Friday, May 28, 2010

Suck it up!

What to do about this heat? After my disastrous run and flirtation with dehydration last weekend I have been doing some serious thinking about how I should adjust my training during the summer months.

I posted an impromptu poll over at coolrunning about cutting back my long runs and the responses were very consistent. Suck it up! (Paraphrased) Avoid the heat by running early in the morning or late in the evening, make sure you stay hydrated, maybe slow your pace a bit, but there is no need to take a step backwards in your training.

OK. Message received – loud and clear.

I should point out that I am not a morning person. I hate mornings. Because of this, prior to this year I did the majority of my running in the evening. The problem was that there are too many things to disrupt a routine training schedule when you run in the evening - social commitments, a higher probability of foul weather (in Florida anyway), fatigue after a long day at work, etc. I owe a lot of my success this year to finally transitioning to morning runs. I now consistently run 4 days per week and have only missed workouts over the past few months due to travel and minor injuries.

As much as I have grown to love running I still struggle to drag my butt out of bed virtually every morning. I cherish those few precious mornings I get to sleep in, but I am committed to persevering and improving this summer.

My nemesis is the snooze button.

I will resist it.

I will rise before the sun.

I will suck it up.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Don't Dis the Distance

I discovered today the high cost of a little disrespect.

I’ve had a lot of success over the past few months. 15 miles, 17 miles, 18 miles - no problem. This week was a step back week, a shorter long run of only 13 miles in preparation for bumping up to 19 next weekend.

13 miles, I thought, that ought to be easy.

I didn’t respect the distance.

I haven’t run that specific distance since a half marathon back in February. My pace has improved a little since then and I thought I might even be able to improve on that time. I basically planned to run at my race pace, ignoring the fact that it is 30˚ warmer now.

I didn’t respect the distance.

I knew I was going to be running for 2 hours, I was down to one gu packet but I figured there was no need to pick up any more. After all, I didn’t eat anything during my half.

I didn’t respect the distance.

As I planned my route, and my hydration, I figured I would drink water for the first 5 miles and refill with Gatorade when I pass my house. One 22 oz bottle should be able to last me for the last 8 miles of the run.

I didn’t respect the distance.

I overslept. I hit the snooze on the alarm clock and rolled over. It was just going to be a 13 mile run, I thought, a late start won’t matter. It was almost 7:30 when I hit the road, and already about 75˚.

I didn’t respect the distance.

I made it 10 miles. I was completely spent, and for the first time in a loooong while I stopped running and walked. I gave myself a few minutes to recover and managed to start running again. I made it to 11 miles and gave myself another, slightly shorter, walking break. I was disheartened at mile 12 as I squirted the last few drops of Gatorade into my mouth. I also had the chills, despite the heat, a symptom of dehydration, and I was a little worried about getting home safe so I allowed myself another brief walk. I finished the rest of the last mile without stopping and managed to tack on a little extra to make it 13.1.

I got a little bit of a lift shortly after making the final turn onto my street. A Jeep passed me that I had also seen at the beginning of my run. I overheard the driver exclaim – “I saw that guy running when I left earlier!” I was grateful he didn’t drive by just a few minutes earlier and catch me walking.

I finished in 2:24, 8 minutes slower than my half marathon 3 months ago. I checked the thermometer as I staggered into the house and it read 82˚.

I learned a hard lesson.

I will not dis the distance again.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Review: Sportypal

I love this gps app for my smart phone. I have been using it since February and it has added a fun, new dimension to my running without having to invest in a gps watch.

The program gives you instant feedback of statistics while you run like pace, time, distance, and calories burned.  It creates a map of each run.  It allows you to upload the information to a personal page on Sportypal’s website where you can view and manipulate the map and statistics to your heart’s content.  If you are a graph geek, like me, you will love the features.

You can also automatically share the results of each workout on facebook and twitter, instantly at the end each run.

The app is easy to learn and use with large finger friendly buttons and menus on my touch screen Windows Mobile phone, even with my clumsy, sweaty fingers (it is available for the other mobile operating systems too).

I have to admit the app was a little buggy when I first started using it, sometimes frustratingly so, but with each revision over past few months it has become more reliable and accurate.

Here are some screen shots from my phone from my run this morning (a new PR by the way):

I still wear my tried and trusted (and very basic) Timex Ironman as my primary method of tracking my time, but this app makes keeping track a lot more fun.

I should mention one more important feature. It’s free! (Assuming you already own a gps enabled smart phone.)

Here is a link if anyone is interested:

Monday, May 17, 2010

Note to Self

Don't gorge on Mexican food the night before your long run.

I finished my 18 miler this weekend, but it wasn't pretty.

Enough said.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Choosing a First Marathon

I actually agonized over this decision. I made lists and budgets. I spent hours staring at a calendar and reviewing my training programs. In the end the decision came down to three factors of fairly equal import.

Location/Budget: With unlimited resources I could include options like Hawaii or even the Great Wall of China. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you look at it) a tight budget this year makes that kind of travel out of the question. A local race also has the advantage of being near family and friends whose support will no doubt be a great motivator to help me reach 26.2. Still, a race as significant as the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC, for example, was not out of the question.

Timing/Training: I started on a marathon training program immediately after finishing my first half in February. The problem is that my training is peaking now, in May, and there are not many options for Marathons during the summer. That means waiting until the fall. My task will be to maintain my fitness during a long hot summer and then step up the training mid to late summer in preparation for the race. Considering my excitement about achieving this goal, and considering my current level of training, the earlier the race the better.

Unique Nature of the Event: There are a lot of considerations here, destination races, local races, themed events, fundraising, and the size of the event.

In the end I narrowed it down to four choices, most of them local in consideration of a tight budget this year.

1. Marine Corps Marathon, 10/31/2010, Washington DC

2. Space Coast Marathon, 11/28/2010, Cocoa, Florida

3. Jacksonville Marathon, 12/19/2010, Jacksonville, Florida

4. Disney Marathon, 1/9/2011, Orlando, Florida.

The final decision was tough. The MCM was very tempting, and the earliest race, but I just don’t think I should be spending the money for a trip like that this year.

Disney was 2nd behind the MCM considering the unique character of race. It’s huge, over 20,000 runners, and you get to run through all of the theme parks. The wait until January would be agonizing though.

Jacksonville is close, and a little earlier than Disney, but still pretty far off. For me, it also lacked the uniqueness I wanted for my first race.

The winner: The Space Coast Marathon. It’s a small race but its right in my backyard and close to family and friends who I can count on to be there to cheer me on. It has a unique sci fi theme that includes a pre-race dinner at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex under a Saturn V Rocket. It is also run fairly early in the season.

Now that the decision is made it’s a matter of counting down the days and logging a lot of miles.

I can’t wait.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Look at me! I’m blogging. I’m somebody now!

I’m having one of my best running weeks ever, so I decided to start a blog today. I’m also going public about my plans to run my first marathon. There’s no backing out now.

Here is a brief synopsis of my running “career.” There was none for 39 years of my life. I spent most of my adult life with no athletic activity at all. I was a true couch potato. About four years ago I was inspired by a friend who told me she wanted to train for a marathon. I always admired endurance runners and had tried numerous times over the course of almost 40 years to become a runner myself, but I always failed.

I still can’t explain why this time was different. I did what I always did, ran as far as I could, usually less than ½ mile, and then hobbled home. After another very brief and embarrassing effort, I made the fateful decision to look up running programs online and stumbled across Cool Running’s Couch to 5k plan. The name says it all:

Nine weeks later I was running 5 kilometers (3 miles) without stopping. It was euphoric.

I ran fairly frequently and consistently over the next two years, extending my longest run to nine miles and losing 50 pounds in the process. Then I suffered a set back and my running tapered off almost completely. I could give you 100 reasons why, but in the end they are all just excuses. Gradually, the weight started to come back.

Then, last fall I saw an interview with Christopher McDougal, the author of the book Born to Run. I was interested in his views on natural running styles and the story he had to tell of the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico. I found the book to be very inspirational and immediately followed that reading with Chi Running. Chi Running changed my entire perspective on running and I believe it is primarily responsible for the success I have had over the past six months. Using this running style I successfully trained for and completed my first half marathon and have nearly finished a marathon training program. I run more in one week now than I used to run in an entire month and I have virtually eliminated the runner’s ailments that plagued me in the past - like shin splints and knee pain. (knock wood!)

That was my past- now for the present.

I am having a great week. Saturday I completed my longest run to date – 17 miles. Tuesday I ran 5 miles, setting a new personal record of 48:23 and recorded my fastest mile ever 8:23. I followed that up with a strong 8 miles on Wednesday. This morning another 5, setting another PR at 48:18 and finished the final mile just seconds off the record mile pace I managed on Tuesday.

Here is a map of this morning’s run:

I’m looking forward to an 18 miler this weekend, so stay tuned!