Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Day 137

I am now on day 137 of learning how to become a runner and reconnecting with what makes me human--that is, the ability to run.

As I sit here, typing this, fresh off a tune-up run of 3.6 miles (at a 9:03 pace), keenly aware of the cramping and soreness in my right calf, I'm reflecting on the training I did for the '05 and '06 marathons. I'm struck by how naive I was going into the '05 run and sorely underprepared for that race I was come race day. I figured guts alone would carry me through the race. I remember how DETERMINED I was for the '06 marathon to overcome the disasterous failure that '05 was and how relaxed and comfortable I was on game day. In '05 I was so uncertain of my ability to accomplish the marathon, but in '06 finishing was a foregone conclusion by the time I toed the line.

Today I'm running faster than I ever did in '04 or '05, but I'm still uncertain because I haven't been running FARTHER than I ever did. In fact, though I'm running more, I'm not running farther. This is the same thing that put the kibosh on me running in '07--I simply didn't want to put the time on the road that running a full marathon would require. I had very little interest in trading 3 hours with my new baby son for 3 hours of grinding out 10 miles on the road.

Of course, at the speeds I'm running now I should be able to grind out 10 miles in closer to 2 hours.

Nonetheless, I've been seriously considering merely running the half rather than the full simply to accommodate my home/work/school schedules. On the other hand... the marathon is a special thing. The pipes, the communion wafer, the bridge on Westpark, the stretch through Memorial Park, the entrance into downtown... All things that are unique to the full marathon as they happen after the 8 mile mark.

I'm not questioning my ability to do the run. I'm questioning my priorities, which I have in the right order. I question the sanity of anyone who will look in the face of their child, or wife, and say "no, i can't play because I'd rather go run, by myself, for a few hours". Son, you're less important to me than this run that will be there next year... and the year after... and the year after.

On the other hand (yes, the third hand), if I continue to add speed and power to my running, I can actually train for a marathon without sacrificing 3 or 4 hours, because the speed will be such that I can do in 2 what I could do in 3. Of course, that's another year away, at least.

No bother. Tomorrow I have a 10k, and it'll be an honest to goodness race against someone who is, by all indications, faster than me. Maybe I'll get lucky and be able to hang for a few miles before konking out.
I guess what I'm looking for is a sign, like that angel in 1 Kings 19 that touched Elijah and encouraged him to eat, regain his strength, and continue on his mission.

Man, the Runner



The Evolution of Human Running

Humans evolved from ape-like ancestors because they needed to run long distances—perhaps to hunt animals or scavenge carcasses on Africa's vast savannah—and the ability to run shaped our anatomy, making us look like we do today. That is the conclusion of a study by University of Utah biologist Dennis Bramble and Harvard University anthropologist Daniel Lieberman. Bramble and Lieberman argue that our genus, Homo, evolved from more ape-like human ancestors, Australopithecus, two million or more years ago because natural selection favored the survival of australopithecines that could run and, over time, favored the perpetuation of human anatomical features that made long-distance running possible.


"We are very confident that strong selection for running—which came at the expense of the historical ability to live in trees—was instrumental in the origin of the modern human body form", says Bramble, a professor of biology. "Running has substantially shaped human evolution. Running made us human—at least in an anatomical sense. We think running is one of the most transforming events in human history. We are arguing the emergence of humans is tied to the evolution of running".


That conclusion is contrary to the conventional theory that running simply was a byproduct of the human ability to walk. Bipedalism—the ability to walk upright on two legs—evolved in the ape-like Australopithecus at least four and a half million years ago while they also retained the ability to travel through the trees. Yet Homo with its "radically transformed body" did not evolve for another three million or more years—Homo habilis, Homo erectus and, finally, our species, Homo sapiens—so the ability to walk cannot explain anatomy of the modern human body, Bramble says.


"There were 2.5 million to 3 million years of bipedal walking by australopithecines without ever looking like a human, so is walking going to be what suddenly transforms the hominid body?" he asks. "We are saying, no, walking won't do that, but running will". Walking cannot explain most of the changes in body form that distinguish Homo from Australopithecus, which—when compared with Homo—had short legs, long forearms, high permanently "shrugged" shoulders, ankles that were not visibly apparent and more muscles connecting the shoulders to the head and neck, Bramble says. If natural selection had not favored running, "we would still look a lot like apes", he adds.


I run, therefore I am


Bramble and Lieberman examined 26 traits of the human body—many also seen in fossils of Homo erectus and some in Homo habilis—that enhanced the ability to run. Only some of them were needed for walking. Traits that aided running include leg and foot tendons and ligaments that act like springs, foot and toe structure that allows efficient use of the feet to push off, shoulders that rotate independently of the head and neck to allow better balance, and skeletal and muscle features that make the human body stronger, more stable and able to run more efficiently without overheating.


"We explain the simultaneous emergence of a whole bunch of anatomical features, literally from head to toe", Bramble says. "We have a hypothesis that gives a functional explanation for how these features are linked to the unique mechanical demands of running, how they work together and why they emerged at the same time".


Humans are poor sprinters compared with other running animals, which is partly why many scientists have dismissed running as a factor in human evolution. Human endurance running ability has been inadequately appreciated because of a failure to recognize that "high speed is not always important", Bramble says. "What is important is combining reasonable speed with exceptional endurance". Another reason is that "scientists are in developed societies that are highly dependent on technology and artificial means of transport", he adds. "But if those scientists had been embedded in a hunter-gatherer society, they would have a different view of human locomotor abilities, including running".


Why did humans start running?


The researchers do not know why natural selection favored human ancestors who could run long distances. For one possibility, they cite previous research by University of Utah biologist David Carrier, who hypothesized that endurance running evolved in human ancestors so they could pursue predators long before the development of bows, arrows, nets and spear-throwers reduced the need to run long distances.


Another possibility is that early humans and their immediate ancestors ran to scavenge carcasses of dead animals—maybe so they could beat hyenas or other scavengers to dinner, or maybe to "get to the leftovers soon enough", Bramble says. Scavenging "is a more reliable source of food" than hunting, he adds. "If you are out in the African savannah and see a column of vultures on the horizon, the chance of there being a fresh carcass underneath the vultures is about 100 percent. If you are going to hunt down something in the heat, that is a lot more work and the payoffs are less reliable" because the animal you are hunting often is "faster than you are".


Anatomical features that help humans run


Here are anatomical characteristics that are unique to humans and that play a role in helping people run, according to the study:


Skull features that help prevent overheating during running. As sweat evaporates from the scalp, forehead and face, the evaporation cools blood draining from the head. Veins carrying that cooled blood pass near the carotid arteries, thus helping cool blood flowing through the carotids to the brain.


A more balanced head with a flatter face, smaller teeth and short snout, compared with australopithecines. That "shifts the center of mass back so it is easier to balance your head when you are bobbing up and down running", Bramble says.


A ligament that runs from the back of the skull and neck down to the thoracic vertebrae, and acts as a shock absorber and helps the arms and shoulders counterbalance the head during running.


Unlike apes and australopithecines, the shoulders in early humans were "decoupled" from the head and neck, allowing the body to rotate while the head aims forward during running.


The tall human body—with a narrow trunk, waist and pelvis—creates more skin surface for our size, permitting greater cooling during running. It also lets the upper and lower body move independently, "which allows you to use your upper body to counteract the twisting forces from your swinging legs", Bramble says.


Shorter forearms in humans make it easier for the upper body to counterbalance the lower body during running. They also reduce the amount of muscle power needed to keep the arms flexed when running.


Human vertebrae and disks are larger in diameter relative to body mass than are those in apes or australopithecines. "This is related to shock absorption", says Bramble. "It allows the back to take bigger loads when human runners hit the ground".


The connection between the pelvis and spine is stronger and larger relative to body size in humans than in their ancestors, providing more stability and shock absorption during running.


Human buttocks "are huge", says Bramble. "Have you ever looked at an ape? They have no buns". He says human buttocks "are muscles critical for stabilization in running" because they connect the femur—the large bone in each upper leg—to the trunk. Because people lean forward at the hip during running, the buttocks "keep you from pitching over on your nose each time a foot hits the ground".


Long legs, which chimps and australopithecines lack, let humans to take huge strides when running, Bramble says. So do ligaments and tendons—including the long Achilles tendon—which act like springs that store and release mechanical energy during running. The tendons and ligaments also mean human lower legs that are less muscular and lighter, requiring less energy to move them during running.


Larger surface areas in the hip, knee and ankle joints, for improved shock absorption during running by spreading out the forces.


The arrangement of bones in the human foot creates a stable or stiff arch that makes the whole foot more rigid, so the human runner can push off the ground more efficiently and utilize ligaments on the bottom of the feet as springs.


Humans also evolved with an enlarged heel bone for better shock absorption, as well as shorter toes and a big toe that is fully drawn in toward the other toes for better pushing off during running.


The study by Bramble and Lieberman concludes: "Today, endurance running is primarily a form of exercise and recreation, but its roots may be as ancient as the origin of the human genus, and its demands a major contributing factor to the human body form".




Run The Planet thanks the University of Utah ( for the permission to reprint "How Running Made Us Human - Endurance Running Let Us Evolve to Look the Way We Do" by Lee Siegel, a news release about the article by biologist Dennis Bramble and Harvard University anthropologist Daniel Lieberman (published in the November 18, 2004 issue of the journal "Nature"). Text © by University of Utah. Chart © by Laszlo Meszoly, Harvard University (drawings of our ape-like ancestor, Australopithecus afarensis, and an early human species, Homo erectus, showing some of the differences that gave humans the ability to run long distances). Illustration © 2005 by Run The Planet.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

3 more lunch time miles

Today’s 3 miles were…  ahhhh…  painful.  Painful, to say the LEAST.


I’m still running without a watch, so I don’t know the time, but I KNOW the first mile was fast.  How fast?  Dunno, but the dude I was following was built like a Marine—an old Marine, but a tough sunuvabitch all the same.  I paced behind him until he stopped for some water at about the 1 mile mark, and it was about half way into that mile that I started to realize that he was booking it.  But I was on his heel, so I figured I’d hang as long as I could and see how it went.  He dropped for some water, and I picked up on another guy who had a slightly slower cadence, but was taller and a ton stronger than me.  We kept a slightly slower, yet still quick, pace for the next mile.


How much slower?  Not much slower, but the old Marine passed us at about the 2 mile mark.  I dropped old Long Gate and chased the Old Marine knowing damn good and well that I wasn’t going to be able to keep that pace for the full 3 miles, but figuring I could give it a shot and see how it went.


At about the 2.5 mile region, Old Marine started to pull away from me and I started to get a cramp in my damn side.


I hate those.  They’re painful.


Then, over my left shoulder, I hear Old Long Gate’s “thud-thud-thud” cadence in the gravel behind me, back maybe about 15 feet or so (I need to start measuring like a runner…  that’s, what, 5 meters or so?).  Worst timing ever!!  The cramp is starting to set in, I’m trying to get my breathing under control and in the proper rhythm to counteract the cramping, and now I have to pick up the pace to hold off Old Long Gate!!  Ugh.


So, for the next half mile, give or take, I’m trying to fend off cramps AND Old Long Gate, panting hard, gasping for breath, desperately trying to hold my mid section just right while keeping the muscles under control and in proper form as we approach the stretching benches.  He’s still about 3 or 4 meters back, but he’s closing fast (not that I think he’s racing me, or trying to catch me, he’s just galloping along).  I grab my side and push on to the 3 mile marker, grit my teeth and push the last 7 meters or so, and he’s closed the gap to maybe 2 meters, and then finally, blissfully, it’s over.  I reach the marker and damn near collapse in a crampy garbage heap.  Old Long Gate just trots on by.  One of these days…  one of these days…  that’ll be me.


Meanwhile, Old Marine watched me pass from the stretching benches and smiled as I passed.  He looks like a neat guy, and hopefully I’ll get a chance to talk to him next time I see him.  By the time I had caught my breath and the cramps had gone away, he had trotted back to the tennis courts where he picked up a very lovely running companion and went trotting by for another lap.  You know, what’s another 3 miles among friends?  One of these days…  one of these days…  that’ll be me, trotting another lap like it’s nothing.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Ok, I deserved that

Not two days after asserting, rather proudly, that I do not exist because I do everything wrong and have never been seriously injured, I suffered some kind of ligament or tendon injury.


I deserved that.  No question.


But after 8 days of downtime I’m back, and I’m feeling good again, doing the one thing that separates us from cave men and every other mammal on the planet—running.  I haven’t used my watch on my last couple of runs, clocking miles instead of time.  I’ve packed on, as of today, 6.6 miles and will run another 5 or 6 tomorrow as I start extending my distance once again.  In a week or so I’ll break the watch back out and see how my times are holding up on the longer—10+ miles—runs and make a determination as to whether I’ll run a marathon slowly or run a half marathon quickly.


The decision will be based on the following:


I am not, nor do I ever intend to, train for A MARATHON.  I am, however, training my body and mind to once again be a RUNNER.  And as A RUNNER, if I hope to condition myself to be able to not only run 100 meters quickly, but also 100 MILES.  No, I am under no presumption that running 100 miles is as easy as running 100 meters, but a runner—a true runner—should be capable of doing either, even if the 100 miles takes 5 days to do it.  A runner is a different breed of animal than a person who runs.  A runner holds himself differently.  A runner knows that if gas spikes back up to $10 per gallon, he’ll still be able to get to the office because it’s “only” 15 miles and he can run that in 2, maybe 3 hours.  A runner has a higher level of fitness, poise, confidence, and general well being that merely somebody who runs.  I am not training to run a marathon.  I am training to be human again.


As such, I know I can run 13 miles.  That is not now, nor ever has been, a question in my mind.  I’m not saying it’s easy to run 13.1 miles, but I am saying it’s easy for me to run 13.1 miles.  26.2, however, is still hard for me.  As such, 26.2 is my current goal, but merely as a waypoint to my ultimate goal of being able—both physically and mentally—to run 26.2 today, tomorrow, and whenever as easy as I run 3 or 5 or 10 today.

However, if based on my times in the next few weeks, I can run 13.1 miles exceptionally—that is, “exceptionally” as I have defined it being under 2 hours, and closer to 1:30 than 2:00—then I will seriously consider adjusting my training to seek that goal.  Because if I can run 13.1 in under 2 hours, then I can begin to seriously consider not only running far, but running far AND fast.  I know not a few runners who are quite literally torturing themselves on a regular basis in order to shave several minutes off of the 300 or so that they’re already planning to run for the marathon.  Do you know what the difference between a 5:35 marathon and a 5:28 marathon is?  A lot of miserable Tuesday nights, and 7 stinkin’ minutes.  Do you know what the difference between a 5:30 and 4:00 marathon is?  Me neither, but I’d still like to find out.  But running a 3:00 half marathon won’t get me any closer to knowing.

And I guarantee if I run a sub 2:00 half marathon, a sub 4:00 full will not be too far in my future.  And I won’t have to torture myself to find out.


And that would be something, indeed!

Monday, November 9, 2009

There's a first time for everything

Yup, I pulled …  well, pulled something.  Maybe strained something.  Possibly just suffered a severe, severe cramp.


I was nervous before the run on Sunday.  A feeling I’ve grown accustomed to this season.  I tried to shake the nerves with a little blood pumping activity. 


Consequently, on Sunday, before the 25k, I was doing some warm-up jogs and stretches.  During these short little jogs and stretches, I felt a twinge at the top of my right calf, just below, and behind, the knee.  It’s a twinge I’d felt before on runs, but the twinge always went away after a couple minutes of running as the muscles and ligaments loosened up.


Not this time.


At precisely 7:00am, when the gun sounded, and I pushed off with my right foot to take my first step with the left, I felt a BIG twinge in my right calf, just above the muscle, just behind and below the knee.


I kept going, hoping it would go away, as it has always done in the past.


Mile 1, 12 minutes.  Mile 2, 15 minutes.  On mile 3 things started to get to normal and I logged a pair of 10 minute miles.  At the start of mile 5 I had to stop and use the can.  Standing there caused the muscles to seize up once again and that mile cost me 19 minutes.  I crossed the starting zone and pulled out of the race.  The pain was unbearable at that point and it wasn’t getting normal.  I had gone about an hour and a half into the race, was roughly 5 miles behind where I wanted to and needed to be at that point, and wasn’t going to be getting that time and distance back.  It was over.


I’m worried that I strained a ligament.  I’m less worried that I strained the muscle, and even less worried that it is just a severe cramp.  The last will be fine in a few days and everything will be back to normal.  The second will take a little longer, but everything will be ok if I focus and work on making up for lost time, possibly pushing the goal from sub-4:30 to sub-5:00.  The first, however, will likely force the conversation of the complete realignment of goals for January, like from 26.2 to 13.1.

That’s a conversation I’m not ready to contemplate right now.


Now, a little post crash analysis.


In August, my FREQUENCY of runs was roughly one every other day—about 15 runs logged.

In September and October, my FREQUENCY dropped to one every third day—about 10 to 12 runs logged per month.

My frequency needs to increase.


In August, my distance and intensity was relatively low.  I was in the process of ramping up distance from 1 to 6 miles and my times were all above 10:30 per mile.

In September and October, my intensity began to steadily increase as the times steadily began dropping to sub 10:00 and sub 9:00 miles.  The distances, on average though, continued to remain flat at an average distance of roughly 5 miles per outing.


Now, the frequency can drop, but the distance needs to increase along with the intensity.  The distance cannot remain the same if the frequency is going to drop.  If the distance is going to remain the same, the frequency needs to remain at least the same while the intensity increases.  If the intensity is going to drop, the frequency needs to stay at least the same while the distances increase.  It’s like a big triangle, and the ultimate goal is to increase the area of the triangle.   If only one side grows, the total area stays the same or shrinks.  At least two sides need to grow simultaneously, while the third at least stays static, to ensure an increasing total area.  The sides of the triangle are intensity (time), distance, and frequency.  The two most important sides are intensity and distance.  As soon as the pain goes away, I’ll start back on that formula and see what it gets me.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Race fuel

Ok, I just read about a chick who fuels up during long runs with Gummi Bears.


Interesting idea…


Just remembered that I have a dinner date tonight with part of the fam.  I’m quite literally going to have to go home, throw on my gear, and run to dinner.  Hopefully I’ll get there in time for the entrees.


How’s that for dedication?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

My lack of existence

According to most marathon training programs, I do not exist.


I don’t stretch.

I don’t train with weights.

I hardly ever do speed workouts, and when I do they’re pretty short.

I never run hills.

I rarely run more than 3 or 4 times a week.

My mileage rarely tops 35 miles in a week.

I don’t do “tempo” runs.

I don’t run Fartleks.

I don’t consciously carbo-load.

I don’t use energy drinks.

I don’t use energy gels.

I rarely drink sports drinks.

I don’t have a heart monitor, and therefore don’t know when I’m at 90% of my ideal heart rate.

My “long, slow runs” are neither long, nor slow.

I don’t consciously taper before a big race.

I don’t warm up.

I don’t cool down.

I run almost exclusively on concrete.


Basically, I do everything they advise against, yet still manage to run long distances and have completed one marathon with the second on its way without any significant injury to my muscles, joints, or bones.


Basically, I don’t exist.


Sure, you can say “it’s just a matter of time before…”  But you know what?  If you wait long enough, even Olympians get injured.  And I’m willing to bet real, American money that most of the Olympic runners have been injured more in the last 6 months than I have.


Basically, my training program is to get out there and run.  Run as far as I can, as fast as I can, given the time constraints I have to work within.  If I have an hour to run, well, I need to go out there and run for an hour.  If that’s 3 miles, then it’s a 3 mile run.  If it’s 6, then a 6 mile run.  If I can finish 8 in that time frame, then I’ll go after 8 (and thus far I have never been able to run THAT fast, for THAT far).  Sure, on the weekends, when I have more time, I’ll give myself a specific distance target—go run 10 miles, cover the distance, no matter what.  But on a typical weekday evening, or morning, when I have to get back to the house ahead of either darkness or in time to go to work, then I have to either leave early—which is precluded by sleeping or driving—or adjust either the speed or distance.  And you know what?  A 6 mile run at 9:00 per mile is probably as good a workout as a 10 mile run at 12:00 per mile.


Of course, I can’t prove that.  I’m not a coach or anything.


But, then again, according to most coaches I don’t exist.


Monday, November 2, 2009

A week of preparation

I’ve fallen into something of a pattern with my running.  A pattern that will likely be completely disrupted thanks to the phase shift from daylight savings time to standard time…  or standard to daylight savings time…  whichever.  We fell back and now it’s dark when I get home.


The old pattern was 3 or 4 runs a week.  Most of the runs were in the evening and I could usually sneak one in on a Wednesday morning if I didn’t stay up too late on Tuesday.  Going back to the middle of September I am working in long runs every couple of weekends.  I’ve stretched the definition of “long” from 6 miles to 13 miles, and will be hitting 15 this weekend (2 weeks after the not-so-good 13 miles).


On the weeks in between these long runs, it’s not that I don’t want to run.  In fact, Saturday I woke up with every intention of running, but couldn’t find socks, shoes, or shorts.  An hour after I intended to leave, I crawled back into bed and enjoyed the warm sheets.  The next morning, as I was opening the door to head out, I hear my son call from upstairs and decided that playing with him was FAR more important than the 13 I was about to run, so I chose to play with my kid—and will no doubt pay the price for that this weekend.


However, this weekend’s run shouldn’t be anything out of the ordinary.  Sure, it’s 15.5 miles.  That’s a long way to run.  But just 4 days ago I whipped off 6 miles at a 9:30 clip.  The fastest 6 miles I’ve run in probably forever.  If I can key it back to 10:30, I should be able to crank out 13 or 14 miles, and then gut out the last mile or two.  Even more importantly, I need to find out what my “forever pace” is.  Alberto Salazar, at the end of his marathon career, realized that he could no longer run 26.2 miles at 5:30/mile.  He realized, though, that he could run forever at 6:30, so he transformed himself into an ultramarathoner and started running 40 mile races instead of 26.2 mile races.  He was injured shortly thereafter and hung ‘em up for good, but THAT’s the pace that I’m looking for.  I don’t want to plod around at 15:00/mile.  I want to find that pace where I can just hit the cruise control button, crawl into the back seat, and nap all the way to the finish line.


So to speak.


To do that, though, I’ve got to put in some more miles and deepen the reserves of energy as well as add some strength to the old power plant.  So, in preparation for the next long run on Sunday, I’ll be running 6 miles this evening (and possibly 3 at lunch), 6 miles tomorrow evening, skipping Wednesday (unless I can sneak in a morning run), and adding another 6 or 8 on Thursday and Friday.  I’ll take the day off on Saturday (or only run 3), and then it’s off to the races on Sunday.


What about the taper, you ask?  I’m not looking at this as a race, I’m looking at it as just another training run.  Will I be at my peak performance?  Nope.  Will that matter in the grand scheme of things?  Nope.  I’m not trying to shave another minute off my time to beat out some Kenyan at the front of the pack.  I’m just trying to run 15.5 miles…  and get to church on time.


Ideal time for this run, between 2:35 and 3:00.  That’s between a 10:00 and 11:30 pace, which is around the pace I want to have for the marathon.


Can I do it?  Not sure.  Will I try?  Yup.  The half marathon was an 11:30 pace, and I’m feeling a lot stronger now than I was then.  I should be able to at least match that “performance”.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Can and Will, the eternal struggle

I know I can bust out a marathon.  I’ve done it before.  If I continue at my current pace, I know I’ll finish the marathon in January.  I can set my pace at 13 minutes per mile and grind out a slow, steady, 5:30 marathon without any major problems.  It won’t be pretty, but I won’t die trying.


The thing is, I don’t WANT a 5:30 marathon this time around.  LAST time I ran a 5:30 marathon.  I know what that feels like.  I’ve climbed that mountain, looked down and seen the valleys.  I don’t need to spend $100 to run another marathon slowly.  I want to run a little faster race this time. 


This time, I want to finish in the front half of the fourth hour.


But the question isn’t “what can I do?”


The question has NEVER been “what can I do?”


The thing that defines Man is the ability to run for long distance.  Man IS el cazador, el coreador.  Physiologically, the issue of “can” has never been in question.


However, the fact remains that much of the population of the world today has never run 26.2 miles in its entire life, much less 26.2 miles in one shot.  But even for them the question is not whether or not they can.


The question that begs an answer is “what WILL I do?”


Will I do the extra conditioning needed to extend my endurance so that I can maintain a 10 minute pace for 26.2 miles?

Will I do the extra training required to mentally prepare for the distance?


I know I can run a marathon.  I know a person can run a marathon in under 4:30—hell, people run the marathon in 2:05.


WILL I run a marathon in under 4:30?  Do I have the will to push through that time barrier?


I think so.  Time’s coming to prove it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The whole half recap

This weekend’s half marathon is really the story of 3 races.  I started out strong, I fell into a nice, steady pace that I’m generally comfortable with and was cruising along for awhile at that pace, then things started to go south around the 10 mile mark and times started to drag, my quit caught up to me and I started to run/walk the last few miles, but managed to dig down and fight through the last mile and change to finish stronger than I had been dragging through those last few miles.


All in all, not a bad run, but not even close to a good run, either.


Final time (per my watch):  2:29

1.       9:14

2.       9:44  (end race 1)

3.       10:18

4.       10:24

5.       10:44

6.       10:15

7.       11:10

8.       11:13

9.       11:25

10.   12:13 (end race 2)

11.   13:58

12.   14:02

13.   13:13

.03:   1:01


Hydration was a problem.  Dietary preparation was a problem.  GI preparation was a problem (need to teach the gut what to expect as far as Gatorade on the run).  Training was too light.  The list can go on and on.


I’m not overly satisfied with the run, but I’m not devastated, either.  I knew going in it was going to be a challenging run, and I knew I was a little underprepared.  I didn’t expect it to be THAT challenging, though.  I thought I was going to finish about 10 minutes faster.  Oh well, I know what the road ahead looks like now.  I have a LOT of work to do over the next 2 weeks to get ready for the 25k, if I’m going to run that race strong.


The preliminary goal for the 25k (which is 15.5 miles), is 2:40.  That’s slightly slower than 10:00/mile.  That’s doable.  At least it SHOULD be doable.  A 10:00/mile marathon is 4:19:00.  That’s doable, too.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Is IT in you?

Admittedly, this has been a bad couple of weeks running.


After the 10 for Texas (which was a GREAT run), I got in a good 3 miles on Monday for recovery, but the speed work on Wednesday had to be cut short for a plethora of reasons.  Then I went down with some kind of stomach bug.  Then Tuesday was the first day I felt good enough to run again, so I got in a really good run that day.  Class on Wednesday ran long and cut out that run.  Company came over last night and precluded a run.  This morning I overslept my alarm and didn’t get out to run.  Tonight I’ve got a fall festival thing and likely won’t run (I might elliptical, though).  Tomorrow is the day before the half marathon, so I might only run 3, if I run any at all.


This has been a bad couple of weeks.


But I’m STILL going to go hit the half marathon on Sunday and see what happens.

The timeline will go like this:

5:00am, wake up

5:30am, eat—egg, toast, peanut butter, banana

6:00am, head to downtown.

6:30am, head to the starting area, mill around for a little while, chat with some real runners.

7:00am, gun


10:30am, church.  Here I get to be the liturgist, so the run needs to 1, go well enough that I can finish in less than 3 hours (shouldn’t be a problem), and 2, not be so exhausting that I can’t stand, sit, and be coherent while reading the scripted cues.


This will be a fun weekend.


So, the question is, even without really rigorous training over the last two weeks, is IT in me?


I think it is.  I’m so ready for this.  That antelope better be well rested.

The Tuesday run

Tuesday was the first day that I felt good enough to run since last Wednesday when I pulled the plug in the middle of my speed workout.


Here’s how it went.


Around lunch time, this drum cadence starts throbbing in my head. 


DA  -  DA  -  D-DA CH-CH  DA  -  DA  -  D-DA CH-CH  DA  -  DA  -  D-DA CH-CH 


Again and again and again…

Then my legs start getting all tingly and I just want to rip off my shirt and run.


But I left my bag at home because I was feeling pretty junky in the morning again.


Nonetheless, I jam on my headphones and start listening to my pre-race music mix—lots of RATM, Beastie Boys, some Black Eyed Peas…  mostly stuff with driving beats that can be jammed LOUDLY.  No drum cadence, though.  And the drums are getting louder.


The 6:00 whistle sounds and I’m out the door like a bullet.  Flying through traffic, weaving in and out of every open space on the freeway, doing my level best to get home NOW.


In the door, kiss the missus, kiss the boy, into the bedroom and back out wearing my running gear like Clark Kent in a phone booth.  My feet barely touched the carpet.


I jam out 9:30 miles over my 3.64 mile route (a route which I have been calling my “three and a half mile route” and believing it is actually 3.5 miles even though, for some inexplicable reason, it never dawned on me that 3.64 is not, in fact, 3.5 miles and is, in fact, 3.64 miles…) and made it home good and tired and ready for dinner.


The drums had gone silent.


Later that night, I hear them again—WHAT IS THAT SONG?!?


I go on to the electronic answer box and start looking.

And looking…

And looking…


Find nothing until the next morning when I chance across the current Gatorade commercial.


Yup.  That’s right.  It’s the song from the Gatorade commercial.  It actually has an artist, and a title (Lock it Up) and you can find it on You Tube and download the mp4 file and even a ring tone.


So thank you crass commercialism and marketing.  One of your commercials has made its way into my pre-race mix and I’m jamming THAT along with my other sets of music.


Is it in you?  It sure as hell is in me…  Bring on the half marathon.  I eat 13.1 miles for breakfast.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The morning after the morning after

I’m still not sore.

110 miles into my training and I have yet to wake up sore from any of my runs.


I’ve had tightness, sure.  But that would go away after about 15 seconds of walking into the other room.  There’s also been injury-type pain, but that’s a different problem than the lactic-acid buildup muscle soreness.  To date, there have been no lingering, non-injury related ill effects from any run that I have gone on.  What’s up with that?


Saturday morning was the 10 for Texas.  It was the first timed 10 mile run I’ve ever participated in, so a PR was guaranteed.  It was also the farthest I’ve run this season.  Fuel stops were set at each even mile, plus the 9 mile mark.  The weather was perfect.  It was a VERY well put together event and the course was pretty decent.


I had serious doubts going in to this run.  I wasn’t worried so much about my conditioning, because I know I can cruise at 11 or 12 minute paces for quite awhile.  However, I wasn’t sure I WOULD cruise at that pace, or any pace, for that amount of time.  In other words, the worry isn’t whether or not I can, the worry is whether or not I will.  My quit has been a near constant running companion for the last several weeks and the notion of running for more than an hour still seems pretty absurd.  The goal was to finish in the range of 1:30 – 1:45.  Worse than that would have been a bit disappointing, better would have been unfathomable.  I get nervous the day before, arrive early and still nervous, see some folks I recognize and am still nervous, run back to my car and I’m still nervous, lose the folks I recognized and I’m still nervous, take a leak and I’m still nervous, race to the starting line still nervous, the gun goes off and…  no more nerves.  That was pretty cool.


For the first mile I’m picking through the crowd waiting for things to thin out.  Eventually the crowd thins and around the half mile point I find two guys who keep the exact same cadence and stride length as me.  They’re also keeping a 9:30 pace for the first mile and keyed it back to a 9:45 for the second mile.  I slow down and grab some water at the refreshment stand, and they scoot on ahead, but not out of sight.  I begin to reel them in at about the 2.5 mile area and catch them at the 3.5 mile area.  At 4 miles I slow down again and grab some water, they scoot ahead.  I was feeling good and keeping a nice, steady pace.  A half mile later I spot the JuneBug up ahead of me, cruising along like the machine she is.  She has an equipment malfunction and we briefly chat, then she pours on the speed and leaves me behind.  At about 5.5 miles I catch her and my two pacers and push by them to get a little space at the water stand.  They blow by me anyway and for another mile or so I keep them in my sights, but lose them forever between mile 7 and 8.


The first 7 miles were really uneventful.


For what it’s worth, 6 miles is the longest I’ve run in a single stretch this year.  I’ve doubled up some runs in a day and run more than 7, but never at a single stretch.  The fact that I was able to clear the first 6+ without really slowing down much or stopping to walk at all (except while drinking, but that’s allowed), gave me a significant sense of accomplishment already.


Around mile 7, though, is where I started to feel the distance.  I began checking my watch to gauge how far until the next water stand (keeping steady 10 minute miles really makes it easy to estimate distance).  I started talking to myself to keep the focus and energy up.  I started counting breaths and paces to maintain focus.  I began pulling out as many tricks as I knew how to pull out, plus I was keenly aware that my speed was slowly dropping.  I wasn’t at all out of breath and my legs weren’t really tired yet, but I was beginning to feel it all the same.


This is where my quit began talking:  This is too far, no shame in walking, slow down, catch your breath, you have plenty of time to get ready for the half in 2 weeks, just relax, you knew you weren’t ready for this, 7 miles is better than nothing…


Mile 8, water, keep rolling.  Check the watch, focus, focus, check the tank, test the legs with a  little surge, ok that was a big mistake but they’re still responsive, keep pushing, keep pushing, don’t stop, don’t even THINK about stopping, measure the breathing, check the stride, lengthen the step, maintain the pace, doing good, doing good, keep it going.


You’re not going to make it, might as well pack it in now, no need to torture yourself for 2 more miles, just walk/run the rest of the way, you’ve already fought a good fight, you’re just not good enough to finish today, don’t worry about it, look at those guys running so much stronger than you, you don’t even deserve to be on the road with them, why are you even here…


Mile 9 is approaching and I hear music!!  This was just about the best placed water stand on the whole run.  The music was great, THE Jon Walk was there wearing his crown AND gorilla suit with a host of other super heroes.  A quick check and the watch told me I was 90 minutes into the run and WELL within my target of finishing before 01:45:00.  That put a little spring in my step, too. 


I start to push the pace, ever so slightly, which really only serves to get my pace back up to where it was when I started.  I check the breathing, and it’s still good.  I’m keeping a nice, steady cadence breathing out on every other left step.  The rhythm and tempo are keeping strong and steady.  (I’ve long since given up heart monitors and this is the best way I know to measure my exertion level.)  5 minutes in and I see the market square area where the finish line should be.  The problem is I don’t know EXACTLY where the finish line is, so I don’t really know when to kick it into another gear.  I surge just a little, anyway.


And you know what?  The voices have gone silent.

Where’s my doubt?  Where’s my quit?  Silence.  That’s a pretty damn nice sound.


We get on to the curbed streets which means the finish line is close.  I push the pace a little harder.  We turn a corner and I recognize a building.  I push a little harder still.  We turn another corner and there’s the finish line.  I break cadence, switch to the final kick, and press to the finish line.  I stopped getting passed when the curbs showed up and I finally begin passing people on this final stretch.


1:40:50.  10:05/mile pace.


Tasks for the next week and a half:  deepen the tank a little bit more, get at least 1x 10+ mile run, learn how to push through that wall of exhaustion a little harder.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Breaking the Quit

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.”


We all know the saying and have probably heard it so many times that it has lost just about all measure of impact.  That’s what clich├ęs are, after all.


But I offer another twist.


We all have at least two forces working in us.  One force drives us forward.  We can call it fight, or pride, guts, determination, stubbornness, or whatever else you want to call it.  It’s the thing in us that makes us get up at 5:00am (or earlier), throw off the warm sheets and slide into the cold running kit to go pound asphalt for 60 minutes every morning.  It’s the thing that pushes us on in 200 degree heat with 100% humidity and mosquitoes the size of chickens swarming about.


But there’s another force working in us.  This force drives us back.  It’s what makes us hit that alarm button just one more time until it’s too late to run.  It’s the force that tells us it’s too hot, or too cold, or we’re too tired.  Or when our lungs are burning, but the legs are churning, we just decide it’s too much.  Call it what you want—doubt, uncertainty, “the wall”, fear, complacency—but I’ll call it my quit. 


I drag my quit around on several of my runs, and I know damn well it’s back there.  Or, maybe I’m not dragging it around so much as it’s stalking me, waiting for me to falter, waiting for me to take the next step at a slightly slower cadence so that it can catch up to me, climb on my back, and whisper in my ear the words I hate to hear:  you’re kidding yourself, you’re not good enough, there’s no way you will accomplish this, you can’t make it, just stop now, stop torturing yourself, what are you trying to prove, who do you think you are, you’re too small for this, you’re too fat, you’re not good enough, you’re not good enough, you’re such a disappointment, you might as well cut your losses now, you don’t want to feel that pain again…  just quit.

Right now I know my quit is a better runner than I am.  I know this to be true because I hear it whispering to me when I run and that insidious whisper drowns out the personal trainer soundtrack and the envelope of complete silence that surrounds me during the most blissful miles.


There will come a point, and I know this to be true as well, when my quit will falter and I’ll be able to look back over my shoulder and see it there, gasping on the side of the path, calling out for ME to wait up.  I don’t know when this point will come, but I know it WILL come.

Because it’s not about the dog in this fight, nor the fight in this dog.  It’s about the quit…  and breaking the quit…  and leaving it broken on the side of the road begging for a ride home.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


I have been hungry almost non-stop for the last 3 days.  What the hell?!?


Ok, so the speedwork last night was good.  I ran 2x800, then a series of 400s.  The first 800 was an easy pace of nearly 5:00, the second 800 was what I consider to be fast at under 4:00.

I trotted over to the small track and ran one slow lap at a 2:30 pace, then launched into 3 faster laps right at 2:00.  The final lap was another slow one at 2:30.


The intent was to break the 100m mark on my training log.  I thought I was at 97.79 going into the day and needed a cool 2.25 to put me over the century mark.


I was at 96.04 miles.  I was a little pissed off to find that out.  And after I got home I wasn’t allowed to go back out and play.




So, I’m taking the next 2 days off to run the Ten for Texas up in the Woodlands.  I’ll break the 100 mile mark there…  right before the first mile marker.


Oh yea, I’m giving serious consideration to signing up for the Dallas Half in December.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

100 miles, here I come!!

Today (or tomorrow) should be the day I break 100 miles.

Sunday I went out for a rather dreadfully humid 6 miles, but it didn’t leave me shattered.

Yesterday I went out for a not quite so dreadful 3 miles and thought I was running a little harder than I actually did.  I still managed to come close to 00:29:00 for the circuit.  I was a little surprised I ran as well as I did since the afternoon started with a little …  uh …  gastrointestinal problem.  Yea, that’s a polite way to say it.  It had me worried about dehydration and, well, the obvious problem. 


But everything came out ok in the end.


Tonight I have a meeting at school.  Usually I run on Wednesday mornings, but I had trouble sleeping last night.  I’ll probably run two or three tonight and tack on some track work to get the legs good and worn down so that I can sleep like a drunken baby tonight.


If I do my speedwork tonight, then I’ll rest for the remainder of the week in advance of the 10 miler in the Woodlands.


I’ve been giving serious SERIOUS thought to running the Austin marathon in February.  How nutty is that?  For $110, though, I need to do more than think about it.


I also see that the Marathons of Texas program encourages people to hit Dallas, Houston, and Austin in December, January, and February in some combination of the half and full.  Finishers get a premium award.


I can do a half marathon in December.  Hm.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The hardest mile

Often times I find parallels between my running and my religion.  After all, the practice of training runs is in and of itself a religious act where a runner learns the discipline required to maintain faith in the unknown—that is, his ability to achieve the desired goals—even during the times when the body or spirit is unwilling or unable.

This is yet another of those parallels.

A runner will find a comfortable distance and run that distance repeatedly.  There will be some recognizable point along a path that becomes “the turnaround point”, a physical anchor point that tells the runner he’s run far enough and every step beyond that point is uncharted territory.

Breaking through that barrier on a familiar course is one of the hardest things a runner can do.  It is far easier to plot out a new course that covers the new distance than it is to run 85% of a new distance on an old course and 15% of the distance into uncharted territory.

There are many things that can go wrong when a runner knowingly ventures into uncharted distances, not the least of which is physical breakdown and the inability to finish.  There is also the knowledge that the runner is “so far from home” and a physical breakdown becomes a significant challenge.  On a new course, however, much of this is washed away by the lack of familiar land marks informing the runner of his progress and letting him know just how far from home he really is.

On a familiar course, the runner becomes very familiar with dozens of signposts along the way informing him of his progress.  There’s the 2:00 corner, the 3:00 light post, the 3:45 fence post, the 5:00 sign, the 5:35 rock, the 8:00 man hole, and the list of markers goes on and on to the midway point.  On a new course there are no such markers.  The runner is free to simply run without the judgment of geography informing him if he’s doing well or not.  Every step along a new course is doing well because it’s a step that has been authored anew.


Churches face these same challenges.  Congregations erect various signposts along their own paths that inform them whether or not they’re doing well.  Attendance on Sunday morning, attendance to bible studies, the weekly offering, participants in the choir, prayer requests, and several others that inform them whether or not they’re “doing well”.  Each of these points up to and including the “turnaround point” where a church gets just up to the edge of what it feels comfortable doing, then promptly executes and about-face and marches back down the familiar path.  Adding to the distance from home is hard to do, as each step beyond that “turnaround point” becomes harder and harder and uncharted territory is covered with each new step and the familiar is left further and further behind.


A completely new course, more often than not, is far easier to traverse, but it is far harder to commit to.


Eventually a runner has to decide what kind of runner he will be and either bust through his own turnaround point and turn the uncharted miles into familiar ground and reach out farther than he ever has before, or chart a new course entirely, all the while maintaining the fundamentals that allowed him to achieve the original distances in the first place.  Alternatively, he can just stay in his old rut, comfortably traversing the same miles, day in and day out, without any hope of running farther and faster than he ever has before.


I feel very wrecked today.

Not entirely sure why…  yesterday’s run shouldn’t have taken this much out of me. 


I’m wondering if the unspeakable is happening.  That would be bad.  Very very bad.  Not catastrophic, but still very bad.

Weekend torture session

I know I should have run Saturday morning.  I even got out of bed at 5 to go to Memorial to run my 3x3 mile repeats.

But something happened between the bed, the alarm, the gear bag, and the door and I found myself back in bed at 8:00am wearing my running shorts, 1 sock, and trying desperately to remember if I had actually run or not.


I had not.


So I know I should have run later that afternoon when it was all overcast and cool.  I didn’t.  I took a nap instead because I had exactly zero energy.  Then we planned an afternoon at Dewberry Farms, then it rained, then I ate some delicious red and black bean stew to store up some energy to use on Sunday for the run.


I know I should have run Sunday morning when it was still cool and only drizzly.  I did not.  This time the alarm had been set, but failed to go off (a bit of an oversight on my part).  I packed up the gear bag and brought it to church.  I had images of running from church down to the end of the White Oak Trail and maybe even heading a few blocks south to cross the bridge for a full 11 mile round trip.


I was getting genuinely pumped.


Alas, the run from church remained merely an image.  When we left the sanctuary to head to fellowship hall the skies opened up and great peals of thunder and brilliant bolts of lightning shredded the sky.  With no small amount of disappointment, I decided to just go home.


A few hours later the rain relented, but the humidity returned.  I know I should have run Saturday, but was left with a late Sunday afternoon run.  Gear on, out the door, no second thoughts.

The plan was 6 miles on the trail, light and easy, some hydration, then 3x1 mile repeats back in the ‘hood.  The front half of the 6 went by easy enough, though the humidity was awful, and an operational error prevented me from accurately clocking my return trip, so half the run was untimed.


The clouds were bringing darkness on early, so I had to boogie to beat the night and made it home ok.  I gobbled a Cliff Bar and chugged some water and headed out to the 1 mile course when the sky lit up again.  The 3 miles were going to have to come another day as the lightning wrote better plans for my evening.

I stood on the scale after the run and saw that I had sweated off 2 lbs.  Maybe that’s why I was feeling so wobbly.


The 10 for Texas is Saturday.  I’m looking forward to that run.


Today has a 3.5 miler scheduled, but I may stretch it to 6.

I lost 2 pounds while running Sunday.  When I got home it felt like I had been swimming.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Run recap

Last night was a scheduled “easy run” with June.


Slacking off on the middle miles is a sin that I know I commit while running and by allowing June to pace me for “like 4 miles” would help atone for that particular sin.  It did.


But first, let me say a little something about distances that are “like” other distance.  Back in 2005 when I ran the Sugarland 30k (and had to sprint to the registration table because I forgot to collect my race chip), I was told that a 30k is “like 18 miles”.  “Cool”, I think to myself, “I ran 3 yesterday for a good tune up and should be able to knock this down, no sweat.  I ran 13 a few weeks back, so what’s another 5 miles?”


Now, not yet being what you would call a “runner”, I was not quick with the 5k to 3.1 mile conversion math and never bothered to multiply 3.1 by 6 to get the actual distance.  I just took the real runners’ word as gospel truth.  To me a kilometer was as relevant as a dram, stone, or cubit.


That is, I took their word as gospel truth until I reached the 18 mile marker and saw no finish line anywhere near where I was.


“Like 18 miles” my ass.  It’s “like 19 miles”.  Or, more accurately, like 18.6 miles.  So very much like 18.6 miles that it is, in fact, 18.6 miles.


So, back to yesterday’s run that was “like 4 miles”.  I immediately ask for clarification of whether or not “like 4 miles” was really 4.8 or 3.8 or some other horridly evil distance.  June assured me that it was actually closer to 3.8 (3.76 is what it turned out to be).  I knew what distance I was up against, and we were off.


What I didn’t know is that I’d be paced by a flat out machine.

June kept us pegged at 10:00 minute miles for the whole route.  No slacking off for this fat white guy.  The first mile whipped by at 9:59, the second at 9:51, and the final mile and change at 10:05.  At one point, after crossing a street and well into my tired stretch of the run, she sped up.

That’s right.  She sped up.  It was just for a few paces, and I don’t think she intended to do it, but I called her an evil witch anyway (through a gasping smile).  She came close to breaking me, but I needed that in a bad way.


Nonetheless, I had just enough in the tank at the end to sprint to our cars.

It was a good run.  A very good run, even.  And June isn’t an evil witch…  she’s a good witch and a pacing machine.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The October "schedule"

Ok, so calling it a “schedule” is probably not entirely accurate because I am notoriously bad about working on schedules.  That’s part of the reason why I don’t like to run with groups.  The way I see it, running at 5:00am is no better than running at 7:00am, so why the hell get up 2 hours early on a Saturday just to run?  The problem is that most runners get up at 5:00am on Saturday to start their day running because, as far as I can tell, they are completely off their nut.


The goals for October:  150 total miles (66 for the month) and drop 13 lbs.  I may get some cycling in, but it’ll be hard to budget time for that.



To accomplish this I have tentatively mapped out what I thought was a rather pedestrian (giggle) October schedule as far as distances go, but ambitious in the sheer volume of work days versus off days.

A typical week (starting on a typical Monday) will look like this:

M: 3.5 AM, 0 pm

TU:  off

W:  3.5 AM, 1.5 speed pm

TH:  6.0  PM

F:  0 AM, 3 easy, plus 1 speed  PM

SA:  10, 11, or 13 miles AM (long run day)

SU:  off


That’s around 30 miles for the typical week.  Nothing spectacular, yet, and I’m good with that.  There will also be 2 races on the docket, the 10 for Texas on the 10th, and the Koala Fitness half marathon on the 25th.  Calling it a “half marathon” makes it sound so much more daunting than merely 13.1 miles.  I wonder why that is.  This half marathon is the first of 3 tune up races.  Back in 2006 I ran my first half marathon distance in November.  How I do on the 10 and 11 mile runs will determine whether or not I’m going to enter the 13 mile run at the end of October, but it is an excellent target to shoot for.


If I take only a week off during October, I still will have run 100 miles for the month, more than passing my 150 total mile mark that I want to hit.  I also have the freedom within the schedule to cut the longer runs short—convert a 11 mile day into an 8 mile day, or a 6 into 3.5—but that needs to not happen simply because I need to get my miles in, even if they are junk miles.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I got out of class a little late tonight, so I decided to just do some short 100m sprints instead of 1/4 mile sprints.
The plan: 1 warmup lap, run the straight, walk the curve, 1 cool down lap.

The warmup lap: about 2:00
The sprints: 0:19, 0:16, 0:17, 0:19.
Compared to the last 100m sprints I did:
8/25/09: 0:20, 0:20, 0:19, 0:18.
The cooldown lap: about 2:00.

Not a bad workout. Not a great workout.

Tomorrow I'll lay out my goals for October (sneak preview: they feature a 10 mile AND a 13 mile run!!).

Evening run

I fully intended to run last night.  No, seriously, I did.

Then I didn’t get out of the office until about an hour later than I expected.  No sweat, trim the run from 6 miles to 3.


Then I had to stop by the store.  No sweat, I love my wife and will stop by wherever she needs me to stop to get whatever.


But that meant there would be no run last night.  So, I put my gear together and ran this morning.


Let me make this perfectly clear:  I hate running in the morning almost as much as I hate running any other time of the day.  ESPECIALLY when the “morning” technically hasn’t dawned and it’s still, technically, night time.  My eyes are already blurry from peeling myself out of bed at a stupid hour, and then the headlights are blinding me, and then it’s all dark and shadowy on the ground.  I swear I’m going to break my leg out there.


But the weather was cool and I had all the energy.  It was a quick 3.6 miles to bring my total mileage up to 83.  I’m not going to hit 100 miles by the end of today, and I’m ok with that.  I should hit 85, though, if I get lucky enough to sneak in a little speed work at the track on Memorial.

So, the stats?


18:25 out, 18:38 in.  Total time of 37:04 for a 10:11 pace.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.  That’s about a 4:26 marathon, but only if I can keep that pace.  It’s likely closer to a 5:00 marathon, which is the time I want to beat.  4:30 is just about as close to my wildest dreams as it gets right now.

To qualify for Boston, I’d need to bust 3:15 in the next 5 years.  I wonder it would feel like to run a 7:26 pace for 26.2 miles…

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ok, Time to get back into this thing

It’s been a week since the speed training, and I still haven’t taken in a long run.

That means I’m going on nearly 2 weeks without a long run for my ledger.


That’s a problem.


And yea, I’ve got some legitimate excuses for most of the days.  Others, not so much.  There has been physical and mental pain that I’m dealing with (no, I don’t want to talk about it), and a general sense of ennui.  But the fact remains that I have a 10 mile run on the 10th of October that I damn well better get ready for and a marathon in January that I sure as hell need to get ready for.  It’s time to get up off the couch.


Tonight I’ll run.  Tomorrow will likely be an off day, and Thursday I have the great pleasure of having an experienced runner pound me into submission on the track.  Friday will likely be an off day, but I may take the day to do some track work.  Then there will be the Saturday long run.

I’m going to set the total mileage goal for October at 150 miles, which wouldn’t be very daunting had I stuck to my September schedule.  As it is I’ll likely miss that target, but I will get beyond the September total, and that’s ok.


I’ve decided I’m not technically training for the Houston Marathon.  I’m running.  Hopefully lots.  Hopefully there will be an accompanying mental transformation that comes with the physical transformation that running will bring about.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Today's run is doubtful

I was planning 3 laps at Memorial Park this evening, but a couple of things are conspiring to possibly prevent that from happening.


First and foremost, the lovely wife wrenched her back and may not be ambulatory this afternoon.  If that’s the case, I’m damn sure not going to be able to go out running.

Second, the rain has created some rather juicy conditions on the trail at Memorial.  I hate running in the mud for two reasons—it’s bad for the track and it’s bad for me.

Third, and somewhat related to the second one, my left ankle hurts, but not in an “oh my god I can’t move” type of way, more like an achy, overused, improperly used kind of way.  The track where I ran my intervals was a little sloppy, so I employed the grass around one of the curves.  The grass was wet, but not soupy.  It was also a little rutty, though.  I think the extra work in maintaining my balance and preventing the feet from rolling up under me caused a little high, outside strain on the ligaments between the calf and the ankle (the 9:00 position, if you’re scoring at home).  It’s not sprained, it just feels like I have a bad bruise.  It might be wise not to run 9 miles today—especially if the track is soupy.

So, if I don’t run the 9 today, do I run the RTW tomorrow?  Depends on the missus’s back.  Depends on the likelihood of getting a longer run in later in the day.  Depends on a lot of stuff, I suppose.




Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My week of "penance"

I started this week in a funk, not wanting to run another step. Injury right about now would have been an excellent excuse to not run for awhile.
So, I confessed that I was becoming a lazy distance runner and that I was getting bored with my routine. Penance? Speed intervals.

Except for the one time I ran 100m sprints at the elementary school down the street last month, I have never, ever run quarter mile intervals. I don't think I even ran them in high school that semester I ran with the cross country team.

Anyway, to get back on track I decided to take a week off and change the routine a little. The plan? Run quarter mile intervals until I couldn't run them any more. Monday I hit the track and ran 3 laps under 2:00, and the fourth was just at 2:00. At that point my body was rebelling and I was done. The next time I hit the track I'd run at least 5 laps at under 2:00.

Tuesday it rained (dirt track + rain = no run), so I hit the track Wednesday evening. The track was still a little juicy, so that required a little bit of creative maneuvering around the slop. Nonetheless, I managed 5 laps at under 2:00, but my body was again rebelling after the last one and I called it quits.

My buddy, The Cheetah, came out to run with me and I promised him one true 100m sprint if he ran a few of the quarter mile intervals with me. After the 5th lap we lined up for the sprint. He took off faster than I could and at 50m he had a solid lead of maybe 5 yards. Over the next 25m I caught up to him and in the final quarter I managed to blow by him.

In all fairness I have run more in the past 2 months than he has probably run in the last 3 years. But in even more fairness I had just finished running 5 laps around the track (he ran 3) and was quickly approaching exhausted. I honestly thought he was going to beat me. I was a little surprised when he didn't.

I may never be an elite runner, but I like being competitive with my peers. I also like the idea of getting through runs quickly. There's a big difference between running 10 miles in 1.5 hours versus 2.5 hours. It changes the outlook of the entire workout.

The intervals are done for the week. The next run will be Friday. The plan is to run 3 miles, three times. And no, that's not technically 9 miles. The intent from the get-go will be to run 3, then rest, then repeat. The first two sets, ideally, will be non-stop. The third set I will give myself permission to run/walk, but the preference, of course, will be to run.

Against some probably very good advice, I am also planning to get up and do the RTW on Saturday. Maybe there will be a sighting of a fellow running blogger?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Only the penitent man shall pass

I frequently find analogies between my running and my religion.  After all, for a runner, running becomes a type of religious act in and of itself.  And if a finish line is heaven for the runner, and the miles and miles of training are the daily grind that the faithful must endure, then sprints, hills, and speed work represent for the runner what confession and penance represents for the believer.


When we grow lazy and complacent in our faith we risk falling into old habits and build up a barrier between us and our ultimate reward.  For the faithful, the way to break that barrier and crack out of the old habits is the physical act of confession and penance, however your particular tradition builds those activities.  For the runner, breaking out of the tired old repetition of the long distance grinds means you must head to the track and rip off the calluses that have formed and break yourself down to the principal components that make a runner a runner.  A runner must shred those long, slow, endurance fibers that allow him to run for miles and miles at a stretch and reawaken those short, quick sprint fibers than propel him down a track even though his lungs are screaming for air and everything is numb.  A runner must go into that realm of complete oxygen deprivation and muscle fatigue.  A runner must, in effect, break his own will and conform it once again to that of the task at hand, which is to run with abandon and complete lack of desire for self.  You must, in effect, die to distance and be reborn to speed.  The runner must remember what it is like to be near that point of complete collapse, and at times even beyond that point, and still find the will to stand up and do it all over again.  To allow the body to work even after the mind has checked out.


Only then, after the miles of trials, can the distance runner return, once again, to the daily trial of miles.


I didn’t think it would be this dramatic of a crash, but I was expecting it to come…  eventually.


I have entered…  THE DOLDRUMS.


I know the run Friday sucked ass—big time.  But that is not what has precipitated this current malaise.  I’ve had bad runs before—just about all of the ones before mid August come to mind—that did not precipitate such a fundamental and cataclysmic crashing of the spirits.  Usually I just pick right back up and hit the road the next day.  Get over one by getting on another, so to speak.


Right now I legitimately don’t want to run.  I just don’t give a crap.  I just ever so barely stepped in a hole yesterday and was disappointed that I didn’t turn my ankle, not even a little bit.  THAT would have given me a legitimate excuse to not run for a couple of weeks, maybe even call this whole stupid marathon thing off.


Right now the only thing on my mind is rest.  I’m tired of the sore legs.  I’m tired of the twitchy feet that can’t wait to get on the track.  I’m tired of the dreams that involve just running.  I’m tired of the soundtrack that plays as I replay the imagery of the Houston Marathon in my mind’s eye.  I’m tired of the imagery of the Houston Marathon, and imagining running in New York, or Dallas, or San Antonio, or even considering the sheer idiocy of running 2 marathons in 2 weeks in 2011, and 5 hours of running is a lot longer than 30 minutes, or 1 hour of running, and 10 miles is a long way to go, not to mention 26.2, and…  and…  and…


I’m just tired.


It’s as if I’ve been trying to outrun all that and had been out ahead of it, but the bungee finally recoiled and the full weight of all of that has finally come and smashed me in the back and left me lying face down and bowled over by the weight of everything.


I’m so tired.


But tonight I’m going to go to a track and run a mile.  Then I’ll rest.  Then I’ll run another.  Then I’ll rest.  Then I’ll run 8 sprints, while resting on the turns, then another mile, and maybe one more.  Maybe I’ll even get obsessed again.


The trials of miles must continue.  The enemy is nipping at my heels.


I knew this would come because it came before.  I also know how to get through it, because I’ve gotten through it before.  But oh the weariness…  oh the weariness.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Ok, so I firmly believe that periodic failure is as important as
incremental success en route to ultimate victory.

I get that.

But this run sucked ass. I'm seriously, you guys, it sucked ass.

I started out light and easy and, unbeknownst to me at the time, with
a tail wind. This allowed me to chalk up a pretty surprising first
leg time that was way quicker than it felt. After that, everything
went downhill.
The course turned slightly and I felt the wind in my face for the
first time. I thought to myself "Hm, that's unfortunate". But it
gets worse, because the wind shifts ever so slightly in the next 10
I hit the turnaround point--right at 3 miles, just over 30 minutes--
and it occurs to me that I might be able to finish in under an hour,
if I hustle. Alternatively, I may be able to beat my time from the
last 6 mile run. I catch my breath after a second and take off back
up the path.

This is when I find out that the wind shifted ever so slightly to
give me a headwind once again.
The energy is just flooding out of my legs. I'm getting tired. I'm
getting thirsty. It feels like I'm running on little sacks of wet

I plod along into the wind for about 6 minutes and the legs just give
out. They won't run anymore. I take a short breather and talk my
legs into running again, but they're very reluctant. I make it
through the third leg in a respectable time, but the wheels just come
right off for the fourth leg. I was trashed.

I stole some water from the mason's lodge on TC Jester, but it didn't
really help. I flat out bonked.

The trial of miles continues, though. I'll get back out there
tomorrow, maybe for a short run of "only" three miles. Maybe for
another longish run of 6. Maybe I'll still go hit the Kenyan Way
folks and try to break off an 8 miler.
I was wondering when the doldrums would come. Maybe they're finally

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Today's run!!

3 miles at about 1:30pm (lunch run, whoot!!)


Mile 1:  9:28.74

Mile 2:  10:12.04

Mile 3:  9:36.84


Total:  00:29:17.62


Mile one was a little quicker than I expected, mile 2 a little slower than expected. 

Mile 3 turned out to be a tale of 2 runs:

The first ½ was done in 5 minutes.  The second ½ was done in 4:36.  The quarter mile checks on the first lap had even splits of roughly 2:15 at the first two markers, so the last ½ mile was run at about the same pace as the first ½ mile.  That’s pretty manly, if I do say so myself.


Tomorrow, probably 6 or 8 miles, then I’m shutting it down for the weekend and running another “crucible” week starting Monday!!