Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Train. Compete. Recover. Train.
Such is running. Such is life. If you're not racing then you're building up or recovering. It is inevitable, persistent, and as they say, "'Time stops for no man."
One of the things I have wanted to do for most of my life is to play football. My boss is trying out to play in a semi-pro football team and wants me to join him - knowing it's one of those things I want to do so badly. To play I need to pay a for my jersey and buy my own pads and helmet - not a cheap proposition, but more likely than being signed to the NFL. Looks like I will need to save up both time and money for that one, but I watched their first practice and I'm excited. I'm excited at the possibility that it could actually happen.
I was having a conversation with my SIL last week and mentioned that I wasn't sure what's next after finishing this half marathon. I'm wasn't sure if I am going to try to run a marathon or even another half-marathon. Running a marathon is on my bucket list, but even after finishing a half-marathon, my body and mind are not completely on the same track and I'm still not 100% sure myself. Then I told her that my ultimate bucket list item is to complete an Ironman (which, of course, includes running a marathon). My SIL thinks I can do it and even set a goal for me of completing one by the time I'm 40 (so, sometime in the next 5 years)! Not everyone is quite as confident. But, if I've learned anything in my life, it's to spin negatives into positives and to turn doubts into challenges. If someone doesn't think that I can do this, then I will prove them wrong. I know I can do this, I just need to put in the time and effort to make it happen. I know I can make it happen, just like running a half-marathon.
So, for those of you counting at home, that makes three things I could potentially cross off my bucket list (football, marathon, ironman). I just need to make time and put in the effort. Unfortunately, right now I have very limited spare time that is not devoted to work and family. That will change as our baby girl grows and becomes more self-sufficient. Life will not stop for me, so I must make time. In the meantime, I will bide my time, but I have now determined they will be done, even if just once. Once done, I can always point to the check marks on my bucket list and say, "I've done that," and they will make me happier and healthier for the future for my wife and daughter.
And as if I didn't need any additional motivation, my mother was just diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer. It's a very sobering moment. My grandparents are all getting old (80's & 90's) and I've long been bracing myself for their eventual loss, but parents are different. They have always been there, and you expect them to live forever. Mom's doctors are very confident that her cancer is very small, localized, and non-aggressive; and with a year of treatment she will more likely than not be able to beat it and once again be healthy and cancer free. However, when you build your life around the belief that your parents will always be there, it's tough to be smacked in the face with life's reminders that they are mortal, too. For a deep and over-thinker like myself, it makes for a lot of thinking and re-thinking.
We all feel we will live forever and we put off our bucket lists until we have no time left to finish them. In Ephesians 5:15-17, Paul talks about "redeeming the time," or taking advantage of the limited time and opportunities we have to fill our lives with the Lord and not with evil. The same goes for other opportunities in life. We need to fill our life with good and take advantage of the time we have because we cannot store time or opportunities to use at some possible future date. We can only "redeem" it, in the present tense. The more we put off - the more opportunities we let slip by - the less we can accomplish.
Time and life are fleeting and there is no time like the present. So, as I pray for my mom's successful recovery, I am looking for the positives in the negatives and trying better to use the limited time I have and not miss out on opportunities as they present themselves. There is no time like the present to make things happen. There is never a bad time to make good things happen.
It's go time.
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
This past Sunday, I ran the Las Vegas Rock & Roll 1/2 Marathon for my first half marathon and it was a rockin' success!
The Sunday after Thanksgiving, my right shoulder tightened up and was giving me some nasty pain when I lifted anything more than a couple pounds. I wasn't sure if it was a pinched nerve or if it hurt it sleeping wrong in a strange bed or running some hills that i usually don't run, or from holding our 6-month old daughter to meet our relatives, but regardless, it was very painful, at times, and made me anxious. It never really went away the whole week and I was nervous that it would hinder my running, however, during my final training runs the week before my race, it never affected my running at all, so i hoped that would continue and that I could ignore it and run my race, anyway.
When I originally signed up for the race, I estimated my finishing time at 2 hours 45 minutes. As I trained, I timed all my runs and calculated my pacing and began to feel that I could finish in under 2 hours 30 minutes with an 11 minute/mile pace. However, two weeks before the race, I ran a 13.1 mile training run (that started as 12 miles) in just over 2:17. So, when my sister-in-law (SIL) and I picked up our race packets the Friday before the race, I revised my goal time to 2:15 and moved up to a faster corral.
We had a great time checking in at the pre-race expo and then checking out all the gear, booths, and swag. We got to meet Mark McGrath and my SIL got her picture taken with him and took our pictures in front of the massive banner by the front. We had a great time and after 6 months of training, we were really excited that it was almost race time.
The morning of the race I was up with my alarm at 4:45am. I ate half of a bagel and drank 16oz of water and grabbed a power bar and another bottle of water which I ate and drank as I drove to pick up my sister-in-law and then to the Mandalay Bay for the race. I wore my long-sleeve red compression shirt with a white short-sleeve running shirt over top, black shorts, black $1 knit gloves, and a red Bondi Band that had arrived that Wednesday (i put a spare black band in my pocket for the race, but never needed it).
The low temperature in Las Vegas was forecast to be 44 degrees with a race-time (7am) temp around 50 and a high temperature for the day around 60-65. There ended up being almost no wind and it was a perfect day for racing. We didn't want to get to the race too early and stand around and freeze. We ended up timing our arrival almost perfectly. We entered the Mandalay Bay at about 6:15 and used the bathrooms inside (i had to go twice, but that's already TMI) and then followed the crowd to the staging area. We dropped off our extra gear and post-race jackets at the gear storage area and just as we dropped off our gear, the gun went off to start the elites in the first wave right at 7am. We wished each other good luck and then my SIL jogged over to her corral while I made one last port-a-potty stop ( i was determined not to have to stop during the race).
I got to my corral and hung around making small talk with other runners for about 10-15 minutes before we began walking towards the start line. I was in the back of our corral, so I never had to stop walking as the gun went off for our corral and I started running about 20 feet before the start line to build some momentum across the start. The Blues Brothers were playing on the arch above the start line and as every corral started, they would sing "It's 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses".
The energy of the race was amazing. I hammed it up for the cameras (making faces, hand gestures, and pumping my fist in the air) and cheered along with the spectators and cheering squads that lined the route for the first two or three miles and also cheered on the half marathon leaders around the 2 or 3 mile mark as they passed us on the other side of the street heading back.
I had remembered to start my watch as I cross the start line, so at the first mile marker I checked my watch and saw I was at 9:30 almost right on the dot. I figured that was a little fast as my goal pace was 10 minute miles, so i tried to slow down ever-so-slightly, but I wasn't going to force myself to run exactly 2:15. I wanted to make sure I ran with a good pace so that I had the energy to run the whole way and finish strong, but I also didn't want to finish with the feeling that I could have run faster. That's the long way of saying that i kept running nearly the same pace for as long as I could with the idea that i wouldn't force myself to keep that pace if I began to tire and it meant having to stop and walk, later on. I also played mental games with myself and decided that to keep the race from feeling too long that I wouldn't time my splits for every mile and instead would time my 3 mile splits.
My right shoulder was sore, but wasn't affecting my running, however my left shoulder started to tighten up around the 3 mile mark, and I was worried I would have to run with two tight and painful shoulders for the rest of the race. Fortunately, after shaking my arms out and focusing on running with my arms looser and elbows bent less, it eventually went away after another mile or two, which was a relief, and I had other noticeable aches and pains (other than general tiredness) for the rest of the race.
Between the 4 and 5 mile markers, a bar was handing out free beer to the runners and I decided to have some fun and grabbed a cup and took a few small drinks of it before tossing the rest. It didn't taste bad, but was hard to drink while running and I wasn't going to stop to walk just so i could finish it. I wanted to make sure I had fun during the race, but I still wanted to beat my goal time.
Along the route I grabbed drinks 4 times, but usually took the opportunity to run down the middle of the street and pass people (and avoid slipping on all the empty cups scattered across the road). I had water at the 2nd water stop, then decided to try the CytoMax between the 5 and 6 mile marks. I grabbed some water, again, around mile 8, and then finally a full cup of CytoMax around mile 10 which was the only one I finished as I was beginning to tire and I wanted any boost I could get.
Around mile 8 I first started to feel the length of the race and began counting down how many miles I had left. When I hit the 10 mile mark I was definitely tiring and told myself I only had a 5k left to run, but then I thought again and realized that still meant another 30 minutes of running. I ran a lot of negative splits during training and really wanted to go for a negative split for the last 3 miles of the race, but I knew that wasn't going to happen, today. Miles 11 and 12 ended up being the hardest as my lower legs began to feel like stiffer and heavier, like I was running with cinder blocks over them.
When I hit the 12 mile marker I knew I had only 1.1 miles left, but didn't want to start speeding up until I knew I was close to the finish line. About halfway through that last mile I realized my body had unconsciously sped up and I was already passing a lot of runners. As I entered the Mandalay Bay parking lot for the last .2 miles, I heard a couple people yell my name and I pumped my gloved hand up in the air a couple of times and really picked up the pace.
As the finishing arch came into view, I pushed my legs as hard as I could and got as close to a sprint as I could without really sprinting since there was too many people to really open up into a full sprint and no room past the finish line to ease up without running into anyone (plus, i was tired and my legs were heavy). I found a couple of open running lanes along the railing, first on the right and then on the left, and I passed a lot of people in the last couple hundred meters.
When I hit the finish line I stopped my watch and was excited to see 2:06:37! I had finished! And I beat my 2:15 goal time! And I beat it by almost 10 minutes! In my next thought, I was a little disappointed that I didn't really kill it and beat 2 hours, but that feeling quickly passed and I then enjoyed my post-race buzz.
I was handed my finisher's metal which I was impressed with how solid it was. Then I grabbed 2 bottles of water and a Mylar blanket and then had my picture taken with a showgirl (this is Las Vegas, after all - I'm not sure they were all girls, tho!) before grabbing and chugging a big bottle of CytoMax, grabbing whatever snacks they had available for us, and then eating a banana. I then hung out and waited for my SIL to finish. When I finally saw my SIL, I walked up and gave her a big hug and yelled, "we finished!" For all the training and pain and racing and goals, it was awesome just to be able to say that we did it!
Bret Michaels was already playing up on the main stage in front of the reunion area. We grabbed our checked gear, put on our jackets, then met up with our family. There were hugs and tears all around before we took some pictures and finally headed out to the Hash House A Go Go for a BIG, well-deserved lunch!
Some time after the race I checked my 3-mile splits on my watch. My first 3 splits (miles 0-3, 4-6, and 7-9) were nearly even with just a few extra seconds between them. (28:31, 28:37, 28:49) I nearly nailed an exact 9:30 pace for the first three miles and that one extra second could just be the timing of when I hit the button on my watch. Through miles 7-9, I was still just a hair over 9:35 pace. My fourth split (miles 10-12), however, was definitely slower at 30:01 which is almost exactly a 10 minute mile pace, and that is when my legs were feeling heavy and I could tell I was tired and slowing down, so it was not a surprise. The last 1.1 miles I ran in 10:37 which is 9:39 pace, but it was not a steady 9:39 as I stayed slow the first half mile and built up to a near sprint over the last half mile. I went on-line later in the evening to check my official time and we found it was 2 seconds faster than my watch time at 2:06:35. My official splits were 5k = 29:32, 10k = 59:07, 10mi = 1:35:36.
All-in-all it was an awesome time. The buzz and the energy of the race was incredible. Running down The Las Vegas Strip was really cool. It was by far the largest race I have ever run in - 29,000 of my closest friends. Despite the river of runners the entire route, I was able to run my pace almost the entire time. The whole race I was able to feed off the ambient energy and I had a blast!
After the race, of course, my dad asked me when I would run my next half (the inevitable question, like when I ask him when he's going to run a full marathon). I'm still enjoying this one. I'm not sure when/if I will run another one, but it was a lot of fun and I am glad I did it. At this point I can't imagine running a full marathon, but I won't say never. :) I'm going to enjoy this race for a while and enjoy sleeping in until 6:15am (rather than 4:45am) for at least a week or two. Once I recover and get back to running, I plan to do more weights and strength training in the gym and focus on some speed training for the shorter distances (1, 2, and 3 miles) and then wait and see how I feel about another long race later on. Hopefully the shorter distance speed work will translate to faster times if I decide to try another half or even a full.
In the mean time I will keep checking the race results website because I can't wait for the race photos to be posted on-line!
edit: Photos are finally here!
Somewhere near mile 3:
Having a blast on The Strip:
After the finish:
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010
...except when I have to wake up before dawn and run for 30-60 minutes!
I love the winter. I love wearing jeans and jackets and sweatshirts. In fact, I am wearing a sweatshirt and gloves, right now, while typing this. Seriously. I probably have more jackets and sweatshirts than my wife has shoes. Seriously. I tend to get hot very easily, and with getting hot comes excessive sweating which makes it very difficult to wear long sleeves.
So, I love these desert winters that are cold and dry and give me many excuses to wear all my winter gear. I've been chomping at the bit to put away my polo shirts while this winter, so far, has been warmer than average... until last week. I jumped for joy and promptly wore my favorite sweatshirt to work for three days straight. Seriously. So far I've worn four different pairs of jeans and two pairs of corduroys. Seriously.
Unfortunately, I also have to run during the coldest part of each day: the hour before dawn - when it's the coldest and usually breezy to boot. For the most part, it hasn't been TOO cold, yet. It was in the upper 50's for a while and I could still get away with wearing shorts and short-sleeve shirts and only need a pair of $1 knit gloves for warmth. Lately, though, some storms have come through and dropped it down to the low 40's and upper 30's and the weatherman us warning it may drop into the upper 20's, tomorrow. That makes this whole running thing a bit more difficult.
The hard part has been wearing enough layers to keep me warm when I first step out the door, but not too warm so I don't have to take them all off once I've heated up and begun sweating after a mile. I have a couple long-sleeve compression shirts that I will sometimes wear under my running shirt, and on the coldest days I have run in some loose athletic warm-up pants and long-sleeve cotton shirts over top. I bought a running jacket that is nice and thin, but has surprised me and its ability to keep me warm (much better than my long-sleeve shirts).
Even though I seem to have found some kind of balance between cold, warmth and sweat, I still dread these cold mornings. At least once or twice (this morning being once) I have barely been able to push myself out of bed and out the door. Just the thought of the cold put shivers down my spine and I want to jump back in bed and pull the covers up snugly. When I get back from my runs I am often so chilled that I am still shivering after 15 minutes in a hot shower. So, I am very glad to see that I have less than two weeks until the race and a couple weeks of post-race excuses to rest up, sleep in, and plan which jacket I will be wearing to work that day. Then I will sip coffee while praying for snow. After all - I love winter! Seriously!
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Sunday, November 21, 2010
Last week was scheduled to be a 10 mile run - according to my training schedule - but my S-I-L talked me into doing a 12-mile trial run. It was going to be the longest run of all my training at 12.1 miles and then this week I was going to run 11 miles before tapering off on my runs for the two weeks before the race (Wow, the race is just two weeks away!). However, the run last week with my Sister-in-law ended up badly as she had some serious IT band issues, so we were not able to run the full 12 miles. She still insisted on finishing the entire route (which was good mentally, but bad physically), but we ended up running only about 7 miles of it (and walked the rest).
So, today, I decided to try the 12 again, and in the back of my head was the idea that if I felt good enough I might try for 13.1. There was a storm blowing through which meant it was in the mid-40's with a stiff wind to run through. I ran into a head-wind for most of the first 6 miles and then again for the final 2 miles. I mulled it over for a while, and finally, during my run, I made up my mind that if my watch was under 2:30 when I got to the 12.1 mile mark (my intended finish) then I would run the extra mile.
So there I was, running that final mile and a half into a stiff headwind with the clouds closing in and small sprinkles starting to hit my sunglasses when I hit the 12.1 mile mark. I pulled up my sleeve (yes, I was wearing a running jacket) and looked at my watch and was surprised to see that it read 2:05! (I mapped it out when i got home just to verify the mileage and it IS correct!) My eyes must've been as wide as saucers and I immediately knew I had to press on to run that extra mile. It was definitely one of the hardest miles I've run in a long time, but I finished it and stopped my watch and drank in the sight of 2 hours and 17 minutes!
My goal time for the half was 2:30 with my super-duper goal being 2:15. I felt like I was running sluggish and slow, today, and was never certain that I would even hit the 12.1 mile mark in under 2:30. I may have to revise my goals!
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Wednesday, November 10, 2010
So, just as the thermometer began dropping to the lowest point so far this fall, I went and got sick. And if there is anything worse than being sick, it's having everyone in the family sick at the same time, especially a baby with a cold.
So, we changed the filters, turned the heater on for the first time since last winter, and on the first sub-40 degree morning... I took the morning off from running and slept in. Fortunately, yet unfortunately, I got sick right before my four day weekend. Funny how that seems to happen. I hurt my ankle hurdling the first-baseman in kickball two weeks ago and it seems to have flared up today, so i am doubly glad I took the morning off. I would still like to run tomorrow, but as they say, that will be a game time decision.
So, no running updates for today. Hopefully I will be feeling better for Sunday's big 12 mile run.
The week after (Nov 21) calls for an 11 mile run, and then my taper starts as there will only be two more weeks left until the big race! I'm not sure if I am excited or anxious. I think the part that stresses me out the most is the thought of the large crowds of people and making sure we are there in time and that I have a chance to pee shortly before the race begins. Funny how it's not the actual race that makes me nervous.
I know I will finish. I don't care if I have to run, walk, limp, crawl, army crawl, or slither to the finish line. I know I will be sore for a few days, after, but it will all be worth it. Then we will head to the Hash House for an awesome post-race breakfast which may be what I am looking forward to most.
I wonder how fast I will be able to run - if the adrenaline will help me or hurt me. If I run with my S-I-L, then I hope to finish in under 3 hours, preferably under 2:45. No, actually, I hope she doesn't beat me. At least I know I can out sprint her as long as she is close. Our goal time is to finish in under 2:30, but really, we just want to finish. But we've trained well and we know we will finish. So, my goal time is 2:30 and my unreachable goal time is 2:15. My super unreachable goal time that will only happen if I am on some kind of drug is 2:00.
So, hopefully all this water I am guzzling will help knock out this cold, quick. I don't have a day to spare.
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