Friday, March 23, 2012

The Marathon Recap

Disclaimer: When I started this post, I was going to try a short recap, keeping it brief, highlighting the high points and low points.  I failed.  It's long, it's wordy, and it was therapeutic.  So read on if you have some time (or insomnia).

I was thinking about the post I wrote about pain during the marathon, and wondering whether I still believed what I had written.  After a few days to reflect, I maintain the same outlook towards pain, but I have a newfound respect for discomfort.

Let me start from the beginning, and I'll try to be brief, always a difficult thing for me.  The trip began with a fairly uneventful plane ride from Sanford to Wilmington, N.C., where I stayed with Christy for the night.  She was not feeling well after catching a stomach bug from her son.  The next morning, I ran just under 4 miles in Carolina Beach as the sun was beginning to rise.  It was a cool, clear morning, and I ran an out-and-back route along the main drag next to the ocean.  I caught a few glimpses of the water through the hotels and homes between the road and the beach, but I could hear the wonderful crashing sound of the surf from the road.  Christy had told me previously, and I experienced that morning, that the drivers of Carolina Beach, even at 6:30 on a Saturday morning, have no respect whatsoever for runners and WILL NOT move any closer to that yellow line in the road in order to give a runner more room.  I doubt any of them would have even flinched had I lunged from the shoulder onto the hood of their cars.  But overall it was a lovely pre-marathon day run.

We headed over to Christy's friend Kristen's house around 8:45--she agreed to drive, and we anticipated a 5 - 5 1/2 hour trip to Virginia Beach.  All I cared about was getting to the expo in enough time to calmly collect my bib number and goodies.  A little browsing through the expo would be nice, too, although I told myself I didn't "need" anything, so no big deal if there wasn't time to shop.  First roadblock of the day--20 minutes after we leave Kristen's she gets a call from her husband...he locked himself out of the house and needs her to let him in.  Soooo...we drive back to her house, get him in to get his keys, and we're off for Take #2.  After that things went well--a couple of pee breaks, lunch at Cracker Barrel, and we arrive at the Virginia Beach Convention Center.  Amazingly, the temperature had dropped 15 degrees between our stop at the Cracker Barrel and VA Beach!  None of us were prepared for that.  We made our way into the expo, picked up our goodies, and then we shopped.  I'm very proud of the $2 running shirt I snagged--marked down because of a little hole in the front, which looked to be caused by a pin or something, no big deal--plus a free Geico t-shirt, $10 running shorts and a couple more of my infamous "bondi band" headbands (apparently I'm known as the headband girl).  Then off to the hotel.  I wasn't sure about this hotel--it was the only one I found close enough to walk to the start that was under $100 per night before taxes, and my impression of VA Beach from online reading was similar to Daytona Beach.  But we were pleasantly surprised with the hotel.  It was clean, was a small suite with a full-size refrigerator, stove, microwave, toaster, etc.  Overlooking the beach.  Just right.  That night we went in search of a pasta dinner...along with 24,000 other runners!  The first place we tried had a wait so long they said come back later!  Second place had a 20 - 30 minute wait, so we stayed there, had a nice pasta dinner, then went back to the hotel to bed.  Of course, before dinner, I had already gone through my pre-race OCD ritual of laying out my race clothes and supplies, my pre-race supplies, my post-race supplies, and anything else I could remotely need between 6:30 am and 2:00 pm Sunday.

The half-marathon, which Kristen was running, started at 7am, and the marathon didn't start until 8:30.  It was so strange not having to get up a 4am (or earlier, like at Disney) to get ready for the race.  I didn't get up until almost 6:30, and had plenty of time to get ready before leaving the hotel room at 7:40.  The start was 10 blocks north of the hotel, but the finish, which was the same for the half marathon, was a little closer.  It was a little bit chilly, and windy, so I had long sleeves and gloves on for the walk to the start.  As I passed the finish I realized I might be able to see the half-marathon male winner--it was so exciting!  Two men were sprinting for the line, and although I was a little too far away to see them cross, it was very exciting to see them pass just one step apart from each other.

After that I made my way to the baggage drop, where I took some final pre-race photos, did my final prep, and met a man who was running his 95th marathon that day!  I did a short warm-up, just to get the legs moving.  My ankle hurt a little bit on the way to the start, but other than that I felt okay.  I wasn't sure how my body would respond once we started.  Additionally, I had decided to start with the 3:35 pace group.  My goal was 3:40 in order to qualify for Boston, so I decided to start fast and try to hang on and minimize the damage for as long as possible.  As we lined up at the start, I wasn't as nervous as I normally am, because there was nothing to do at that point except run.  And off we went.  There were two men serving as the pace leaders for the 3:35 group, one holding a stick with the 3:35 sign on the end--he was very tall, so I decided to just stick by him as my focal point.  As we started, I felt okay.  People running around the pace group started to chat, and I was content to just listen to their stories and remain quiet.  No need to waste any energy talking!  One poor young woman was unfortunate enough to attract the attention of this older gentleman running with the group.  She was a polite Southern Belle--he was also polite, but oh my, SO chatty.  During the first 10 miles, he had gotten out of her where she lives, what she does for fun (running, triathlons, swimming), that she had a stress fracture in her back 2 years ago, at what point she was going to "gel" during this race, how she should hold the cup at the water stations to minimize spill, at what point he had "gelled" and whether she had done so, as well, where she worked...very entertaining.  She was so polite, I never would have had her patience.  In response to his water cup suggestion (which she undoubtedly already knew), she simply replied, "Oh, that's a good idea!  I think I'll try that!" (Insert sweet southern accent.)  [As an aside, since I knew her name and home city due to my eavesdropping, I looked up her finishing time and was pleased to see she had qualified for Boston.]  

And now we come to the reason I wasn't with her at the finish--the wheels fell off at mile 12.  At mile 2 I realized the pace was too fast, but told myself just to hang on.  At mile 4 I realized that my quads were already starting to complain, but just hold on.  At mile 6.5, I went to grab my nutrition from my pocket (stinger chews), and as I reached for a water cup through the water stop, my bag of chews hopped out of my pocket.  Stupid me turned around, amidst a gaggle of runners, to see if I could find the bag.  I did not find it, and had to pick up the pace more than my legs could handle in order to catch back up to the pace group.  Stupid, stupid, stupid...although in retrospect, I don't think that really did me in.  I had a honey stinger gel in my sports bra, so I got that down, was back with the group, and was hurting bad.  Actually, "hurting" is the wrong word...I was so uncomfortable.  Normally during a run, I will assess with extreme detail how my body is feeling, the slight twinges and pains that crop up, and determine whether those feelings are normal or something to pay attention to.  Because I knew things were not going well during this run, I tried to ignore these things and just focus on continuing.  Stay with the 3:35 pacer.  Just hang on.  Just keep the legs moving. Don't worry about the fatigue.  Then the doubts started creeping in: There's no way I can keep this up.  Why are my quads so fatigued?  How long can I hang on?  What do I do when I can't hang on anymore?  Just keep moving.  Fight. 

It got really tough.  At mile 8 or 9, I felt the fatigue in my quads start to take over.  Just make it to mile 12.  Christy will be there cheering you on.  Then reassess.  The course was really nice.  It was a mix of the main drag through the touristy area, a large divided highway leading to suburban neighborhoods, only one "hill" in the form of a fairly steep bridge (well, two hills, we had to cross the same bridge twice--once on the way out at mile 4 and on the way back just before mile 10).  We ran on the boardwalk for a little while.  The ocean was beautiful to my right, but I barely noticed, so focused on maintaining pace with the group I was, I practically missed the beauty of it.  As we came upon mile 12, I started to lose the group.  I just could not make my legs go as fast as I wanted them to.  I saw Christy up on the right, cheering me on.  I thought I waved and smiled, but she later told me I didn't--apparently my brain did not send the signal strongly enough to my limbs and face.  She saw that I was not doing well.  At the halfway point, I was walking. 

Between miles 12 and 13 I seriously considered dropping out of the race.  I knew at that point I was not going to make my Boston qualifying time, and really that was all that mattered to me.  Short-sighted, I know.  But I had been so focused on this goal that running a PR (beating 3:49) or simply finishing meant nothing to me.  And I knew that I could not hold even a little bit slower of a pace to make my 3:40 BQ time, I was totally spent.  In addition, I felt the effects of dehydration.  I am convinced this was caused by the steroids prescribed by my doctor to reduce the inflammation in my ankle.  I knew I should not have taken them.  He thought they would get me all jacked up and make me hyper--they did not.  The only effect I felt was dehydration.  All week I had to drink extra water, and it seemed like it was never enough.  Halfway through the race I felt the chills of dehydration and I stopped sweating, never a good sign.  I soon convinced myself that quitting was not an option, just finish.  From that point on I had to stop and walk at every water stop, sometimes more frequently.  Miles 16 - 19 were a long, slightly uphill drag through a wooded area.  After that we turned through a wide open military base, then headed back the way we came through a main drag in a residential area. At mile 20 the 3:45 pace group passed me, and I could not even keep pace with them.  At mile 23, there were still marathon walkers and walk/runners making their way out on the course--they were at mile 14-15.  I thought about their perseverance in continuing on with their marathons, each struggling in their own way, the day only getting warmer.  A quick note on the temperature--the air was cool, there was a breeze, but the sun was shining bright, causing me to dump water on my head at every water stop after mile 14.

Finally I got to mile 24, only 2.2 to go.  I had 20 minutes to beat 4 hours, and for the first time since mile 2, I had a goal.  I did not want to go over 4 hours.  So I continued plodding along.  I considered myself one of the walking wounded on this stretch.  Many runners around me were clearly fighting as I was to hang on and finish.  Others seemed to be having a good race, and although I was a little jealous of them, I also felt happy for them, hoping they were meeting their goals.  Some women behind me were still chatting away at this point--how in the world they were able to hold a continuous conversation this far along in the race is beyond me, but they did.

In the last 1.2 miles, I was running close to a woman named Michelle.  I know this because our names are printed on our bib numbers, and the spectators were encouraging all of us by name.  I passed Michelle; she passed me back.  We turned from the main drag towards the boardwalk, running through a throng of Livestrong volunteers, cheering enthusiastically.  We reached the boardwalk, tailwind helping us along, and I could see the big King Neptune statue down the way, preceding the finish.  Just keep moving.  It's almost over.  You will break 4 hours...

And I did.  I finished, 3:58:08, and felt a little bit like crying.  Such a huge disappointment to train and focus for so long on a goal that I missed.  However, I still accomplished something.  4 hours is a very respectable marathon, I think.  There will always be others.  It was a superbly organized race, a great course that traversed many different types of areas, keeping it interesting (for those with enough energy to pay attention).  The volunteers and overall support was just fantastic.  And the SWAG and after party, so awesome!  The finishing chute was long and well-stocked.  First water, then the medal, then some snacks (banana, granola bar, cookie), all handed to you by volunteers.  Then a hat, then a sweatshirt!  Just awesome.  Then I saw Christy, my faithful supporter (thank you SO much Christy, for being so supportive while battling your own frustration of not being able to run the race you trained so hard for). 

My legs were shot at the end.  The quad cramps never went away, and starting at about mile 18, my upper calves started yelling at me, as well.  As I tried to take my shoes off and put on dry socks and shoes, they cramped up so bad I was stuck in a contorted downward facing dog position on the grass next to the board walk.  All I could say was "ow, ow, ow, ow, ow."  All Christy could say as she watched me struggle was,"I don't know what to do, how can I help you?"  I finally was able to move my foot and release the cramp, but holy shit did that hurt!

The after party was great.  They had an enormous tent set up on the beach, with a live band, free beer (4 per participant!), and Irish stew.  I had the stew, tried the beer (no matter how much I try, I just don't like it--I got two little sips down and left the rest--tragic, I know).  Finally, I was ready to get back to the hotel, shower and rest.  And that's what I did.

In retrospect, I have no idea what really caused the bad race.  I'm pretty sure the steroids caused the dehydration, and that I never should have taken them, swollen ankle or not.  My ankle did not hurt AT ALL during the race (although it hurt two days after and is still clearly injured).  I think my lack of speedwork in my training overall was a major culprit in my quad fatigue problem.  But I also think it just wasn't a good day for me.  In the week since, I've gone back and forth about whether to run another marathon in the next two months.  The only flat course that's a Boston qualifier I can find is in Providence, and I don't think I want to spend the money on that.  There's always next year, right?

Well, if you made it this far in the story, thanks for reading and for reliving my journey with me.  I have few regrets, will learn from my mistakes, and am proud of my accomplishment.  Keep on running!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pain is a fascinating thing.

I am a bit fascinated by pain, and the amazing wonders that are the mind and body.  My understanding of pain is it is the body's way of telling you that there may be a problem, an injury, or something at least to pay attention to and decide on a course of action regarding what, if anything, to do about it. defines pain as: 
"2a : usu. localized physical suffering associated with bodily disorder (as a disease or an injury); also : a basic bodily sensation induced by a noxious stimulus, received by naked nerve endings, characterized by physical discomfort (as pricking, throbbing, or aching), and typically leading to evasive action "

I feel fairly lucky to have a high tolerance for pain...well, except for pinching.  I HATE the feeling of being pinched.  It causes this inexplicable rage reaction (I go all "Red Ross" for those of you who remember that Friends episode).  But I digress...I also tend to be very aware of what is "normal" pain and nuisance discomfort in my body vs. what is abnormal or new.  Brian would call this being a hypochondriac, but I disagree.  I think what separates elite athletes from the rest of us (in addition to incredible work ethic, dedication and some genetics) is their ability to work through and overcome pain.  My overly-simplistic view of pain is this:  the body sends a signal in the form of pain to the brain (I'll call it the mind for purposes of this discussion) that something might be wrong with a part of the body.  Sometimes, of course, there is something critically wrong, such as a break, tear, burn or other injury that is serious enough to warrant a cease in whatever action caused this injury and immediate attention should be paid to it.  But the other times, the less serious "injuries" and signals of pain, and subsequently how the mind deals with it, that's where my fascination comes in.

I think sometimes the body and mind are lazy, and it takes some effort to convince one or the other that the "pain" the body is feeling is only temporary, and that pushing through, then past, that pain is what needs to be done to accomplish the goal, whatever that goal might be.  In weak moments, I think the mind convinces itself that the goal is not as important as it was before the pain.  But in strong moments, the pain is accepted, confronted, and overcome.  And the mind and body are stronger for it.

This is my mindset, as it relates to pain, as I get close to the marathon this weekend.
My goal: to run it in less than 3 hours and 40 minutes, which will qualify me for the Boston Marathon.
My weaknesses: too little speed work in the last two months; too much weight gain in the last two months; ankle injury in the last week; an 8:30am marathon start time (this is "late" for me to start a long run)
My strengths: a good final long run (26+ miles) 3 weeks before the marathon; a great half marathon race 2 weeks before the marathon; prior marathon experiences
How I will overcome my weaknesses: the memory of my last two marathons, in which the last 3 miles (in Jacksonville) and the last 10K (in Tampa) were so difficult that I wanted to crawl up into a ball on the side of the road and cry--but I didn't, I kept moving, knowing it would be over soon (the faster I moved the sooner it would end!), and I finished with a PR in both races

I might not reach my goal, but I sure am going to try.  I'm going to push my mind to convince my body that the pain will end.  And I'm not naive enough to believe there won't be pain, there will be, and lots of it during the final 10K, I'm sure.  But the body is an amazing thing that can do so much more than we give it credit for, as long as the mind doesn't sabotage it.  So I will push, I will give it my all.  If I don't reach my goal, it won't be because I didn't give it everything I had.  And I will enjoy the journey, as I have to this point, regardless of the outcome.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Giving back

Yesterday I volunteered at the inaugural Swamphouse Half Marathon and 5K.  When I first read about this race last November or December, I knew I wouldn't be able to participate because it was scheduled just 1 week prior to the marathon I had on my schedule.  This is a race put on by a local running group, the West Volusia Runners.  I have never even run with this group, but I've run with people who run with know, friend of a friend of a friend thing.  However, the race was going to take place in my town, and because of the many events I participate in, I know how important the volunteers are--not only to the organizers, who certainly could not get everything done without them--but to the participants.  For those of you reading this who do not participate in organized sporting events (like running races, cycling events, triathlons, etc.), the value of the volunteers supporting the athletes cannot be overstated.  You would not believe how helpful it is to have a stranger yell encouragement to you halfway through your race, at mile 12 of 13.1, or at the finish line.

With this in mind, I was happy to volunteer my time for this event.  Even though that meant getting up at 4am on "spring forward" Sunday!  Let me tell you what a rewarding experience this was.  My job, along with my two new friends Claire and Tommy Johnson, was to deliver the water stop supplies (tables, chairs, water jugs, cups, trash bags, etc.), to the 8 stops located on the 5K and half marathon courses.  Driving the UHaul through the dark streets of DeBary, we unloaded the supplies at each stop as detailed on our instruction sheet (kudos to race organizer Jennifer Florida for being so detail-oriented in her instructions, it made our job so easy).  We made such a great team and were so efficient that we made it back to the start line before the race even started (the race was delayed because of participants still parking their cars).  I got to see the race start and many finishers in the 5K before heading out on the road again.  The next part of our assignment was to travel the course again and pick up all of the supplies we dropped off.  We set out to do that but there were still walkers on the course who had not made it to the second water stop.  This allowed us the opportunity to park at mile 8.5 and cheer on the runners.  I happened to be standing next to a sign that said "FREE BEER 4.5 MILES AHEAD!"  That was a very popular sign!  I even saw a couple of people I know running by and tried to give them encouragement.  How exciting to be able to cheer on people as they gave it their all in the drizzling rain!  We then got back to "work" and made our rounds to pick up the supplies.  The water stop volunteers were so great--they cleaned up all the trash (runners can be a bit messy through water stops--lots of cups and gel wrappers and other trash) and neatly piled up the supplies for us to pick up.

We stayed a bit at the final water stop to cheer on the final few runners and walkers who were finishing up.  They were so determined, it was great to see.  What an awesome experience to be on that side of a race, and more importantly, a local one put on by an area running group.  I will definitely be joining the West Volusia Runners and doing some training runs with them after my marathon.  Everyone I have met who is a part of that group is great, but that shouldn't surprise me.  Runners usually are a supportive, positive, strong group of beer drinkers!  What a great community to be a part of.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Streak is Ending...

It is a sad day...the running streak will end today.  On my morning run yesterday I twisted my ankle.  10 days before my marathon and I misstep on the edge of a sidewalk--the outside of my right foot slipped down, but the inside of my foot did not, causing a very extended stretch on my outer ankle.  I stopped and assessed the damage after loudly proclaiming to the pre-dawn silence, "Are you kidding me?!?!?"  After a few tentative steps I knew it wasn't broken and wasn't badly torn.  I started to jog and worked out the pain.

I continued for more than two more miles to finish the 4 miles I had planned and could feel the ankle was injured, but the pain wasn't too bad due to the adrenaline and endorphins coursing through my body.  I knew, however, that as soon as I stopped running, I would feel it.  And I did.  The pain wasn't quite as bad as I thought it would be, but I could feel the tightness as the swelling started.  I went into the Crossfit gym (my run was a pre-Crossfit run), sat down to change my shoes, and knew that I would not be staying for my Crossfit workout.  I'm quite stubborn, though.  As I was sitting there, I was trying to figure out just what modification I could make to the workout so I could still do it.  Then I stood up.  And then I went home.

I knew that the injury was not debilitating. It's been just over 36 hours since it happened and it's already feeling better.  My first concern, of course, is how it will impact my marathon.  I had built up my confidence for a good performance in the marathon after a decent final long run 3 weeks out, and a really good half marathon race 2 weeks out.  In the final week of training before a marathon the focus is on short distance but high intensity.  I'm going to miss out on some of that because of this injury.  Now my confidence is dampened just a bit.

My second concern is the running streak.  As of now, it is ending.  I have managed to run a minimum of 1 mile every day of this year.  I haven't counted the days, but it's more than two months.  I've been a bit obsessed with it all day long, because until 1:00 this afternoon, I was sure I could go to Crossfit this evening (upper body work only) and then run my 1 mile after.  Then at lunch I took off the Ace ankle compression bandage I'm wearing and saw that the ankle is still quite swollen.  The pain is not too bad, and I can run through pain pretty well.  But I know that the swelling means there is still damage.  So the question became, to run or not to run? Which is more important, the streak or the marathon?  Of course the answer is the marathon.  But it hurts a little to let go of this streak.

It's silly, because the streak means nothing.  It was just a last minute decision I made based on a Facebook page suggestion.  But it was a test, and I like tests.  Now, I feel as though I've failed the test.  Not because I feel my decision to NOT run today is the wrong one.  I feel it is because of poor decisions and laziness earlier this week.  Maybe if I had done my speed work run on Tuesday like I was supposed to, I would not have been running where I was yesterday.  But that is ridiculous.  What happened, happened.  I simply stepped two inches too far to the right while turning a corner.  It could have happened at any time.

So it's time to let go.  It's painful.  But I'll survive, and at some point I'll start another streak.  

Saturday, February 25, 2012


As I mentioned in my last post, Fredo and I ran 22 miles last weekend.  Brian joined us on his bike around mile 13, while we were on some back roads of DeBary.  Fredo had only run there one other time and was excited about the new sights and smells.  I get worried about Fredo and the amount that he runs with me.  I have no idea how old he is--he is at least 7, because we found him 6 years ago and he was full grown, but the vet at the time thought he was 3 or 4.  I don't believe that he could be 9 or 10 right now, but 8 would make sense.  At mile 15 of that run, he was so excited about his surroundings that he broke stride and started pulling--which he rarely does unless he's spotted a rabbit, squirrel, or some other prey to chase.  This time it was just pure joy of new smells, sights and the point that I had to keep pulling his leash back and telling him to slow down.  At this point, Brian pointed out that Fredo is definitely "purpose-built."  The mixture of whatever dog breeds he is made up of resulted in a short, squat, powerhouse of a long-distance roamer.

Even so, I worry about him because there have been runs where he is tired at the end.  I know this because his normal running position is in front of me to my left.  When he gets tired, he ends up running right next to me or a step behind.  Normally, though, this is on a long run where it's very warm out by the end.  There haven't been many of those this marathon training period, and very few runs where Fredo has shown any signs of being tired.  The problem is, he would never tell me if he gets tired!  To non-dog people, dogs do "talk" to their owners, as long as we're paying attention.  They tell us through behavior and body language how they're feeling and what they want.  But dogs are also stubborn, wonderful creatures that rarely let on when they have a problem.  Especially if that problem would prohibit them from doing something they want--such as running!  Fredo has at times had issues that prevented me from taking him running--a cut on his foot, an eye infection, a sore shoulder--but if he had his way, he would have happily run through the discomfort just for the experience of getting out and running.

I am not purpose-built for running.  I don't have a runner's build, or an efficient runner's gait (although with Crossfit core training it has improved).  But that doesn't stop me from running.  When my mind tries to stop me (I'm too tired, too sore, too busy, etc.) I need to remind myself of the joys that Fredo sees in running.  It's not a chore, it's an adventure, and I need to take advantage of it for as long as I can.  Who knows how much longer Fredo will be able to join me.  I need to cherish the days now while I have this time with him.  There will never again be another Fredo the Wonderdog.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The streak is alive...but where are all the other runners?

So the streak is alive!  I have managed to run at least 1 mile every day this year...but I continue to wonder, where are all the other runners?  I know they exist, I have run with them.  Yet in my neighborhood, I rarely encounter another runner.  I know of 6 people in the area who run, but I only see one of them regularly, and that's only if our weekend long-run paths happen to cross.

Like a lot of runners, I tend to stick to the same routes, week after week.  I have some areas I call "add-ons", which are extensions of my normal route if I need to add mileage.  And I hardly ever see any other runners on these routes.  This past weekend I switched up my long run route a bit.  I headed out for 22 miles, just me and Fredo the Wonderdog.  On a prior weekend, I had run with a friend on a route around my town that I had never run before.  I decided to try the route again.  I got a late start (for a long run--6:30), and I didn't see another runner until mile 8!  And these were two runners from a local running club.  At mile 12 I saw another runner--the one guy who lives on my street and I see running now and then.  Even the nature trail, which often has other runners, was sparsely populated.  So where are they?  I hear non-running friends and acquaintances make silly statements when I talk about running--like "I didn't even drive that far this weekend."  But the one that makes me mad is, "I can't run."  Yes you can!  Almost everyone can run.  What they're really saying is that they don't like to run, or it's hard, or they've never really tried it. 

Running isn't easy for most people.  I'm sure it's easy for some, but not for me, and not for most of my running friends.  But there is something about it.  Once you learn how to breathe comfortably, how to relax while running, how to keep putting one foot in front of the realize that your body is capable of so much more than you give it credit for...and when you realize that, you also realize that your mind is stronger than you realize.  In running, the mind often has to be stronger than the body.  The body will keep moving, as long as the mind tells it to.

So maybe the other runners have just not yet realized that they are capable.  Whether it's a walk/run around the block, a jog with the dog or the kids, or a long run of 22 miles with Fredo the Wonderdog, you can do it.  I often have to remind myself of that, but so far, I have managed to convince my body that it can keep going.  Now get out the door and just do it!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Reason #347 to run in the morning instead of evening

Dogs.  There are more dogs out and about in the evening.  More on that in a bit.

I slept in this morning, and I would guess that 95% of the time that I choose to try to get more sleep rather than get up and run I regret it.  Today was no exception.  I slept fairly well last night, and when I let the dogs out at 5:30 this morning the air was cool, the moon was bright, and I should have gotten out the door for my run.  But I started back at Crossfit this week (Monday evening and Tuesday morning workouts), and I felt sore and tired.  However, I always feel tired in the morning.  It doesn't matter what time I wake up--I am a bad waker-upper...rarely do I feel energized and hop out of bed.  But once I get out the door and around the block on a run, I start to feel that energy, and by mile 1 I usually feel good.  Even on a bad run day I feel good to have gotten out of bed.  Since I missed my run this morning, I knew that would mean fitting in a run after work.  I dislike evening runs--it means having to very carefully watch what and when I eat so I avoid cramps.  It means taking time away from other things that need to get done after work.  And it means that there are more dogs out and about that impede my run. 

If I had gotten up this morning, I would have run 5 miles.  So that's what I had in my head for this afternoon.  I convinced Brian to ride his bike alongside Fredo and I while we ran--and I had no idea if I'd even make it a mile my legs were SO sore from Crossfit.  Weighted walking lunges rear their ugly soreness 36 - 48 hours after completion.  Ow.  As I started the run, my legs were so tight I couldn't even maintain my regular stride.  I didn't know if I could make it more than a mile, but I kept going.  We encountered a couple of dogs out for walks, and then a couple that were not on leashes.  One pit bull mix that luckily didn't attack Fredo, but certainly could have.  And then the second was a big dog playing with some kids--of course no collar, no control over the dog.  He kept following us, and although he didn't act aggressively, Fredo does not like dogs jumping on him, so he could have tried to bite the other dogs.  Anyway...I never have this problem in the mornings.  So, reason #347 to just get up and run: avoid annoying dogs.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Fitting it all in

The blog has suffered lately, because I just didn't fit it all in.  I wonder how other people find the energy.  It's all about choices and deciding what to focus on with your time.  The last couple of weeks have been a challenge for me in regards to fitting it all in.  Work of course got really busy in January--not the best time to try to maintain a marathon training plan!  But I did manage to keep the running streak alive.

I need to learn how to make better choices to fit things in, though.  After a long day at work (not a normal long day, an election season 12 - 15 hour day), all I wanted to do was sit down and NOT look at a computer.  I also did not want to clean, cook, or do laundry.  So I did none of those things.  I got my morning runs in most of the time, but at other times I took the "easy" way out and simply logged my 1 - 1.6 mile "keep the streak alive" run.  I know that getting outside and running a mile is better than not getting out at all, and that most people understand that during a busy season at work it's difficult to fit everything in.  But other people do it (fit it all in, whatever all might be), so why can't I?

The busy work season is now over for a few months, so it's time to refocus.  I got myself a new pair of running shoes on Saturday, but as of today (Tuesday) have not logged many miles in them.  I completed a 20 mile run Sunday a little bit faster than last week's 20 mile run, which is great.  I'm looking forward to this weekend's "short" run of 14 miles!  And I'm trying to remember that I'm running not just as the means to an end (completing another marathon and maybe qualifying for Boston), but because running itself is an awesome journey that has too many benefits to list.  Sometimes I forget this.  Sometimes I forget that there are other things I need to focus on completing (like housework, paying attention to my husband, my master's thesis!).  So now is the time to fit it all in.  If other people can do it, so can I.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Week 2 ends with friends

A successful week 2 of the 2012 running streak and marathon training ended with a long run with friends who I've not run with before.  First, I must confess that I had a slightly weak moment on Friday morning.  The schedule called for 9 miles, which I knew the night before I would not be doing.  But I thought I would run for an hour before work.  That didn't happen.  I just did not feel like running that morning, so I went back to bed (which resulted in an hour of very poor sleep), then stressed all day about getting in my "streak" run after work.  I did get a 2 mile run in, but I need to remember that sometimes it's okay to skip a run, yet most of the time I should not skip it.  I am tired no matter if I wake up at 5am or 8am, so unless my body is telling me to take it easy, I need to just suck it up and get out the door.

With that said, I did just that on Saturday morning and got in 4 miles before work.  Although I felt sluggish I maintained a 9 minute pace and was just fine with that.  Then last night I was struggling with whether I would get up an do 16 miles this morning.  I knew that I HAD to get in the 16, because Christy (my BFF and long distance training partner for Virginia Beach) ran her 16 that day.  But this was my only day off this entire month.  So I posted my dilemma to Facebook (of course, because that's what we do nowadays, right?), and a solution was soon posted in response!  A group of friends I know from cycling was getting together to run long Sunday morning.  It was great--I joined them at 7am this morning and had a great run.  At first the pace was a little slower than I am used to, but it allowed me to hear about their RAGNAR experience, and I was having a great time getting back into the groove of laughing and joking and story-telling while running.  I forgot how much I missed that since I've been training solo for about two years now.  After 7 miles we met up with some more folks who were going for a shorter distance, and a new running friend and I picked up the pace.  I ran some familiar roads but also a new trail that I had not been on before, and by the end of the 16 miles, Mai and I were pushing each other pretty fast!  She blamed me...but I think she was pushing it, too!  So I ended with a 9:26 average, feeling really great (other than a right ankle soreness), and so happy to have enjoyed a social run that challenged me at the same time.

I ended the day today watching the US Olympic Marathon Trials, and I am thrilled to be part of a community of runners that can range from a just-off-the-couch run/walker to a blazing-fast group of amazing elite women runners.  Running really can touch everyone, in one way or another.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Love it when a run goes well!

Fredo was still his normal self this morning.  Apparently his one day of rest on Tuesday morning was enough.  And the speedwork from yesterday did not tire him out like I thought it might.  Normally when Fredo and I run, his gait is steady and comfortable, and he can keep going seemingly forever.  With speedwork, however, I'm running faster so he has to break stride and go into a trot.  That didn't phase him, though.

This morning called for a 40 minute tempo run, and I had to start earlier than normal to get to work by 7:00.  Fredo started whining before I had even let the dogs back inside from their morning pee...he wanted to make sure I didn't leave without him!  The weather was quite different from the mild, windy morning of yesterday.  This morning it was cool (54 degrees), calm and very quiet in the neighborhood.  For the first half of my run, the only person we saw was our friend and neighbor Tom on his way to work.  Although this was supposed to be a tempo run, I felt like just running...without worry of pace, just enjoying the morning.  Of course, occasionally I would feel like I wasn't running quite fast enough and try to pick up the pace.  It want like this the whole run--enjoy the moment, focus on pace, lose focus, think about running form, focus on pace...I felt like I wasn't running as fast as I should be.

Fredo was happy, I felt pretty good about the run, and 47 minutes and 5.4 miles later, I had averaged an 8:33 pace.  I was very happy with that!  I'm so excited that my runs that feel not fast enough are much faster than they used to be!  And I'm happy that I didn't ruin Fredo's love of the run with overdoing it last week.

We will continue to enjoy the mornings together.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sometimes you stick to the plan...other times you listen to your dog

I admit that my first week of sticking to my running plan was rough.  I didn't miss a workout, and I was pleased about that.  But I worked very long days at work, I hurt my feet by wearing my minimalist running shoes too much, and I even tired out Fredo!

So week two began on Monday with a planned easy 4 mile run.  I was tired, very tired.  My shoulder/neck pain prevents me from sleeping well, which doesn't help.  But the run was okay, I was glad I got it done, especially because I worked until almost 9:30 Monday night.  Then came 5:00am Tuesday morning.  The schedule called for speed work (7 x 800m repeats).  Speed work requires focus, determination, and most importantly, some level of energy.  I had none of these things at 5am that day.  But I would have done it.  And then Fredo gave me some advice.  That's right...Fredo the Wonderdog told me to go back to bed.  He didn't say this in words...he told me by his actions.  After letting the dogs out to pee as I always do when I get up, Fredo ran back into bed.  Normally, he will follow me around the house, whining as I get my shoes on and get ready for our run.  But Tuesday morning he jumped into bed with Brian, looked at me as if to say, "Not today woman, not today.  Go back to bed, crazy human."

And so I did.  I only had an hour to sleep, and I didn't sleep well, but it was a good decision.  By the end of the day I was feeling much better, and when I got home around 7:15, I convinced Brian to get on his bike, put the new dog (Ursula the puppy) into the doggie bike basket for her first ride, and join me on my 1-mile "keep the streak alive" run.  It felt really great to get outside and move, so we went around the neighborhood for just over 13 minutes.

Taking that rest day yesterday did wonders. Even though I still got less than 6 hours of sleep last night (that is bad for me--I need sleep!), I was looking forward to my speed work--and so was Fredo!  He was ready to get back to his running this morning.  I admit I was a little nervous (I know that sounds strange, being nervous about a run), but I haven't done speed work in a while, and I had no idea what to expect.  I tend to set high expectations for myself and get disappointed if I don't meet them.  My goal was to run 7 half-mile repeats, with 2:00 minutes of rest between each, in 3:40 each.  I ran just over a mile warm-up, then did my workout on my chosen "track" of two streets in my neighborhood that are flat and form a U with cul-de-sacs at each end.  It was 10 degrees warmer this morning than it has been (65 degrees) and WINDY!  Speed work in the wind is crazy, with half the work with the advantage of the push of a tail wind, and the other half a struggle into the wall of a headwind.  Overall I felt good, and for most of the repeats I beat my projected time.  I also wore my minimalist shoes again for the first time since Friday, and am happy to report no arch or ankle pain.

So Fredo the Wonderdog knew what he was talking about.  A running plan is there for guidance, but should be modified as necessary.  And when I might be too stubborn to make the right decision, I will use the guidance of my Fredo, instead.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Week one, run and done...

I consider my running week Monday through Sunday, so week one is now complete, and it was a success.  The running streak is alive with at least a mile run every day this year so far.  (Okay, so it's only been 8 days, but it's a start.)  Today was my long run of the week at 14 miles, and unfortunately I did not enjoy it.  They can't all be winners, though, can they?  It was a high mileage week, 46 miles total.

Is it strange that I actually enjoy the mental struggle of running?  For any non-runners reading this, you might think that the running part is struggle enough, and many times it can be.  This morning, for instance, I just wasn't feeling my normal running groove.  I didn't want to run 14 miles.  But the body is an amazing thing and is capable of so much more than we know--and that's where the mental struggle comes in.  Convincing the body to keep going when it would be so much easier to just stop is a challenge, and one that I am proud to be capable of (on most days).  I may not enjoy it while it's happening, but the accomplishment once I'm done is extremely satisfying.

I have been wondering at what point my minimalist shoes would begin to give me trouble, and I reached that point today.  Friday night at about mile 7.5 of my 8 mile run my feet started to hurt.  Then my right arch cramped bad, really high up.  At first I wasn't sure what I was feeling, but the pain was sharp and came back every few steps.  I made it the final half mile, but I couldn't have gone much further.  The next day was just a 1.4 mile run and I used my regular running shoes, no pain.  So this morning I put my light shoes on again.  I made it about 7 houses down the street and the arch pain was back.  I went around the whole block trying to figure out if I could work out the cramp, whether I should keep going and just call Brian to bring me my other shoes if it got to a point that I couldn't continue.  I was struggling with this decision because I REALLY want to be able to use the minimalist shoes for the marathon.  My regular running shoes now feel like bricks when I run in them.  But the pain would not subside, so I went home and changed shoes.  No arch pain with the other ones.

So my running week is done, just to start over again tomorrow.  I'm missing my Crossfit workouts, because I just can't fit them in with my busy work schedule, and I'm hoping that a month without the core strength training will not negatively impact my running.  We'll see.

Here's to week 2!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Keeping the streak alive

7th day in a row of running at least 1 mile--the streak is alive! The plan today called for a bike ride, but because of my work schedule that won't happen. I was extremely tired when I woke up at 5:15 this morning, but splashing cold water on your face really does work to help wake you up! And this is the only time of year we can get cold water out of the tap in Florida. So to keep the streak going, I headed out for a 1.4 mile jog. It was a humid 45 degrees which also helped me to wake up. It was a nice way to start the day and get the muscles moving, body relaxed, energy level up. Tomorrow: long run of the week.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Tough but successful week

Now into the busy month at work, this week, although a short one because of the holiday, was pretty rough.  I am fairly proud of myself for sticking to my running plan, for the most part.  It's tough when working 12 - 14 hour days, but I did it, so I know I can keep it up.

The running plan today called for 8 miles.  I got up at 5:00, let the dogs out, got my clothes together, then realized that I was so tired from the busy week that I was better served getting another hour's sleep rather than running.  This is only because I knew I could go for my run after work.  I admit that I felt guilty about this, because it felt like I was skipping my run, but I knew I would get it in after work.

I've already expressed my feelings about running in the morning...if you take that and reverse it, that's how I feel about running in the evening!  First, my motivation falters and it is so difficult to get out the door once I get home.  There are so many distractions, the pressure to get other things done, or simply the fatigue of the day setting in.  But I knew I would get tonight's run in, I was committed to doing it.  My plan was to run at least 6 miles and try to get close to 8, depending how I felt.  It helps to see Fredo get so excited about running--when he realizes I'm getting ready to run, he will not leave my side because he does not want to be left behind.

Tonight's run started a little rough--two stray dogs decided to block our way--one was friendly and just wanted to play, the other more reserved.  The problem was that Fredo wasn't so sure about her, and they wouldn't leave us alone, so I had to go home and get Brian to block them as we left again.  Why do dogs always find their way to the Quinn's?  This time there was nothing we could do for them, because they were afraid of Brian, clearly they were not treated well by men.  Very sad, but I digress...

I ran a route I hadn't run in a while, and at first was feeling fine.  Although I overdressed--I must remember that when it is warmer than 50 degrees I do NOT need long sleeves.  I found my groove, but I just did not feel right.  My legs felt weak, I felt like I was running slow, just plodding along, but I focused on being okay with that and just kept moving forward.  I thought about how nice it was to be outside after having been inside so much of the week.  But in the back of my mind I was still not thoroughly enjoying the run.  Too much traffic on a Friday night, I had to wait at quite a few intersections for turning cars to pass.  And then I focused again on moving forward...relax the shoulders, arms and wrists, chin down and in, legs powerfully turning a steady cadence...repeat.  I made it 8 miles in 71 minutes, just under a 9 minute pace.  That's good enough for me on weak legs and an environment that is not my favorite. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

I get knocked down, but I get up again, you're never gonna keep me down!

This morning was a tough one...I didn't sleep well, it was cold in the house (we're trying not to use the heat again this year), and it was a damp 33 degrees outside.  But I did not hit snooze, I got dressed for running, and out I went.  The schedule called for a 45 minute tempo run.

During the first mile of my run, these are the things I thought about, and figured I would write about today: the cold, how Fredo the Wonderdog even seemed cold, remembering to NOT overdress for a cold run, that people need to start thinking about taking their Christmas decorations down, that I'm glad the people who clearly had a grand old time with fireworks on NYE finally cleaned up the debris that was left in front of their house, that I loathe litterbugs...then came mile 2, and I tripped.  Yup, foot caught on something and down I went.

Those of you who know me well will not be surprised by this, as I am quite clumsy.  However, though I often stumble, I rarely fall down when running.  Usually I slightly twist an ankle (which simply results in discomfort), I stumble but catch myself by throwing a leg forward (resulting in a strained ass muscle, but that's about it), or I bump into something.  But I don't often fall.  Last year I fell once because I caught my foot on one of those bumpy mats added at the ended of a sidewalk so people who are blind can tell the road is coming soon--it wasn't fastened down completely so my toe caught it and I did a spectacular tuck and roll.  On a busy road for all to see, of course.  The time before that was last February while trail running in Sedona. I don't really count that, though, because I am a novice trail runner and there were many rocks and hills to navigate (I fell three times in two days!).  Before that I don't even remember the last time I fell, although I know I have.

So this morning's fall came as a complete surprise, especially because it happened so fast.  I was up...I was down.  Fredo stood there looking at me as if to ask, "What happened?  Why are we stopped?  Why are you on the ground?  I guess I'll just wait here for you, Human."  My first thought was nervousness about my neck and shoulder, which has been strained for weeks and felt pulled again as I fell.  I got up, took inventory of how I felt, and then looked for the culprit that jumped up and grabbed my foot.  At first I couldn't find it--then I spotted it in the street light--a little piece of concrete from the road, just a tiny little bump, and that's all it took.  Well, enough of that, I set off to running again.  Of course at first after a fall the adrenaline is kicked into high gear, but when that settled down I realized I was fine, the neck was a little strained but did not impact my running.  After that I just tried to focus on the run (I noticed that I was picking my feet up higher for fear of tripping again!).  Since this was supposed to be a tempo run, I was trying to pick up the pace and make sure I was giving it a hard effort. Although I was feeling fine, fall notwithstanding, I did not feel as if my attempts at pushing my pace were working.  But I got into my groove and finished the run strong.

Once home, I did an assessment of the damage.  First, the run went well.  I ran 5.5 miles in 47 minutes, an 8:33 pace, which I am happy with.  No aches and pains other than the usual.  I stretched a bit to loosen the IT bands, started the coffee, then went to do the real damage assessment.  Gloves were not torn, nor were the hands, but I felt a couple of bruises on my palms.  No big deal.  Elbow!  Yup, some skin missing from my elbow, though I'm not sure if my shirt tore.  No skinned knees, capri running pants in tact.  Great!  And then...the kicker...a dime-sized hole in my new running shoes!  Argh!!  They are lightweight shoes, not a lot of material to withstand the scraping on the asphalt.  You know what this means, right?  Time for new shoes?!  We'll see.  For now they will continue to work, but the hole is where my pinky toe is, so hopefully it won't push its way out and make the tear bigger.

So went my morning run...success with a little side trip, literally.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Why go for a streak? Why not?

Many people think I am a very motivated person, especially when it comes to exercise.  I'm really not.  I truly enjoy exercise, I thrive when pushing the limits of my body and more often, my mind when it says "stop pushing your body" and I can counter "no!"  But I need some sort of goal.  I do not do well if I have no purpose in my exercise.  I suppose this is something I should work on--really enjoying the moment and the journey instead of focusing on the end result.  And I do enjoy the journey, but I know that to stick to a training plan I need some goal as a target.  Right now I have the Virginia Beach Marathon on March 18th.  My training plan at the moment is targeted towards that end, and specifically for qualifying for the Boston Marathon with this race.  I also would like to do another half-ironman triathlon this year and at least 2 shorter distance triathlons before July.  Because of my work schedule from July through November, I will have no goal during that time except to keep running.

This is where the streak comes in, and an additional goal.  There is a group on Facebook called I <3 to Run.  On most days there are motivational posts about running, and I often get a lot out of those little reminders.  In December, however, I read one of their posts about a running streak in 2012.  They proposed that they want to get as many people as possible to run at least one mile every day in 2012.  I didn't really pay attention to that first post, thinking only that it was silly.  Then I saw the post again, and thought, "I wonder how many people would try that?"  Then I saw it again, and thought, "I don't think I could do that.  It's a lot of pressure."  Then I saw it again, just before the new year.  Yup, you guessed it.  I decided, "Maybe I could do that."  After all, what's a mile?  For a long distance runner, it's nothing.  In fact, quite often before or after a Crossfit workout I'll run a mile (as a warm up or cool down).  I don't even "count" it as part of my running program.  But it does count, doesn't it?  It means, at minimum, that I would be moving for 8 or 9 minutes, outside, getting something done.  So I am on day 4, and the streak is alive.  The first three days of running I covered 22 miles.  My marathon training plan has Wednesday as a rest day, and one of the weekend days as a bike day.  The rest of the days are supposed to be run days, with a particular distance or effort, track or hill workout, long run or easy run, etc., planned for each.  I have yet to stick completely to a training plan, and often miss a planned run.  But so far, for the 4 (long) days of 2012, I have run at least a mile every day.

Today I worked a 12 hour day.  It's my busy season, and January will be full of 12 to 16 hour days, weekend work, lots of stress, and lots of fatigue.  Today was no exception--back-to-back 4 hour poll worker training sessions, followed by a stop in the office to get some work done.  On my way home I kept thinking about how my upper back is all seized up, and how I wish our jacuzzi was working because I really need a good soak, and I'm hungry, and it's cold out (44 at 7pm is cold in Florida!).  But the definition of a streak prevents even the notion of skipping a day.  And as I said, what's a mile?  What's 8 minutes?  Okay, so it takes a few minutes just to get dressed and ready to run...but so what?  I got home, changed my clothes, and Fredo the Wonderdog and I ran a mile.  When we were done (Fredo was not happy to be turning back towards home so soon!), I grabbed two more dogs (our big greyhound Bo and little chihuahua Phoebe) and took them for a short walk around the block.  Winners all around!  The streak is alive...for now.  I'm interested to see how this works out.  But it's a goal.  That means motivation.  Silly?  So what.  I like silly.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Morning Runner's Secret

Early morning runners share a secret. It is a secret that we want to share with others, hoping that they will enjoy the knowledge of it as much as we do. It is the secret of the dawn. The atmosphere of a pre-dawn morning while running (or walking, for that matter) is almost indescribable. There is a quiet that is leftover from the night, but that is punctuated by the initial stirrings that morning brings. This can be as subtle as leaves blowing down the street, which maybe in the middle of the day would not sound as pronounced, to the harsh squeak of the garbage truck brakes, trash cans thrown around, and engine throttle to get as fast as possible to the next house. Maybe those who are driving to work (or home from the night shift) experience this a little bit. But I would argue that unless you are out in it, not surrounded by a vehicle, not in a cocoon of music from your headphones, you just don't experience all that the pre-dawn has to offer. Additionally, there is a feeling. Maybe it's a feeling of change, of awakening, of fear of the dark or shadows, but a feeling that is unique to this time of the day. And then things begin to change again. The imperceptible shift of dark to light as the sun begins to rise. You don't even notice that the shadows begin to disappear, that you can begin to see color, and if you're lucky enough to be facing east, you see the sky as it begins to lighten. This is the secret that morning runners share, and we want to share it with you. Try it. You'll see what I mean.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Partial FAIL, and it's only day 2!

It's only a partial fail because I did get in 12 miles (12.16 to be exact!). However, I didn't get started until after 8am, which is the fail part. I could justify it by saying I have the day off, it's no big deal, the weather's not too hot, etc...but the bottom line is that I let myself be lazy again. Here's the truth of it: I did not set my alarm last night because I knew if I did I would be tempted to snooze it this morning, and no snooze button is part of my new year's resolution. So I didn't want to set myself up for failure. I knew that the dogs would wake me up sometime between 5:30 and 6:30. However, I also knew that I would likely go right back to bed after letting them out. Which is exactly what happened. And I knew that in going back to bed I would not automatically get up with first light, it would likely be 7:30 before I climbed out of the comfort of snuggling with the chihuahuas. Alas, it was 7:39. Once it gets close to 8am, a litany of excuses NOT to go running begin to build in the back of my mind. I start to get hungry at 8:00. By the time I'm done running it's so late in the morning. I have to feed the dogs. I have to make the coffee. Blah, blah, blah. But since this blog on day 2 is keeping me honest (even if no one reads it, it's out there), so I did feed the dogs, I did not make the coffee (Brian was not too happy about that one), and Fredo and I set off for 12 miles.

I only have a couple of short things to say about the run...after all, the running part will come, it's the motivation part that this blog is all was tough, as I knew it would be due to my recent lack of training. My legs were a little fatigued, I had some foot and ankle aches and pains, but I did it. 12.16 miles in 1:52:48, about a 9:17 pace, which is just a tad slower than I would like. So on to the positives.

It was a beautiful morning, once again, although quite windy. It was the farthest I've run in my minimalist shoes, and so far, so good. I have no idea at what mileage they will start to hurt my feet, due to the lack of cushioning, but they haven't yet. I saw a bald eagle, a wood stork taking flight from the scrub bush, and of course the usual osprey and vultures. I also ran with music today, which is not normal for me but was a nice change of pace. And at mile 8 or so I decided to go off-road for about a mile onto some dirt (well, sand, since this is Florida) trails in Gemini Springs. Fredo and I both really enjoyed that change.

Speaking of Fredo, he amazes me. When I slack off in training it means he doesn't get to run, either. So yesterday was his first 6 mile run in a couple weeks, and he did great but was really sacked out in the afternoon. Today he didn't skip a beat and was my little Energizer Bunny Dog for 12 miles. Since we typically run the same routes, he knows when a turn is coming up. But yesterday I threw him for a loop at one point because I went a different way. All it takes is a little flick of the wrist with his leash and I can redirect him with ease. But he is so smart, because this morning, as we neared that intersection from yesterday, he slowed his pace a bit and started glancing back at me as if to ask, "Which way today, Human?" He is simply awesome.

So day 2, started bad, ended good, onto the rest of my day. (Not all of my posts will be this long and detailed of course, but since I have the day off I'm sharing.)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year, New Blog

I've never done a blog before, but thought it might help me stick to my training plan, so I'll try it. We'll see how it goes.

The plan for this year is to run the Virginia Beach Marathon in March, and hopefully qualify for the Boston Marathon (which I would run in 2013). I need a 3:40, and my fastest marathon was 3:49 at Tampa in February of 2010. I feel a 3:40 is doable, though, because I have been running faster lately. It will take a good race day and a pace group, and I should be able to accomplish it.

I also want to do another half ironman triathlon this year, which I would have to get done by July because of my work schedule. I don't have one picked out yet, and I'll need to get a few shorter ones in, too. The goal for triathlons is to do a full Ironman in the fall of 2013. Yikes!

The other purpose of this blog is to record my experiences running with my canine partner Fredo the Wonderdog. We don't know how old Fredo is, but he is at least 8 years old, maybe 9. He has been my running companion for the past couple of years and he gets such joy out of it. When I'm having a bad run, I at least look down at him and see how happy he is and it gets me through. But I don't know how much longer he'll be able to run with me. I can't imagine running without him, but I of course know that he can't keep running forever.

So my first training entry will be about this morning's run. My marathon schedule calls for 16 miles yesterday, but I have not worked up to that. In fact, the longest I've run lately is 10.5, and I have not kept up with my week day runs over the past couple of weeks. And I did not run at all this morning the plan was to run 6 miles, and log a long run of 12 miles tomorrow. Then hopefully I can get back on schedule.

I slept in a little bit today, which sometimes would cause me to skip my run, but I am really going to try to get all my planned runs in this year. The weather was beautiful--about 60 degrees with a light breeze, not a cloud in the sky. As we started I felt great, and remembered why I love running. Fredo of course was raring to go. Before 1 mile, however, my body started to yell at me for skipping runs lately, and it became a bit of a struggle for the remainder of the run. My legs felt okay, but I have a stiff neck/shoulder problem that has been plaguing me for weeks, and I felt a little bogged down. I did a route that I haven't done in a long time, so when I reached a point that I thought was almost 5 miles I looked at my watch...NOPE! Only 3.47...argghhh...this is why I do not look at my watch often, because I started thinking about how much farther I had to go and how 6 miles seemed to be taking FOREVER! But then I caught myself thinking negatively and started thinking about the route, breaking it up into pieces that I knew I could accomplish. I tried picking up my turnover to try to run a little faster, which would work for a little bit.

As we got back to my neighborhood I checked the watch one more time and figured out what I needed to do for the end of the run, and came in at 6.15 miles. Pace was 8:47 per mile, which nowadays is on goal for me. On "easy" run days I want to be under 9 minute miles, and when I feel crappy like I did today it's a bonus to come in under that.

So day 1 of 2012 accomplished, Fredo was happy, I'm feeling good, and I'm ready to conquer the year.