Wednesday, March 23, 2011
I've almost completed 3 months of caffeine free living and I have to say that I am feeling really tired.
Oh, I don't blame the lack of caffeine - although many mornings it would certainly be nice to have that cup of coffee or an energy drink to sip on for a great pick-me-up. No, it's not the caffeine - it's life. Here's my typical weekday:
4:45-5 am - Wake up to run (3-5 miles).
6:15 am - Return home to shower and dress for work
7:15 am - Breakfast
7:30 am - Leave for work
4:30 pm - Head home from work
4:45 pm - Home, watch my daughter and/or prepare or help prepare dinner
5:30 pm - Eat Dinner
6-8 pm - Play with my daughter while my wife relaxes or runs errands
8:30 pm - Daughter goes to bed, I go do consulting work (2nd job) in my room
10:30 pm - 12 am - Go to bed
Plus, the last couple months my wife has been doing PT while also training for a 5k which meant I had to be home from work no later than 4:30pm, and pushed dinner back to 6:30pm.
Depending on how much consulting work I have, I get anywhere from 5 to 7 hours of sleep (8 on a good day). It wasn't so bad before my daughter was born when I could come home and start my work right after dinner, but I have to have my daddy time, so I have to put it off. And it's hard to say no to extra work in this economy. So, I try not to complain (sorry!).
I have a half marathon coming up in a couple weeks. My first half was on a flat course, but this one will be rolling hills. It's getting down to crunch time, but this constant tiredness is really hurting my confidence. I could really use some caffeine right about now...
Thursday, February 24, 2011
My current half marathon training is 4 days a week. I run my long runs on Sundays and then do my regular mid-length training runs on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. So, that meant today was my last running day of the week.
As is my recent habit, I put my running clothes out last night to prepare for my chilly pre-dawn run while wearing my running shorts and socks to bed. I made sure my alarm was set for 4:55a so I would have 20 minutes to dress and drink a big glass of water before my run.
I ended up getting to bed shortly after 10:30p which meant I would be getting a little over 6 hours of sleep. Not as much as I would like, but that's adult and parenthood for ya.
As fate would have it, our 9-month old daughter decided that we were getting too much sleep and we needed to come visit her twice during the night. She was up from 1a-2:30a and then again from 4a-4:30a; and so were both her parents, especially the first time when we took turns attempting to get rock her back to sleep before her mom finally succeeded.
Then my alarm went off right on schedule (amazing how it does that). I jumped up and turned off the alarm and then stood there in the dark contemplating whether to go run in the 39 degree darkness, or flop back into bed for an hour and a half more sleep. I was -* *- this close to going back to bed when I finally decided that the extra hour and a half of sleep was not enough.
I dressed and went through my ritual pre-morning run routine and then off I went for 4.5 miles of running.
And now here I am with bleary, half-open eyes, writing this post. I feel good that I chose to run. I feel strong and healthy... but also VERY tired. No running is on the docket for tomorrow, so here's hoping my daughter will give us permission to sleep through the night!
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
As I wrote last week; when I run (and especially when I blog about running), my thoughts often turn to my high school running experiences (because that encompasses almost all of what I know about running). I think about my former successes, my failures, and especially my regrets. Writing about my biggest success was pretty easy and the post nearly wrote itself. However, it isn't so easy to put the other two of the big three into words, even though they continue to be in haunt my thoughts - in some way, because they are hard to separate. But, none-the-less I will write them out, here.
My Biggest Failure
This one is particularly difficult to write about because I never really had a huge failure, so-to-speak. Mostly that is because i expected very little of myself. Oh, I'm sure my coaches probably thought I had a lot of potential that I never fully lived up to, but to me, improving from running 3-mile races in over 27 minutes to under 18 minutes in four years is far from a failure. Could I have seen more improvement in a short time period? Possibly, but I wouldn't call that failing. It was just a slow improvement. Minus my freshman year, I was always competitive in cross-country.
However, - aside from the last half of my sophomore year - I was never competitive in track. Oh, I still ended up with times that I will probably never be able to run again. But, I was usually in back - if not in last - and was lapped... often. And once I was able to improve and was no longer getting lapped, I had to move up to varsity and continue get lapped again for two more years. Does getting lapped in most of your races take a mental toll as the races wear on? Oh, yes, it does. However, I never quit (well, except for that one 800 meter race...) and I took my lumps and kept improving. I am quite proud of the fact that I kept at it for all four years and never quit, but instead, as time wore on, I continued to strive for improvement and use my lack of success as motivation to grow stronger and try harder. My only goal vague in that I just wanted to continue to improve my times and to continue to set new PR's. However, I could never quite achieve the one concrete goal that I set out for myself:
Run a sub-5 minute mile.
My senior season was shaping up to no longer be the same story as the previous three years of running track. I had had a good cross-country season in the fall. I had worked hard. I was pushing myself. I was close to being decent - not a top 5 runner, but no longer the constant presence far back in last place. This year I knew was going to be different. In pre-season time trials, the top varsity runners were loafing along while running the two-mile trial and I was able to keep up with the slower of them. My first mile clocked in at 5:14 and I was excited. I knew I didn't have far to go to get over that 5 minute hump.
Then the season started and sadly, the story DID remain the same. Start too fast, try to keep the pace as long as possible, tire and slow for the third lap, then try to gain as much time back as possible on the last half of the last lap. It never worked. I could never match that pre-season 5:14 time, much less break 5:00. And through it all, I knew exactly what I had to do. I was able to run a good mile time during the two-mile race, because my pacing was better. All I had to do was slow down a little at the beginning, keep that pace up, push through the third lap, and then I would nail that goal time.
Instead I was met time and time again with failure.
One story our oldest coach loved to tell us (and he had lot of stories) was of a slower runner who decided before one race that he had nothing to lose, so he was going to try to keep up with the front runners no matter what - and he ended up running the race of his life and finishing in the top 3 (i forget the exact place he supposedly finished). I tried this once for one particularly unmemorable 1500m race (memorable probably only to me, and only for the wrong reasons).
The competition for the mile was slim and it was 1500m instead of 1600m, so I figured this was my chance. As luck would have it, I seemed to have picked the right race. Our top two runners were running together far ahead of the pack, but not at their top speed. After a full lap I was still right along side them and they were surprised at what I was doing, but none-the-less were encouraging me to stay with them. My legs were burning, but I was determined to stick with them... until my will-power gave out... and then my energy gave out. Once I slowed down, my body shut down and I was toast. One-by-one the remaining runners began passing me by. I vainly tried to keep up with a couple of them, but my legs would have no more and I slowly circled the track until I again crossed the finish line in defeat. I failed to run the race of my life and also ended up running my slowest race of the season.
I can still remember running my last mile. It was our track League Prelims. I don't think I got lapped (the memories have blurred over time), but the result is etched in my mind and the script was the same as the season of races that came before it. I tired at the beginning of the third lap. I do distinctly remember sprinting for my life for the last 100 meters. Trying to break that 5 minute mark that eluded me once again. I was so far behind that I was all by myself and the crowd had quieted down as I turned and headed down the final stretch. As I sprinted for my final finish, the crowd grow louder - cheering me on with a courtesy cheer to a finish that would again fall short of my goal: 5:11.
With no more races to run and with a sense of desperation, I told my coach I wanted to run in the last open spot in the two-mile race in League Finals with (unbeknown-st to him) the sole goal of breaking that 5 minute mark. I knew the pacing would be better. I knew I could do it. I didn't care what my two-mile time was, or if I even finished. I had to break 5 minutes.
It was the end of the day and light was beginning to fade. It was the last race of the day. The last race of the season. The last race of my career. And I had a goal. So I ran. I ran how I knew I needed to run. I ran like the wind. I ran the race of my life. I sprinted the fourth lap of an 8 lap race and listened to the bewildered cheers from the crowd. And I set a mile PR... of 5:07. And then after 4 and a half laps... I eased up and coasted onto the infield of the track. A friend ran over to make sure I was okay. Physically, I was fine. Mentally, I knew I had failed. Again. For the last time. I was not happy. And my coach was not happy. He refused to count it as my fastest mile time. Not only did I not achieve my goal, I had also quit.
And now, for the 18 years since, those races have stuck in my brain, and swirled around and jabbed at me, and especially now that I have picked up running, again.
So, some day, somewhere, I will find a track... I will find a trainer... And I will train... And I will train... And I will train... And I will run a sub-5 minute mile. Some day....
to be continued...
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Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Saturday, Feb 19, I ran in the Fat Boy 5k (sponsored by the Las Vegas Track Club) along with the SIL at a local park. This was a local event, but was still a decent-size turnout. Over 300 participants signed up, although only 240 of them actually showed up and finished the race. The race was advertised as "a race for the rest of us" with the novelty of a handicapped wave start and lots of food provided for all the finishers after the race.
The race was handicapped based on weight. The heavier you were, the bigger the "head start" you had. The heaviest group started first and then each subsequent group started approximately 2.5 minutes after the previous group. Whoever finished the race first, regardless of starting group, was going to be deemed the winner. After the race, Michelob Ultra beer, water, flavored water, milk, brats, cookies, and other goodies were provided to all the finishers.
These were the 7 weight groups:
1 "Super Clydesdales"
3 "Super-Size Me"
4 "I'll Have Fries With That"
5 "Not Light Beer"
6 "Diet Yogurt"
7 "Kate Moss/Amy Winehouse"
I was in group 3: "Super-Size Me." Our group had a 10 minute head start in front of the last group.
I wasn't sure how I was going to run the race. My only real goal was to beat my previous 5k PR of 27:09. I had run faster 3-mile times during some of my half marathon training runs, but those were in 2010, weren't official races, and weren't 3.1 miles times, so they didn't count. I didn't have much of a race strategy until shortly before the race when I decided I was going to try to run negative splits. This is difficult in any race because of the tendency to go out too fast and how easy it is to get caught up in the adrenaline and the initial excitement and flow of the race. Being that this was such a small race with only approximately 30 people in each group, I knew it was going to be extra difficult, but I wanted the challenge and was looking forward to finishing strong at the end of the race.
Over the weekend, a storm was blowing through. My wife and my 9 month-old daughter were hoping to be able to come, but were worried about the weather. I left for the race by myself and hoped that they would make it. We were also hoping my mother-in-law (MIL) would be able to make it to watch the SIL run, as well. The ground was a still a bit wet, but had mostly dried from the rain that had fallen Friday night and Saturday morning. With the noon start time, the clouds had scattered and the wind had picked up. The course mostly just circled around a local flood basin, so there was no consistent head or tail winds, but either way, the wind was going to be a factor.
Instead of a starting gun, there was a man with Elvis sunglasses and a megaphone who told us to go. When he yelled "go," I hit my watch, but hit the wrong button. I fumbled with it for a couple seconds before getting me timer going right. Not the best way to start. The beginning of the race was down a side street with the wind at our backs which was nice, but made it difficult not to start too quickly. The first quarter mile I felt like I was running painfully slow. When we moved off the side street and onto the track around the flood basin, I was happy to see my wife, daughter, and MIL had made it and were cheering me on and taking pictures. I waved and felt like I was running ridiculously slow, but shortly thereafter, once we turned and hit the first long straightaway, we hit a nasty headwind and I was glad I had taken it easy. Once we finally turned and pulled out of the headwind, we hit the first mile marker and I clocked my first mile in at just under 9:00. At that pace, I'd barely beat my PR - if I was able to keep up that pace - so I needed to speed up. Of course, that was the plan.
I picked up the pace a bit at the beginning of the second mile and shortly thereafter was aided by a nice tailwind. When I hit the turnaround point, they were handing out water and I grabbed a cup and slowed to walk and drink it, then paused to step off the course to throw my cup away. Then I quickly got back into rhythm. When I hit the two mile mark, I was glad to see I had picked up the pace, but was surprised to see my second mile clock in at exactly 8:00. I was hoping for closer to 8:30. Beating that time in the third mile was going to be tricky, especially because...
When I started the third mile, it was into a head wind. I knew that most of the third mile was going to be a tail wind, but the first quarter of it was into a head wind. As the course turned out of the head wind, I started to pick up some speed and was passing some other runners as the course then turned again and I again picked up a tail wind. Unfortunately, though, the head winds were finally taking their toll and my legs were tiring. I pushed myself to not slow down as I could feel my legs feeling heavier. I closed my eyes to concentrate and buckle down, and ended up running with my eyes closed for quite a bit of that last mile. As the course finally turned towards the finish line...
I hit another head wind, just as the third mile marker came into view. There was another runner in front of me and I focused on slowly reeling him in. When I hit the three mile mark, I hit my watch, but didn't check it until after the race and I began to pick up speed for the home stretch of the last tenth of a mile. I passed the runner in front of me and raced over the finish line. The clock in front of me read 15:50 which made no sense to me at the time and took me a whole day to figure out. My watch, on the other hand, told me that my finishing time (give or take a few seconds due to the whole starting line fiasco) read 25:47.
I knew I hadn't blown a whole 12 seconds at the starting line, so I was confident that I had finished in under 26 minutes and beat my PR by over a minute. Unfortunately, that meant that my last mile clocked in at 8:22 - with the last tenth of a mile in 30 seconds - so, I wasn't able to run negative splits, but I was still able to beat my PR.
After the race I got to see my wife and my daughter for a short time before they headed out of the wind. I grabbed and Michelob Ultra, some glacier water, a couple chocolate chip cookies, and a brat which were all delicious and really hit the spot. Then I ran back over to the finish line with the MIL and took some pictures of the SIL finishing.
Overall, it was a really fun time and even though i wasn't able to get my negative splits, I still beat my 5k PR and all my 3-mile training times, too. It was definitely a success and a fun race. I ended up finishing 23rd, so I had to have passed a number of people in the first two groups.
I'm not sure when my next 5k will be, but I am happy with the way this one turned out. Hopefully, the next one will involve a little less wind. My next official race is the Summerlin Half Marathon on April 9th. It will involve a few hills. Hopefully it will not be windy, too!
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Tuesday, February 15, 2011
All this running I've been doing, lately, has been giving me a lot of time to think. Well, maybe too much time to think. And when I'm running, what else do I think about but... running - as in almost 20 years ago, running. When I run I am constantly thinking about pacing and timing and then inevitably leads me to think about those days of yore in high school. A when I think about those days of track and cross country my mind invariably comes across thoughts of three things: 1) My biggest success, and 2) my biggest regret, and 3) my biggest failure.
Yes, there other things I think about, too, like how much more I enjoy running now, how old I am, how much less forgiving my body is now, how much more training I need to do, planning for my next race, how to motivate myself to run when I don't have a race to train for, and that time in high school track when I intentionally tripped over the curb on the inside of the track to get out my first 800 meter race and tried to make it look like an accident. Yes, I admit I did it on purpose because i was slow, scared and desperate. But, let's move on.
So, let me tell you about the Big Three.
My biggest success
JV Cross-Country League Finals - senior year. After four years of hanging on and slowly improving, I had finally learned a thing or two about commitment and training. I was one of the top two of our five JV runners, but still only good enough to be the seventh runner on the Varsity squad when we ran in the Conference Semi's. But in our league's JV division with a limited number of competitors from other schools, I was close to the top. That year we had changed our league format to include 3 league meets that included teams from all 6 schools in our league. In our second league meet, I was running in front with a teammate (he was setting the pace and I was trying to match him) for most of the race before falling back a bit and then coming on strong at the end of the race only to fall a few yards short. I had started my final kick too late and not only fell short, I was also passed by another runner (a sprinter/hurdler from a rival school who ran to build his endurance for track) and I ended up finishing third.
After that race, I knew how I could win our last league meet which was the official League Finals. I knew my teammate was better at pacing himself while I was up and down with a stronger kick to the finish. Also, running with another runner always caused me to fatigue mentally. So, I game-planned (probably the only race I ever game-planned for) to go out strong ahead of my teammate so that when I tired towards the middle-end, he would still be catching up to me. Then, if he did manage to catch me close to the finish, I could out-sprint him at the end.
My plan worked beyond my wildest dreams. My teammate had been sick a week or two before the race, which helped, but I still ran my best race of the year-to-date. The race went all according to plan and then some. I shot out ahead of everyone (but still at a manageable pace) and then the adrenaline of running out in front kicked in. I had never felt that before - it was a totally new feeling. I did not want look bad by starting out ahead and then getting caught from behind. I was bound and determined not to get caught and kept willing myself to keep up the pace.
With only a half-mile to go, the sprinter/hurdler was coming up behind me, but I didn't know how close. All I knew was that suddenly the course was lined with his teammates and they were all cheering him on and yelling that he was catching me and that he could catch me. I couldn't help but remember our last race where he did catch me and I did not want that to happen again. I didn't dare look back and instead I pushed myself to run faster. Once I passed over the small hill at the end of the course and headed downhill on the last 200 meters towards the finish, I knew he wasn't going to catch me. I could barely feel my legs as I sprinted that last downhill as fast as I could without falling over myself. As I crossed the finish, I hurdled the finish line and then walked towards the finishing chute and turned to watch the second place sprinter/hurdler finish 20 seconds behind me. I was ecstatic and overjoyed because I had won my first race, ever! My plan worked and I had won! Me! Finally!
As it turns out, that would be the pinnacle of my running career. In my next posts I will tell you about those two other things I think about on my runs: my biggest regret and my biggest failure.
To be continued...
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