Wednesday, October 6, 2010

During one of my runs last week I began to think, and for some reason thinking while running is crystal clear for me. The mind seems to take a mini vacation from the random and stressful thoughts which plague me during everyday activities and most often all at once. Time and again I wonder if there is a recording device out there I could wear while running so as to “write” papers for school, or philosophy for that matter. At times my thoughts become so clear that brilliancy is just around the corner and I know this because eventually these even start confusing me. This thinking led to a specific concept or idea I wanted to write about.

Running a marathon is grueling. There is no other way to put it, yet during training runs it is all I can think about. This usually comes in the sense of running another in hopes of bettering my time. Although times are important, training to run a strong race is what feels the best and provides the true reward in the end. Nothing compares to crossing a finish line with strong legs, heart, and mind. In fact, the best times I have had in racing occurred while either not wearing a watch or barely glancing at it during the run. This idea evolved from training with my heart and not necessarily a clock.

Most people view 26.2 miles as something they could never accomplish on foot. For some, driving the distance is a task which would rather be ignored. Even as a runner, I would have to agree the distance can look daunting. However, when a runner focuses on a race, it is not the total distance which is sought after, but rather the increments it will take to total up that mileage. Each runner is different and these increments are customized according to previous racing strategies and training efforts that place a mental mark on specific mileage. Intense, I know. Exciting to a non runner? Not so much.

As I toe the line per say, anxiously waiting the starting horn, (no more guns these days) I begin to feel nervous and strong simultaneously. The strength comes from months of preparation and a few weeks of tapering just prior to race day. At times I have done nothing but eat, run, and sleep during peak training months. Wait a minute though, I am a family man so often sleep is a bit trying in order to fit it all in. Being nervous is normal and is what I keep telling myself, although the nervousness can creep into self doubt when thinking once again of the distance. But when the horn sounds and I take off, strategy arises and becomes an autopilot guiding me through the first few miles.

Mile 7 is where the calmness sets in and a feeling of trust encompasses my thoughts regarding the preparation I completed for the marathon. There were many days running and many opportunities put on hold for long solo runs in order to build endurance. A quick glance at the watch will give some sound guidance into pace versus exertion. But it must be quick, and no math is allowed for calculating the current pace for the rest of the run because it will just lead to anxiety. I focus on my form and strength for now.

The half way point can be both exhilarating and worrisome at the same time. This marks how the race is going. I have run many half marathon races and the 13.1 mile distance has a specific mental time versus strength mark attached to it. If the timer shows close to my personal record of the half, I fret knowing I still have a lot of road ahead. Yet if the time is too slow, my pace quickens and the possibility of bonking before the finish is in reason. The clock tells me where I should be at this point of the race in order to meet expectations of a dignified finish. But do I focus on the clock or feel for my heart and motivation. This back and forth battle eventually settles when I revert my thinking back to the training mentality of endurance. I am now focused on the next increment.

Upon reaching mile 18 the leg muscles are a little worked and the notion of quitting edges into mind. I am not sure of the exact calculations but this seems to be three quarters of the way complete and although I am tired, it is a small victory. Passing this mark will put me into the realm of distance seldom run. Even training runs rarely surpass 18 miles. This surge of positive energy will carry me through the next few miles and combined with the cheering of neighbors crowding their streets can be overwhelmingly emotional. It can even make the simplest of men feel like the finest of athletes.

And then it happens. Mile 22, or thereabouts, has been known collectively among marathoners as “the wall”. The muscles are used, the motivation is lackadaisical, and the energy level lies somewhere between an empty tank and the gas light coming on with no filling station in sight. It is a tough spot. As I look to my watch for some guidance I realize that stopping right now would be just fine and time seems irrelevant. The only thing that will get me through this lies deep within and comes from training and preparation for this moment in particular.

Jesus wept. That is what comes to mind. I am not sure why, but can only attribute this extreme random thought to a friend telling me this remains the shortest verse in the bible. Bizarre, yet inspiring all together as I think of the gifts I have been given and no way am I going to get this far to throw it away. The training was too hard and the sacrifice of commitment is not worth giving up on. There will be no need for weeping here. I will prevail and characterize God’s talents bestowed upon me.

Once the 26 mile mark comes into view and is passed, a smile crosses my face as I know the hardships put forth in order to reach this point. No one has ever said how hard, yet how fast one can run the final 0.2 distance of the marathon. It is rewarding to cross the line feeling strong all the while knowing the endurance and patience it took. However, where can I find a discreet place to throw up? I guess it will just have to wait until later. Right now this feels pretty good, and the clock says it should.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Run Log August 23rd

Week of August 23, 2010

MON: 6 mi
Very easy out and back on panhandle to assess the back situation. 51:14

TUE: 4 mi
The back is getting a little better but not as quick as would be appreciated. We went to Kennywood with the girls today and left just before 1pm. Seriously one of the best days ever as a family. Scarlett stayed behind with Patricia and then Janet. My back felt a little better by the end of the day from walking.

WED: rest
No miles today and awoke with a stiff back but less pain and muscle spasm. I still appear crooked to the left and feel as though my back is bent forward. With little to no options left I decided to seek Chiropractor help. I remembered a guy that came into the ER almost a year ago who I took care of that was a Chiropractor down the street from here. After just showing up without his name and describing to the receptionist what he looked like, I left with an assessment, adjustment, and some pain relief. It felt more like the pain relief which accompanies stretching, that good flexible feel. I want to become whole again. Although I cannot say that my beliefs lie wholeheartedly with the Chiropractor field, there is something to say for someone who knows the muscles of the back and can stretch them appropriately.

THU: 8 mi
A very nice, easy paced run on the MT from mile 0 to 4. At the turn around I ran 2 miles back at a 6:45ish pace to see if my back would sustain. Much to my surprise, it felt good with no spasms or pain.

FRI: rest
A return trip to Dr. Orbach and my back feels flexible and just about solid again. I thought of running in the evening but really did not want to push it as IKEA remains the focus in 2 weeks.

SAT: work

SUN: work

Total = 18 miles
A bad week in mileage, especially before the half marathon in 2 weeks but the slight back injury left me with little to work with.

Monday, August 23, 2010

a contemplation

Sometimes things do not always seem the same when viewed from different angles. I took care of a gentleman Sunday afternoon who arrived with the desire to quit drinking and was “sick and tired of being sick and tired”. He did not appear to be an uneducated man nor did he seem na├»ve about alcohol and the effects of abuse. The contrary revealed a respectable man with a strong desire, yet unknowing determination to put forth efforts of obtaining sobriety through a plan. The obstacle was not having a plan. He stated attending AA in the past and although he indeed had a sponsor, the program did not work because of his failed desire to make it work. This time was different.

The man did not seem to have “lost it all” nor did he appear to be insane. He just showed concern that his life needed a turn around and the arrival of age 50 was proving wrong his previous theory of being unique. There was not a quality in him he stated that was any different from others who have sworn to stop drinking yet could not. The similarities of alcoholics remain consistent in that respect I guess. He concurred.

As I continued to watch his mannerisms and lack of contact during our conversation, it occurred to me this problem can hit anyone and alcohol may not be the source for everyone. Suddenly, I was looking 18 years ahead and envisioned a broke down me sitting there contemplating life and wondering where did it go. What happened to my health? Where did my race times go? How did I let my prime pass me by? How come I did not see all the warning signs? I too am unique right? Maybe alcohol has not affected my life to the extent of his, but something can be said for a sneak peak of a road anxiously traveled. This was a turn not to be made. Although alcohol may not be the source problem for myself, the worries that impede on the enjoyment of everyday life are. The worry of retirement, raising respectable children, and choosing the right career choices top the list. This seems a slippery slope in need of caution. Never before did these seem to matter. Upon reaching the age of 50, I would like to resemble a unique quality unlike this gentleman; being content and confident. For that, I thank this man. And for that, I choose to run.

P.S. I pulled my low back cross training last week and running has been minimal for the last 7 days thus the philosophical post!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Run Log Again

Week of August 2, 2010

MON: 9 mi
I put together a nice loop incorporating an existing Crafton route, the dog park, and the ballpark river trail. It is a nice mix of sidewalk busy street running, neighborhood running, trail running, back road running, and plenty of hills.

Leg extensions, leg press, and bike

WED: rest

THU: 8 mi
Panhandle trail

FRI: work

SAT: 4 mi
Crafton before work

SUN: work

Total = 21 miles
This obviously was not a very eventful week. The gym workout really hit my legs hard. I am not really impressed with the mileage and quite disappointed I still have been unable to manage time accordingly. Also some bad news in the family did not help matters much. Not a good week with running, work, or life. However, I am grateful for my health and the capability to run even 1 mile.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Run Log week of July 26

Week of July 26, 2010

MON: This is the first Monday I have not run following the weekend shifts. I wanted to rest for a long run tomm.

TUE: 14.5 mi
A long out and back on the Panhandle trail. Nice that the water fountain at mile 6 is finally working.

WED: 4 mi
Easy recovery run on the treadmill in the am.

THU: 11 mi
Crafton loop with dog park (hilly course). I ran in the middle of the day and although it was hot the humidity didn’t seem as bad compared to last week.

FRI: work

SAT: Dustin’s bachelor party

SUN: rest (not really needed, just some change in family plans)

Total = 29.5 miles
This was a pretty solid week despite lots of schedule changes and plans coming out of nowhere. Although it was only 3 runs, each run was efficient and it was nice putting the long run together. I am still conflicted with some race plans at the end of summer and am not sure how to approach the different training required. I want to see how the running goes over the next week or two and see how I can bump the mileage up a bit. The intentions were there this week for 30+ miles, yet it seems life can get in the way of my running problem.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Run Log July 19

Week of July 19, 2010

MON: 8 mi
This was not a real tempo run yet I wanted to maintain a nice easy to moderate pace. That pace seemed to be a rate of 7:45. I felt really good despite working 3 shifts in a row, yet could still feel my knees and quads. This could have been a great run on fresh legs.

TUE: rest
Not sure I really needed to rest, but after beers on the porch and solving the world’s problems with my buddies last night… a little rough today.

WED: 6 mi
Nice trail running at Settlers. I began to think a little more about the next big race and redeeming myself after the marathon.

THU: 4 mi
Carlynton track. So I started with a 2 mile easy warm up at 16:01. Then I ran 1 mile with “barefoot shoes” and then 1 mile totally barefoot. My natural barefoot pace seemed relatively easy and was a 7:42. Interesting.

FRI: 7 mi
Treadmill running today! Having work stuff in the morning and family stuff in the evening left me with mid day, which was HOT. So I opted for the gym. Workout – 2 x 8:30 miles, a pair of 8’s, 1 x 7:30, and finished with a 7 min mile. Not bad and the progressive approach made for good training.

SAT: work

SUN: I intended on a 4-6 mile today but plans had to be altered.

Total = 25 miles
Another steady low mileage week left me once again short of my goal. Yet, the steady base over the past several months should hold strong for high mileage weeks hopefully to come soon. This week gave way to a great trail run, a solid moderate pace run, and some good eating.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Run Log July 12

Week of July 12, 2010

MON: 7 mi
Panhandle trail early in the am. Started running at about 6:45am after stretching. It was nice and cool and quiet. Incredible running in the summer mornings as the sun broke through ending the run into my last mile.

TUE: rest
Much needed

WED: 5 mi
1 mile warm up and then 3.5 miles on back bone with the 0.5 mile return home. It was a good workout. My strength felt wonderful after resting yesterday but the heat was awful as I ran around 5pm.

THU: 9 mi
Holy hell it was hot and I cannot for the life of me begin to think why I thought it would be a good idea to run in the mid day. I started at 2pm and ran 5 miles in crafton with 2 dog park loops and then stopped at the pool with the girls. Once they were done and I had cooled off, I ran home by way of Thornburgh and a dog park loop for another 4 miles. The last 2 miles were really hard.

FRI: work 3p

SAT: 4 mi
Ran before work at 3p. I felt strong surprisingly.

SUN: work 3p

Total = 25 miles
I feel this week was surprisingly good although very hot. It was another low mileage week but each mile was quality and had a workout purpose.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Run Log July 5, 2010

Week of July 5, 2010

MON: 6 mi
Crafton loop. Damn hot and legs were very sore from last week’s hard run and little recovery going into 3 days work. Plus I drank beer on Fri and last night.

TUE: am: 4.5 mi
1 mile warm to backbone, 3 miles on back bone, ½ mile home
pm: 6 mi
panhandle trail out and back

WED: 6 mi
Crafton loop when Kelley got home from work. Didn’t start until 8:30pm.

THU: 7 mi
6 mile tempo with 1 mile warm up. Pace was avg 7:30 which is what I was targeting. It was a hard run after what seems like consecutive days without rest including running and work. Plus, it was hot and humid as hell even though I ran in the evening.

FRI: work

SAT: work

SUN: work

Total = 29.5 miles
Not a bad a week and certainly a milestone this year. First time I have run twice in the same day. It was a pretty hard week and the tempo on Thursday night was a tough one after training hard from three days.


For anyone who has ever been inspired, is inspired, or will be inspired from running, this is for you.

Most of us cannot run 100 miles, complete a marathon under 2:15, or train in the hundred plus mile per week range. Yet, we as runners are motivated by those that do and those that seem to accomplish what others say cannot be done. I have been running into my thirties now and continue in hopes to accomplish what others say I cannot do. It does not entail running a marathon sub 2:30 but rather sub 3:30 and not an ultra 100 in 16 hours but maybe another 50k in sub 8 hours.

If there have been times in running where simply getting outside and covering miles left you with the sense of being a on. Or, maybe you too have a case of "what if".

What if:
I train harder
Cover more miles this week
Eat a little healthier
Run softer
Train at a faster pace

What if I just run? I may not be the next Western States 100 winner, Olympic marathon trials winner, or U.S. 50k champion, but I will run and train as though my heart depends on it. Maybe I can break 1:30 again this year in the local half marathon.