and knowing that whole section would be where this race would be either be successful or turn into the nightmare.  At one point I got snapped out my runner's haze coming out of campus where a dad gave his daughter a "shadow hug" as we ran under the bridge. That was kind of cool and made me smile.

Instead of the long, boring, stretch in the scorching sun like years past, the solution to the road maintenance is sending us uphill through a neighborhood only to be dumped on the road that I'm convinced finishes me off every year with more hills, making us run it twice out and back. Then add to the mix, wtf is up with this wind which is blowing directly at us running out. I'd like to say this was my superior strategy, for this long stretch of road, I tucked in behind a clump of runners and I pretended they were my windbreaker.  While already in my head, I was convinced the wind would be in my face both directions, there were a few spots (while I'm still not convinced they equaled out) where I could actually feel the wind pushing me. That was a nice surprise. An even nicer surprise was the energy boost seeing the other runners in the out and back section. Giving and receiving words of encouragement, completely a different feeling than crowd support.  So, the section that I dreaded the most, turned out to be more positive than negative.

The ending is always a struggle, regardless. This time, by mile 20 I was still flirting with a PR on what I consider the hardest marathon course I've done. I knew a PR wasn't going to happen based on the remaining hills, but that was still moral victory enough.  At this point, my feet were sore and while a PR wasn't going to happen, a PR for the marathon that always beats me to a pulp was. This is where I decided I could take it easy the rest of the way and didn't see the point to doing anything dumb and pushing too hard.  CT was all smiles when I first saw her down the stretch, I think even she was surprised to see me this early on my nemesis. With her smile, I even felt like I was safe from having to ride home in the trunk (for once).          

Three years, marathon number 10 goes in the books as a success. Doubt there will ever be a day when it gets easy, but today I won because I'm still standing (actually, I'm not my calves were cramping something awful once I finished...but that was temporary). Will I train more next year? Probably not. Will I do it again? Probably. Will it feel as one sided as it has before? Lets just say it's a rivalry. Kalamazoo had my number, but it's now a number for me as well, #10.