Monday, January 31, 2011


I'm a little bit of a hypochondriac. You should be forewarned of that if you read this blog. I worry that every little sneeze is H3N3 KITTY FLU (the next pandemic) and every time I roll my ankle I assume that the next morning it will be swollen to the size of a pineapple.

My knee feels a lot better today. A lot. And there was continued improvement throughout the morning. Still, though, there's a spot on the left knee that still felt like it was injured rather than just sore, so I called the doctors and eventually ended up going to the walk-in orthopedic clinic at a local healthcare center.

I felt a little embarrassed to be there, since the knee was so much better than yesterday. But, I've never had a serious knee injury to know what the various options feel like, and now, less than two months away from the Shamrock Marathon, is no time to mess around. I wanted to know right away if there was something torn or broken, or what I could do to reduce the likelihood of that if I had a relatively clean bill of health.

They took X-rays, which showed no obvious damage and good joint spacing (lots of cartilage rather than the knee being bone-on-bone), but based on where the pain was at different places in my range of motion, the doctor diagnosed me with IT Band Syndrome, a common source of knee pain for runners.

I'm sure this is a huge HIPAA violation, but:

("One knee, two knees." "Thanks, House.")

Since I was there, and in pain, I was glad that there was actually something to be found and even more glad it wasn't a torn ligament. He suggested I take it light on the miles for about two weeks and to take lots of ibuprofen and get stability control shoes, and go to physical therapy for a few weeks to try to treat it and prevent further damage. There may be orthotics in my future, but he didn't want to try that till after the race.

(And a close-up of the culprit.
The left IT band is on the outside of the left knee -- on the right side of this picture.
You can't really see it, but look at all that cartilage!)

So, I'll hopefully be back out on the road for short run on Thursday, when the weather is hopefully ok, and a (relatively short) long run on Saturday. I'll need to adjust my training plan, but for now I still think 26.2 is achievable.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Failure is an Option

This whole training for a marathon thing had been going pretty well so far. I'd played with the schedule quite a lot due to work and weather, but I've gotten my miles and except for one weekend where it snowed Saturday and I went the Eagles game on Sunday, I've hit the distanced proscribed for my long runs.

Until this weekend. This weekend was supposed to be 18 miles. I pushed it back from yesterday till today because I'd ran 7 miles on Friday. I set out from my parents' house, since it gives me access to several neighborhoods to run in with lots of side streets that I can use to adjust my distance, the opportunity to stop and refill my water or Gatorade. I had visions of 20 miles in my head, though, putting me a week ahead of the training program and "just" a 10K away from marathon distance.

My legs felt bad right at the start, today, but didn't think much of it, and it seemed to subside. My original plan was to run 3 "laps" of 5-6 miles and tack on whatever I needed to get to 18. On my first lap, I turned out again at a crossing rather than head to my parents, and stretched my first lap to 13 miles. The last 1-2 miles were bad, and I was definitely in pain. I thought I'd stretch and be ok to get the last 5 in, but I took two steps and knew it wasn't going to happen.

I've had bad runs before, but it's always because I've gotten overheated or my stomach hurt -- it's never been because my legs have been completely unable to do the distance. It's sinking in for the first time that the hardest part of this is still ahead of me and there's a distinct possibility that I might not succeed. This isn't meant to be a concession speech by any means -- just a recognition that this is going to be tougher than I thought and success is not a given.

My shoes are beyond toast. I've known that for a long time, and I actually have the next pair. I was hoping to get through January (so I guess I did) with my old shoes in hopes that the new pair will then last me through the marathon. And if they're beyond their suggested mileage by then, they'll still be pretty new compared to the miles I've got have put on my current pair, which I realize that I've actually been using for about 10 months at this point. I've kept other running shoes that long, but I'm sure the mileage on these is way above any of my others.

I'm hoping new shoes makes a big difference, and/or this was just kind of a freak thing and not a warning sign of knee trouble. My knees hurt after I ran 16 at Loch Raven, but that was super hilly and my longest run ever at the time, and oddly they were fine for last week's 17.5 in relatively flat Timonium, Maryland. They hurt for Monday night's 7 miles, but I felt like I had a different stride that night, pounding out some frustration on the blacktop, but didn't hurt for the same distance on Thursday.

My plan for the week is to take tomorrow off, try 3-5 miles on Tuesday, weather permitting (Serious snow fatigue here), the same on Wednesday if I feel up to it, 7 or 8 on Thursday, and 18-20 on Saturday,which was supposed to be a recovery week (15 miles) that my knees dictated that they needed today.

Update: Several hours later, the right knee feels fine. My left knee is still in quite a lot of pain, though.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Snow, Your Enemy

I had the best of intentions this week, I really did. But after my good run on Monday night, my running schedule for the week quickly fell apart. I knew I wasn't going to be able to attend the track workout on Tuesday, but I planned to get in a run at lunch on Wednesday. I knew I'd have to get it in before the big snowstorm that was forecast for Wednesday night.

Unfortunately, I woke up to find that we had a slippery coating of snow on Wednesday morning, and snow persisted throughout the day. After digging us out Wednesday night and Thursday morning, I attempted a run Thursday evening only to find that the road at my starting point was covered in black ice. Wisely, probably, I skipped.

This left me with an 18 mile run scheduled on Saturday. Since I hadn't run since Monday, I thought I should try to get some miles in today and push my long run back till Sunday. The weather, however, again thought otherwise. It snowed from the time I woke up this morning till about 1:45pm. I ran 7 miles at lunch in near whiteout conditions. It was above freezing, and the roads and sidewalks were mostly fine, but I'm sure people who saw me thought I was an idiot.

And maybe they were right. But it will take more than a little snow to stop me. (Dear God, please note that this is not intended as a taunt or an invitation for more snow. In fact, the less snow the better, please!) It was a decent run. I think I came in at 7 miles in about 1:10, so not a great pace, but I'll take it given the conditions. I mapped out the distance on dailymile and I'm estimating the time, since I forgot to charge the Garmin.

I hate snow. I wish I didn't, because as a kid I really loved it. But now it just means messy roads and shoveling, and since I work from home there's not the benefit of delays or snow days. It's a major inconvenience, especially when training for a marathon. Maybe that's why it was actually a little bit fun to bust out the snowblower, which was unfortunately out of commission last year, for the first time in 3 years and completely annihilate it. How I missed the roar of its mighty augers of death; how I missed it turning 3+ hours of shoveling into a little over an hour of mechanized warfare. Best. Invention. Ever.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Presence of Evil, Volume II

Perhaps if the Tasty Baking Co. had invented these sooner, it would not be having such deep financial difficulties.

Take just one sniff of their maple syrup aroma and you too will be unable to resist.

Monday, January 24, 2011


In one of my earlier blog posts, I contemplated whether I actually enjoyed running. I came to the conclusion that while I enjoyed being a runner, and having something to brag about and justify some extra eating, I didn't always enjoy the act of running itself.

And that's certainly been the case during my marathon training. My last two long runs at Loch Raven and Timonium were quite enjoyable. Trying to cram in base miles during the week has been a struggle, though, and an added stressor when I haven't been able to find the time to get in as long a run as I was planning, or even worse, get out to run at all.

Today was a tough work day, and my stress level peaked at about 5:15, when I opened an e-mail that I really should have just left for tomorrow. I was in awful mood. I wanted to get away. I wanted to hit a heavy bag (disclosure: I don't have a heavy bag). I wanted to hit a wall. I wanted to hit the bottle. I settled for a run, and it helped calm me down much more than I expected.

I remember a few years ago, I'd hop on the treadmill or head up to the local park at lunch, and a run was a nice opportunity to crank up Blink 182, or something equally sophomoric, on the Shuffle, turn my brain off for 20 or 30 minutes, and not worry about anything except how fast I could go X laps around the park.

Tonight was different -- tonight I could tell I used my frustration to motivate me. I beat the daylights out of my tired legs for seven miles in a one hour and ten minute run that was maximum effort although not maximum speed, and after a few miles, I felt less frustrated.

I've also found that I like running at night in all my stupid running gear. It was definitely a good de-stressor tonight, but I also think it's somewhat akin to having a secret identity. By day, I'm just another anonymous Embattled Mid-Level Business Guy, but by night I become Long Distance Running Reflective Idiot -- I feel like people in their warm houses or cars are staring and laughing at me as I run on these cold nights with a stupid light on my head, and I can't help but laugh at myself a little, too. Tonight, that laugh, and the miles, were much needed.

(Maybe The Cape, hero of NBC's hilariously awful show "The Cape",
just needs more reflectors on his suit.)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Big Chill

It's cold out there. Not quite upper Midwest cold, or Buffalo cold, or Siberia cold, but well below freezing. I believe the always-reliable said 11 degrees but felt like 6, during the time I was scheduled to be running this morning. The normal high for this time of year is in the upper 30s, while today's high was only in the mid-20s.

I like running in the cold, but that's pretty ridiculous.

My normal winter running attire is a long-sleeve cotton or technical (allegedly moisture-wicking magical running gear that is probably overpriced) t-shirt, shorts, running gloves, and a running headband to keep my ears warm. Even on chilly days, I tend to get uncomfortably hot when I wear long pants. I prefer to be cool when I run, so if I'm freezing at the start of the run, I'm usually comfortably cool by the end. My cold tolerance does not seem quite as good as it was last year, when I would routinely be down to a short-sleeve shirt by the end of my runs even in the depth of winter.

A day like today presents me with a challenge; it's well below even my cold-weather preferences, to the point that I worry about frostbite (I'm a hypochondriac as well as runner) if I wear shorts, but if I break out the wind pants I fear that I'll quickly overheat. I erred on the side of caution though, and wore my favorite running pants, Under Armor Extreme Cold Gear gloves, which are I admit considerably warmer than regular running gloves, and considerably more overpriced, and a windbreaker, which I've worn a few times but only with shorts, over my long-sleeve shirt. I brought a lighter pair of gloves in case my hands got too hot.

It ended up being a wise decision. I was comfortable for most of the run, and even switched to the lighter gloves.

Because of the cold, I wasn't sure what to expect today as I headed down to Timonium Maryland for the run with my marathon training group. I ended up doing a 10.5 mile loop with some other members of the group, and felt great. After a pit stop, I then set out alone for another 7-mile loop. At about mile 15, I think I got a little preview of what marathoners refer to as "the Wall" (not to be confused with Pink Floyd album of the same name). The last 2.5 miles were very challenging, but I made it back the starting point at Charm City Run exhausted and sore, but alive and uninjured. I got in my car and discovered a baggie of two chocolate Oreos that I got last night for a $1 charitable donation. Starving after my 17.5 miles, I devoured them. Let me tell you that I don't think anything I've ever eaten tasted as good as those two cookies did at that moment, although the breakfast sandwich and well-earned donut I had when I got back to York came very close.

The total for the day was 17.5 miles in 3:08:55, my longest run ever in both distance and duration. I'm quite happy with it, and looking forward to next Saturday's 18-mile goal.

I got some good news before run: I'm doing everything wrong as far as eating before the long runs, something I just don't do. My water, Gatorade, and Sports Beans during the run just aren't enough -- I should be eating at least a slice or two of bread, or something at a similar calorie value. I'm hoping that if I start eating before long runs, I'll have more energy at the end. We'll see.

Today was also a demonstration of the positives and negatives of beard ownership. On the plus side , it keeps my face warm without paying for additional overpriced running gear, but on the negative side it becomes completely caked with ice and makes me look like a caveman or Viking.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Limiting Factor(s)

A limiting factor or limiting resource is a factor that controls a process, such as organism growth or species population, size, or distribution. The availability of food, predatation pressure, or availability of shelter are examples of factors that could be limiting for an organism. An example of a limiting factor is sunlight in the rainforest, where growth is limited to all plants in the understory unless more light becomes available.

A number of potential factors could influence a biological process, but importantly only one is limiting at any one place and time. This recognition that there is always a single limiting factor is vital in ecology; and the concept has parallels in numerous other processes.

Some other limiting factors in biology are water availability, temperature, shelter, or predation.
I don't know why, but I was thinking about this as I ran today. Not the entire above paragraph, which I cribbed from Wikipedia, where the author no doubt cribbed it from somewhere else, but the overall concept of a limiting factor, which must have bubbled up from my subconscious from some long-forgotten high school class.

As I ran 8.5 miles today to try to save another week of running in which I fell short of my trainin plan, I wondered would be my limiting factor. The first 2.5 miles of my route were uphill, and my calves hurt very early in the run. Will that be my limiting factor?

Will it be my knees? I do think they'll be the body parts that will eventually derail my running career, after all.

Will it be endurance? Today I saw myself start out too fast for the conditions I was running, which probably contributed to the pain in my legs. I'm going to need to get better at pacing myself. If I start out too quickly, I'll exhaust myself far short of the finish line, and if I go too slowly, I'll die of boredom. I think as my time approaches or exceeds the 5-hour mark, motivation is going to decrease.

Will it be effort? As work gets busier, it's harder and harder to find time for a lunchtime run. As weather gets sloppier, I find a reason to not head down to the track or out for a late afternoon/evening run. And getting up early for a run has become a thing of the past. I was supposed to run four miles on Monday, go to the track workout Tuesday, four miles on Wednesday, and seven on Thursday (today). I ran four on Monday, skipped the Tuesday workout because I learned that they wouldn't be on the track due to weather (but the training group was still meeting), didn't run at all on Wednesday, and then did try to come back with a good run today.

I don't want it to be effort. I can't control injuries, weather, or how busy I am at work. But I can do better at sticking to the training plan. There was nothing stopping me from hopping on the treadmill for a half hour or so on Tuesday or Wednesday because ANYTHING would have been better than the nothing I did. I'm in a little bit of a rut here. I'm not going to always be able to flaunt my training plan and come back with a good long run if I don't follow it more closely most weeks. I've got to be more consistent. Use the treadmill if I have to. Get up early. Run at night.

In two months from today, I have to run 10.2 miles farther than I've ever ran before. Failure is a distinct possibility, but I don't want it to be because I didn't try hard enough.

I think this is also a pretty strong signal that I should start running with my Shuffle again.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Base Miles (Again)

I ran 4 miles yesterday at lunch in 36:28. I tried to hold to a nine-minute mile pace or faster, but couldn't quite do it. Still, I'm really happy with this time. I felt liked I worked hard despite the short distance.

Track workout is tonight. We always seem to get wintry mix on the nights I'm supposed to head down to the track, and since it's an hour away I may just replicate it as best I can on our treadmill.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

An Off-topic Angry Rant

I volunteer at the local cat adoption center, which is operated by the local SPCA and based at a pet store in York. This involves going in every other Sunday and playing with adorable homeless cats, making sure they have food, water, and clean litter, and showing them to people who are interested in adopting these poor, down on their luck, disenfranchised furballs.

On most Sundays that I'm scheduled for cat room duty, I find myself wishing I didn't have to go. I'd rather sleep in, relax at home, or be able to get done whatever other errands we have to undertake. But then I go in and have a great time playing with adorable kitties and end up wanting to take a bunch of my cuddly new pals home. (This is how we got Elizabeth the Kitten. In March 2006, my wife and I were both working in the cat room, when Elizabeth climbed up on my wife's lap, laid down, and started purring. She remains there to this day.)

Sometimes I see things in the cat room that make me upset. Each cat has a tag on their cage that tells his or her story, as well as whether he/she's good with other cats, dogs, children, and some information about personality. I'm appalled by some of the reasons people find for ditching their pets. My all time "favorite" was when Rupert and Spot, two very nice 13 year old cats who had lived in the same house, were given up for adoption because they didn't like the owners new bird. I not-so-secretly hoped that one of them ate the bird on the way out.

Today, I saw this:

I know it's a bit hard to read my blurry cel phone pic, but it says "Returned to shelter (RTS) after one day for not adjusting to the new home. I'm a very friendly little girl."

I know not everyone likes cats, and that's ok. But this means there's someone out there who allegedly likes cats enough to adopt one, but after just one day they decided they'd given Misty enough of a chance and it was never going to work out.

Really? Here's a little animal that has spent months ("Date in" appears to be in July) in a big room with other cats (indicated by "Condo" written on the side), and then likely the last several weeks in 2x2 metal cage by herself. You don't think that suddenly being let out in a brand-new house for the first time in months would be JUST A TINY BIT OF AN ADJUSTMENT?

When we adopted Elizabeth, were advised to introduce her to the house slowly, especially because Higgy and Pooka weren't exactly welcomng, and give her a chance to get used to her new surroundings. I'm still not sure she's quite there yet. And it's true that Higgy and Pooka have moved several times and have each time just been instantly given the run of their surroundings and have adjusted pretty quickly.

But every cat is different. They all have their own somewhat insane personalities. If you like cats, how could you just give up on this little one after one day? Doesn't a pet deserve more of a chance than that?

It makes me wonder if the wrong species won.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Scenic 16 Miles (Now with Kitten Commentary)

This has been a tough week of running. I skipped my long run on Saturday due to weather and feeling sort of, well, under the weather; I skipped my track workout on Tuesday due to weather; and I skipped base miles on Wednesday due to not having time to get out until the evening, when I just felt like it would be dangerously icy and cold even beyond what I'm willing to put up with. I did run a great, fast 10 miles on Monday and a decent 8.5 miles on Thursday, but I just wasn't as consistent this week as I need to be if this marathon thing's going to happen.

So when I set out for Baltimore's Loch Raven Reservoir for a 16-mile run with my marathon training group, my expectations were not super high. I surprised to find that I felt great this morning, and on a flat course I think I could have gone 19 or 20 miles today (thought that probably would have been a bad idea, since I haven't run farther than 13 since December). I ran at least 16, and probably about 16.5, but there were a few places were I stopped to take pictures and forgot to re-start the timer on my Garmin.

Loch Raven is a beautiful place, and since the main road around the reservoir is closed to traffic on Saturday mornings, it was a popular destination for runners, walkers, and bikers. The location's very noticeable downside is that it's very, very hilly. I ran two "laps" on a down-and-back course that was a little over 8 miles, and I had to go up the biggest hill on the course for miles 13-14. It was definitely challenging, but I'm hoping that if I push myself for longer distances at hilly sites like Loch Raven and my York Haven route during training, that the Shamrock Marathon, which I've been told is relatively flat (it's at the beach, after all) will seem easier in comparison. Overall, I was very happy with my run today and at the end I felt like I'd earned my donut.

Some scenes from Loch Raven:

(Dam it! Unfortunately I had to run up a big hill right next to the dam.)

(This is my favorite picture from the morning.)

(This bridge, at about mile 15, was a welcome sight. From here, it was just a little over a mile of flat road back to the car.)
(After running 16 miles, Neanderthal Man invented fire.)

Appendix A:
The following comment was added by Elizabeth the Kitten, who insisted on sitting on my laptop as I wrote this blog post. The views expressed in this comment do not necessarily reflect the views of Earn Your Donuts.
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Thanks, Elizabeth. Very poignant.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Enter Sandman

I skipped running today because of snow, so I'm going to write about one of my best friends today.

I've noticed that on days that I run I'm (understandably) noticeably more tired than days on which I don't. I often find myself lying on the love seat watching TV, trying to stay awake. Everything's going fine, until a big, soft, sleepy creature hops up next to me, falls over, and starts purring.

Lights. Out.

I've been told that Pooka usually wakes up before me and bites my arms and/or face in a futile attempt to wake me up for the next feeding.

Sometimes, we have company on our naps.

(Elizabeth the Kitten decided to join in the napstravaganza)

Pooka has been a great friend and treasured family pet for a long time, but he's had many more health problems than a cat, especially one of his good-naturedness, deserves. He's had surgery to remove bladder stones, received daily insulin injections for two years for diabetes, which is now in remission, and we just learned today that he's got hyperthyroidism. He'll be ok. Pooka is a fighter.

As a result of his conditions, Pooka is also very expensive. I suspect that he's jealous of his brother, Higgy, my nemisis, who was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism in November and has been going through some tough times for the past several weeks. While I am not enthused that Pooka has reclaimed his title as "World's Most Expensive Cat", it's worth every penny to keep the company of our furry friends.

(Higgy, owner of the original overactive thyroid)

Monday, January 10, 2011


I had a good week of running last week, but am having trouble maintaining momentum this week. I had every intention of going for a 10-15 mile (It's allegedly step-back week in my training program -- 10 miles in Beginner and 12 in Advanced, but I didn't feel I was consistent enough over the holidays to have earned a step back) run on Saturday, but with some snow showers predicted and a late night out, I decided not to drive to Maryland and just run here.

After an awful night of sleep, I got up at 7:00, saw snow falling pretty quickly, and decided to delay until late morning to see if there was any accumulation. I did go out around 11:30, but after seeing that shoulders and sidewalks were covered and the snow falling hard at times, I decided to call it off.

Going for my long run on Sunday was not an option due to a bad decision by a friend and I to attend an Eagles playoff game with standing room only tickets. If the Eagles had converted on their final drive and won the game, I would say that it would have been worth standing in the freezing wind for six hours and not being to feel my feet anymore, but instead it was just a long, cold, mostly miserable day. I may write up an Eagles post-mortem in a week or two if I feel up to it, but that's well outside the scope of this blog anyway.

As a result of sacrificing a day of running at the temple of futility, though, I had to get my long run in on Monday. As the weather got colder and the days got shorter, I got worse at getting up to run before work. Because of my new night-running gear, running after work has become a good option for me, but I didn't that I would be able to do 10+ miles at night, so lunch it was. The flexibility to take a midday run is one of the nice things about working from home, and so I started work early and worked late to justify a long run. I got a nice, fast 10.5 miles in in just over an hour and a half. I pushed hard for a 1:30 10-mile after I saw that I was at 7 miles at 1:04, about 4 minutes faster than usual on this course, but the hilly 8th mile slowed me down too much, leaving me with a 1:33 10-miles and 5 extra minutes to go the extra half-mile back to my car. I'm debating if and what to run tomorrow -- track workout is scheduled in the evening but another winter storm is on its way.

I definitely think the frustrations of my wasted Sunday afternoon, the worry over missed runs as my race approaches, and and increasing pressure at work all contributed to my a faster pace than usual today. If that's the case, I'll be either ready for an ultramarathon or have defeated Usain Bolt by the end of Orioles season.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Back to the Grind

Tough week, as I adjusted to being back at work and having a regular, non-holiday week to try to get back into the swing of running after an enjoyable holiday season.

I ran four miles on Wednesday and seven last night. Nothing really exciting or different to mention since the track workout, although my night run last night was very enjoyable. It was around 32 degrees, which I find to very comfortable. At that temperature, I can wear shorts and a long-sleeve shirt and start out cold, but it's not so freezing that I don't warm up.

I still like running at night, but I probably won't like it so much on much colder nights when I'll have to bundle up more. I like running in the cold, but I hate wearing long pants and a jacket as I run. However, there's a point at which even I realize that I'm an idiot for running in warm-weather gear. When it's 10 degrees and there's no sunlight out, I've probably reached that point. I'm honestly not sure how people run through the winter in places like Wisconsin :-) or Buffalo where it's much colder than here.

Last night, though, was very pleasant. Running at night is still new and interesting to me. It's quieter, and there's a greater need to watch my footing, which keeps things interesting. There's also still a few Christmas lights up, which makes running at night more enjoyable.

I'm trying to do a better job sticking to the schedule and mileage outlined in my training plan. I'm not kicking myself too much -- the program started December 18 and the holidays are a tough time to start anything new. But, I have a Beginner plan and an Advanced plan (I'll scan and post them at a near-future date when I don't know what to blog about). The Beginner plan has Monday and Wednesday as off days, Tuesday as the track workout, 4-6 miles on Thursday, a long run on Saturday and an optional recovery run on Sunday. My typical pre-plan training was 10 miles on Monday morning, 10 miles on Wednesday or Thursday morning, and a longer run on Saturday. So, the Beginner plan feels a bit too light on the mileage for me.

The Advanced plan, on the other hand, is tough. It has shorter 3-5 mile runs on Monday and Wednesday, track workout on Tuesday, a 6-8 miles on Thursdays, off-day on Friday, long runs on Saturday and a less optional recovery run on Sunday. That's six days a week -- way more than I've ever run before, but I want to err on the side of the Advanced plan as much as I can so that I can get base miles in and build up endurance.

I suspect I'll continue with long runs on Saturdays, take a short recovery run some Sundays (I can't this weekend, because I HAVE A TICKET TO THE EAGLES PLAYOFF GAME!!!), take regular base-mile runs on Monday and Thursday and take Wednesday off after Tuesday's track workouts.

Between my time trail on Monday, track work on Tuesday, and base miles on Wednesday and Thursday, I ran four days in a row this week. I'm not sure I've ever done that since I started running.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Need for Speed

Tonight I attended my first track workout, which turned out to be the group's second. (I missed the first one in Atlantic City. I win.), Our workout was based on running short distances at varying speeds. We used the track at Goucher College in Towson, which is a 400m (or quarter-mile) track, just like any other oval outdoor track you've ever seen at a high school or college. 200m is half a lap, 400m is one lap, 800m is two laps, and 1600m is four laps (and so on, but that's as high as we went. Here was the workout:

1 x 200 5K Pace

1 x 200 walk/jog

1 x 400 5K Pace

1 x 800 5K Pace

1 x 800 10K Pace

1 x 400 5K Pace

1 x 200 5K Pace

1 x 200 Walk/Jog

1 x 1600 easy for Beginners, 1/2 marathon pace for Advanced (I'm a beginner)

This workout was called ladders, and designed to build speed and endurance by keeping me running at a pace faster than my normal running pace. Unfortunately, I'm not sure I really have distinct jog, 5K, 10K, and half-marathon paces. I have "regular", "fast", and "ludicrous speed", which I only break out for the Harrisburg Mile. It's really not even all that fast. There was a guy running at the track that was probably putting down mile times in the low 5:00s and making it look effortless. I plan to run the marathon at "regular", and maybe even try to slow that down a bit to be sure I make it.

I hope that these track workouts will help me make "regular" faster, or at least make me a bit more sensitive to my pace.

It was different, which made it interesting, but it was also excruciating. I'm definitely in the slower end of the group, which I'm not really bothered by. I am somewhat concerned by how tired my legs felt at the end of this, though. I ran 13 miles on Saturday and my legs were tired. But, they're even more tired today after (drum roll, please)....

2.3 miles.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Presence of Evil

It appears as the most deeply orange cheese you've ever seen, sandwiched between two thin waffle crisps. It must be stopped, lest it destroy all life with its deliciousness.

Maybe you are stronger than I am. Maybe there is still hope for you.

But consider yourself warned.

Time Trials

As I mentioned in my last post, and as will be implied in almost every if not every post from here till the end of March, I'm running a marathon on March 20. The longest race I've run to date are my two Philly Half Marathons and my longest run ever is 16 miles way back on December 4. I've got some serious distance-building to do, and for really only the second time in my running "career" I'm turning to a somewhat formal training program. I started running by using the Couch-to-5K program to begin working from nothing to 5K shape, and then I modified it to "just ran as long as I can" once I started running indoors at York College, since the alternate X minutes of walking w/Y minutes of running seems like it might look kind of silly in public. (I would have been ready for a 5K much faster if I'd stuck to the program, by the way. Seriously, it works!)

To train for my marathon, I joined a training program at Charm City Run, a chain of running stores based in northern Maryland where I've shopped and somehow am on their e-mail list. Back in October, I got an e-mail from them advertising their "Spring Marathon Training Program" and it's one of the things that kind of got the ball rolling.

The program kicked off on December 18, and I've done a good job of getting miles in over the holidays, but the program includes track workouts every Tuesday and I've been delinquent thus far due to prior holiday-type commitments. The first track workout was supposed to be a time trial. While that sounds like an episode of "Dr. Who", it's really just running two miles as fast as I could to get a baseline pace level. Since I couldn't make it, I finally got around to making my time trial up today.

(Yes, I am a huge nerd.)

It was definitely (by the way, I misspell "definitely" more often than I do any other word) an unpleasant experience. After a few above-average temperature days, this was a raw, windy morning at the excellent Springettsbury Township Park, which has amongst its many paths a relatively flat, quarter-mile oval track. After stretching, which is tough in the cold, I ran as fast as I could for eight freezing laps. I came in at 17:04, which is not my best two miles ever (I have a sub-24 minute 5K and several low 24s, so I've got some sub 16-minute two miles in there somewhere), but approximately two-minutes faster than my usual two-mile pace on my long runs. It felt like I sprinted the whole way, and I was fairly winded at the end of it. My plan was to take a slow lap or two around the park to add another mile or two of base miles, but when I found that I couldn't feel my fingers anymore, I decided to head for home. (On my long runs in cold weather, it usually is about at the two or three mile mark where I start to warm up.)

According to the training program, I'm supposed to plug my time into "The McMillan Running Calculator" and it's supposed to tell me about what pace I should shoot for in the Marathon. According to my results, I should aim for a 4:30 marathon, which is about what I'm hoping to do, based on my half marathons are both right around two hours, but that I would pace myself slower to conserve energy for the longer race. When I signed up for the marathon, it asked for my estimated finish, for gating purposes. I guessed 4:40, and I'll be satisfied with anything under 5:00 as long as I can honestly tell myself at the end that I did my best.

What's weird about the McMillan times are that even though there's no way I can hold a 17-minute two-mile pace for 26 miles (or even 4 miles, most likely), it estimates that I should finish a half in 2:08. I've been well under that in both half marathons and in my 13-mile runs through the hills of York Haven and Manchester, I'm usually in the 2:15 range, so that doesn't seem far off.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Happy New Year to any readers out there! It's time to hang up our new calendars, try to remember to write "2011" on our checks (which will take me about six months), and make our New Years resolutions.

I'm not good at New Years resolutions. When I remember to make them, which is seldom, I end up finding excuses to weasel out of them or forget them. So, with that in mind, I'm making only one New Years Resolution this year: to Kick Ass.

Not literally, of course. Anyone who's ever seen me knows there aren't many fights I would win even if I were a violent person -- and I'm not! Nor does it mean I'm resolving to kick ass at any one specific thing. It's a wide-scale change that I want to make to my worldview: to be more positive, more assertive, and more confident than I was in 2010. At the end of almost every work week, I wake up Friday morning and say to myself "It's Friday. Time to kick ass." And then Friday usually ends up being a big crisis, but that's besides the point. (I think it's just Murphy's Law that causes things to be challenging on Fridays, not an effect of my Friday attitude.)

I think I've become too negative and pessimistic over the years. Why? I'm not sure, and that's a topic for my amateur psychology blog, which I'll launch in approximately never. But it doesn't matter; it's time for change. I want to take my Friday ass-kicking confidence to the rest of the week.

So, to return to the topic of this blog, where does running fit into this? Easy. Over the last several years, running has become an important component of my self-confidence levels. It's certainly something I want to continue to push myself at in 2011. So, with that said, I'm setting four running goals for 2011:

1. Run five 5Ks. This should be easy. I ran six in 2010, but there's one of those that I probably won't be able to do this year because of a schedule conflict.

2. Sub 23-minute 5K. This goal was going to be a sub 24-minute 5K, but I hit that at Jingle Bell Run. This year's Jingle Bell Run, likely my last 5K of the year, will probably be my best chance to meet this goal.

3. Run an under 6-minute mile. I'm not sure about this one, honestly. I ran a 6:44 at the Harrisburg Mile, by far the fastest mile I've run in my life. I'll have to do a little more research to see if this is something I should shoot for, or if I'm just asking to blow my knees out. I also would have to decide if I have to do this during a race (making the Harrisburg Mile my only chance) or if I can do this on my own with the Garmin. I think it's attainable if I take a systematic approach to it. I ran my 6:44 without doing much speed training -- I just ran faster because I knew it was a much shorter course.

4. Finish a marathon. I never thought I wanted to do a marathon. I'm still pretty sure that I don't, in fact. But, I remember my elation after my first 5K, after my first 10K, and after my first half marathon. I'm addicted to that -- I felt like it it was the next level up that I had to take on. I'm signed up for the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon on March 20 in Virginia Beach. It should be cool weather, the course should be flat, and there's free beer at the end, which is the mark of a great race.

After wavering on this one for about three months, I signed up for a marathon training program in mid-December and for the race today. There's no turning back now. On the plus side, if I run 26 miles I get to eat 26 donuts. Yes, that's the way it works.

I did kick off Running Year 2011 today with the inaugural Manchester Half Marathon, which I finished in 2:14. This is another half marathon that I made up, which makes me the winner.