Wednesday, September 30, 2009
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
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
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
Monday, September 21, 2009
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
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
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
3 miles at about 1:30pm (lunch run, whoot!!)
Mile 1: 9:28.74
Mile 2: 10:12.04
Mile 3: 9:36.84
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!!
The “Saga of the First Marathon” actually starts back in 1995 when I decided I was going to run a marathon before I turned 30. 9 years later it dawned on me that if I was going to do it I better get off my ass because January ’05 was the last chance to run the Houston marathon before I turned 30 in June ‘05. Starting in 1996 I was cycling year round and riding MS150s, so I was in pretty good shape in 2004. In September ‘04 I decided I’d run the marathon and in October ’04 I rode in my 3rd MS150 that year and had ridden between 1000 and 1500 miles for the year. I figured training up for a marathon (26.2 miles) wouldn’t be so bad having just ridden 150 miles in 2 days.
On my first run I couldn’t hardly make it to the end of the street.
I ran periodically starting in the beginning of October and pushed my distance up to about 8 miles, hating every step of it. That’s actually when I started a running blog (now at www.screamingatthewind.blogspot.com). Eventually I’m going to migrate the early running posts over to the current running blog, but I’m in no real rush.
The short version of the ’05 recap is that I undertrained because I had no clue what I was getting myself into. I thought I was in good enough shape to run a marathon because I was in good enough shape to ride my bike over the horizon and back.
I was wrong. I thought I might be in trouble after 5 miles, but also thought I might be able to gut my way through. After 9 miles, when every step was in uncharted territory, I knew I was REALLY in trouble. When we passed the half way point, I was fading fast and my 10 minute miles were becoming 12 minute miles and fast approaching 14 minute miles. I hit the Westpark Bridge with a vengeance, because on the bike I hit hills HARD and relax on the other side. I NEVER let hills win—ever.
This hill won. I knew there was no way I was going to finish unless I found some energy somewhere. My wife tells me I looked drained and near death coming over that bridge. It was about there that my left foot and knee, and right groin was beginning to hurt, too.
Everything was going wrong.
I staggered up Newcastle, down the feeder road, got passed by a cleaning crew truck, staggered around the corner to 610 and Richmond, I think, and one of the medics asked me if I was ok. I was most definitely not ok. I threw in the towel right around there. I called the missus to tell her to meet me at GRB, I was finished.
I know the question because I get it a lot: why didn’t you run a half marathon first?
Answer: I knew I could run a half marathon. I wasn’t sure I could run a marathon and riding across the horizon and back was getting easy. I chose to do hard, and failed… hard.
I licked my wounds, rode in the MS150 in May, and in July decided to run the 2006 marathon. I considered joining a club, but decided against it because I don’t do scheduled runs very well and wasn’t going to run it based on someone else’s plan or program, this was going to have to be my own redemption.
While training in 2005 I realized that when you train for a marathon, really train for a marathon, the actual running of the marathon is just a technicality. You’ve already run the thing so many times in your head that the sense of inevitability as the thing approaches is more profound than the nervousness or anything else. Preparation trumps everything. I’d driven the course, walked over that bridge a few times to remind myself of that sting (a sting I still feel today), basically everything short of running the actual marathon before race day. Of course, I also maintained a very moderate running schedule because, as I’ve said before, I hated every step of the training.
And in 2005 there was more of it to hate.
Nonetheless, the week before the run, there was really nothing left to do except run the race, and I had to wait on the calendar for that.
So, race day came, I showed up to the corrals late (as usual) but still within the crowd before the start, and got to running. From the 2005 marathon I remember very little except for the pain, exhaustion, and utter, profound feeling of defeat. From the 2006 run, though, I remember everything. The smells, the sights, the view of the sunrise from the viaduct, the pipers on Main, the communion offering and the sprinkling of holy water, getting passed in the Rice Military Village by some chick the announcer knew, the spring in my legs as I crested the Westpark Bridge and KNEW I was going to finish this thing, the look of relief on my wife’s face (I do this crap to impress her, you know) at the same place, cruising through Tanglewood with “Monica” (who’s family was cheering wildly every 3 or 4 miles) and realizing that I had 2 hours to cover a distance that should take me 1 to 1.5 hours to cover, getting passed by the guy who had a “50 years old, 50 states, 50 marathons” t-shirt on and just thinking “damn”, entering friendly territory through Memorial Park, running with THE Jon Walk for a few miles down Allen Parkway, hitting the “wall” where my pace dropped from a steady 11:30 to 14 or so, then getting some oranges and things moderating back to 12-ish. [As for this “wall”, I didn’t know I was hitting it when I did, only when I looked back at the times did I realize my times had come to a near stand-still.]
The best part, though, is entering downtown. The buildings are like a giant gateway that leads into a giant valley. You can hear EVERYTHING. The “March of the Centurions” plays on my own personal soundtrack at about this point with the music building to a dizzying crescendo only to be drown out by… You enter the valley and it’s two turns and on to the home stretch. The few remaining people (5 ½ hours in) are cheering like total lunatics (or, at least, that’s how the mind’s ear remembers it), what little fire is left in the engine burns a little hotter. “Monica” was faltering, so I had to yell at her to not quit because it wouldn’t be right to beat a quitter to the line. She kept running, but I beat her anyway.
It was very… vindicating. There is so much more to running a marathon that merely running.
And now it’s time to do it again.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
The schedule I had jotted down, and the clock, really only allowed for a 3.5 mile run last night.
I got to my 3.5 mile turnaround point, started to turn around, looked at the clock, and started to wonder…
The first half of the run had been remarkably easy and quick. I still felt good. If I hurried, I could still make it home by 8 and make my 9:00pm appointment.
On the other hand… I could knock out 3.5 tonight, then hit the trail for 6 in the morning, maybe even 6.2 and call it a true 10k… although, realistically there was very little chance I’d wake up early enough to get in a full hour or so run in the morning, AND I was going out of town Thursday, which would be the next morning I could realistically cram in a longer run…
Then, the light turned green and I bolted across the street without even thinking about it another second. 6 miles it is!! I let out a (louder than expected) bark of a laugh, people looked, but I didn’t care. I was actually feeling pretty good and even somewhat enjoying the run. As Holden said, I might be becoming friends with running.
I touched the tracks and made the turn back home. A check of the timer showed me that I ran the first half in just over 30 minutes. If I hustled, I could make it home in an hour. I wasn’t sure I had enough juice in the tank, and there was a pretty stiff headwind, but if there’s a chance of failure, I might as well fail big. There were a couple of points on the trail where I leaned on the accelerator just to see how the engine would perform. At one point a guy and his wife passed me very slowly on their bikes. I flipped on the burners and tried to catch up to them and was getting close, until she looked over her shoulder and added a little speed of her own.
That’s ok… I ran faster than a bike rider there for a few seconds. Even better, I ran the whole route.
For the final leg, I saw that I needed to finish in about 15 minutes to break an hour. That was unlikely to happen, but it was worth a try. By the time I got to the home stretch it was clearly not going to happen, but I could still get home in under 11:00/mile, so I kept the pressure on and stopped the clock at 1:02:57, just under 10:30 per mile. Not a bad run.
The tale of the clock:
6.02 miles. Total time: 1:02:57 for a 10:27 per mile pace.
Splits (1&4 = 1.82 miles, 2&3 = 1.19 miles):
1. 18:10.5 (9:59/mile pace) ç11 seconds faster than the previous running of this segment.
2. 12:01.0 (10:05 pace)
3. 13:30.4 (11:21 pace)
4. 19:15.7 (10:35 pace)ç1:30 faster than the previous running of this segment.
The average mile was 10:27. The standard deviation (yes, I’m bit of a nerd) was only :37. I’d still like to get some more consistency.
For the first time a 5:00:00 marathon seems within reach (11:27 pace), and a 4:30 marathon is not inconceivable. I still have a long way to go for either of those marks, though.
Monday, September 14, 2009
There are really two types of true “runners”: elites, and the rest of us. (Look there, I referred to “runners” as “us”!!)
The elites are the gods among us who manage to run 4 minute miles as easy as we eat our corn flakes in the morning and string together 26 very impressive 5 and 6 minute miles and barely break a sweat. These people breathe running and make a very fine living off of such endeavors.
They enter races and expect to compete to WIN, not just finish, but win. They are finely tuned running machines, and we speak their names in hushed tones: Haile Gebrselassie, Paula Radcliffe, Deena Kastor, Paul Tergat, Robert Cheruiyot and many many more. You recognize them from their pictures and the pattern on the soles of their shoes. When you see these people have signed up for your marathon, you know immediately that 1. You have lost and 2. You are not one of THEM.
I, like most of the people out there running, am not an elite runner. I will likely never, ever win a race that is actually attended by a field of runners without remarkable good fortune. I am racing only the clock, and in my race against the clock I find my metaphors.
Life is a marathon.
My faith is a marathon.
School is a marathon.
Fatherhood is a marathon.
… is a marathon.
And, of course, wisdom
One step at a time.
Remember to breathe.
Preparation is key.
If there’s no risk of failure, it’s not worth doing.
If there any risk of failure, be sure to fail BIG, or not at all!
Know which kind of pain you’re feeling, and address it accordingly.
If the marathon were not a metaphor, these little nuggets of wisdom wouldn’t be applicable to anything except running a marathon.
But of course, even for the gods among us, the marathon is a metaphor.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Friday, September 4, 2009
Today is the first scheduled running day of September for me.
After 3 days off, I’m going to go to Memorial Park, run a terrible 5k that will include excruciating agony and boredom as well as 2, possibly 3 miles at a pace far slower than should be normal, then maybe, if I’m lucky, leg and side cramps.
I can’t wait.
Thus far this training thing is an exercise in physical and mental discipline. I’m not trying to get away from running, I’m trying to get absorbed into running, so I’m not bringing my iPod on the runs yet. I’m trying to become one with the pavement, one with the visceral, carnal action of running. I’m seeking zen (maybe THAT should be the blog name?) in running shoes. In fact, I don’t suppose I even need running shoes. I’m going to Galveston next weekend for my first ever “out of town” run, and I think I may run nude on the beach to greet a sunrise, just to have the feel of running free. I’ve read about it and how liberating an experience it can be to just run and completing an elemental ccircuit between the prehistoric and modern man. Participating in the one thing that mankind does when frightened AND elated. The one activity that connects defense and offense, protecting ourselves from being eaten while providing something for us to eat. I think that’s going to be something to do… but I don’t think I’ll be telling my wife that. I doubt she’ll let me do it.