Thursday, March 8, 2018

Comfort Zone

5 years ago, I made an important decision. I decided to take a break from road running and focus more on trail runs and trail races. After 15 years of running on the road (20 marathons, at least as many Half’s, and countless 10k’s, 5 milers, and 5ks) I’d kind of reached the limit of what I thought I could achieve on the road. All my PR’s were already 5 years in the rearview, by that point, and I needed a new challenge. Something that would push me outside of my comfort zone. So, I signed up for a 50-mile trail race. My first Ultra!

Eventually, success in that first Ultra race led me to do some other crazy endurance-type things to push that comfort zone limit line out even further. Things like:  Hike 75 miles of the AT in 3 days, summit all of 48 of New Hampshire’s 4000-foot peaks in 7 ½ days and run my first ever 100-mile race. All these experiences were amazing. Challenging yes, but amazing none-the-less. And I feel fortunate enough to have been able to do them and live to tell the tale. So to speak.

However, these ultra races came at a price. And that price was speed. In order to train for, and finish, all these long-distance events I chose to focus my energies on endurance, rather than speed. So, track workouts, tempo runs, and fartleks all went out the window in favor of distance, distance, and more distance. What also went out the window was short road races. And, as it turns out, those races were the real key that unlocked my speed.

You see, road races (and the fact that I needed to run them without embarrassing myself) kept me honest about my fitness, my weight, and my speed. In the woods you can hide. Safe in the knowledge that your only goal is finishing. On the road, you and your time (and the spare tire under your singlet) are there in all their glory for the whole world to see. If you want to do well and be happy with your result in a road race, you must be accountable. And, for me, that lost road race accountability led to lost motivation and ultimately lost speed.

So now I find myself faced with a decision. I can stick with the status quo, do my leisurely (read: fat and happy) trail runs in the woods and just enjoy the calm, pressure-free experience. Or I can push outside that comfort zone once again and try to see if I can regain some of that lost speed as I near the ripe old age of 50.

Of course, the only way I know to successfully do that is by abandoning the trail and going back to my original running love – the road. It’s rather ironic. Don’t ya think?

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

20 Years Running

My last run of 2017 put me at 2,577 miles for the year, my 20th of running. During those 20 years I've logged approximately 47,818 miles. So, I only have to run 1,986 miles in 2018 to circumnavigate the globe, twice! 

I hope many of you get to join me for a few of those!

Anyway, for all the numbers nerds (like me) out there, below is a quick breakdown of my 20 years of running, including average miles per year, week and day...

20 Years of Running:

Avg Avg
# Year Miles Week Day
1 1998 1115 21.4 3.1
2 1999 1305 25.1 3.6
3 2000 1549 29.8 4.3
4 2001 1747 33.6 4.8
5 2002 1638 31.5 4.5
6 2003 1957 37.6 5.4
7 2004 2180 41.9 6.0
8 2005 2292 44.1 6.3
9 2006 2730 52.5 7.5
10 2007 2984 57.4 8.2
11 2008 2969 57.1 8.2
12 2009 2408 46.3 6.6
13 2010 2768 53.2 7.6
14 2011 2534 48.7 7.0
15 2012 3178 61.1 8.7
16 2013 3006 57.8 8.3
17 2014 3468 66.7 9.5
18 2015 2644 50.8 7.3
19 2016 2769 53.3 7.6
20 2017 2577 49.6 7.1

Avg: 2390.9 46.0 6.6

Total: 47818 Lifetime Miles

Wednesday, October 25, 2017


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!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Chapter 1

Never Again

I rediscovered running in 1998, when I was an out-of-shape, over-weight 29-year old who desperately needed a lifestyle change. “Why not try running again?”, I said. “It couldn’t possibly be worse than it was in high school.” Well, turns out it takes significantly more effort to propel a 240 pound body than it does for one that’s half that. It was then, in this state of self-induced suffering, that I decided I needed a goal to distract me from the pain I was feeling. So I vowed that, once I could run a mile without stopping, I’d start training for the Boston Marathon. For some strange reason this seemed like a logical progression to me. Little did I know, that decision would start me on the journey of profound joy and stunning disappointment that is long distance running.  
When I began, I had no idea where running would take me. All I knew was that I needed to get out, get away, and do something. Because, when you feel like you’ve lost all control, something is a whole lot better than nothing. At the time, there was trouble at home and it seemed like my world was crashing down all around me. I needed a way to release the stress and tension of the day, to have some time and space for myself, to clear my head, expand my lungs and refresh my spirit. So, I opened the front door of my house and went for a walk.           
I was living in Marblehead Massachusetts  at the time, where there were a great many historic houses, picturesque parks and scenic seascapes to look at during my time on the roads. I enjoyed meandering through town just soaking it all in and letting my mind wander          
After a while, I wasn’t satisfied with merely walking everywhere. Too impatient for that, I wanted to cover some serious ground. Walking just plain took too long. So, I would walk a little, jog a little, then repeat – morphing into something I fondly called “wogs”.
After a few months of this, I got a little better, started losing weight and the wogs slowly became jogs. Then, I decided to take the next step and began timing myself. Nothing hardcore. I’d just check the clock on the cable box when I headed out the door and check it again when I returned. In the beginning, it took me 30 minutes to complete my 2.5 mile circuit. But, with each subsequent trip, the duration got shorter and my confidence grew as a result. As the confidence grew, so did the distance - from 2.5 to 4.5, and from 4.5 to 7. But, regardless of how far I jogged, I always did so in a loop. Because I was afraid that, with all that was going on at home, if I did an “out and back” I might reach the turn-around point and just keep on going.
When I officially started “training” for the Boston Marathon, I didn’t know anything about the science of marathoning. The words tempo, interval and fartlek meant nothing to me. All I knew was that in one year’s time, I needed to find a way to run, walk, or crawl 26.2 miles. And that I should probably trade in my Nike “high-top” basketball sneakers for some real running shoes. After building up slowly over the course of the year, I got my long run up to 16 miles and proclaimed myself “ready” for the 1999 Boston Marathon. On race day, I started at the back of the pack, with the rest of the unqualified runners (or bandits), and began what turned out to be an arduous, 26.2 mile wog from Hopkinton to Boston. More than 4 and a half hours later, I crossed the finish line on Boylston Street a bruised and bloody mess. I staggered to the curb, crumpled to the ground and exclaimed to no one in particular, “Never again!”
It’s been 16 years (and 20 marathons) since that fateful day. And what started as a walk has turned into so much more. I’m now a fortunate husband, a proud father of four, and a semi-proud owner of a three hour, zero minute and twenty two second marathon personal best. So, just how did I get from “Never again” to running twenty marathons - and now to signing up for my first 100 mile race? Well, it’s actually a rather interesting answer. And one that will unfold through the collection of stories that wind their way through the remaining pages of this book.
I hope you enjoy the journey. I know I did.