Saturday, January 31, 2009

January - The Month that Continues to Humble this Runner!

Last January I forced myself to run a 13.1 mile training run because I wanted to say I could run that distance. I proved it to myself, but I also spent the rest of the day on the couch hurting and extremely humbled. The silver lining is that 9 months later I found myself toeing the line of an official half-marathon, where I ran a controlled and strategically sound race to PR on my earlier run of attrition by 13 minutes.

This January I spent the month struggling with the inclement weather, inconsistent training, and an incoherent inner voice. It seems like the bleak midwinter has gripped me with its bony fingers and is making life just hellish externally and internally. I am on the brink of turning thirty years old, and though I am not one of those "I am getting old" people, I see this birthday as a mile post of my life. A point where I am reflecting on where I have been, where I am now, and where I want to go. This dreaming, combined with the economy and the stress of having two youngsters AND living in a space far too small for rambunctious boys has just put me in a rather unpleasant state of mind. This has wreaked havoc on my spiritual life, too, bringing some serious belief issues to the forefront once again.

This blog is about running and life, but mostly about running, so I am a bit wary of sharing my spiritual history. With this said, let me say I grew up in the church, went away for a while, came back, went into ministry and attended Christian seminary (you know, the one where you CAN get married and enjoy the benefits), became even more skeptical of religion upon spending one year studying theology and holding a minor leadership role with a congregation, and now am basically a seeker who has MANY, MANY more questions than answers. I believe in something more, but I have a hard time believing there is only one path. You might disagree, and that is fine, I am not here to tell anyone about religion, but in these moments of hardship and inner strife, I have been wanting some comfort that I am on the right path. What I do truly believe is that our lives are based on a purpose, and we are here to live, love, and learn.

One quote that has helped...

"All that we are is the result of what we have thought. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him." - Buddha

This past January has been a month of being a result of depression, doubt, and anxiety. As far as running goes, this month has been one of similarity where my mental image of 'Rob as a Runner' has been a little like this:

And I think I need to be thinking more like this:

Sunday marks a new month, and Monday officially marks a new year for me. All I can do is greet each day with a few notes of peace, possibility and positivity, and let things happen as they may. I may have to re-arrange my personal goals, but I find when I am guided by the opportunities that arise, instead of what I try to force into existence, I arrive right where I am supposed to be. Whether it amounts to 2 miles a day, my aim is to get out each day and enjoy whatever I am capable of in the provided moment.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

"I wouldn't exactly call it training..."

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

I am not complaining, but I basically ran 4 miles early in the week before the snow, ice, and cold came, and after that I decided to not train this week. I thought about my IT band aching, and my plantar fascitis flairing up, and basically resolved to rest. I am not going to get any quality training in, and I am not even sure my IT band is going to allow me to attempt the volume of mileage I need (even on the shorter mileage training plan), so I am just going to take the time to rest, recovery and slowly build back.

It is strange how two hours in October are still dictating my training three months later. Plus, I am having severe doubts about attempting an ultra. I may need another year running races of 13.1 to 26.2 before I am capable physically to go longer. Who knows.

Just had a good time hanging with my little guys this week, went bowling with a three year old this afternoon, and really am reminded of what is most important in life:


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Training week - The first step is sometimes the hardest...

So after my ambitious list of things I'd like to work on this year, here is a bit of an insight to how the first week went. I must preface this by saying that it was a little depressing because today was the GAC Fat Ass 50k in my backyard at Bradley Palmer State Park, and I was really hoping I'd at least be up for running a few loops of the 10k course. No luck though, the trails are gnarly, and mad props to everyone that headed out there, including a contingent of Trail Monster Runners from Maine.
First, I did a great job keeping a log of my calorie intake, and, for the most part, stayed within my range of calories I need to keep in order to facilitate the losing of weight. Basically where my stores of fat are used instead of the calories I am getting each day. I started the year at 198, and this afternoon I weighed in at 192. I am a little skeptical that I lost 6 pounds for the week, but the fact that I am probably closer to 190 is a better starting point.

Sunday - 3.3 miles - 25 mins (7:35 pace). Basic three mile run, but I added three fartleks from 45-60 seconds. Alleged paces for three fartlek sprints during the run: 6:35, 6:22, 6:04.

Monday - 3 miles - Another run where I threw in a few fartleks. Basically a pick up about every half mile. Pace for the run was 7:49/mile, so not bad.

Did Endurance Arms - 100 reps.

Tuesday - 2.7 miles - The most impressive part of this run was that I got home from work and was informed that I had 30 minutes before my wife had to head out to a small group meeting, so I threw on my gear and ran for 20 minutes.

Wednesday - No Running - basically we had a New England classic happen over night. Three inches of snow, one inch of sleet, and a couple hours of rain. The water froze on contact, so I was poop out of luck. Blah.

Thursday - Again, the roads were still absolutely gnarly. I almost died getting to and from work, so I took another zero. I shouldn't be afraid of ice, but I am.

Friday - 3.2 miles Got out and just ran easy. Trail shoes and headlamp to get around any icy patches. Negative splits and good times.

Saturday - 10 miles - 1:24:45 (8:29 pace). First issue is that my IT band is not happy that I went out for 10 miles, but I am psyched that I was able to run a pseudo long run. First week of 2009 and I have at least run close to 1/3 of the 50k distance :-). It was actually a really good run. It was very, very cold, but I ran over some roads I haven't explored in the area - swanky Boxford. Seriously, every car that came past was either a Lexus, BMW, Benz, Caddy, Audi, or Acura, it was ridiculous. Mentally it was perhaps one of the fastest 10 milers I have ever run, but it was difficult because I used this as a training run for gear. I took both hand-held water bottles with me, one with Agua Fria, and the other with Gatorade. I tried hydrating as I would on a 2+ hour run from both bottles. It was just weird carrying two bottles. Ergonomically it wasn't difficult or uncomfortable, it was just different and weird. The padded straps are great, and both water bottles were snug and secure. I had no doubts about them staying put. Also, one of my quandaries about getting to gels that were in the pockets on the bottle grips was cleared, as the bottles are easily handled to get a free hand to work with food or gels or whatever. Basically, it was just an awkward feeling, and I enjoy having both water and Gatorade out with me, but I might opt to just carry one in race situations. Who knows, I still have time to experiment. Did another 100 reps of arms today too!

Weekly Mileage: 22.2

Got some speed in before the snow and ice, got a long run, did some weights, and got 20 miles over 5 days of running. I have been blessed with a decent week, now lets hope some stretching and the foam roller will keep the IT issues in check. There isn't much I can do about the huge flakes falling outside right now that signify another 6-12 inches of snow set to fall tonight and tomorrow. At least I might get some fun blizzard running in the morning, the ice and lack of a road shoulder to run on are not things that bring out the inspiration.

Either way, the 1st week of the next 52 went well, so I am starting in a much better place than I was last year, for sure!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Point of Reflection - Part Two: 2009

Okay so this is essentially going to be shorter than the last post. I am a little irritated because the last storm was Snow to Ice to Rain, which means the carnage on the roads is ridiculous. I guess I am going to be upset either way - if I run, slip, fall, and get injured for multiple weeks, or if I don't run at all. Perhaps I will break down and use the treadmill at work...

Anyway, here is my Christmas list of goals. I once read an article in Runner's World where Bob Kennedy explained that he liked to set a goal for one area of his training that needed improvement, and he'd work on that during to course of a season. I tend to believe in a more holistic approach, as I have a lot that could be improved :-).

Goal One - Weight

I had a decent year with continuing to bring my weight down to better accommodate my desires to be a runner again. I finally made it under 200 for the first time in perhaps 5 years, and now it is time to go further. When I shed the pounds last spring I was really watching my choices for food and making sure I knew with accuracy how many calories I was taking in. Modifying that number and increasing my running mileage really did the trick. As I got comfortable with increased mileage and results from training, I loosened my calorie counting. I didn't gain it all back, but my utter ignorance over the holidays has added pounds I don't need. Starting this week I am back to monitoring caloric intake and making sure running is removing stored calories, instead of using those acquired by daily food intake. I am also watching those "anchor' foods that got me in trouble in the first place - chips, sweets, etc. I started the year at around 198, and where I am not going to set a specific pound goal, I want to be racing lighter in the spring, summer, and fall.

Goal Two - Increased Speed and Strength

I have to be careful with this one. Done too often, speed work can destroy a body and create those nagging injuries that make regular training difficult. My basic approach is to use the shorter mileage runs I am doing these days as impromptu speed sessions. As I have said in earlier posts, it isn't essentially the best way to do speed work, but it is what I have at my disposal. Believe me, I loathe track work, but if I lived close to one, I'd prefer running repeats on a synthetic surface instead of the roads. Basically the goal here is to make an effort to really bring my average mile pace for 5k and 5 miles down under 7:00. Obviously, accomplishing the first goal will help with this as well, but learning how to run fast again is necessary to the next goal.

As far as the strength goes, I guess my point is to be better about developing my core muscles, as well as my arms. I am mostly looking for less weight and more reps with the arms and upper body to help pull me along during races. I have never been a buff guy, and I am not looking for that, but clearly I need to get rid of some of that flab. Plus, I have found weight training is great for burning calories and controlling weight.

Goal Three - Running my First Ultra

Okay, so this probably sounds ridiculous based on the last paragraph, but learning how to run faster will inevitably make long runs easier. Perhaps it means that my 'ultra' pace drops down below 11 minutes per mile. The faster training will make the "comfy, hey I could run for hours" pace slightly quicker. Please, I am not talking about debuting and pushing Leigh Schmidt to the limit - that isn't going to happen in any form, over any distance, but I think it is just an attempt to go faster and/or further over the course of a trail adventure. Besides, for trail racing, added fitness is a great thing to have, and it has nothing to do with blazing times. Don't misunderstand, my goals aren't based on times to any degree, I am just trying to be a little less of a lard butt, to put it bluntly. :-)

As I have said before, Pineland Farms 50k and the Stone Cat 50 miler are my two basic goals for 2009. Yeah, I should run that prerequisite marathon, but honestly, I have a 25 mile road training run, and a 4 hour trail training run under my belt from this Fall, the road run I pushed through insane fatigue and was really at the end of myself and the trail run I ran through mounting pain from knee soreness, so I think I have a basic base and understanding of what I can and need to do. Nothing really prepares one for an ultra, but I feel like I am ready to try. Plus, I have no illusions, 50k is going to be far easier than 50 miles, and will require entirely different mentality and strategy.

Mostly, I have unresolved goals. I wanted to run the two marathons this Fall to have finally run a marathon, but it was also to do so in tribute to my paternal Grandfather, who passed away a couple years ago. He was the Grandfather that saved me. He provided me with ample encouragement and structure in life. He showed me that anything can be done if you really want it bad enough. He taught me about making smart decisions. He taught me about respect, honesty, and enjoying life. Work hard and be thankful of the things you have, are two ideals that have been instilled in me. Ultra events and trail racing, in general, seem to fit these ideals. Ultras require some degree of effort, but the races and the training can be enjoyable based on the vistas and the people you encounter along the way.

Goal Four - Run More Trail Events

I ran three races in 2007, and two in 2008 on the trails. Though, I did significantly more training on the trails last year.

This year I want to attempt to a few more races on trails, and look at the Eastern New England Trail Running Series ( as a source of events throughout the region and the year. It makes more practical sense for me because I do not drive often with my eyesight being what it is, and I have the most trouble driving in unfamiliar places. Thus, when I race it becomes a family event, and with two small kids, my wife is quick to remind me that while I race, she has to entertain the youngsters. The Grand Tree series is also a source, but trips to Connecticut and Western Mass. are not practical based on the above.

I think I can get away with one race a month when the season starts up - hopefully beginning with the Fells 8 miler in March, or the Merrimack River 10 miler in April.

Mostly, in 2009 I am hoping to have fun, run healthy, and meet a few more of you from the trail running blogosphere.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Yaktrax, anyone?

Hey everybody, so this morning I was walking to the car and the usually reliable traction of newly fallen snow was sullied by a nasty layer of ice. Then, as I hopped out of the passenger's seat when I arrived at work, I placed my coffee cup on the top of the car, only to see it migrate to the edge of the roof, nearly falling to the ground, if not for my epic reaction time, based on my more epic addiction to caffiene!

I have been really content with my trail shoes for icy conditions, but I am seriously thinking about splurging for a pair of Yaktrax Pros for running (and walking) in conditions such as these. Especially after reading a few blogs, and hearing others using the Yaktraks for trail training runs, I am seeing it might be a good call.

Let the forum open! I'd love to hear your opinion on 'Yaks", as I am trying to make a more informed decision.

To anyone who contribes, thanks!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Point of Reflection - Part One: 2008

Okay, so I am going to split this one up into two separate entries. I know how I am capable of rambling, and though I am trying to edit more of my writing in this forum and format, I don't see the necessity when I look at the blog as more of a place for discussion and sharing raw revelations.

So 2008 was a pretty good year for me. It certainly had peaks and valleys, and I started off the year thinking about road running, and ended up wandering into the woods and getting hooked on the trails. Road races remained a key focus for me over the course of the year, but meeting new friends on the trail running circuit has encouraged me to stay true to rocks and roots.

Looking at the training log from this past year linearly...

January - 58.2 miles

Started off the month with the best intentions. Quickly became frustrated with little progress. Ran my first unofficial half marathon after a long night of insomnia. 1:58:39 was the time, I saw the sun rise, and I felt pain that crippled me for the rest of the day, seriously. Thoughts following this run were pessimistic, and I was convinced marathons or ultras were definitely impossible.

February - 32.6 miles

Winter dictated my training, or lack thereof. Was still suffering from deep depression due to my unemployment. Took nearly two weeks off, felt my fitness dwindle. A definite low.

March - 78.2 miles

Regained hope and focus. Got out on some trail runs to mix things up, best move of the year! At 213 pounds I decided to go back to the basics. Learn how to run 3 miles without walking breaks, have a diet, and generally start being proactive about my well-being and fitness.

April - 94.5 miles

Started to build my long run back into my training. Started doing this with a 6 mile run, built up to almost 9 miles by the end of the month. Toward the end of the month started regularly running 4 miles under 8:00 pace, which was a great accomplishment. End of April I was down to 202 pounds.

May - 102..3 miles

Really started pushing the pace with daily 4-5 mile runs, and ran my first long run of 10+ miles, started considering the marathon as a goal for the year, and started thinking about racing options. Really a sweet spot in my training progression.

June - 91.6 miles

Moved from Central Mass. back to Eastern Mass. and had to explore new routes and trail options I readily had available at our old place in Central MA. Started moving up the ladder to increase daily runs to 5-6 miles, and long run still averaged close to 10 miles. Decided to start training for a marathon, a very basic low mileage program, also signed up for the Blue Hills Skyline Trail Run in July. Raced for the first time in 2008 with the Corporate Challenge 5k in Boston toward the end of the month. No accurate time, and kind of a crappy, gimmick of an event. True to Boston, the entire race was run in pedestrian traffic.

July - 114.6 miles

The trail runner seed was sown! The Blue Hills Trail race was a freaking experience! I was not prepared and the course ate my lunch, but it was the most satisfying finish of my life. This a race where I finished 59th of 65 runners! Slightly less adventureous, but totally worthwhile was the Essex Greenbelt 10k trail race where I haphazardly met Dan, custodian of the Breakheart Trail Running blog, as well as a bunch of folks from GAC - Gil's Athletic Club. Early stages of marathon training going off without a hitch!

August - 137 miles

Basically a month of deeper training. No racing, but an unofficial PR set for a 5 mile road run - 36:10 - which was 3 minutes faster than my official time at a Thanksgiving five miler in 2007. Long run topped out at 16 miles.

September - 144.9 miles

September provided a month of initial payoffs for the focused training. Ran two races early in the month - Run Around Cape Ann 25k and the Run to the Rock Half Marathon. Both were my first races at each distance, and were tailored to my marathon training. The Cape Ann race was sort of spare of the moment, as some GACers convinced me to jump in, so I ran it as a marathon training run. The Run to the Rock in my hometown of Plymouth, MA was more of a mission, as I had signed up for the race in 2007 and backed out when I realized the weather conditions (Muggy and upper 80's) combined with my lack of training were good reasons to take a mulligan. This year was muggy, but not dry. Through the downpours I surprised myself and ran 1:46:32 (8:06 pace). It was tough, but not impossible, and was sort of a bit of sweet resolve when taken in context to my half marathon experiment in January!

Went a little overboard with my training. Ran a 25 mile training run on the roads in about 3 hours and 50 minutes, and then did a trail training run of over 22 miles in 3:40... in the same week! Ironically I set another unofficial 5 mile road PR the following week - 35:58.

October - 41.7 miles

This is where my training and year came undone. Out for a 4 hour trail training run with a couple friends, excellent Ultra pace for me at about 11 mins. a mile, cardio and legs felt fresh the whole way, and then my IT Band tightened and started rubbing up against to outside of my knee at 2 1/2 hours, pushed through the discomfort. Poof! Good-bye Cape Cod Marathon, good-bye Stone Cat Marathon. That was the first week of October. The remainder of the month was basically a futile attempt to rest and preserve the fitness and possibility of toeing the line for either race.

November - 36.8 miles

Finally made it to the Orthopaedic and got the battery of tests. No damage. Definitely IT related. Basically no focus except being deeply depressed that I couldn't run on a consistent basis. Feeling like everything I worked for was for nothing as I start gaining weight and losing fitness.

December - 58.7 miles (991.1)

Starting to feel a little better and trying to add more running. Snow and ice show up and I get depressed because this is how last year ended, and I saw my training goals flushed back then. Two really good runs with Dan on snowy and sloppy trails at Breakheart lift my spirits, maybe this winter is different?

All things considered, this was a VERY successful year for me. This marks the second year of running since taking too many years off after college. I am starting to get a handle on the weight issues. I weighed 150-160 as a college runner, ballooned to 180 at commencement and packed on another 20 in the year that followed commencement. I hate what I did to myself, but the last two years have been pennance, and I'd wager to say I won't see 160 by this time next year. It is my goal, but my body has to go through some changes beyond weight loss for that to happen.

2007 was a year where I found it difficult to finish a 5k - true humbling for someone who was once a speed demon, and provides ample perspective for those at the back of the pack. I ran 2 5k's, 3 Five-Mile trail races, and one road 5-miler. Running 7:50 pace in that road race in road flats seemed like the hardest thing I had ever done. It was the same kind of pain I felt when I ran my best mile (4:45) on the track.

2008 was a year where I pushed a little further. Some things started making sense in my personal life, I finally was able to get out of the mire of unemployment and find a job, and some of the ghosts of the past year were being learned from, lost, and forgotten. I rebuilt my training from the basics. Learning how to run three miles without walking breaks, building mileage and long runs. 10 miles seemed impossible, and then not such a hard task. I basically made it through three months of marathon training without incident, ran my first 25k and half-marathon, times improved, I fell back in love with trail races, found new challenges, and, especially impressive for someone like me who lives in a sort of isolation because of my eyesight and lack of easy transportation, I met some really good friends on the trails. Of course, the PRs of my college running days are places I want to revisit while I still have the ability to do so, and another year of training, and not necessarily too much closer, I still am satisfied. Just being a runner again is enough to be happy about, for sure!

The focus shifts to 2009, but before I go, I think it is only appropriate to post a pic from last spring where my early shorter training runs on some local trails inspired me to pursue trail running:


(I apologize for the formatting, blogger app keeps adding and deleting spaces between paragraphs, ugh)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Training Re-Cap, Gear Reviews, and 'The Dude'

Sunday - 6 miles (Breakheart w/ Dan) 80 mins. (est.)
Monday - 0
Tuesday - 0
Wednesday - 0
Thursday - 2.4 miles - Snow covered Roads - 20 mins.
Friday - 0
Saturday - 3 miles - Roads, Speedwork - 25 mins.

Current Weight: 198.2 (ugh)

Total - 11.4 miles

This was sort of a transitory week for me with training. I did my best to stay active during the various storms and the holiday travel, but my weight is getting FAR too close to 'two bills' once again, and getting two proper butt-kickings by Dan at Breakheart after Christmas has definitely made me well aware that some changes need to be made.

This training week should actually be taken back a couple days to the Friday following Christmas. Dan and I embarked out on our first training run of the long weekend together at the Breakheart Reservation in Saugus and Wakefield, Massachusetts. The trails were covered in old snow, and had gone through a short melt and freeze cycle, and in the first quarter mile of the run I knew it was going to be a quad-blaster. The snow wasn't particularly deep, and my trail shoes provided sufficient traction, but we did a lot of post-holing over the better part of an hour. I had to laugh when we opted to get on the paved section of the reservation, looking down at the Garmin to see 3 miles over 45 minutes. It was slow, but my legs were howling. It was also frustrating because it seemed like Dan had plenty in the tank and I was dragging. I hate being the "slow poke" on a training run, especially when you are running with one other person and they don't have the heart to drop you. Then again, most trail runners I know - including myself - don't believe in the drop and dash philosophy that MANY other road folks I know swear by. May I interject Sam Elliot for philosophical consideration...

Friday, and then Sunday, the 'bar' definitely ate me!

Sunday's run at Breakheart featured much more melting and temperatures soaring into the 50's. We covered all types of trail conditions - snow covered, icy, and muddy, and had a blast doing it. I enjoy trail running in all conditions, but I have an affinity for the water-crossings sometimes involved on certain courses, we crossed streams, and at one point, ran up a trail that was inundated and rushing with water from melting snow. Though things were fun most of the time, I spent the last half-hour running wounded. We were running along Pearce Lake and the trail was slightly at an angle as we were running parallel to the shore and perpendicular to the hillside. Knowing full well that everything was slippery, I stepped on a root, did what skateboarders would consider a 'grind' down the root and landed, slamming my knee and quad into said root. Bruised and a little stunned I got up and hobbled along. The leg and knee eventually felt okay during the rest of the run, but that afternoon I had to sit in the car for an hour to a family party in Derry, NH, and everything definitely tightened up. I looked elderly getting in and out of the car, but more than once I had to explain why I was having trouble moving. Great times!

Very briefly, as Dan is the resident expert on the matter, Breakheart Reservation is definitely a gem nestled in a heavily populated suburb of Boston. Just in the two days I had a chance to experience the trails of Breakheart, I am convinced that I will make numerous trips there this spring for some focused training. Breakheart offers all types of terrain, and some of the rocky ascents and descents reminded me a lot of the terrain I encountered during the Blue Hills Trail Run. Some trails are definite cruisers, while others demand attention due to the technical nature of the track. Many short steep climbs provide ample opportunity for trail hill repeats. At first glance it does seem that Breakheart is too small to do any kind of long run, but with constantly changing terrain, and the criss-crossing trail system it is possible to do numerous loops that never seem quite the same. Breakheart will definitely test one's trail running toughness - Sissies need not apply!

I need to give props to two pieces of gear I utilized during Sunday's run: a Reebok Cold Compression mock turtleneck and Wigwam "Scout" Trail Running socks. At first glance I am not a big fan of the compression gear, basically because I am not sporting a six-pack stomach (I am more of a 'pony keg' or 'party ball' these days) and I find that sometimes getting deep breaths can be compromised a bit. Regardless, I needed a new piece of base layer gear for cold weather runs, and after getting a couple gift cards to a chain sporting goods store, I did some careful shopping. The mock actually has proved to be a great buy as it worked as base layer in the mid-40's to mid 50's of Sunday's run, never making me feel overheated, and it sealed in toasty body heat yesterday and today during training efforts in sub-freezing temps and windy conditions.

The Wigwan socks go against everything I stand for economically. For one, this ONE pair of socks cost $12. The only reason I actually bought them was because I was having trouble using the funds allotted in this chain sporting goods store that will remain nameless, they had an extensive "outdoor" section, but very little for the trail runner. The scout is technical sock that boasts thermal elements, as well as strategic padding and moisture management for protection against blisters. I have to say they have earned the same "pricey, but great gear additions" distinction, just like the two pairs of "Wright Socks" I own. My feet were drenched following our run Sunday, but after 80 minutes on the trail my feet still felt warm, and there were no real tender areas or tell-tale signs of emerging blisters. Thermally they are great. In the 17 degrees of yesterday they definitely kept my feet sufficiently warm, and I think I have a nice alternative to the bulky thermal socks I had been typically wearing on cold weather runs. Still, at $12 I am not sure I'd be apt to buy the socks if I were not spending money on a gift card.

Thursday's run was just plain cold. Good to get out and do something, but 2.4 miles isn't going to make much of a difference, well, except in the area of burning three hundred calories, or so.

Today I just wanted to run another basic 20 minute run, as my current focus is trying to build a little basic fitness. I am not sure what my IT band is going to allow me to do, so I am just taking it carefully at this point. As I started running and discovering that the roads were not too gnarly with snow and icy spots, my evil masochistic training monster made an appearance and suggested perhaps running two "fast" half-miles, you know, just to see where my base speed is at. Looking down at the Garmin I saw .85 miles, considered the fact that I was on a relatively flat section of road, and took off as the Garmin hit .9. Got to the 1.4, hit the lap button, and slowed to a walk, 3:16. I know I am not exactly fast anymore, but I was once able to rattle off 68 second quarters... ah, memories.

I started running again at 1.5 miles and headed back home. As crappy as I felt, I was bent on running one more 'fast' half mile. I decided to go at 2.1 miles and got to exactly 2.4 and had to slow down to a walk, sucking wind. 1:57 split time, which allegedly is 6:23 pace. Walked for a tenth of a mile, started running slow, and then, ticked off that I stopped early, decided to blast another .3 mile sprint. Again, I got to about .2 miles and started to feel that sudden warning of forthcoming projectile vomit, and pushed as long as I could, short of actually tossing the recently consumed pancakes, getting a completed quarter mile sprint in 1:35, 6:20 pace. I am slightly satisfied with the run because I know I won't get faster without the speed training. Though there is a more structured way of achieving more speed through track repeats, I am in the stage of life where making the best of what you have available is what has to work. In this case, a tepid three-mile run became an impromptu mini speed session.

I was going to unpack some of my thoughts about 2008 and 2009, but this post has to end here. Plans and prognostications to follow soon.


Friday, January 2, 2009

First Run and First Thoughts...

Somewhere deep inside of me I want to start one of those really cool running streaks where I can brag at cocktail parties - does anyone have cocktail parties anymore? - that I haven't missed a day of running all year. Then I think about my body's propensity to get broken down, and the necessity of adding rest into my training plan. I guess running streaks have their time and their place, and with two little kids and a wife I am probably in absolutely no place to be thinking about running streaks - it is sort of like other elements of life, you get training in when it can happen. It is funny how marriage and children essentially make this a daily mantra whether it be about running, meals, showers, etc.

So yesterday I had all of those great intentions for 2009, but the wind was howling, the roads were in terrible shape, and the mercury seemed to be losing a futile attempt to get out of the teens. I would have been content sitting on the couch and watching the Twilight Zone marathon on TV, cracking another Miller Lite (yes, staying health conscious in '09 moving from the pub ales to the light beer, I am such a dork!), and just enjoying a day off with no where to go, and nothing to do.

Two hours later I am throwing on layers, swearing under my breath, and waiting for the Garmin to latch on to a satellite signal.

Nothing real fancy - 20 minutes of easy running. I really feel like I am in horrible shape right now, and to make matters worse, my IT band seemed to not enjoy the running idea one bit. Face sufficiently wind burned and frost bitten, knee sore and achy, and what comes barreling down the once quiet road:

Yeah, three plows to be exact. Being the courteous and vigilant pedestrian I hopped up on a snow bank and got dirty looks from each plow driver. I thought about giving all three the finger just on principal, but that's not how I roll.

Speaking of Plow drivers...

I am glad I got out to run, but one has to wonder why we do this to ourselves? I obviously need the exercise, and was sort of suffering from a mean case of cabin fever - trapped in a small apartment with two small children that want to do only two things: make noise and run. Perhaps it was a token offering to the running Gods. A sacrifice of sorts - here is my offering of dedication to the new year of running. Sure, it is only 2.5 miles of poor running, but it was when all other influences were offering the cuddly salvation of warm blankets, cold beverages, and (not that it happens often, or I'll admit it) great TV. Speaking of which, as a creative writer and film fanatic, the Twilight Zone is a little slice of heavenly genius. It provides a window to the early career of an actor like William Schatner, and shows others in my generation that Burgess Meredith did things other than 'Mickey' from the first three Rocky movies! Not to mention each episode exhibits the power of great writing and story telling, and that it is possible to scare the pants off your audience without the benefit of big-budget special effects.

Ah, but I digress...

So I am 1 for 1 in 2009... I guess the goal now simply becomes being ready for the shorter spring races, and, hopefully, an attempt at 50k at the end of May... May, that sounds like a great idea right about now!