Sunday, December 30, 2007

14 aaaaaaannnnnddddd done

So just a few days ago I was shocked I ran double-digit miles for three consecutive days. As of today I have now done 6 such straight days. And I am now ending it there. I figured if I was going to break my personal best for that sort of run I might as hell make it a heck of a streak so I would not be tempted to break it again.

On top of that, I decided to run 15 miles yesterday and 14 miles today in order to end the year with 2112 miles. It’s a palindrome and I love that stuff!

So no run on New Year’s Eve. I could run an easy 6 tomorrow and run the most miles I have ever run in a month but am deciding against it. I have run, inadvertently, 12 straight days, which is something I am totally against. Of course, Christmas eve was only a 3 mile run and if I had not run that I would have done 5 days and then 6 which would be fine. Nevertheless, this is how I am keeping myself from running.

Which is how my year will end. With no run. One year ago I ended the year with 26.2 miles. This year I will do it with a long sleep and relaxation. And hopefully some very good news I can share with you all soon.

Friday, December 28, 2007

10 miles

Time has no divisions to mark its passage, there is never a thunderstorm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year. Even when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols.

-Thomas Mann, novelist, Nobel laureate (1875-1955)

As such, I realized that while others make and break New Year’s Resolutions, my own personal resolution to run harder, longer and smarter started a week early.

On Christmas day I ran 10 miles in 1:16:53. The next day it was in 1:15:33; the next in 1:15:44. This three days of double-digit running so astounding me that I blogged about it.

Well today, I ran 10 again but this time in: 1:09:49. I am pretty sure I am running 15 on Saturday and another double-digit day on Sunday, which will bring my total to 6 straight days of such running. But more importantly is the 10 miles today.

For one, it is the only run that matters. Yesterday is gone and I never know if. I will have tomorrow. So I sucked the marrow out of this run. I waved to people, congratulated those I passed and nodded to those I saw twice as they headed back to where they were coming from when I did the same. On a nearly 50-degree day in the greater DC are in the dead of winter, I wore shorts.

Also, today on this one Friday, I ran 10 miles straight. In all of 2006, I ran 10 TOTAL miles on days named “Fri”. Yep. Five runs. Each 2 miles. Ten miles total.

It looks like Christmas Eve is when the ball dropped on my fitness.

Hilarious quote

In the December 2007 issue of RT, in the Heard On The Run section there is the following:

"Carmelo Anthony says he took up trail running last summer to get in shape for the NBA season. 'I'd get up really early, like 9 in the morning (to run)'."

Poor guy. So sad he has to haul his 5-year, $80 million dollar ass out of bed at the ungody hour of NINE!!

Luckily, Nike sent him several pairs of size 15 Trail Pegasus III+ shoes with the interactive iPod Sensor to motivate him. Good thing. I am pretty sure he would not be able to afford them.

(By the way, retailing for about $80, Carmelo could buy ONE MILLION of this shoe with his recent basketball contract. But don't worry, he could still skimp by on whatever endorsement deal he has. You know, like with Nike!)

Don't get me wrong. Carmelo did pay his dues. He went to all of one year of college you know. That's, like, 8 classes!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Dropping my Marathon PR in a big way.

I have only really put any serious mileage on my legs in the past few years.

In 2001 I ran my first marathon on minimal training (and the result showed). My second marathon in 2003 had me running more miles in preparation but nothing to write home about. While I trained very hard for my third in 2004, I only did so for a few months with little running prior to it. In 2005, I raced a bunch but did not run much. Which leads me to 2006, with Fiddy2, and this year.

Both years I have kept exact mileage totals via my favorite Excel spreadsheet. It appears that I will finish this year with exactly 2107 miles or 100 more than my initial goal. This is a modest mileage total given many of the totals my friends have finished with but I am happy with it.

While I was visiting my parents for the holidays I ran 10 miles on three consecutive days. It was a little cold in NW PA so I kept my mind off the temps and the run by thinking, like I usually do. It suddenly dawned on me that, as far as I was certain, and I was pretty certain, I had never ran a double-digit mileage total for 3 straight days. NEVER. I had run a half marathon on one day and a marathon the next. I had run 86 miles in one day. I had done many things but had never accomplished this relatively simple feat.

Which led my mind wandering another way. If I finish with 2107 miles for the year that will average out to 40.5 miles a week. A nice little total but nothing to be too impressed about. Then my thinking went another direction.

I have often claimed that I feel I have a 2:3x marathon in me. Some have agreed, others have harrumphed such speak as the daydreams of a middle of the “good” pack runner and some could not care less. I have packed up my thought process numerous times in many different ways but it all boiled down to how I really had not done the training required to really run a good marathon. The 40-mile a week average from above was one bit of proof.

But that isn’t enough for me. When people question what I say I really think about their opinions. Often I have already had a self-discussion which entailed just about everything that is ever said which is why I am so quick with a retort. So I began to question further why I think I can run a much faster time.

As I hoofed it home on each one of these 10 mile runs (5 miles out and then 5 miles back on the exact same route) I ran almost exact times. The first 5 miles would take me just under 40 minutes and the last 5 would take me about 36:3x. That I a heck of a lot of time to lose in just five miles. Here is my average time out and back with the pacing

39:45 7:57
36:30 7:18

Nearly 40 seconds faster per mile on the way back. Granted there is more downhill on the way home than there is on the way out (see below) but not enough to really matter. Plus, I run more on the outside of a curve on the way home than I do on the way out which would definitely add time.

So I am doing the math on these runs and realizing that even the 7:18 pace is not even all that fast. Then I realize, you know what? I NEVER really run all that fast. I do a track workout where I get some good sprints in once a week when things are going right in my life (meaning I am home and not traveling) and I run fast there. Occasionally in my last mile or so of a 6 mile run I will push out a sub-6 mile on a pretty large hill (see below) which always makes me feel good. But for the most part I do not push my long runs. For two years I have either been racing or recovering. I have not had the energy to (or more correctly had the intelligence to not) push it too hard.

Which leads me to this. My current marathon PR is a 2:55:34. That equates to a 6:41 minute mile pace. I can honestly say I have NEVER come close to training at that pace for anything other than my sprint workouts. I have recently been reading a great deal of running magazines and books. I have read about training programs and what some of the elites do. I was astounded at the speed at which they train. MANY of their long runs are WAY faster than their marathon pace. And that makes complete sense. But here I have rarely, if ever, run faster than my marathon pace, except in a marathon!

So basically, I do not run a great deal of miles and those I do are hardly all that fast. Without a doubt, I do not think anyone can argue that I am probably a pretty tired puppy given the racing I do. Yet, somehow I still have run a 2:55.

When the time comes when things have settled and I actually put the time into training for one (or a few) marathons, I see absolutely no reason why I will not run that 2:3x marathon.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Marathon Qualifying Times Responses.

In a recent blog I detailed my thoughts on the lowering of the Olympics Marathon Trials Qualifying time. Some people responded in the comments section and others sent me their opinions in an email. I have collected many of them and put their retorts into a message here below.

One good friend was an advocate for raising the time. One of his reasons is as follows:

“Raising the standard, for example to 2:25, will put the dream of making the Trial within the reach of many good but not great marathoners. In 1980, I was good but not great -- my 2:27:25 at Boston 1980 was more than five minutes slower than the 2:21:54 standard. But I had four years, and I could have trained to beat 2:25 -- but by 1984, they lowered the standard to 2:20. That was out of reach, so why bother training for it?”

Many brought up the point that allowing more runners, rather than fewer, to run the Marathon Trials will focus more attention on the event and sell more people on coming out to watch it. The Marathon Trials should get as much interest as the Track & Field Trials and "fill the stadium." In countries like Japan, a major event getting less than a 10% share of televisions ratings would be a huge disappointment. In the US a 1% share is normal (the SuperBowl gets like 40% FYI)

Others brought up the point that a “party-crasher” was not too well-received. By this I mean, Michael Wardian, a 2:21:27 PR, led the race for 35 minutes.

Many feel that the organizers felt this upstart was simply trying to unconventionally grab some fame and did not like him crashing their party. Organizers like well-scripted events and if anything is certain in marathoning, it is that 26.2 miles leaves plenty of time for a script to be written by those who weren’t invited to the writing table. But Wardian’s surge faded and in spite of the relatively slow early pace which worried organizers, Ryan Hall set a Marathon Trials record. So what's the harm?

Not taking away stories like Wardian’s, people have said, increases the probability of an unknown with a slower qualifying time having a breakthrough -- for example, Kyle Heffner in 1980, John Tuttle in 1984, Mark Conover in 1988.

I feel that my friends have very good points. For whatever reason, the same people who will shoot a 96 on the golf links will still go watch 4 hours of Masters coverage in the club house but your typical road racer wouldn’t want to watch coverage of a Marathon on TV. If there were more “everymen” running, would there be greater desire to watch? Obviously the “slower” time did not affect this year’s finish.

Good food for thought.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The 50 States and DC Marathon Group Humanitarian Award

In my many blogs about marathons, I have often spoken about my running friend Rob Toonkel. He is a tireless runner with 115 marathons to his credit (last i knew at least. He runs them far more often than I can keep track). Well, recently he was awarded the The 50 States and DC Marathon Group Humanitarian Award for 2008.

Rather than repeat the eloquent things said about him in my own prose, I am going to simply provide a link to the wonderful article about Rob. Way to go Rob!


Rob in all the way to the right.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Ever been to Morganton, NC?

I have. And I am not exactly bragging.

After a long day in the car, feeling unbelievably nauseous after driving through some of the windiest roads imaginable, I did not feel like running. When you book a hotel, as close to the freeway as possible so you can get back on it the next day, your environs usually do not invoke a running response.

But since I had missed my run yesterday because of long traveling I really wanted to go today.

I found a little loop near me and set out. Too bad what I thought would be a nice scenic route put me right on another highway. Yikes!

So 7.6 miles later, I have gone over my goal for the year. Nothing huge but I am happy. And it was an up and down little run too!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

2002 miles

I ran 4 this morning before I got on the plane and another 4 when I got home tonight. Not the long run I was hoping to do on a normal Sunday but enough to push me over 2000 miles for the first time in my life. With one 5 miler (which I will run after a long day of traveling again tomorrow) I will have my goal for the year with 15 days to spare.

I am pretty excited about having done this. Now, will I hit 2100 before the year is up? And how funny is it that I plan on running across the country someday soon and that will be 1,000 more miles than I have run in an entire year prior to this?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Last run in Bountiful

For the past week I have been in the greater Salt Lake City area in gorgeous Utah. I have been on a speaking tour to promote physical fitness, what I did last year and what I hope to conquer in the future. It has been a wonderful trip and I very much hope to be visiting again soon.

As I made mention earlier in my blog, I found a few hills to run in bountiful where I have been staying. One friend who originally hails form this area told me I needed to make a run up Bountiful Boulevard. I kept trying to fit the run in but the speeches and late nights made it difficult to do so. I was not sure if I would ever get a chance to fit in the run with the big hill.

So finally, tonight I was able to get a chance to conquer this run. As you can from below, there was quite a hill to kick the whole thing off.

And since I always like to see how much elevation change affects a run I decided to do a complete out and back run. The verdict? Well it took me 1:13:23 to run 8.8 miles.

The first 4.4 with the monster hill: 41:14 or 9:20 minute mile
The second 4.4 without said hill: 32:09 or 7:18 minute mile

Quite a change for sure. Plus I got to run past one of those beautiful Mormon Temples. With the snow falling lightly and the run being in the dark it was quite a site to see indeed.

So my week in SLC is over but I can definitely see myself visiting again soon. The nearly mile high runs would do wonders for my times when I came back to run with my flatlander friends.

p.s. There was more downhill in one mile then the net downhill of the ENTIRE Steamtown Marathon.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

My first run in SLC/Bountiful

I am in Salt Lake City for a week to give speech presentations on my life as a runner and Fiddy2. Even though I inexplicably forgot some of my cold weather running gear, I was smart enough to bring tights. Whew!

After driving around a bit trying to find a nice place to run (my hotel is on a highway I did not want to run on) I was a little stymied. The closest park I found on the net was covered in tons of snow and the trail wasn't even traversed let alone packed down yet. So I hunted elsewhere. I despise driving to somewhere to run. I admit I am spoiled as all hell to walk out of my back door at home and have a huge trail system to choose from.

Finally I said forget it and went back to my hotel. I parked my car and ran a little bit off on the highway before turning up towards the park I was going to run to in the first place.

As you can see below, not only am I a little higher than my usual, well, like zero feet of elevation in the greater DC area, but I had quite a hill to contend with today. Given my traveling for the past month I am a little piqued but I am happy to say I did this 7.7 miles in a respectable 56 minutes. Given the sloppy footing and other intangibles, I will take it.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Want some inspiration?

I ran the Park City Marathon last year. It was quite the weekend. Actually it was quite the 23 hours. From the time I touched down until I left again I was not even in Utah for a full day. The trip was punctuated with a challenging but very nice marathon, a wonderful race director and staff and a great pasta dinner.

At the dinner, I was surprised to be asked to give an impromptu speech about Fiddy2. I graciously accepted even though my task was unenviable. You see, I had to follow the planned speaker of the night who was not only an Olympian, but also good-looking, witty and charming. I might be one of those things and “Olympian” it ain’t.

Chris Waddell was his name and he wasn’t just an “ordinary” Olympian, if there is such a term. You see, in 1988 as a freshman ski racer at Middlebury College Chris broke his back in a freak accident on the hill. Two months later he returned to school and three days short of the accident's one-year anniversary he started skiing in a monoski. Less than two years after learning to monoski he was named to the US Disabled Ski Team. Chris remained a member of the Middlebury College Ski Team all four years, and captained the team his senior year.

Well, in speaking with Chris recently, I learned that he is tackling a new challenge. He plans to become the first paraplegic to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. You read that correctly.

Rather than have me describe it, check out the video here about Chris and enjoy.

And yes, I do rather enjoy writing blogs about people that make you feel like a whiner.

p.s. My current running streak has ended because I forgot my running shoes in my last hotel. Crap.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

One streak down.

Two weeks ago, I was working longer than expected on a project. I then had the usual 5 plus hour drive to my parents lengthened by the pre-Thanksgiving traffic. By the time I got to my parents, I had enough time to chat with my father and then pass out. I didn’t even have the energy to go for a run. No big deal, right?

Well, a few months before, I was looking at my training log (the log which has become sort of legendary for its intricacy yet simplicity). I noticed, by complete happenstance, that I had run every single Wednesday in 2007. Now, my feeling on streaks just for the purpose of keeping alive a streak are well-documented, but when I saw I had inadvertently created this little streak I wanted to keep it alive. When I got up to do a pre-Thanksgiving jog, it hit me I messed it up.

Obviously, it was a tiny little thing. Even if I had run every weekend this year, come 2008 it would not have mattered a lick to anyone, even me. It was just a little training tool I was using to keep myself running. One of the main tools I use on a regular basis (and probably very similar to all my running kin out there).

So, today when I pulled into my hotel, tired from being on the road for 10 plus hours of planning a course and the temperature was in the 20s, I decided I was not going to run. I am just getting over a cold from last week and I needed the rest. But once I got into the hotel and found out they had a treadmill, I figured what the heck? Go for a quick 4-miler to shake out the sillies and get yourself nice and tired for bed. Which is exactly what I did.

Entering it into my log I realized I had now gone two weeks without missing a day of running. Nothing too impressive considering the longest run in those two weeks was a 10-miler but equally as “huh” worthy as when I figured out the other streak. I most assuredly never meant either but both happened.

Only 60 more miles to go this month until I have reached my goal for the year. Even with my traveling I am expect to have that in a little over a week.

I hope you all reach your goals, today, this week and this month.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Running/Walking Impatience

It has been said I am not a patient person. While I disagree with that premise (and will be happy to explain why) I do agree I despise wasting time. To be honest, I think while the trait may have always been present, I feel it has been exacerbated by becoming a runner.

First off, I cannot stand walking somewhere if I usually have only run there. Case in point, I was walking from the Metro today after lunch along the same route I end 95% of my runs. It was laboriously painful to walk this little stretch given it was taking twice as long as it “should” have.

Second, it annoys me when I can’t enter a building by the easiest access point. Looking at a guy in front of me who was walking into an apartment building, he had to walk 30 feet past the door and then turn back and walk to it from the direction he was walking, in order to get around a ramp and a waist-high fence. If this was the way I walked every day to get home, there would be a well-worn path up the small hill and over the fence.

Third, It is almost impossible for me to NOT walk the tangents of anything. This I completely blame running for as I heard from a runner who said if you run 26.2 miles in a marathon, you have run too far. By this he meant that you absolutely have to cut every corner possible because that is how courses are measured. Now I do it in walking to my car, crossing the street, going through a parking lot or anything.

Now, I can stop and smell the roses. I do not mind a leisurely walk for the sake of walking. And contray to popular belief I like to rest.

But when I want to “get” somewhere, I want to be there sweet. How sweet? Toot sweet.

Thanks Running. Thanks for making me more of a pain.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Another race in 2007?

Will I race again in 2007? A few friends have asked me this and I have wondered myself. Besides the fact I will be traveling almost constantly for the next 3 weeks making finding a race difficult, I wonder if I even should. This has not been a good year overall. Here is the quick recap

Feb 18: Washington's Birthday Marathon -Freezing temperatures left me near hypothermic at the end, so much that one person actually asked a friend if this was my first marathon

March 3: Seneca Creek Greenway Trail 50k - A near ice rink surface had me damn near breaking my kneecaps

March 24: National Half Marathon
- a misdirection at the end of the course derailed a near perfectly paced race for myself

April 1: Martian Marathon - only a dead sprint at the end allowed me to make up for a total loss of energy and salvage the race (with a 2:59:58)

April 7: Ocean City Half Marathon
- a freak snowstorm and wind killed this race

April 29: Han Gang (Seoul, Korea) Marathon

- heat and liquid problems left me severely vomiting at the end

May 5: Frederick Marathon
- Relatively good race was killed in the last 4 miles by enormous wind gusts

May 12: Battle of the Blvd 10k
-Nothing really wrong with this race

June 2: Old Dominion 100 Mile Cross Country Run - 90 degree weather; humidity; thunderstorms

June 17: Dalian International Marathon
- food poisoning. ‘Nuff said.

June 26: Bluemont Park June 5k -Nothing really wrong with this race

4th of July Age-Handicapped 4 Miler -Nothing really wrong with this race

July 7: PVTC Outdoor Track & Field Meet
-Nothing really wrong with this race (Pretty damn hot though)

July 15: Presque Isle Half Marathon
- Unexplained bad race

July 21: PVTC Outdoor Track & Field Meet

-Nothing really wrong with this race (Pretty damn hot though)

July 28: Rockville Rotary Twilight Runfest - Great race

July 27: 189 Mile Northwest Passage Relay
- Great race

August 4: North Face 50K Endurance Challenge
- 98 degrees

August 7th: Arlington Downhill Mile -Nothing really wrong with this race (Pretty damn hot though)

August 12: Leesburg 20k

-Nothing really wrong with this race

August 16: One Hour Track Run

-Sick before the race

August 28th: Arlington Downhill Mile
-Nothing really wrong with this race (Pretty damn hot though)

Sept 3: International Peace Half Marathon -Nothing really wrong with this race

Sept 9: Presque Isle Marathon
-Major leg problems in the middle of the race

Sept 19: Tidal Basin 3k-Nothing wrong with this race

Sept 22: Lake Winnipesaukee Relay -Great race

Sept. 29: The Nation's Triathlon - Swim Leg

-Great race

Oct 7: Steamtown Marathon

-Hot humid race

Oct 17: Tidal Basin 3k -Nothing really wrong with this race

Oct 28: Marine Corps Marathon

-Great race

Nov 17: Nat'l 24 Hour Run Championship- Heat ruined the day

Wow. I have always prided myself on being able to have both a short memory and a thick skin. Looking back at this year, I have to say “holy Crap”. This was a bad bad year for me.

Maybe I will race again somewhere before the year is out.