Just like I drew it up…

As I mentioned yesterday, I intended to go for a run today.  And I did – no reason to build suspense needlessly.  But…

You know that feeling when you open your eyes in the morning … and it wasn’t because the alarm went off … and it is daylight outside … and things go from peaceful dreamy sleepy to OHMYGODHOLYSHITWHATTIMEISIT panic?

Yeah, that’s how I woke up this morning.  No idea what happened to my alarm clock.  Fortunately, it wasn’t so late that I was late for work, but there was no getting a run in.  And so I was unhappy about that.

But when I left the office tonight … it seemed warm.  And it is a mark of how much I’ve acclimated to being in the not-South that I think 35 degrees is warm.  So, after bedtime for the little guy and dinner with my wife, I put on my running clothes (just shorts!) and headed out.  I almost never run in the evenings, but it felt like I needed to keep the momentum.

Man, that felt good to go do that.  Short run again, but the idea is keep moving right now.  And with relatively warm weather coming up for the weekend, there is going to be a little streak.  Scheduled to do 5 miles in the morning, and then I’ve got a 5K to do on Sunday.  That’s just going to be a “have fun” race – I’m not even going to try and PR.

I’m feeling the momentum cranking up … which is exciting …

I went for a run this morning

And it had been awhile.

After I backed down from the full marathon to the half, I had my sad.  And then it snowed.   And then it was cold.  And then work started sucking.  And then I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW.

Excuses are like asses.


My schedule got off – I wasn’t going to bed until 11 or later, and therefore was struggling to get up at 5.  And the only way to break that cycle is just to break it.  So this morning, when the alarm went off at 5, I sat up in bed.

And paused.  Thinking about it.

And my wife said, “You won’t regret it – just go.”

And she was right.  My run this morning had no goal other than to go.  It was relatively short, but it didn’t hurt too badly … the worst part was this, from my Garmin:

Yeah - that's Fahrenheit
Yeah – that’s Fahrenheit

Not gonna lie – it was way cold.  But I got out there and I ran again.

I think I’ll do it again tomorrow.

Pulling the Plug

Today I changed my registration at the Rock & Roll USA event from the marathon to the half marathon.  And I’m having a bit of a sad.

There are a lot of excuses reasons, but the bottom line is that I’m not ready.  And I don’t have enough time between now and then to get ready.    My primary goal when I attempt a marathon is to do the most possible to set myself up for success – which is defined as finishing within the time limit.  I’ve seen enough examples of folks that rushed into their first marathon and felt relatively strong right up until mile 20 or 22, when they were asked to leave the course and bussed to the finish line and given a medal.

I don’t want that.  I want to cover all 26.2 miles myself.  And I want to know that my medal is a true “finisher’s” medal.  This is not to take away from those that have done that and are proud of it – however you earned that medal, you have a right to be proud of it.  But I want my experience to be different.  I just do.

For the record, I’m not hurt.  I’m just dozens and dozens of miles behind in my training, and the way the weather and my calendar are going I’m not going to be able to make it up.   And, therefore, it is time for a change.

I’ve been struggling with this decision for a week or so.  One of the things that is remarkable to me is how hard it has been to decide to back away from the marathon.  There is a true multi-layered investment in making a decision to run a marathon.  I can think of at least three layers:

  1.  Physical – This is going to hurt at some level.  Your body physically commits to doing this, and as you start pushing the edges of what you consider possible you are doubling down on the physical commitment that you made.
  2. Time – I have spent hours and hours running to get ready for this.  My 16 mile run last weekend took over 3 hours alone.  And though I understood there was a time commitment, I don’t think I fully understood how difficult it is.  One often overlooked element of this one is that a commitment you make of your time is not just yours – your family shares in that commitment.  They give up that time with you, and so they had better be on board.  That was not an acute problem for me – my family has been very supportive – but I am acutely aware of their commitment, too.
  3. Emotional – There is a certain level of energy required to mentally prepare for a marathon.  And a large piece of that requirement involves believing, all the way down, that this is something that you can and will do.  You have to make success a part of your emotional core.  This marathon “thing” becomes like its own living entity within you.  And when it comes time to think about letting it go … that’s an emotional decision, and making it comes with emotional baggage and, frankly, a mourning period.

My mourning period just started.  I am hoping it goes quickly and I can start embracing the new half marathon PR that I’m going to go get.  In the meantime, I will try and dwell on how great it feels to be in good enough shape that I can consider running a half marathon in 6 weeks not just achievable but, without injury, a done deal.  In the long run I don’t want to settle for that … but for now, I will take it.

Also – I’m ready for spring now.

Weigh In / Long Run – 1/14

I promised a return this week – and I hereby keep that promise.

Weight – 273.4 lbs

Two Week Gain / (Loss) – (1.4 lbs)

Total Loss – (54 lbs)

Weekly Mileage – 27.8 miles

As reported, two weeks ago was a total bust … I don’t get sick often, but when I do, I try to do it right.  If was to have any hope of salvaging the marathon training I was going to have to make it happen this week.  Of course, this would be a week that involved traveling for work, but ultimately that’s something that I’m going to have to figure out.

From a food perspective, things went pretty well.  Two weeks ago (the sick one) I stayed within the Weight Watchers bounds, and this last week was close.  There was a Waffle House incident, but I’m not ashamed of that.

Hear that, triple order of hash browns scattered smothered and covered?  NOT ASHAMED.


And I felt like the running made a strong comeback.  Lately the issues have been with my mid-week runs, and that wound up being the problem this time.  Traveling just kills me, and, as I said, I’ve got to figure that out.

The long run was 16 miles this time, and a total weekly mileage of 27.8 – which are both new record.  And both of those records should be re-set next week, so lets not get too excited.  Today’s run was better than the 15-miler two weeks ago, but still didn’t feel as good as I think I’d like.  It doesn’t help that it snowed during much of the run.  Also, my nipples hurt.

I can’t help but do some math … based on this long run and extrapolating the pace out for the next 10 miles, we’re looking at just under 5 ½ hours for the marathon.  For a marathon that has a 5 ½ hour time limit.  So, yeah, I’m getting nervous about this.  8 weeks until this marathon, and two of those are going to be taper weeks … so, yeah.  Here we go.  I just have to keep trusting the training.  Trust the training.

Trust the training.

7 Things to Remember When Traveling

This week I had a quick trip down to Atlanta for a business meeting.  Left on Tuesday afternoon, came back on Wednesday afternoon.  Traveling tends to completely hose up my weekly food and running routine, though I’m starting to notice some patterns. Without further ado, here are seven things that it is important to remember when traveling:

#1 – Calories consumed in an airport count. So one of the associations that I’ve always had with traveling is an all-bets-are-off mentality about food (though, to be fair, that was a common mentality whether I was traveling or not).   This was both about quantity (hey – gotta fuel up so I can sit on this airplane or in this car!) and quality (immediate access to beef jerky and Dr. Pepper and cheese danishes?  Umm, OK!).  I’m not sure where that association came from, but as far back as I can remember it has been there.  It is as though travel food magically is different than “regular” food. So, yeah … it is not.  Crappy food is still crappy food.  And too much of it is still too much of it.  Walk away from the fried chicken.

This is still fried chicken.  Tasty, glorious fried chicken.
This is still fried chicken. Tasty, glorious fried chicken.

#2 – Water is your friend. We hear that airplanes dehydrate us all the time.  We hear it so much that we might be tempted to ignore it, or block the message. Yeah – don’t do that. Because dehydration on airplanes is real.  That little thing that you twist to get the cool air blowing on top of your head?  That thing is blowing almost perfectly dry air that is nearly guaranteed to make your skin itchy, chap your lips on the spot, and drive you to extreme thirst.  And ginger ale, while great on airplanes, doesn’t do the rehydration thing enough. Drink your water.

#3 – Bring your running shoes.  They are a pain in the ass to pack.  And you might wind up not using them while you are there because of unforeseen timing pressures.   But if you don’t bring them, you are guaranteed to miss a workout.  Guaranteed.  Just knowing that I’d have to justify having brought the damn things is sometimes enough to get me to get up and go for a run.  Take your shoes – you’ll be better for it.

#4 – Plan accordingly for treadmill access. Whichever hotel you’re at almost certainly has a fitness center.  Most of them that I’ve seen have a large stability ball, a weight-machine-system thing, an elliptical or two, and at most 4 or 5 treadmills.  Some only have 2 or 3 treadmills.  Now, because you were traveling and didn’t want to pack anything more than shoes, socks, shorts, & shirt, you aren’t geared up to run outside.  You’re also in unfamiliar territory and may not want to risk getting lost.  So you plan on getting up and hitting the treadmill for those morning miles. You … and everybody else in the hotel. Rush hour (roughly 6am to 8am) at the hotel fitness center is almost certainly going to be busy.  And unless you are OK with the elliptical or something different, you may be disappointed by treadmill access.  If possible, plan to go during a strange time (evening, middle of the day, etc.) or get there earlier than you normally would. Also – treadmills suck.

Soul crushing, isn't it?  I hurt just looking at it...
Soul crushing, isn’t it? I hurt just looking at it…

#5 – There will be doughnuts. When people are hosting a meeting that includes out-of-town guests, they naturally want to be seen as hospitable and accommodating.  They want to be good friendly hosts.  And for whatever reason, that usually means doughnuts.  Plates and plates of doughnuts. They’re going to look yummy.  And let’s face it – they’re going to BE yummy.  There are several ways to deal with this – politely eat half of one, or even a whole one that you considered in your broader day’s meal plan, or claim you’re diabetic or whatever.  But you’d better have a plan for how you’re going to deal with that glorious plate of doughnuts, or it is going to deal with you.

Doesn't it look yummy?
Doesn’t it look yummy?

#6 – Shit happens. So on my trip this week, the travel gods were not with me.  They chose yesterday to get the pound of flesh they were owed for a largely uneventful travel season for me.  And that meant, for a large list of reasons, I was stuck looking for dinner in suburban Atlanta at roughly 11pm on Tuesday night.  And I was unable to resist the siren call of the black letters in the yellow boxes.

Picture taken at 10:49pm in Duluth, Georgia.  True story.
Picture taken at 10:49pm in Duluth, Georgia. True story.

Yep – Waffle House. And I’m just going to straight-up tell you like it is … my triple order of hash browns (scattered, smothered, and covered) was glorious. Glorious. And I don’t feel guilty. However…

#7 – If you know that kind of thing is likely to happen, plan accordingly the rest of the week. Yeah – I knew that was likely to happen.  So I’ve mostly planned accordingly.  But you DO have to plan accordingly, because otherwise the whole thing will come off the rails.   How do you stay on plan and strategy when you travel?

On Cities and Culture

When I was in Chattanooga for the Ragnar, I had the opportunity to speak with a guy named Randy Whorton, who is the director of a local non-profit called Wild Trails that is dedicated to promoting healthy lifestyles … in their case through outdoor recreation.  We talked about a lot of things, but one of the things that came up was how well the city of Chattanooga has developed itself to promote those kinds of ideals.  There are parks and pedestrian trails and developments that encourage walking.  I was of course there for a road running event, but the area is a draw for rowing regattas, trail running, and rock climbing, among many other activities.  Outside Magazine named Chattanooga the best outdoor town to live in, and there is a thriving community of outdoor enthusiasts and athletes that improves the overall quality of life for the whole town … for everybody.

(And the trail running is apparently pretty legendary – checkout the Rock / Creek Trail Series videos on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/rockcreeker) and then watch this one on the StumpJump … and tell me you don’t want to hit the door.)

The City of Chattanooga paid over $120 million dollars to revitalize its downtown like this, but if you go there today it is a vibrant place, full of energy and absolutely shouting down anybody that might argue that money wasn’t worth it.

The question that struck me was … why wouldn’t all cities want to do this?

I lived in North Little Rock, Arkansas, during the time when the Little Rock River Market was revitalized, including the addition of the Clinton Presidential Library, a twice weekly (and fantastic) farmer’s market, the River Walk, and the Big Dam Bridge over the Arkansas River.  The video below is basically a big commercial for North Little Rock … but doesn’t this demonstrate that all of these things make the city more livable?  And improve everybody’s quality of life?

I was reminded of all of this recently when I discovered the TED Talk below, regarding Oklahoma City’s remarkable turnaround from one of the most obese cities in the country to one of the fittest.  Their mayor had his own epiphany, and launched programs and investments – millions of dollars in investments – to improve the livability for people in Oklahoma City.  And it has worked – the city has grown, and thrived, in a time when many cities are not.

These are three examples, but they are only three of many.  I have yet to see an example of a city that failed when it made a thoughtful, long-term investment in the livability of its core inner areas, and in providing real infrastructure for outdoor recreation.  These things change a culture, and when you can change a culture you can do amazing and wonderful things..

So I ask the question – why wouldn’t every city want to make these kinds of investments?  This transcends politics – or should.  This is about community, economic development, community health … everything.

What does your city do to invest in itself this way?  If nothing – why?

Weigh In / Long Run – January 11

Lets just get right to the answer for this week:  I took a zero mile week, and though I stayed inside my Weight Watcher’s points, I’m not doing a weigh-in this week.

I guess I was incubating a cold or something last weekend when I did my (brutal) 15-miler.  Because almost instantly I got a nasty cough and basically headed straight downhill.  I decided to rest for a couple of days and then pick it back up … and try to get my long run in … until I woke up on Thursday morning for my run.  I basically went downstairs, called in sick, came back upstairs, and passed out.  This makes me quite nervous, since the marathon is only like 9 weeks out … but this WAS a scheduled recovery week, and being able to hit the last 8 weeks healthy seems more important than these actual miles.  So I made the active decision to just rest.  Between that and the sickness, I won’t believe anything the scale tells me, so I’ll do the weigh-in next week.

I’d rather now spend my time talking about something positive.

I did feel a bit better today, though it was a nasty and rainy day outside.  My poor 2-year old, who has also been under the weather, is finally well enough to be feeling cooped up … and it is a nasty January day and he is stuck inside.

So we pitched my backpacking tent in the dining room. It was amazing.

Lunch in the tent...
Lunch in the tent…

He was running around yelling “This is fun!  This is fun!”  He put all of his books in there and we basically had to force him out for naps and baths and stuff.  

But I also began to notice something about me.  The last time I used this tent, pitching it was a real chore.  Getting in and out left me nearly out of breath.  I couldn’t get comfortable inside … though it IS a two-man tent, and I was only one (very large) man.  This time, though, it wasn’t bad.  I was able to go in and out pretty effortlessly.  And I was able to have a great day playing with a two-year old and not obsessing about my weight, or my breath, or … anything.  Just doing it – completely doing it.

It was awesome.  I can’t wait until spring when we can go use that tent for reals.  This is why I’m doing what I’m doing – THIS is why I’m putting in the work.  Not for this week’s miles, and certainly not for whatever the scale was going to say.


Real weigh-in next week.  Promise.

Tent Day

Adventures in Marathon Training – Calendar Edition

So … the monthly streak has reached its first real challenge.

My next race, which is also the February race, was scheduled to be the Run for the End Zone 6K in Montclair, New Jersey, on February 1.  This was going to have several good things going for it – it didn’t start until 10am, so my family could come out, it was a 6K so an automatic PR, and the finish line was the end zone line in the football stadium at a college there in Montclair.  Just overall goodness there, right?

Alas, ‘twas not to be.  They cancelled the race.

Turns out, one of the roads we were intended to run on for a short distance was a county road, and they couldn’t get the local government to agree to shut it down (or even move everybody over) for the duration of the race.  Therefore, safety issues.  Therefore, no race.

Nope.  Nope-itty nope nope nope.
Nope. Nope-itty nope nope nope.

At least they did it with enough advanced notice to let us find other options.

Now, I want to be frustrated at them.  I want to be indignant and talk about getting you stuff together and how inconvenient and … and … and.  And I don’t for two reasons:

  1.  They wanted to run the race, too.  I’m certain that they are extremely disappointed – they’re people doing their thing, just like I am.   Cut them some slack.
  2. This made me take a hard look at my training calendar.

And it turns out, my training calendar had a problem.  Of course, I’m in the midst of marathon training (10 weeks out now!), and the weekly long runs have reached the point where I’m likely running farther than I ever have before on any given weekend.  That all builds up to and culminates in a 20 mile training run that happens, in theory, 2 – 3 weeks out from the marathon.

In practice, I had it scheduled for 3 weeks out from the marathon.  On the same day that I’m going to be at a wedding.  In Colorado.  In February.

There is no chance I’m running 20 miles in Colorado in February.  Zero percent chance.

Nope.  Nope itty nope nope nope.
Nope. Nope itty nope nope nope.

So we can make the argument that the race cancellation saved my bacon – and I therefore cannot be frustrated with them.  I still haven’t chosen the exact replacement race for February (thankfully there are options), but I have moved the calendar around and will now be doing a 2-week taper out of necessity.

Do these kinds of things come up for you, or was this just me screwing up?

Weigh In / Long Run – 1.5.2014

Straight to the numbers, which are … anti-climactic

Weight:  274.8

Weekly Gain / (Loss):  0 pounds

Total Gain / (Loss):  (52.6 pounds)

Weekly Mileage:  23.58

Not totally surprising.  Food was again the culprit this week, but then again food is nearly always the culprit.  Though the goal of Weight Watchers tracking daily is working out, I don’t want to get too carried away with expectations.  This week is one of the first “normal” weeks I will have had in a long time – no travel, no holidays, relatively low-key at work.  So I have high hopes for this weigh-in next week.

The story this week was the running – set another total weekly mileage record, but I’m not that impressed with that.  I’ll be setting those weekly for the next several weeks.  The story this week was the race, which went well but not great, and the long run.  The marathon is ten weeks from this past Saturday, so we’re ramping up for it in earnest – and this week was 15 miles.

Fortunately, I generally have access to some great running trails for these really long runs.  They’re relatively flat and they remove all issues with traffic.  However, last week it snowed here a rather lot, and while the roads get plowed those trails don’t.  So I had to put together a road course for these 15 miles.  And that introduces several things that I generally don’t have to deal with – quite a lot of elevation change, traffic, and, in this case, snow.

All of that added up to a brutal run.  The half marathon split would have been a PR by about 5 minutes, so there is that, but in general I was toast near the end of this one.  And I’ve been extra sore.  This is the first time through all of this that legitimate doubt has crept in – I don’t doubt I can eke out the mileage, but I’m starting to get concerned about the 5 ½ hour time limit.  The calculators say I should be fine, but after this … well, yikes.

This is not to say that I’m quitting, or am any less resolved.  Oh, no – this is going to happen. Its just that an element of doubt has now been introduced.  This next week is a recovery week in this calendar, so my long run is only 13 miles.  That should help, and I’m just going to have to trust the training schedule.  That’s all I can do.

Looking forward to a good weight-loss story next time!

RR #11 – New Year’s Day Frosty 5K

One thing that became abundantly clear as I started looking at January races is that, in the Northeast, New Year’s Day runs were going to be by far the best bet.   If I had been unable to go today, it would have been 50/50 and pick ‘em whether I could have found a race to run this month.

Guilford, Connecticut, sits on the I-95 corridor just east of New Haven and right on the Long Island Sound.  I knew nothing about it when I registered – I picked this race because it is relatively large for one of these (probably close to 1,000 runners, including the kids fun run) and they’ve been doing it for years.  So at least they’d have their ducks in a row.   As it turns out, Guilford is an absolutely beautiful town.  We started and finished at the large town green, which is surrounded by old colonial style buildings filled with shops, restaurants, etc.  Everything about this town was charming as hell – Guilford, Connecticut, acquitted itself quite well to anybody that drove in for the race.

Guilford Town Green - obviously not today, also not my picture
Guilford Town Green – obviously not today, also not my picture

This was my first 5K since the PR at the Celtic Classic in September … and though I don’t feel as strong now as I did then, I hoped that I might have a reasonable shot at a PR here, and, with some luck, at the 30 minute barrier.  The temperatures were predictably cold – 25 degrees or so at the start – but they did start it at 11am, so it could have been much worse.   The course itself was a big loop with a little out-and-back spur down to the water.  Things were mostly flat – the one “hill” was a bridge over train tracks, and there was a 40 – 50 foot climb in the last mile.  Nothing major.

Mass confusion at the start – the megaphone wasn’t working, so nobody could hear anything.  Somebody sang the national anthem, but unless you were in the first third or so of runners you couldn’t hear it – most didn’t even know it was going on.  Then the guy raised his hand, counted down, dropped his hand, and we were off.

My intention was to set off comfortably too fast (if that makes any sense) and work to hold it.  And initially that plan worked great.  My first mile came in at 9.39, which is the fastest official mile I’ve run since high school.  Which was great.  The second mile came in at 10.07 – which was less great – and it was at about half-way when the wheels came off.

Frosty 5K Course
Frosty 5K Course

For the bulk of my running “career,” my shins have been a problem.   Most of this is weight and pronation control related, but I haven’t always known that.  Years ago, in my first little attempt at running, shin splints forced me to stop.  And when I started this time the most difficult part was managing through the initial pain in my shins.  However, after that first 6 to 8 weeks, things eased up and the only time I’ve had a problem is if I’ve taken more than 2 or 3 days off between runs.

Well, at around mile 1.5 of this 5K my left shin tightened up and hurt like hell.  And I couldn’t make it relax.  The rest of the run was one of the more acutely painful I’ve done in a long time.

At first I was mystified – what in the world might be causing this?  Slowly it dawned on me what the problem was … I hadn’t warmed up adequately.  See, when I do my training runs I deliberately use the first mile as a warm-up mile and hold back.  Even on my short runs.  Almost always, mile 3 or mile 4 is the best mile for any run that goes that long, because I’ve had a chance to warm up.  Well, this time, I took off fast right out of the gate and didn’t give those muscles a chance to ease into it.

So … live and learn.  From a high-level perspective, I’m happy with my overall time – 31.42, a 10:18/mile pace.  Splits were 9.39, 10.07, 10.54, and then 1.03 for that last tenth of a mile.  Plus I got a mid-week run in in a fun way, and got to see a cool new town in coastal Connecticut.  Happy New Year!


–  I’m struggling to dress in the cold.  Especially in these situations where I’ve got to kill some time out there, I want to make sure I’m adequately layered.  But I’m finding that I’m getting too warm by the end of these runs / races.  Though today was cold enough that by the time I got back to the car my sweat had chilled and it took a hot shower to get me warmed back up.  I’ll keep tinkering with the layers, though, and eventually get it right.

–  Always Read the Plaque – that’s what Roman Mars would tell us – and so when I saw a big monument in the middle of the town green I had to go over and take a look.  Turns out, it was a big Civil War monument, listing the names of all of the soldiers that died in the war from Guilford.  I have always been fascinated by the Civil War, and as a Southerner have obviously seen my fair share of monuments.  However, outside of New York City (which is loaded with them), I’ve seen very little of that up in the Northeast.   This was a quite interesting find – and somebody had placed a holiday wreath on the statue soldier’s arm.

Guilford Soldier's Memorial - also not my picture
Guilford Soldier’s Memorial – also not my picture

–  The little out-and-back was deceptively short – I’m now accustomed to much longer runs than this – so it was a little jarring when we met the leaders when I was only at about mile 0.9.  BUT – they were only at about mile 1.5 or so.

–  There was actually packet pickup for this race at a local running store for the last couple of days, so I think many people did that.  Because I only did it on race day, I got no SWAG except the t-shirt, which was a nice blue long-sleeved cotton job with a tastefully understated logo on the front.  I like getting shirts I might actually wear out.

–  That was January – the streak is now at 11 months.  I’m registered for races through May, so no end in sight.

–  Next race – Super Saturday Run for the End Zone 6K, Montclair, New Jersey

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