Wednesday, October 25, 2017

PR's


I am not a patient man. Particularly when it comes to running. I started running in 1998 and my first road race was the following spring when I bandited (sorry, not sorry) the Boston Marathon. So, yup. Zero to 26.2 in less than a year. If that’s not an impatient (stupid?) runner, then I’ve yet to meet one.

For a while, my impatience served me well. Pushing me every day.  I’d keep track of it with a handwritten PR sheet for all my local runs from 2 miles up to 16 miles. And I’d try to finish my next training run faster than my previous one - every single time out. It worked well and I got quick, quickly. But, after a while it began to wear me down and burn me out. I soon realized that if I wanted to keep doing this “running thing” long term, I’d need to add easy days to my hard days. This training regimen has worked for me with varying degrees of success.


Over the last 20 years, I’ve had my ups and downs with running. Most of my lifetime road race PR’s are from late 2008 to early 2009. And, since then, it’s been a real struggle trying to get back to that level of fitness. Pushing the envelope of patience, which (when combined with age) resulted in a series of set-backs, injuries and badly shaken confidence. So, recently I resolved to give up trying to be the 2009 me, and just focus on being the best 2017 me I can be.

Fortunately I’ve been to able to put together a streak of uninjured running lately. This has helped me build fitness (of course) but it’s also given me confidence to push my body a little bit more and go after some PR’s. Not 2009 lifetime PR’s, mind you, but local training run PR’s like I used to do back when I first began running. Except this time out, I track them by Excel spreadsheet rather than by hand. And also, I don’t try to run them every day, like I did 20 years ago, but rather once a week. A weekly “speed challenge”, if you will.

My current streak of local training run PR’s has just hit 8 weeks. On distances that range from 1 to 20 miles, terrain that ranges from road to trail, and difficulty that ranges from flat to mountainous. Again, my paces on these runs aren’t anywhere close to what I used to train at in 2008-2009, but bit by bit I’m improving. And, so far, it’s making me excited about running fast again and keeping me motivated to continue working at it. Patiently.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Act Three

The three-act structure is a model used in writing which divides a fictional narrative into three parts (or acts) often called the “setup”, the “complication”, and the “resolution”. The first act establishes the main characters, their relationships, and the world in which they live. Later in the first act an incident occurs that confronts the main character. And his attempts to deal with this incident lead to a second, and more dramatic, situation.

The second act typically depicts the main character’s attempt to resolve the problem only to find himself in ever worsening situations. The reason he seems unable to fix his problems is because he does not yet have the skills to deal with the forces that confront him. The end of act two is generally the main character’s lowest point in the story both physically and emotionally.

In the third act, the main character must not only learn new skills but arrive at a higher sense of awareness of who he is and what he is capable of. This cannot be achieved alone and the main character is usually aided by others. The end of the act three, and ultimately the story, results in a climactic sequence in which the main tensions are brought to their most intense point and the dramatic questions are answered.

Now, as I enter my third decade of running, this idea of a three act play really struck a chord with me...

I started running in 1998 as an over-weight, out-of-shape, 29-year old. During the decade that followed I met a lot of awesome runner friends, figured some things out, ran a bunch of road marathons and achieved most of my running PR’s. But came up short in accomplishing what I believed to be my ultimate goal – finally running a sub-3 hour marathon. This was my set-up.

In my second act, I discovered the joys of trail and mountain running. And, over the next ten years, slowly transitioned out of road running completely and into trail (and ultimately ultra) running full time. The culmination of act two saw me run my first 100 mile race and then suffer the consequences - injury, low energy, and lack of motivation. Leaving me at the lowest point in my running story, thus far. A most definite complication.

Which brings us to act three…

At 29 years I started my running career. At 39 years I reached my highest point before shifting gears. Now, as I approach 49 (and beyond) years, I’m faced with a rather daunting question: What Next?

Will I chuck trail running completely and go after that ever-elusive sub-3 road marathon again? Will I attempt another 100 miler? Will I learn the skills required to finally slay my demons? Will I arrive at a higher sense of awareness of who I am and what I’m capable of? And, will my 50’s help me arrive at some sort of running resolution?  Who knows?

Hopefully you'll stay tuned. And we can both find out together.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

I Ran Today

I ran today...
Something that I'd been able to do without fail for 18 years.

I ran today...
A simple act that I will no longer take for granted. 

I ran today...
4 bitterly cold but gloriously pain-free miles.

I ran today...
For the first time in 3 long months.

I ran today...
And now anything seems possible again.
























I ran today.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Taking the “Cross” Out of Training

I am a runner.

First and foremost. And I intend to remain one, whilst I breathe.

So, I’ve always approached cross-training as that “thing” I do when I can’t run. As evidenced HERE, HERE, and most painfully HERE. But, all of that is starting to change for me now. Now, after having gone 2 months without running (and 12 months without running pain-free), with no end to my Plantar issues in sight, I’m beginning to approach my cross-training routine a little bit differently. I’ve decided to take the “cross” out of training and it’s making a world of difference!

I fully realize that it’s just a mental thing, calling “cross-training” just plain “training”. But, many times it’s our minds (not our bodies) that keep us from taking that next step in our physical development.

So, instead of coming to the gym and getting on the bike, or the elliptical, or the stair climber and doing them as a substitute for running. I’m doing all those things for their own sake. Instead of thinking about how much less satisfying these exercises are compared to running, I’m focusing on how much better they are for me than sitting on my ass, drowning my sorrows in cookies. And, instead of dwelling on my lost endurance I’m embracing my increased cardio.

Sure, this all may sound like the mad rationalizations of a desperate runner wanna-be. But, since I’ve developed this new training attitude I’ve hit the workouts harder and with more purpose than I ever have before. I've been more upbeat and encouraged about coming to the gym. And, I’ve dropped 8 pounds in the process!

So, that’s gotta be worth something! Right?


Monday, December 14, 2015

New Blog

I've started a new blog about all things NOT related to running...

...It's about what life is like as a full-time stay-at-home Dad, part-time adventure seeker, and recent transplant to Down East Maine.












And, it's called Permanent Vacationland 
Check it out!

http://permanentvacationland.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Mill City Madness

The Mill Cities Relay is a 5-leg, 27.1 mile foot race from Nashua, New Hampshire to Lawrence, Massachusetts. But, that information alone doesn’t even begin to convey what MCR really is. The Mill Cities Relay is quite possibly the biggest, single-day team event in the country!

 
MCR began in 1984 as a way of celebrating the end of the local road racing season and determines bragging rights among 21 participating Merrimack Valley area running clubs. The race kicks off not with a starting gun, but with the drop of a ceremonial mill city brick. The mileage for the five leg distances are 5.6, 4.8, 2.5, 9.4 & 4.8. And, points are awarded to teams in each of 18 different divisions – male and female aged 18 to 80. Teams finishing in the top 3 in their respective division get a trophy brick with a small plaque on it. 

However, the trophy that everyone covets is the one they bestow upon the running club that scores the most overall points in the race. This amazing trophy was painstakingly assembled with a working gear from an old mill building, set upon a finely crafted four-sided wooden base and crowned with a “winged-victory” trophy top. The base of the trophy has engraved upon it the very history of the race! With a running list of the first, second, and third place clubs for each of the 31 years it’s been run. It’s a sight to behold and hold. And, it’s quite possibly the heaviest trophy in all of sports, weighing in at just over 40 pounds! Yes, more than 6 pounds heavier than the Stanley Cup!


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Filling the Void


“Something's missing and I don't know what it is.  No, and I don't know what it is.  At all…”
– John Mayer


Yup, something’s missing from my life. And I don’t know what it is. I do know that I SHOULD feel fulfilled.  I’m healthy.  I’m married.  I have a good job.  And I have four beautiful children.  But somehow, on most days (and even more so now that I’ve reached Mid-Life), I still feel a kind of emptiness inside. A void, if you will. And it scares me.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Man I Hate That One



My primary running focus these days (besides not embarrassing myself at Reach the Beach) is my training for the 2007 Clarence DeMar Marathon. The goal for my "lucky" thirteenth marathon is to break 3 hours for the first time and hopefully better Lance Armstong's time in the process. Speaking of which, I'm working on getting Joannie Benoit to come run Clarence with me so she can elbow other runners out of the way, grab my Gatorade, and whisper encouraging words in the final few miles. Her people have yet to get back to me. I'll keep you posted on that one.

Anyway, of the three core workouts I do for my marathon training (speed, tempo & long) the one I look forward to the least is, without a doubt, the tempo run. I don't know why, there is just something about it that causes me dread. Maybe, it's because I do it at lunchtime on Fridays after a long week of work, during the hottest time of day, on a hilly course. Or, maybe, it's simply because it just hurts more than any of my other workouts.

Speed Work is fun for me. I think getting out on the track and running with 50 or 60 of my teammates is a blast. It's sort of like a race, but much more enjoyable. And, the distances are short enough (400's, 800's, 1200's, etc.) that by the time it really starts to hurt, you get to stop and jog. Long runs are also easy for me. I'm not blessed with a lot of speed, but I can run all day without a problem. I just dial in my pace and I'm set. Tempo runs are, by far, the hardest for me. So, it's no surprise that I like enjoy them the least. However, it's the Tempo run above all others that I find to be the true barometer of my running fitness.

This week’s Tempo run was scheduled for 8 miles in total. 1 mile of warm-up going right into 6 miles at Tempo pace, and then 1 mile of cool down. In order to psyche myself up for this one I tried to emphasize the positive. It's been a month since my last race, so my legs should feel fresh ... I'm down to 184 pounds, so I should feel lighter... The weather has cooled from earlier in the week, so it should feel easier, etc. The goal for this workout was to run a controlled 6:10 avg. pace during the tempo section with no mile of it (including the uphill sections) in over 6:20. I chose 6:10 because it was just slightly slower than the 6:08 pace I averaged the last time I ran this 8 mile tempo run, just before the New Bedford Half.

My first mile was 7:16 (nice & easy). Then I picked it up for the first of my tempo miles. Mile 2 was 6:11 (not bad considering the hill in the middle). Mile 3 was 6:16 (mostly up). Mile 4 was 6:01 (mostly down and feeling ok still). Mile 5 was 6:14 (up & down and starting to fall apart a bit). Mile 6 was 6:26 (mostly up and fighting the urge to make this a 4 mile tempo). Mile 7 was 6:12 (mostly down and I just couldn't get my legs to turn over). Mile 8 was 7:29 (a flat and wobbly jog back).

My totals were: 8 miles in 52:05 for a 6:30 average overall pace. 6 tempo miles in 37:20 for a 6:13 average tempo pace (or 3 sec/mile slower than my goal). I was a little bit disappointed that I didn't meet my pre-workout goals. But, all in all, it's not too bad for this point in the training. I had hoped to take advantage of the cooler temperature, but I didn't. Maybe next time it will be hailing, or something, and I won't have to do the workout at all.

Man, I hate that one...

Postscript: This story first appeared in my "pre-blog" blog called Mine Falls Milers and I'm re-publishing it  today because now I wish I could run 6:13's and be disappointed about it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Going Further - Update

Many of you have been asking about how the book is coming along, so I figured I'd give you all an update on the What, Why, Who and How of Going Further...



What is my book about?


My book is complete (or at least as complete as I can make it) and it's called:

Going Further – One Man’s Journey to the Marathon and Beyond


It's about running, hiking, fatherhood, and pushing beyond your comfort zone. It’s basically an action-adventure, parenting, self-help, travel journal disguised as a memoir. The stories inside the book are told from the perspective of a regular guy, with a keen sense of humor and a high threshold for pain, trying to raise two families while attempting to strike a balance between his home life and his passion for constantly exploring the envelope of his abilities.

Friday, July 31, 2015

The True Locomotive


Recently, someone referred to me as a locomotive. Now, they could have been referring to my immense size and weight, or my inability to turn, or even my overall steaminess. Turns out, what they meant was I was: When I get going, I'm almost "unstoppable", like a locomotive.  And, while I appreciate his compliment, I know that there was only one “Locomotive”. He is my running idol and his name was Emil Zatopek.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Real Men Blow Chunks

Last week the running club I belong to (The Gate City Striders) held it annual "Ultimate Runner Workout". The "URW" typically occurs during a break between the two halves of our track season and consists of 4 distances (400, 800, 1 mile & 2mile). Each participant runs these back to back with about 6-8 minutes rest in between. It's sort of like "Survivor" for runners. And, the key to success is to not run any one of the four "all out" since the competition is age-graded and each distance is worth 25% of your total score. Of course, in my case, knowing the key and using the key are two very different things!


The first event was the 400. And, to say I was psyched up wouldn't even begin to describe what I was feeling. I used to run track in high school, and since I was the slowest runner on my team, track meets were not my favorite places to be. Being lapped repeatedly in the mile will do that to a person. However, we were 20 years removed from that time & place. And, this was my first track meet since I graduated. Let's just say I was slightly eager for a bit of personal redemption.

So, the race starts and I bolt to the front. Up on my toes and leaning into the first turn. Down the back stretch I feel like I'm flying. This is why I run. This feeling right now. I take the far turn and I can't hear anyone behind me. In fact I can't hear anything at all. I'm all alone. I start down the front stretch and I can just make out the clock at the finish. 45 ... 46 ... 47. My legs are starting to get heavy as I race toward the line. It is at this point that I start to feel like I'm floating above the track watching the race unfold before me. The clock gets blurry as I get closer. What does it say?!?! I dig down for one more moment and then it's all over. I collapse on the curve and look down at my watch. 1:00.9 - a personal best 400 by 5 seconds. So much for not going all out.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

I Am the Passenger


“I am the passenger and I ride and I ride. I ride through the city's backsides. I see the stars come out of the sky. Yeah, the bright and hollow sky…” – Iggy Pop

Last month I helped my son Casey drive his car across the country. Which is to say, that I spent the better part of our 5-day journey sitting in a passenger seat. And, let me tell you, for a border-line control freak like myself, that is no easy task. In my family, I drive the bus. I decide where, when, and how we go. Especially on long road trips! But on this 3000 mile drive, that took us from New Hampshire to California, I was merely a passenger. And, it was quite the eye opening experience for me!