Next Race: 10th Annual 10K on the Noland Trail (Newport News, VA)

Countdown to Kansas

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Compromise, discipline, and balance

As with everything in life, if you want something bad enough you must be willing to compromise.  For me, this means passing on the North Face Endurance Challenge Half-Marathon in Atlanta, GA next month in order to train for Kansas Ironman 70.3 next year.  Training has its costs, and a half-ironman is no exception.  Bike ($1,000), indoor trainer ($239), helmet ($30)…I can go on and on, but I think you get my drift.  Being a cautious spender is absolutely necessary and the proper thing to do.  It is unfair to spend money on these necessary items without being willing to compromise.  That’s life.     
Just as important as good spending habits are discipline and balance.  You MUST be disciplined enough to run and/or bike and/or swim when it is the last thing you want to do.  Not only do you need to do it, but you need to be productive.  Every training session, whether 30 minutes or two hours, must make you netter than before.  4:30 wake up calls, 5:15 Power Bars, 6 am spin classes, morning and evening runs/swims, long runs and bike rides on the weekend are now the norm.  It will stay this way for the foreseeable future.  Eight months = 16 long bikes, 16 long runs, and 64 tempo/speed work sessions (32 each of cycling and running) – there is no time to waste if you ask me.  Soreness (pain is the bad one) is no longer an excuse; rather, it means I am getting the job done.  Keep pushing.  
Like discipline, balance is critical.  Mixing in family, work, and training is no easy task.  Family has and will continue to come first, no exceptions.  Luckily, my wife is a big part of my training and I am able to get in plenty of running sessions with her :)  Thanks for the added work Meg!  Anytime I can train in the confines of my own home and/or with the wife is a treat.  Work is work, enough said.  Basically, it is time spent thinking about training…just being honest.     
While not going to the North Face Endurance Challenge is certainly disappointing, I have no doubt it was the right choice.  The cost of the trip ($600+) and time away from the family made it a straightforward decision.  All part of compromising, being disciplined, and having balance.   

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Motivation and training (9/27/2010)

For a variety of reasons, motivation can be tough to come by some days.  Even the smallest of issues can send your spirit plummeting in a matter of minutes.  Quite simply, you need to dig deep and remember why you are pursuing whatever it is you are pursuing.  For me, it helps to visualize those good feelings and overall sense of accomplishment I feel once I have completed a hard workout.  True character shows and desires are made clear when you are able to overcome these inevitable bumps in the road.  If you really want something, you will follow through – period.  I do my best to live by this standard – Continuously Improve, Never Give Up. 

As I have continue to progress through my training, I have come to realize a few things.  For one, spending hours and hours hammering out the perfect training plan is not time well spent.  In fact, it should not even be called a training plan; rather, it is a guide that keeps you on track – nothing more, nothing less.  I love to challenge myself, so I may run twice in a day if I feel like it.  Heck, I may run three times within 24 hours if I join the wife :)  There is a clear line between overtraining and training by feel – I have learned the latter.  This does not mean I train 7 days a week (I still enjoy my Friday off day) but I do push myself.  A general policy of swim, bike, and run at least 2x each (really no more than 3), with a nice mix of easy, tempo, and long/pace seems good to me.  If I want to throw in an extra easy run or long bike, I do.  That is how I operate.  On the flip side, if I need a mental health day/rest day, I am not afraid to take it.  This training guide-type of approach seems to be the least stressful and most attainable.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sight set on Kansas

As you may or may not remember from one of my earlier posts, I made mention of what some may call an out of this world goal: completing a half ironman.  This race, meant for crazy folks, consists of a 1.2 mi swim, 56 mi bike, and 13.1 mi run – each event being completed one after the other.  When I think of such as race, a few words come to mind: exciting, scary, challenging, and life-changing (we can count this as one word). 
I was first introduced to the ironman back in 2008, shortly after the wife and I got married.  I remember tuning in to NBC one Saturday afternoon and running across a broadcast of the Ford Ironman World Championship in Kona, HI.  Immediately, I was hooked.  The physical and mental strength of the competitors was inspiring and to be honest, made the wife and I feel pretty lazy.  So much so that I immediately followed up the telecast with an inspired gym session.  At the time, I felt as if I had no choice but to do so.
Before pressing forward, let’s back track a bit.  (I promise this will all make sense in a minute).  When I first began this journey to inspiration a few weeks back, my big goal was to complete a 50K by the end of 2011.  With time and dedication this is a goal I feel is attainable.  In order to meet this goal I put a fairly logical plan in place: over the next year or so progressively work my way up the proverbial “race ladder.”  With a good base in place (two 5Ks, an 8K, and a 10K) I would set my sights on completing a few traditional half-marathons (done two so far) followed by some trail races (North Face Endurance Challenge Half-Marathon, 10-miler in northern VA, etc.).  With some half-marathons under my belt, I would then move on to something more ambitious: a 25K or 30K – I am currently signed up for a 25K in WA next Feb.  To this day I am happy with this plan and still hope to complete a 50K at some point down the road. 
Well, something funny happened along the way.  I became a big fan of half-marathons.  Both Rock n Rolls, VA Beach and Philly, were great experiences that I would not trade for anything.  One of the best parts was being able to share the experience with Meg.  Her dedication and perseverance was inspiring on both occasions – despite “hitting the wall,” she finished both.  She even managed to shave 16-minutes off her first half-marathon time – go Meg!  On a personal note, I was able to achieve my goal of running the entire Philly half.  Going after a 50K means passing up future opportunities to run half-marathons with the wife, which is not high on my radar.  After running 13.1 twice, I must say it just feels right. 
This brings me to my point (finally).  Instead of pursuing a 50K, I am realizing a goal that previously I felt I wasn’t worthy/capable of pursuing.  On June 12, 2011, approximately 8 months from now, I am going to take part in the KSwiss Ironman 70.3 in Kansas!  Yes, what you read is accurate.  I will always remember these words from Meg when I asked her to let me do this/believe that I can do this:

“I have no doubt that you can train for and complete a half-ironman and I support you if that is what you want to do.”

If you know my family, this is something they would NEVER say.

Clearly, I lacked enthusiasm in my response:

YEAAA!!!  I am SO excited that you believe in me!  Thank you!  I initially looked at Lake Stevens and Boise, the only catch is they are two of the harder ones.  The course profiles make them two of the tougher half ironmans in the US, with finish times averaging in the 6 hr range.  If Kansas is sold out though (I don't think it is), I will pick that one.  Heck, I won't say no to an extra month to prepare.  Thanks for believing I can do it!  I don't know what to say.  My family is not good for self confidence (you know how mom and D are), so your words mean the world.  Just bringing up Lake Stevens shows you are genuine.

Here are some thoughts for those who want me to justify why I am doing this.  I love running the 13.1 distance (a component of the ironman), especially with the wife.  Setting my sights on this half ironman means we get to continue this journey together (why mess with a good thing?).  As I said, I never thought I was capable on taking on such a feat.  However, after seeing Meg push through the pain barrier each time, why can't it be my goal?  Why can't I push myself that hard?  She does.  Overall, I feel my best running 13.1 and enjoy biking.  With some work on swimming, I will do it.  This is not spur of the moment; instead, it is something I have considered for a while.  As I said to Meg on the drive back from Philly, our half-marathons together have helped my self esteem and shown me I can push myself. 

So there it is.  I am imagining a dream that I never had the confidence to pursue.  While a 50K is great, I am selling myself short by making it my BIG goal.  With a supportive wife, a manageable training plan, and a positive attitude I will pursue this goal with all my heart.  There will be ups and down, high and lows, but one thing is for sure – come June 12, 2011, I will be suited up and ready to give it my all.    

I will end it on this – some words to live by.  While in Philly for the Rock n Roll Half-Marathon this past weekend, my wife saw someone with an interesting sign that she would later tell me about, it read: “You were a winner as soon as you took your first step.”     

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What a day for a race

What a race, what a race.  First off, the weather could not have been any better.  Sunny but not too sunny with a slight coolness in the air; temp at race time was around 65.  Luckily, Sunday morning started off on the right foot for Miss Meg.  Despite her inability to sleep Friday night (hotel noises), she was able to get some good shut eye on Saturday thanks to Mr. Sleeping Pill making a visit around 7:30; by 9:00-ish she was out.  We had set our alarms for 6:00 but the excitement had me up by 5.  I proceeded to make my bagel with almond butter and cream cheese (not digusiting, I promise) and take my act down to the front lobby, where I browsed the internet and read a little of 50-50; definetely got me pumped for the days events.  Around 6, I made my way to Mc Donalds to get a small cup of coffee to give me that little extra boost, as if I needed it. 

After getting my coffee, I made my way up to the hotel room where I arrived a little after 6.  The wife and a tired puppy were laying in bed, in the process of waking up.  We put on our race gear, took some photos, loaded our water bottles and snacks, Meg had her bagel (1/2 at 6 and 1/2 at 7) then we were off.  Puppy wasn't too moody when we left, thank goodness.  I must say though, she wasn't too happy when I returned to get Meg's sunglasses...understandable.

It was about a mile walk to the start line.  The city streets were flooded with fellow racers making their way to the event, some preferring to run rather than walk.  Perosnally, I like to conserve my energy...just saying.  Slowly but surely we made our way through the crowds to our corral in the back, making a brief stop at the UPS trucks to drop off our gear bags.  One good thing about starting in coral 19 of 22, the porta potties are plentiful; this was critical in my being able to run the entire half-marathon (yea!!).  No one it would have happenned otherwise...I had to use the bathroom at mile 4 again, but was able to hold it to the end.  After a 1/4 walk to the start line, the wife and I were off aroud 8:20.  Philly, here we come!!!!

The race started off great.  We both felt strong and motivated...the scenary was pretty darn good as well.  As we made our way towards City Hall, the elites were already passing us by on their way towards Kelly Drive (Rowhouse Row).  To give you an idea how fast they were, we had made it not even a mile and they were almost to four...WOW!!  Bets part, we saw Ryan Hall!  It was perfect, the wife and I looked at each other and blurted out - "was that Ryan Hall."  As we learned later, yes it was. 

Over the next 40 or so minutes, we continued to make our way through Center City, Phildelphia.  Thanks to the buildings and Eagle fans (it is only fair to blame them as well) our Garmins were going haywire;  distance, pace, etc. were all inaccruate.  With the exception of total distance covered, these issues worked themselves out once we made our way towards the Schuylkill River.

In the end, we finished in 2 hrs 33 minutes (11:45 pace); a 16 minute improvement over Meg's previous time!  Go Meg!  Depsite "hitting the wall" around mile 11, she hung in their and finished strong.  As usual, she made me very, very, very proud, showing the type of strong/determined woman she is.  I must say, her tactic for race number two, the first being VA Beach, was brilliant.  Rather than taking long walk breaks to rehydrate and Gu-itize, she took shorter breaks more frequntly on her way to shattering her previous race record.  Again, go Meg!  Along the way, I was able to achieve a personal mark as well.  Before the start, I was determined to run the entrie race, which I did.  When Meg would slow down for a break, I would move over to the side and run at a reduced pace until she could catch up.  We plan to use this tactic for future races we do together.

After crossing the finish line, we grabbed some bottles of water and our medals before making our way towards the bag pickup area.  After getting our bags, we took some post-race photos, threw on our sandals and slowly but surely trekked on over to Reading Terminal Market for the feast.  Meg deserves another thumbs up here for running with a bloody toe (yes, I took at photo of it) and a foot/side cramp throughout the race...that takes guts.  After the 1.5 mile walk to the Market, we grabbed our food (mac and cheese for Meg and a turkey sandwich for me) and proceeded to chow down.  After taking some more photos (real cute one of Meg eating her carrot cake) and grabbing some goodies for later, we headed back to the hotel.  Besides two trips to Subway, it was a night of relaxation and Giants football.  No need to talk about that last part :(

All in all, it was a great trip and a personal favorite in terms of  locations.  Philly more than lived up to the hype.  Most importanly, the experience was a much better one for Meg.  Good thing the Philadelphia Half-Marathon sold out today, otherwise, we'd still be agonzing over whether to run OBX or make a return to Philly.  Next stop Atlanta!    

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Philly here we come - a week in review

Well, we are one day away from getting another notch under our belt and I couldn't be more excited.  Running has gone tremendously well this week - about 20 miles under my belt with a mix of 2, 3, 4, and 5 mile runs (treadmill, trail, and pavement).  I even tried a two-a-day earlier in the week, cross training in the morning and running 3 miles (easy/tempo) at Sandy Bottom Nature Park after work.  Overall it felt great!  I am at a point in my training where waking up at 4:30 AM is no longer that bothersome.  Yes, there are days I struggle, but the excitement of being able to explore before sunrise takes over.  Nothing beats a good sweat and a challenege before work, the sense of accomplishment just makes the day that much better.  Running means a lot, and going a day without doing it doesn't feel right.  Among other things, it serves as a stress reliver, and a common point between the wife and I; we seem to talk about it for hours on end, planning out races and supporing one another to the end.  Great bondning type stuff - her enthusiasm is contangious. 

As I said before, it was a great week on running with one exception.  That is, the "breathing through a straw" feeling that has bugged me for a few days.  I love getting the wife flowers, but it is not my intention to have them as a permanent staple in the home; this seems to happen whenever I bring some home.  So, when this does happen, after a fews days I begin to wonder why on earth breahting all of a sudden is not second nature.  After some intial pondering - am I losing it, getting sick, etc. - it hits me...time to throw out those flowers that have been sitting on the counter past their shelf life.  After a day or two, the house airs out and all is well.  Half glass full approach - at least she likes them enough to keep them around, even when they are looking less than lively :)  By tomorrow, I should be good to go for 13.1, so all is well.

Since it has been a few days, I have some things to cover.  Namely, my visit to the nutrtionist and my running analysis.  The nutritionaist visit went well and was certainly an eye openning experieince.  Initially, it stressed me out - I was told that I need to hit x amount of grams of carbs, fats, and proteins, have at least x amount of calories per meal, etc.  As a result, the first few days afterward had me glued to fitday WAY TOO MUCH.  I kept working different meals to get that perfect balanced ratio of carbs-fats-protein (55-25-20) that was as close to 2,100 calories as possible.  By the time I had a proper meal calculated, I has burned off the meal in keystrokes.  Just getting up to 2,100 cals is enough to worry about. 

Case in point, on Thursday night, I adopted a pretty straightforward policy on eating that will allow me to maximize my running performance (the reason I made the visit) and take the stress out of the equation.  First off, as long as my carbs intake (with regard to total cals is) is roughly 45-65%, fats 20-35%, and protein 15-30%, I am happy.  In order to do this, I just try and eat balanced meals - some good carbs (whole wheat bread, bananna, apple), fats (almonds, avocado, light mayo), and protein (lean turkey, ham, or chicken).  In addition, I focus on carbs before/after exercise (proteins after as well), and having most of my proteins and fats at times when I am more sedentary.  Since I plan out my workouts in advance this is a plan that is easy to stick to. 

Honestly, there is no point in stressing out too much when it comes to sports nutrition, just use common sense.  This means, trying to avoid white sugar, flour, and fat, and focusing intake on all-natural foods.  Basically, stick to the neandrethal diet of Dean K - if it doesn't come from the earth - it is processed -try to avoid it.  Those all-natural, unrefined, "caveman" type foods are the best.  Most importnanly, I feel at my best when I am full of veggies, almonds, avocado, lean turkey, and eggs as opposed to pizza.  While I LOVE pizza, this is the truth.  Don't gte me wrong, if I want pizza, I will have it.  After all, I am in Philly :).

As not to ramble for too long, here is the bottom line on the Gait Analysis: improve arm swing, relax arms at a 90 degree angle, push off more with my toes, bring up the bottom part of my leg more while running, and STRETCH everything, a lot.  Since buying a Stick, I have had no issues with feeling tight while running, and would even say it has increased my performance.  I highly recommend one of these bad boys.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Add another goal race to the list

If you read back to my first or second entry, you will see the BIG goal that I am working towards; that is, completing a 50K ultra.  Because the mileage is a challenge in itself, I am not worried about time, only pushing my limits in order to make it across the finish line.  Thus far, I have some good races lined up to get me towards that goal: three half-marathons (9/19, 10/17, and 11/14), a back-to-back 8K/5K the day before the OBX Half Marathon in November, and a 10-mile trail race in VA on 12/5.  Depending on my recovery from the 13K/13 mile OBX Challenge, I may pass on the last one – don’t want to risk an injury.  Logically, there should be a gradual buildup between these races and the 50K; adding on mileage and course difficulty each time.  Well, I have found that race and it is the Orcas Island Ultra 25K on February 5, 2011 in Washington (a few hours from Seattle).
Based on the description and popularity of the race, it sells out each year, I am surely not going to be disappointed.   Here is a brief overview of the course from the event website:
Course: Beautiful soft and well maintained singletrack trails through old growth forest with waterfalls, lakes, cascading creeks, and views of the Puget Sound, the surrounding islands, and on clear days the Cascade and Olympic Mountain Ranges, including Mt. Baker, Mt. Rainier and Mt. St Helens.
Sound pretty good, huh?  Total elevation gain for the 25K is 3,910 ft; that should burn.  Well, that is all for now…just wanted to share a little excitement about this 15.53 mile adventure in scenic Washington State.  Don’t know if the wife will read this, but thank you for taking me seriously when I said this would be a good race.  Much appreciated support!  Glad I spent some time refining the easy, V02 max, tempo, and speedwork portions of my training (figuring out correct heart rates, intervals, etc.).  I am going to need it!   

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The long weekend

Glad the weekend is done.  Usually weekends are a time to recharge and recover, but not so this week.  Despite having to work this weekend and knock out a long run this morning (on the treadmill - I will get to that), I am in remarkably good spirits. 

To start things off, my 5 m run did not goes as planned.  Last night, I spent some time seting up the Garmin heart rate monitor (a pretty neat tool).  In order to mix things up a bit, instead of doing my easy/long-run pace (10:34/mile), I figured I would do max heart rate training (65-75% of my max (194); approximately 127 to 147.  After some tinkering, I was finally able to get the heart rate monitor working and get the data fields on the Garmin conifgured.  However, when I woke up this morning the Garmin was frozen.  Luckily, Meg was nice enough to let me borrow hers (all is well!!), but the rain decided to play games with my head and not make it possible to do an outdoor run.

Bottom line: despite starting the day off on tilt, I was able to put toegther a 5 m run on the treadmill at the gym (10:20 pace with 1.0 incline from 2.0-2.5 miles, 1.5 incline from 3.0-3.5 miles, and 2.0 incline from 4.0-4.5 miles).  All in all, I am proud that I was able to pull things toegther and knock it out.  Shows I am able to overcome adversity and that I have come a long way (special thanks to Meg and Dean K).

One good thing about running on the treadmill was that I was able to put some of the running anlaysis tips to the test (I saw a sports performance tech eariler this week for a Gait Analysis).  Big areas I focused on: arm swing (relaxing my arms, not putting them out to the side, and keeping 90 degrees in my elbows - better for momentum) and stride (ensuring my feet land in line with my knees and hip - was told my feet land 3 inches in front of where they should).  Short and sweet: the tips helped and improved my performance.  Also, the physical therapist recommended that I strech more, so Meg and I went out a bought a Stick the other night.  Since using the stick, I feel A LOT better - everything is looser and I don't feel as tense after a run. 

Overall, it should be a pretty easy week with Philly Half coming up.  A few shorter runs is pretty much all that is on tap.  Since discussing my intentions to fix my eating habits in my last post, I have improved a lot.  Each day I am getting closer and closer to the 50/25/25 - 60/25/15 carbs to fat to protein ratio.  Best part, I feel better since my eating habits changed!  I have more energy and stay fuller for longer.  Since starting my new diet, I discovered a new favoritie pre-run food: wheat bagel with almond butter!  So darn good.  My hope is to get things completely on track after I see the nutritionist on Tuesday.

Friday, September 10, 2010

About time for some running weather

After the Ironman Timex watch incident at the Expo, I made the wise choice - I went with the Garmin Forerunner 405 the wife has.  The online interfact is intuitive, I have a good understanding of the different functions, and with the exception of locking up once or twice (due to sweat - lock the bezel to prevent this), it is a great device.  I highly recommend the 405 (can't beat the price - $235-ish on Amazon).  After getting the watch in the mail on Wednesday, I used it the next morning for an easy 3 m run, the first after the half-marathon, and today for a 4 m trail run at Sandy Bottom Nature Park  Both times it worked perfectly...the runs went well too. 

Because I had to go into work early on Thursday, it meant a 4:50 am wake up call to catch a run before heading off to work at 6.  Following the Runner's World post half-marathon recovery definetly helped - cross training twice since the half-mara (before running again) allowed me to work out all the kinks.  Running session #1 was pain free, contributing to it be extremely pleasant. (Seeing six deer was pretty cool).  After knocking out a lower body workout later in the day, I decided to swap Friday and Saturday.  This meant a Rest day Fri and cross training or running (easy 4 m) Saturday.  With having to work this weekend and feeling sore, it seemed like a good choice.  That didn't last long.

All of a sudden the weather gods are being kind - what a beautiful day (cool, not humid, and not too sunny).  You know what this means!  Go for a run...and I did.  After work, I quickly changed, did a little carbo-loading (apple and a eng muff with FF cream cheese), and made way for Noland Trail.  I didn't make it to Noalnd Trail, but I did find a gem in Hampton - Sandy Bottom Nature Park.  What a TREMENDOUS 4 m trail run (twigs, roots, uneven surfaces, etc.) - great training for North Face.  I did a much better job of manitaining my easy pace of 10:24 m (my easy training pace for working towards a 1:55 half-marathon - 9:00 min/m).  Simply put, what a great adventure full of twists and turns and some burning thighs and calves afterwards - all the ingredients for a great run!     


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Making Goals

Today's topic is establishing challenging yet attainable goals.  What are my goals?  Well, for one, I want to complete a 50K race by the end of next year; preferably, the North Face Endurance Challenge in San Francisco in Dec 2011.  This will be a true test of determination, character, and perseverance.  Challenging and attainable?  Yes and yes (with some hard work).  What about my other goals?  Well, here is what I have so far.

1) Single race goals: ING Rock n Roll Philly Half-Marathon (9/19), North Face Endurance Challenege Half-Marathon (10/17), The Fall Backyard Burn Trail Run Series (Race #4) (12/5) - maybe on the last one, based on the pain ensudred as a result of goal #2

2) Complete the OBX 13K/13 Mile Challenge (something my wife came up with - thank you, Meg)
- Run the 8K on Saturday, the 5K two hours later, and the Half-Marathon on Sunday.

3) 50K North Face Endurance Challenege Race (San Francisco - Dec 2011)

4) ?

Right now, goal #4 is a work in progress.  I NEED goals to keep me going, I cannot just run to be in shape (Dean K talks about this in 50 in 50).  When I pick a goal I commit myself and work at it until it is met.  This makes me happy and gives me a tremendous sense of purpose.  So, who knows, goal #4 may turn into 25 half-marathons in 25 states (I am liking this one; best off, it is doable) or something else.  Why set your sights low and no demand a lot from yourself?  Ironman 70.3 (1.2 mi swim, 56 mi bike, and 13.1 mi run) in 2012 or 2013?  We shall see...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Back to reality

Not so good news = back to work today.  Good news = knee is feeling MUCH better thanks to being diligent about icing and elevating it.  More exciting news!  Meg and I are going to do the Pamlico Jack Challenge in November - run the OBX 8K on Saturday 11/13 and the OBX Half-Marathon on 11/14.  Should be one heck of a challenge and a great time.  I have moved onto Dean Karnazes' second book - 50 in 50 - and have found it quite enjoyable.  Unlike Ultramarathon Man, it tackles many of the issues runners face on a daily basis - how to deal with injuries, good pre-run meals, staying motivated, aid station etiquette, etc.  Good lessons for our voyage into running.  Can't go without saying - wow, do I have respect for someone who runs 50 marathons in 50 days considering the road bumps we have enountered after our half.  Can't wait for Philly and North Face!

Looking forward to running on is it tough to hold back, but it is for the best. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

End of day 1 after the race

Overall, the recovery is going well following VA Beach.  Legs feel 100%.  The only issue is my right knee - I iced both knees eariler; hopefully, this is just a one day deal...very discouraging.  I took the advice of my wife, Dean K, and Runner's World - 30 mins of light, non-impact cross training (eliptical) following the race.  Definitely loosened things up.  I won't run until Friday - at least 4-5 days of no running is needed (tough when you ahve the "itch") to get better.  Two more cross training sessions before that though; one of Wed, the other Thurs.  Runner's knee is no fun - darn pronation issues...

VA Beach Half Marathon

Well, the VA Beach Rock n' Roll Half Marathon has come and gone, and what a great experience it was. Despite going to sleep around 10:30 and waking up at 3:15 (the excitement got to me) I had a tremendous time and wouldn't trade it for anything. Everything from prepping race gear the night before to your pre-race meal to stepping up to the start line (3...2...1) and having the horn sound, makes the experience great.

I was well aware going into VA Beach - this race (not any of the previous 5ks, 8ks, 10k, etc) would make or break me as a runner. Between the start of VA Beach and my last trail run (a few days) I have had my doubts. Can I stay committed to the training? What am I getting myself in to? Is there really a point to all of this? Do I REALLY like running? Is this the goal I should be pursuing? Is it a terrible sign that the Ironman watch I got didn't work out (stupid yes, but everything entered my mind). Through the discomfort, would I be begging for the finish line or be ready to take on the next challenge? Would I be ready for a post half marathon run or run away from running all together?

Well, I have good news...without a doubt, VA Beach fueled my hunger to challenge myself. When your thighs and calves are burning and your mind begins to play games with is when you learn the most about yourself. Smiling through the finish line, I was immediately ready for the next challenge.(Thank goodness the ING Philly Half Marathon is in two weeks or I would be going stir crazy). While running is clearly not an option right now (the knees would be pretty annoyed) I have found ways to consume my time during recovery. Mapping out a half marathon maintenance schedule, picking out new races, etc.

Commitment means, at times, holding back and keeping oneself in check. In other words, despite having a post half marathon running high, I WILL adhere to post-race "reverse tapering" and recovery. This is especially important with Philly in two weeks. This means 4-5 days of no running (except 3 m today to work out the kinks), instead, this week will focus on cross training. Next week will also be a low intensity week. Once I finish my recovery week following Philly, the schedule should pick up once again.

Lastly, what else did the VA Beach Half tell me? Well, my comment previously that I "do not like street races" is not true. I did it, I liked it. It's not about what type of race it is, it is about the best way to challenge oneself. Training for several half marathons over the next two months and some trail races will challenge me, thus I am content. After my last trail race in December, what will I do? Sprint Triathlon? Longer endurance trail race? A whole marathon?

I will end it on this, a quote from Dean Karnazes - Running has taught me that the pursuit of a passion matters more than the passion itself. Immerse yourself in something deeply and with heartfelt intensity – continually improve, never give up – this is fulfillment, this is success.

Countdown to VA Beach

Saturday, Sept 4th 2010

Went to the VA Beach Half Marathon Health and Fitness Expo yesterday; what a great time. Talk about a runner’s paradise. We started if off by picking up are packets and then made our way through the expo center. Meg struck gold – new Brooks running shoes, a t-shirt, a box of GU’s – I’m sure there is something else but I cannot remember. I had a goal when I went to the expo – get a running hat (check) and GPS watch (check). I was able to hold back on numerous other temptations. The running watch I got is the Ironman GPS Trainer; this is an improvement over the 405 from what the rep told me. Definitely does all the essentials (pace, distance, time, etc.) and lots more.

This morning I finished reading Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes; what a book it was. The end chapters were especially interesting…In a lot of ways (definitely not referring to physical ability) we are alike. He and I do not care about monetary compensation – do what you love and do your best to take care of your family. He also preached the importance of fulfillment; running gives him a sense of adventure and purpose…this is how he feels whole. Once again, we are alike in this sense – doing what is necessary to feel fulfilled in life and challenging your limits. Hopefully, I will be able to get the next book, 50 Marathons in 50 Days, soon.

Lastly, he talked about how to stay motivated. Whether completing a 5K, 10K, 50K, etc. or working to improve your time, pick a race and work towards it. For me, my first two races (6 weeks apart) will work me up from a 10K to a 10 miler – should be one heck of a challenge and a great, great time. Do I have doubts…sure. But what separates someone with mental strength from someone else is the ability to commit oneself and embrace the challenge. There will be good days and bad days. I MUST reminder myself of the incredible sense of accomplishment I will feel when I meet each milestone (10K trail race, 10 mile trail race….eventually, a 50K).

Day Two

Friday, Sept 3rd 2010

Well, day two of trail running wasn’t as easy going as day one, but what can you do – just keep pushing and do not give up. Unlike my first run on the trail (4.9 mi on Monday), I did not have the Garmin this time. Not as if I was checking my pace or anything during run number one, but things seem to change when you go at it with a “regular” watch –thanks Meg. On my first “road towards fulfillment run” the stats were pretty good thanks to some super motivation from the wife and Dean Karnazes. Distance – 4.9 mi; Average Pace – 9:23; Time – 45:59. Not great by any means, but acceptable.

For run number two, I was equally, if not more, amped. The night before, the wife and I went to Blue Mountain Sports in Hampton, which I discovered earlier in the day, to get the gear for my physical and mental journey over the next few years. Certainly, a much more convenient solution than going to REI in Richmond. I felt like I hit the jackpot. Trail running shoes, North Face running gear, running socks – they had it all. The damage from being a “kid in a candy store” is below:

• Trail running shoes (Montrail, Mountain Masochist GTX) ($114.95)
Came well recommended from the rugged, semi-bruised looking sales associate. This man clearly knew what he was talking about. The description here supports his point of view - Designed for the off-road runner who wants exceptional fit, performance and breathability, the Mountain Masochist is lightweight and responsive with killer traction. Winner of the 2009 Outside Gear of the Year award.

• Superfeet Green Hiking Footbeds – insoles to help with the flat footedness ($34.95)

• Smartwool, PhD Running Ultralight Mini – trail running socks ($14.95)

• Camelback, Classic 70oz – one that has a chest strap unlike the 50oz Camelback I have ($49.99)

Now that I found something I truly love and that makes me feel alive, I understanding Meg’s desire to add to the running repertoire. I always tell her, if it contributes to your health and/or allows you to be closer to your family, I will not say no. Trail running for me is extremely challenging for me. A chance to clear the mind, sweat, and challenge myself. The options when it comes to trail running are endless; hence, I love it.

Back to run number two. Almost immediately after beginning my run at Noland Trail around 6:20 am, a moderate level of discomfort set in. Not hip or other joint pain, just my body reacting to being pushed. The previous days runs, including some three and four milers as well the 4.9 miler at the trail, left me sore. This does not take into account the weight training either. So far, I have been able to get a solid lower body and upper body weight session in – just as important as the running itself. Unlike the past, I am looking forward to the lower body and cross training components of this workout plan. If you are going to work at something, you need to embrace both the good and bad. Character is best developed when you are unmotivated, tired, hungry, etc. – completing a run when you feel this way is an indescribably good feeling. At some point in every run, I hit this wall.

In the end, I finished the run (running all the way). Should have remember the iPod and Gu, but so well. After stopping the watch timer after the run, I quickly realized why I was so tired. Unlike the run on Monday – pace of 9:23/mile – this run was at 8:25/mile. This explains a lot. I am not fixated on the Garmin when I use it, but being able to check your pace is important – just ask my wife. Once I up the mileage, pace will be critical to avoid early exhaustion.

Alright, now that the scene is set, time to get to the tough part, goal setting. I am a BIG believer in using goals as a means of motivation. For instance, the wife and I have a goal of moving back to the NW come end of Jan/beginning of Feb. Having this to look forward to makes the feelings of frustration and discontent that come from being in my current job dissipate, a bit. I wish for everyone else’s’ sake that I could just be content with making great money as an analyst, but I can’t. When dart throwing and whatnot are a daily part of your job, it is deflating. It has never been/never will be about money (to the point the family is in good shape). This does not make you feel fulfilled. If I give up being an analyst I know one thing, the mother will be disappointed – just as if her son didn’t get his B.S. – which is apparently a prerequisite to supporting a marriage. I am not one who enjoys sitting around and doing nothing; trail running definitely solves this.

Without further ado, here is my plan of attack:

Status Date Race Distance

Registered - Sunday, September 5th 2010 Virginia Beach Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon 13.1 mi

Registered - Sunday, September 19th 2010 ING Philadelphia Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon 13.1

Registered - Sunday, October 17th 2010 North Face Endurance Challenge (Atlanta, GA) 10K trail run

On the radar - Saturday, November 13th 2010 Fall BYB Trail Running Series – Race #3 (Wakefield Park Annandale, VA) 5.5 mi or 10 mi

On the radar - Sunday, November 14th 2010 Potomac Overlook Trail Runs 4K and 8K

Registered - Sunday, November 14th 2010 OBX Half Marathon 13.1 mi

Registered - Sunday, December 5th 2010 Fall Backyard Burn Trail Running Series – Race #4 (Clifton, VA) 10 mi

Registered - Sunday, May 1st 2011 Eugene Marathon 26.2 mi

On the radar - application process begin March 16th 2011 Sunday, June 12th 2011 Dipsea Race(Marin County, CA) 7.5 mi

Goal Race - Saturday, December 4th 2011 (projected date) North Face Endurance Challenge (San Francisco, CA) 50K or Gore Tex 50 mile

My first trail running race is the North Face Endurance Challenge in Atlanta, GA on Sunday, October 17th. I could not be more excited for this race. This year, I elected to do the 10K option – a smart move, I think. While I am thoroughly disappointed my wife cannot go – she has her own race priorities (Race for the Cure in VA) which I fully support.  I am thrilled to get a chance to meet Dean Karnazes. Should be a great experience.

At the end of next year is my goal race. Between now and then will be numerous other races…added to the list above as the weeks and months progress. This is my first goal, not my ultimate goal; that is a work in progress. Here it is – I WILL complete the North Face Endurance Challenge 50K or Gore Tex 50 mile race in San Francisco on December 4th 2011. No matter how much preparation I put in the mental and physical challenge will be tremendous. It will require nights will little sleep and eating on the run (literally) to accomplish this, but I need to know what I am capable of doing. Being behind a desk in a job where you do not have the opportunity to excel shows you nothing about yourself. Throughout all of this I will remember one thing – “Run if you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must, just never give up.”

I will admit. I am worried about Megan and I both being able to accomplish our goals. I will/need to run road races, she hates trail running. I am supportive of her and she appears to be supportive of me, so we will make it work. For me, road races such as half marathons and marathons are a necessary part of becoming a good trail runner. Cannot run a 50K before I run 26.2 mi. Best of all, I enjoy running with Meg and working at it together,

Below are some other adventures of interest…

On the radar - November 26th – 28th or December 10th – 12th 2010 Mount Washington Winter Climb (Manchester, NH) – REI Adventure Trip ($450)

Here we go...

Thursday, Sept 2nd 2010

I have never been big on blogs, posting a Facebook status, or making my life known on the public domain, however, now seems like an appropriate time to change that. Twenty-two weeks ago, my wife, Megan – one of two who inspired me to challenge myself and pursue this goal of mine (we will get to this later) – started training for the Virginia Beach Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon. Hopefully, by the end of this post you will understand the enormity of this for her and how along the way I have managed to figure things out for myself. Some background - there is no denying that both of us have gone through phases – lifting weights to get bigger (me), training for a triathlon (both of us), exercise videos (both of us), etc. At times it was almost laughable. For instance, on several occasions I have gone out in search of the “magical” protein powder that would finally help me to get bigger (I am 5’ 9’’, 130-ish lbs). Each time, after a month (or even two) of mapping out a detailed training plan, ingesting sick amounts of protein, mainly, powder and chicken, I would always fall back to the same place. In fact, I even managed to lose weight on several occasions. Very, very discouraging. My wife will admit that she has gone through her “phases” as well. She and I have gone the exercise video route, and after trying it for a while, it faded off into the distance.

However, things are different this time. SHE wants it (referring to the VA beach half). Nothing will get in her way. Period. It wasn’t like before when I would say, “hey, it may be fun to go to the gym together” – which was never a hint of you are out of shape. (this is not what motivates her). SHE wants to go out there, with me or without me, and complete this race like the handful she has completed over the past 5 months. In fact, during the beginning phases of her training, it was all her. Not until she reached 5 miles in her training routine did I join in. I am very fortunate that I can run at an 11:00/min-type pace for 1-2 hour or even more and be ok; my breathing is just fine and I don’t feel like I am about to die. Stupidly, I never accounted for my joints, bones, etc. After my second or third run (all at least 4 miles) my hip gave out; I was down for the count. That is what I got for following “proper” training techniques; should have listened to the wife. After a visit to the orthopedist, and a brief rest period, I learned my lesson.

After jumping on board the training train with the wife, we are ready to go. After 60+ runs over 22 weeks (I won’t even guess how many I did to prepare – not nearly this many) she is about to do it. Not only has she shown me what dedication is, but she is fully aware of what she is capable of achieving with some blood, sweat and tears (all of which we have encountered along the way). What she has done is a perfect example of pure dedication. Morning after morning of waking up at 5:30 (for her, the non morning person, this is AMAZING) to run, regardless of humidity, heat, or motivation. I have encouraged her consistently through her training, but to say I have gotten up with her at this hour day after would be a flat out lie. Eventually, it became easier…something I have been willing to do a few times a week, especially, once the long training runs (6+ miles) commenced.

Case in point, this journey has left her happy, FULFILLED and ready for more – she signed up for a marathon yesterday. The key word here is fulfilled, no doubt. This is something I have struggled with; besides the wife and puppy, I have not felt fulfilled. Yes, I have a steady job that pays way to well for what I do, but money means nothing – feeling like you have a purpose and are pursuing something with meaning means everything. The search for fulfillment has taken me down several paths – the big one being working on graduate school. Since I have been a kid, I have felt ridiculous pressure when it comes to education. In my mom’s eyes, if you don’t have a Bachelor degree and are working towards a Master’s, you are lacking. Thinking back, I may be kidding myself if I ever really did graduate school for myself. Was just trying to make others happy and not disappointed….even though my passion for Criminal Justice is undeniably strong. One day will be the right time, but I cannot and will not use it as a means to feel fulfilled – unless you do something for yourself it accomplishes nothing.

So how do I feel fulfilled? I know one thing, I would drop my desk job in a heartbeat if the opportunity ever presented itself – hopefully, a job with BoP in Oregon will make this possible. BoP would definitely help in the FULFILLMENT category as would moving to Oregon with the wife and puppy. Oregon = happy and not here.

I have always enjoyed challenging myself, especially, physically. I love to make it hurt when I work out and watch it pay off. In addition, I strive for a mental challenge. This is when Dean K. comes in. While in Oregon for a week-long vacation I bought “Ultramarathon Man.” What a book it is. He doesn’t make excuses, give up or take no for an answer…like my wife on her running journey. Because of these people, I have had an awakening. Why sit around doing the same old stuff while always trying to make others not be disappointed by my choices!? Time to challenge myself, physically and mentally…no excuses and “doing it with my heart” – thanks for that one, Dean. I am not made to be behind a desk – period. I could be making a million bucks and I would still hate it. Personal trainer and correctional officer are two examples of what I am better suited for.

Ok, this brings me to my goal – I made the rational choice to pursue trail running (not a fan on “regular races”). Boy, it hurts so good, and it does not come easy by any means. I need to work at it, just like Meg and Dean. As it stands, I am a registered participant in the North Face Endurance Challenge in Atlanta – bring on the trail run half marathon! After that, I plan to do some more 10ks and half marathons, with a goal of completing a 50k by the end of next year. No doubt, this is what I want. There is something perfectly peaceful about traversing a trail, run or walk. It doesn’t matter, 1 mile or 5 miles, it still burns. It will continue to require hard work, no excuses (early alarms for sure) and dedication (thanks Meg!!). This is not a short term goal. I can always get better. FINALLY I AM INSPIRED AND HOPEFULLY FOUND A WAY TO BE FULFILLED (in addition to puppy and wife)! Megan was right, I didn’t fully understand her love of everything running – now, I do. I support her 100% and she is doing the same for me. (I am still kicking myself over the double Camelback purchase – should have known the chest strap existed) I need to feel alive (as running makes her feel) and this is how I do it. Bring on the trails, tests of endurance, adventure trips and all! No more sitting around, time to act and rid my thoughts such as “would this disappoint your mother.”