Tuesday, May 07, 2013
On Sunday I had the opportunity to run a marathon in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. I was extremely happy going into the race knowing that I had a near perfect training cycle. First time in my life I trained for a marathon and did not get injured. I trained for 17 weeks and ran 850 miles getting ready for this day.
I arrived in town on Friday and drove right to the expo at the convention center. I figured it was going to be crowded on Saturday with 30,000 entrants. It was busy when I got there but nowhere near the crowd they had on Saturday. I got to meet two of my Dailymile.com friends by chance while I was looking around. They were talking to each other when I walked past and recognized them from their profile pictures. We had a 30 minute chat and then we got a group photo taken.
Of course I stayed with my mother who lives only 7 miles from where I was at. She is amazing, still works out 5 days a week and does 5Ks. Sheís 82! She is such a positive influence on me. We got to spend most of Friday evening and all day Saturday talking and watching various games on TV. Sheís a big sports fan having been a basketball player in her high school days in the 1940ís. She was voted ďmost likely to be an Olympic athleteĒ by her fellow senior classmates in high school. I can understand why. My father was a very good football player who played professionally. He never made it to the NFL because he never finished college but hooked up with a team who travelled and got paid to play a game he loved so much. He always told me his only regret was not being able to play long enough for me to watch him.
Friday evening another Dailymile.com friend who happens to be from where I live now but lives in Pittsburgh (we need to swap homes I think) wanted to meet me to give me samples of a product he wants me to push for my fundraising business. So we met for an hour nearby so that I could get the samples from him. I told him I wanted to be in early to get a decent nightís sleep so I left before it got dark.
Sunday morning my alarm went off at 3:30 AM but I slept 6 Ĺ hours straight through, no tossing and turning. I took a shower, had a couple of cups of coffee, ate a banana and an English muffin, and made up my energy drink and homemade gel for the race. I left my motherís house at 4:45 AM and arrived at the parking lot at 5AM on the nose. I was the first car in that lot. It was a great location near the start and finish line so I wanted to make sure I got a spot there. I listened to some music and then I took a walk to scope out everything. Security had everything locked down so I had to walk long way around just to get two blocks from where I parked. Good thing I chose to scope it all out ahead of time. I went back to the car. I got everything that I needed and headed out the starting line.
The temperature was 58 degrees at the start according to my car temperature gauge and the warmest training run I had ever done this cycle was 53 degrees so I was a bit concerned. For me anything over 50 I have to slow down to adjust for the heart working harder. I made up my mind I would just run the speed I felt good at no matter what that was, when it was. So at the start I surprisingly got into a great pace (usually a big race I do a very slow first mile because of crowds). I was averaging the pace I wanted to have for the entire race and still maintained that by the 10K mark. I actually was 30 seconds ahead of my goal at 10K. There is a big hill at mile 11 through mile 13 with 3% climbing so I had to prepare myself mentally for that. The crowd was electric, some places there was at least 10 people deep watching us go by. They were all screaming like we were celebrities or something. I kept thinking ďHow are they going to keep that up all race?Ē
My nephew yelled at me at mile 6 and I turned around and saw him and his girlfriend and my nieceís fiancť. My niece was doing the half marathon with her dad, my brother. Itís great to see family and friends watching you at a race. My cousin had told me she would have a big family and friend cheering section at mile 8 for me and a half dozen cousins of mine who were also running. I never saw them but my brother said he saw them when he went past.
Time for the big hill. It was a long and lonely climb. One lady who apparently lived in the only house on the side of the hill that we were climbing was screaming at us all and we were thanking her and she was thanking us back, haha. What an awesome lady to do that. I made it up the hill and my quads were screaming by the top. We leveled off and I started to recover quickly. We ran past the University of Pittsburgh and their drum line was out playing for us as we went past. It was now feeling a lot warmer, we were also running into 15 mph winds and I felt that for the first time. I hit the halfway point still on target for a Boston Marathon qualifying time. The hill knocked me off of my original pace by 10 seconds per mile but I still had a nice cushion. We ran into a part of town called Shadyside, a cute area with some good restaurants and pubs. There I saw a lot of the signs that you normally see at a race, girls making comments about male runners, you get the idea. I had to laugh at them though they are at every big race Iíve ever run.
We had a short but steep climb out that that area and back onto a major road. I really started to feel the heat. I went past mile 16 and that is the point where the course turns into more downhills than uphills. Finally, I thought. However, when I made the turn towards Homewood, I started feeling really dizzy. I had already taken my homemade gel so I grabbed Gatorade which I never drink. That made my eyes blurry as I digested that so as soon as I got to the mile 17 sign I decided I need to slow my pace to adjust for the warmer weather. My original goal was to use this race as a practice for the Wineglass Marathon which I am entered for October and which I would take a stab at a Boston qualifying time. So I reminded myself of that and talked myself into the fact that is was OK to not make Boston this time and chill out and stay safe.
I pretty much jogged the last 9 miles in. Every once in a while I would pick up the pace, but each time the dizziness came back. When it is warm your heart has to work harder to cool you down, thus making it necessary to slow down or really run the risk of heat exhaustion. The funny thing is the last 9 miles I got to hear comments being yelled which I normally donít pay much attention to when Iím running faster. At mile 21 one guy yelled ďyou all done now, only 5 miles leftĒ. I laughed to myself and thought ďhe obviously never ran a marathonĒ, haha. Then another one when I was at the last turn going to the finish, I heard ďitís just right around the cornerĒ. My thought there was ďweíll see, I doubt itĒ, haha.
I saw so many runners collapsing from cramping. One guys was screaming for a policeman to come help him. When he got there the guy said ďI just need you to pull my toes back up so I can get upĒ. Amazing, haha. One lady kept staggering, bending over grabbing both of her ankles and then she would straighten up before I got to her and sprinted away. That happened at least 5 times. The last miles of a marathon are survival. Anyone who has done one knows the feeling.
When I got back into the downtown section, less than a mile from the finish, the streets were lined with screaming fans again. There were so many people that they were pushing each other out onto the course so much that we had to run through a maze of people. It was so much fun doing that. I felt like I just won the Super Bowl or something. I did make that final turn onto the finishing road. You canít see the finish line because it is downhill after a small climb just before it but you know itís there. I ran through the finish line and stopped 1 foot past the line. I wasnít running another inch, haha. I stopped my watch and it said 4:03 (and some change that was too small for my eyes to read, ended up 13 seconds past the 3 minute mark).
I got my medal (wow was that heavy, haha). I decided to go get my picture taken so I could later see how bad I looked, haha. I collected my bag and loaded food into it. I belong to a running group in Pittsburgh and they had a private finish line tent with catered food so I went in there and waited for my brother to meet up with me. I ate everything from pancakes to fried chicken. I was so hungry. It was great and now the sun was welcome. They had a Latin band playing in honor of Cinco di Mayo. My brother, his niece and fiancť, my nephew and my sister-in-law found me, then they all hugged me and left my brother with me to go celebrate.
We walked into Market Square right in the center of downtown Pittsburgh where there are at least a dozen restaurants and pubs. We found a nice Italian restaurant with a quiet bar and were able to eat some more food, drink a few beers and watch a great hockey game. In the square there was a good band playing at 5PM so we hung out the entire day there, met a bunch of runners, and had a blast. I may have made more runner customers too. A woman who works for the United Way said she wants to organize a running training program in Pittsburgh and wants me to coach them. My brother had told her that I was a certified coach. She already has contacted me since then after I gave her my website for my coaching business and weíre trying to set it up. I also had a high school friend who lives in Alaska now notice my automatic Facebook posts of my finishing time and she contacted me and said she never knew I was still running. After I told her I was a coach she hooked me up with a young lady friend of hers who was looking for a running coach in the Pittsburgh area. She did her first marathon that same day. I never know when I might meet yet another running student or friend. Iím also organizing running trips to Europe and South America and have been telling everyone I talk to about that. I love my job!
Needless to say, I had a terrific day and celebrated my accomplishment well!
Thursday, May 02, 2013
For the first time in my life I made it through a marathon training cycle injury free. That was my number one goal, to get to the starting line unlike the past 5 attempts at running a marathon (and over $500 in forfeited entry fees). My first and only other marathon that I was able to run was 25 years ago at this very same race I will be doing on Sunday. I ran with a toe injury, crashed and burned at mile 16, struggled hard, but finished. So look out demons, I'm coming for you.
17 weeks and 850 miles later I have reached my goal. If I should happen to achieve any numeric goals on Sunday, 3:52 PR or 3:40 BQ time, that would be icing on the cake. No matter what my results are at the race, honestly, I will be happy. The marathon will be a celebration of my training PR which means more than anything else. Even though a lot of it was cold and windy, I enjoyed these past few months.
I went from never being able to get past 40 miles for the week without injury to hitting 70+ several times and never once feeling the least bit like I couldn't make it to the end.
The hypothesis is that I started doing strength training with running specific exercises, without weights, doing a thorough warm-up and cool down for every training run, changed my stretching method to Active Isolated Stretching, and getting Active Release Therapy periodically to make sure no scar tissue caused muscle strains or tears as in the past.
It is amazing how fast I can get better at running when I'm not stopping tor repair and recover from an injury. During my training I knocked 4 minutes off of my 10 mile and a minute from my 5K time from just 5 months. I recently did a 13 mile training run with a 65% effort (easy conversational pace) at a pace that was my half marathon race pace time with an all out effort in December. All because I followed the training plan I wrote for myself religiously and used the key factors that I mentioned above.
I can't wait to blog about my experience on Sunday. Oh yeah, it's my hometown race and even though it has 1,700 ft of elevation changes on the course, I can't wait. Can you tell I'm pumped?
Thursday, October 04, 2012
Here I go again. It seems that I go for months without writing. Why? Writing is great therapy for me. I can get my inner feelings out when there is no one close by to listen to them. I donít even need for anyone to actually read what I write to feel like I have shared my feelings. So why do I wait? Iíve been stuck on Someday Isle. Itís time to sail off to St. Somewhere, a beautiful place that feels like paradise.
Iíve made that trip many times. Iíve got off of the couch and ran a marathon. I went from doing a mindless job to travelling the country as a consultant. I built my own log home with no home-building experience. Iíve even started several businesses. One failed, the other two are going strong. I strayed off of St. Somewhere and let the current drift me back to Someday Isle several times. Each time it took effort to remove the anchor and set sail toward my dream. Other than the one storm that drowned my one business, I made it back to where I really want to be.
My running students have left the port of Someday Isle. They put into action the dream of running a 5K. They made it past the hardest part of training, signing up and getting out of the door and to class. They will reach their destination. They have a great navigator, me. They trust me and I will do whatever it takes to get them to their goal. If one person seems like they are lost I will find them and get them back on course.
So how did they make that step, or giant leap in some cases? What keeps us from making that step towards our St. Somewhere, our goal. Maybe there isn't a goal. We canít get somewhere if we donít know where we want to go. Maybe we do know where we want to go but someone is stopping us. Iím sure thatís a little trickier than just setting a goal and starting off on the journey. Sometimes it is just more comfortable to stay put because it is easier or has less resistance. Before you can leave Someday Isle you need to know why you are marooned there.
Does someone laugh at you when you share a goal with them? They tell you youíre crazy? Or maybe you really want to do something and youíre in a relationship and your partner thinks the idea is insane or would hurt them or make them feel uncomfortable in some way. Maybe you compromise what you really want to achieve because it is easier on someone else. These are really common obstructions to being able to set goals, achieve them, and be happy.
I really donít have an answer to how to navigate around those glaciers, I am not a Psychologist. I would, however, encourage anyone to do what it takes to make that journey. There are plenty of good therapists around, self-help books, even great articles on the internet that can help you. Hopefully you donít have any heavy anchors and just need that push off to get in the gulf stream over to St. Somewhere. Donít be afraid, there are lots of lighthouses to keep you safe and the Coast Guard if you get lost. Just use your communication device and there will be guidance. You have to make sure you know how to use that device before you set sail.
A few things made me write about this subject. One of them was that I saw a great image on a website yesterday that I visit almost daily. It was a picture of a blackboard. On the right half of the blackboard there was a large circle drawn. Inside the circle were the words ďwhere dreams happenĒ. Close by but slightly on the other half of the blackboard was a much smaller circle with the words ďcomfort zoneĒ. A great visual to show that there is a larger place in our lives where we can be much happier if we just travel a short distance out of our comfort zone.
Thursday, May 10, 2012
My sister-in-law posted this on her Facebook page. I had to steal this. It's funny to me. I hope I don't offend anyone:
Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail. With his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him......ahem..... A super calloused fagile mystic hexed by halitosis.
Monday, April 02, 2012
In one of my last blog entries I mentioned a coaching training tool that I started using in February. A running coach/physiologist named Jack Daniels, PHD developed the tool which contains sections from other running and physiology experts as well. I told you how this tool gave me the motivation to work harder on running and to continue my weight loss mission because it theorized that my finishing times in various races could drop significantly by losing weight and following suggested paces for training runs.
I entered the Atlantic City Half Marathon yesterday. According to the Jack Daniels spreadsheet that I used to do my training, my goal time for the race should have been 1:42:29 which was 8 minutes faster than a half marathon I did in November 2011. That was based on me running a 22:26 5K at 195 pounds on March 11th. If I got down to 190 pounds for the half marathon yesterday I could do a 1:41:35 with a heart rate averaging 170, so says Dr. Daniels. I did drop to 189 a couple of days before the race and made its way back to 190 because I cut back on running in the taper preparing for the half marathon.
I decided to be conservative and go out at the 1:42:29 pace of 7:53 per mile regardless of the 7:45 pace Dr. Daniels said I could average at 190 pounds. I was still a little bit apprehensive about being able to knock off 8 minutes from a November half marathon I did, all based on what an Excel spreadsheet told me. Other factors affecting time would be course difficulty, weather, and nutrition. I set off and dialed in my 7:53 pace. Weather was ideal for running and the course was as flat as could be. I feel that I did the right balance of nutrition leading up to the start. I felt nothing should stop me from trying the 7:53 pace and my attitude was great, nice and confident. I went out watching that my heart rate didnít climb into the lactate threshold range too quickly which would burn too much energy too soon.
I found a woman running at the same pace so I ran along with her, I never said a word to her nor did she to me, we just kept pace with each other. We even had the same cadence going so it made it easy to move along with her. I caught myself slipping off pace once or twice and saw her pull away but caught back up and she did the same once or twice as well. I was really in a zone concentrating on my cadence, form, and breathing. It was a beautiful course along the Atlantic Ocean on the boardwalk for a few miles before turning off into a couple of pretty beach towns. I really didnít notice much due to my concentration. I did notice a huge statue of an elephant along the road, apparently in front of a restaurant named Lucy from what I can gather. Other than that I just ran. At the half way turnaround I glanced at my watch and it said 50:50. I laughed at first at the thought of what that could mean. Should I play the roulette wheel after the race in one of the casinos? Then I started on the math and doubled that and thought I had a shot at beating my best half marathon time as a Masters runner (over 40 years old) which was 1:42:48.
Knowing I had a legitimate shot at the Personal Record (PR) I increased my stride length to pick up a little speed. The woman who ran along side of me surged to keep up but soon she dropped off the increased pace I was now running. I found a new person to pace with but he fell back after a mile or so and I kept picking off one runner at a time. Once I got back onto the boardwalk on the way back I started calculating my estimated finishing time. Each mile I repeated that calculation and each time it motivated me to go faster. I could now see the tall casino buildings off in the distance where the finish line was and I really picked up the pace. I did my last mile in right around 7:30 and actually got under that pace in the final 300+ yards to the finish. Right as I was approaching the finish line I heard someone call out my name. It was a family that used to live two houses down from me until they moved away 10 years or so. I smiled and waved back at them.
I finished in 1:41:29 six seconds faster than Dr. Danielsí spreadsheet said I had the potential to run this race in. My heart rate averaged 170, exactly the heart rate Dr. Danielsí tool said I would run at this pace for the half marathon. I had been sold on this tool for my training before but now I am really convinced in the science that makes runners go. Some runners donít like to worry about heart rates and pace times, they just like to go out and run. They say they have more fun that way and thatís great. For me, I have way more fun seeing how the physiology works in my running. If I didnít have goal paces and heart rates to shoot for it would be boring for me.
I did have perfect race conditions with the flat course and ideal weather. I felt I gave it all I had and yet not like I was totally drained or hurting. I havenít had that feeling for decades. I was so satisfied with how I ran. ďI just ran my perfect raceĒ, I thought to myself as I walked away from the finish line and gathered my finisherís medal, water and recovery food. Right at the end of the chute I looked up and saw my wife taking my picture, she smiled and it was so good to see her there to share in my feeling of achievement. She did the 7K and finished in time to get in position to watch me finish. The age groups for which they used to award prizes were 10 years apart, not the normal 5 year groupings like the bigger races normally have (there were almost 3,000 runners according to the timing company). I came in 9th in the 50-59 year old age group out of 74 runners. If they had a 5 year age groups (55-59) I would have won 1st place. Oh well, I still ran the same regardless of an award or not and am completely satisfied.
I havenít been this happy in my race performance for a very long time. I havenít finished this fast since my 22 year old son was 10 months old. The renewed spirit for running that I picked up in February has just grown even higher. After I recover from this race I will hit the training hard again with hopes for bigger and better things. After all, according to Dr. Daniels, I should be able to finish a marathon at this fitness level and weight in 3 hours and 30 minutes which would qualify me for the Boston Marathon by 10 minutes. Itís time to start thinking about that seriously. Itís been in the back of my mind for many years but now I can feel it. I wonít do it if I canít feel 100% into it. A marathon is a whole different animal than a half marathon. You donít train exactly the same way and it takes everything going perfect and injury free for at least 6 months to train properly to qualify for Boston. And then if I do qualify I would have to train to run Boston.
If I decide to go for it I wonít try to qualify for the 2013 race. That would mean I would have to find and train for a marathon before September of this year. I want a full year of injury free running and not have to train for it until after I get to my goal weight so that I can eat properly. If I do it I think I will take a stab at it in spring 2013 for the 2014 race and then if I donít qualify then go for it in the fall of 2013 for the 2015 race. I donít want to make it where I donít get to do all of the fun half marathons, 5 and 10 milers, and 5Ks that I have grown to love doing with family and friends. Iíd rather never run Boston than to miss out on what truly makes running fun for me. In the meantime I canít wait to see what the rest of 2012 brings me, hopefully fast races and good times with family and good friends.
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