Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Running in Place: Treadmill Survival Guide

It's that time of year when the air smells of pine, festive lights are all around...and the polar vortex gracefully swoops in the from the north to bring ridiculously cold and icy weather.  Yes, for those of us in the western hemisphere, winter has arrived heralding the coming of several chilly months ahead.  While this season can be rough to endure, the complications it brings is particularly illuminated by those of us running in spring races, like the Pittsburgh Marathon.  As is it, the majority of our training situates itself in the heart of these frigid, dark days.  And though we runners are made of some tough stuff (or just missing a few marbles), truth be told and no matter how much we deny it, we are not impervious to the elements.  Some days we have to reign in the restless road warrior within us when the weather just isn't fit for running.  So what option do we have as race day looms closer and closer?  While loath to say it, we find ourselves hearkening to our friend, the treadmill.

My indoor BFF...and yes, that is a Star Wars poster behind it
This human hamster wheel is both a blessing and a bane for most runners.  We are able to keep to our training plans but know we sacrifice some portion of our sanity to accomplish it.  Yet, whichever way you approach it, powering up those ominous boxy numbers is at times a necessity when things outside of our control result in us changing our workout plans.  I've found this to be especially true not just with inclement weather, but also having an infant in the house.  If the wife is out and I can't use the jogging stroller, the treadmill is my saving grace.  With all this in mind, I've compiled a few nuggets of wisdom from my experience using this fitness machine that may be of help to others to survive the paradox of running but not actually going anywhere.

It's all in the 'tude
One of the best ways to make those treadmill miles more enjoyable is to go into them with a positive attitude.  If we go into the workout thinking that it is going to be the worst thing ever, there's a pretty good chance that that's how things will turn out with each mile feeling like an eternity.  Not only does this dampen the joy we get from running, but studies have found that attitude really does impact the performance of athletes.  For runners in particular, thinking negative thoughts actually makes a person more likely to suffer an injury.  So be like Peter Pan and think happy thoughts; your body will thank you for it and you'll feel better afterward!

Pull out your conversion chart
When most people ask us how fast we run, our natural inclination is to give them our average minute per mile pace.  However, as my wife has pointed out to me, that number to non-runners basically holds no meaning and reinforces the fact that runners are a very unique breed.  Miles (or kilometers everywhere else in the world) per hour is how most people understands speed.  This apparently includes the treadmill companies.  To save myself the challenge of doing math while running (never a good thing), I instead use the all-knowing Google to find the MPH I need for particular paces and jot these numbers down on a sticky note.  And voila, all the info I need to hit the splits I want.  This is also really helpful if, like me, you don't have a foot pod linked to your GPS watch and get crazy pace numbers when using the treadmill.

I probably could have written a tad larger....
Hide and go seek
Watching the time and distance slowly...tick...by...is one of the most challenging aspects of being on a treadmill.  With no landmarks to judge distance, we often tend to think we have gone further than has actually happened.  It becomes disheartening then to look down after what felt like a mile to realize we have only gone half that distance.  To save ourselves the torture, towels or sticky notes work great for hiding those data fields.  "Our of sight, out of mind" is sometimes the best approach to surviving monotony.  Not constantly checking progress also serves as good practice for being present in the mile we are currently running instead of always thinking about the distance that is still left to complete.

Press the buttons
One of the major variations between road running and treadmill running is that for the former we can change our pace intuitively, while the latter will only allow us to move at whatever speed is set.  The "terrain," so to speak, is also exactly the same on a treadmill the entire time.  To alleviate the static nature of these workouts as well as do a better job of simulating road running, incrementally increasing the speed and elevation can make a world of difference.  The key to doing this effectively is to only change the settings a little at a time.  Making our treadmill workouts into progressive runs (runs in which the last mile is faster than the first mile) allows us to properly warm up and work on the feeling of negative splits (each mile being progressively faster).  As an added bonus, runners who live in particularly flat regions can get in those essential hill workouts that would otherwise be missing.

Let the binge-watching begin
When all else fails in holding our attention on that endlessly rotating belt, watching a move or TV show becomes invaluable in distracting us from the rhythmic pounding of our legs.  Getting caught up in a show seems to make time breeze on by and, before we know it, those miles are finished.  The key is to find something that keeps you engaged - a favorite classic works well or you can default for that new show on Netflix you've been binge-watching for the last 36 hours.  With this tidbit of advice, I should add on two caveats.  First, if you choose to watch a cooking show, know that the entire time you will crave whatever delicious delicacies they are baking up.  In particular, dessert shows are the most dangerous.  Second, don't become so enamored with the entertainment that you forget you're on a moving platform.  A bruised ego will be the least of your concerns if you let yourself get too drawn into a galaxy far, far away.

As many of us are about to get underway with our spring race training, I hope that the hints above serve you well when getting outside just isn't in the cards.  If you have other tips and tricks, feel free to add them below in the comment section.

Happy running!

P.S. This post was inspired by an article from one of my fellow #GameOnPGH Pittsburgh Marathon bloggers Tony, who compiled some amazing tips for making it through winter runs.  Make sure to check out his advice!

Thinking of signing up for the Pittsburgh Marathon?  Use discount code FOX17 to save $10 on either the half or full registration!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Tuesdays on the Run: It's Official!

For the past few weeks, I'd been secretly awaiting an email.  It finally arrived on Thursday with some exciting news.  I've been chosen as one of the official bloggers for the 2017 Pittsburgh Marathon!  I decided to apply for this endeavor with that though that I was planning to share my marathon training journey, so why not make it official?

If you haven't noticed from several posts on my blog, I'm kinda sorta like obsessed with running my hometown race.  After racing the half marathon last year, I couldn't wait for May 2017 to roll around so I could take on those glorious 26.2 miles.  To add to the excitement of race weekend, I'll  once again be embarking on the Steel Challenge by also running the Saturday morning 5K.  Last year, this shake-out run felt awesome and I got a little extra bling - best of both worlds!

I'm feeling especially positive about how the marathon will turn out.  I've learned a number of valuable lessons from my first marathon in Akron having been humbled by a distance I thought I knew all about.  I've come to terms with the fact that I have a long way to go before I really master the marathon, but to just take one step at a time and be grateful for where I currently am.  I also have to be realistic about the impact that adding the title "dad" has affected my running.  Sleepless nights with an infant do eventually catch up to you.  But hey, at least I'll get in lots of training of running on tired legs and pushing a jogging stroller basically doubles as cross-training!

If you're considering a Spring marathon, I cannot encourage you strongly enough to join us in the Steel City.  This race is the Goldilocks type in being just the right size for new runners as well as veterans.  You can even use discount code FOX17 to save $10 on either the half or full registration!

My training plan for the race official begins on January 2nd (what better way to start the New Year?!).  I hope you'll follow along for the adventure; I have a feeling it's going to be eventful!

Happy running!

I'm linking up for this week's Tuesdays on the Run with PattyErika, and Marcia.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

November Runfessions

With the end of the month here, I'm linking up with Marcia for this month's runfessions.  November has been a whirlwind of sorts between school events, conferences, traveling and more.  For all intents and purposes, the hamster wheel analogy fits all too well to describe these past few weeks.  So with that, the runfessional is now open!

I runfess...
...that I could not wait for this month to be over.  While so many exciting things happened, including my first run of the Pittsburgh 10 Miler, I also found myself just plain exhausted.  This showed pretty well in how my runs turned out.  Just getting the miles in, no matter how slow, was my only goal.

I runfess...
...that the dogs along my route are starting to drive me crazy.  While I am someone who likes dogs, the howling, growling and yelping has reached the point that it's just one constant noise throughout the entire run.  I can only think of one dog who doesn't participate in this cacophony.  And for the record, when I hear someone attempting to call his or her dog to return, my first thought is that the canine will give chase.  I figure it's better to err on the side of caution.

I runfess...
...that way too many of my runs have ended after dusk.  With the crazy schedule of late, I can't hit the road until the sun is already setting and the sky, while pretty, gets darker and darker.  I've also gotten into a bad habit of assuming my runs will be much shorter/take less time than how reality plays out.  Because of all this, I find myself darting from streetlamp to streetlamp (which are sparse as it is) attempting to make it home safely.

I runfess...
...I've already begun window shopping all the new running gear I want.  Between the emails from the Pittsburgh Marathon advertising its training apparel and all the amazing gadgets and tech coming out this time of year, I'm inundated with so much cool stuff.  In no way do I expect to get the vast majority of item I see, but dreaming of that "In Training" jacket or heart-rate monitor isn't necessarily terrible.  Looking forward to seeing what Santa will bring!

What are your November runfessions?

Happy running!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Tuesdays on the Run: Dick's Sporting Goods App

The theme for this week's Tuesdays on the Run with PattyErika, and Marcia dives into the craziness that is Black Friday and the holiday shopping season.  While I am not someone who tends to have the "in" on where to find the best deals or discounts, I do stumble across the occasional awesome find when it comes to saving a few bucks.  In this regard, my secret weapon to cut down on the cost of our surprisingly expensive sport is the Dick's Sporting Goods (DSG) app.

In this day and age, every store seems to have its own app that is basically a clunky version of its website.  Because of this, I avoid cluttering my phone with unnecessary apps when I can just as easily open up Chrome to find what I need.  I was naturally hesitant then to download the DSG app, since I figured it was same old same old.  However, what made me willing to give up those precious megabytes of space was a feature I had yet to see offered by any other store.  It gave me points just for doing what I love - running!

Outside of the usual tabs advertising sales and promoting the rewards card, the DSG app has an additional feature called "Move."  For either hitting 10,000 steps in a day or running three miles using MapMyRun, three points are added to the DSG reward card.  Once 300 points are earned, a $10 gift certificate is given - it's that easy!  Once the app is set up, there is little maintenance that needs done on the user side of things.  And just like other reward programs, a point is also earned for every dollar spent at the store/online.

On top of the normal methods of earning points, twice so far (during the Olympics and the month of October) the DSG app has also offered step challenges.  By averaging about 15,000 steps a day, I earned an additional 600 points.  I like to think of all this as free money!

Now, there are a few caveats worth noting when using the app.  First, if you only ever just earn the three points a day, it will take a really long time to receive a certificate.  In addition, the $10 has an expiration date 60 days from when it is issued.  Third, you do need to sign up for the DSG rewards program, so make room for another card on your rewards tag key ring.  Another restriction is that you have to use one of the means for tracking, either a Garmin, Fitbit or Apple watch for steps, or MapMyRun for the three mile run.  Finally, the occasional day has occurred where it did not properly register my steps making for missed points.

At this point in using the app with only making a limited number of purchases here and there, I've received $40 in certificates.  That's $40 that will not be coming out of my bank account - score!  And with the prospect of doing some Christmas shopping at DSG in the coming weeks, I may hit that magical 300 points again soon.  I'll take it!

Happy running!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Pittsburgh 10 Miler Recap

A change in priorities can be a really good thing within running.  The normal grind, especially in always chasing after a PR, can begin to wear down the fun of the sport.  Running the Pittsburgh 10 Miler helped remind me of how much the social aspect of racing is just as, if not at times more, enjoyable than solely pursuing a time goal

When I signed up for the 10 Miler, I knew it would fall only a little more than a month after running the Akron Marathon.  I figured that in the races occurring so close I would be both well-trained for the shorter distance, but at the same time would have taken some time off for recovery.  However, I WAY underestimated the damage 26.2 miles does to the body.  After taking the obligatory two-week running hiatus following the September race, I attempted to ease myself back in the weekly mileage routine.  All I can say is "OUCH!"  It was as if my legs forgot how to run.  My body just wasn't bouncing back like I had hoped.  It was at this point I decided to change priorities for the 10 Miler.

I sent a text to one of my best friends, Mike, who has been working up to longer distances over the past few years.  I knew that this race would be the furthest he had ever gone and I was extremely excited for him.  Knowing he was about to take on an awesome challenge, I offered to serve as a pacer for him.  He agreed to let me have this honor and I was stoked!

With my race intentions now shifted, I spent the weeks leading up to 10 Miler just getting in the distance with little concern for anything beyond easy miles.  I was also able to finally use the jogging stroller to push the peanut for a few miles.

A few days before the race, I made a trip after work to packet pick-up.  While the location of the store hosting it was a little out of the way (actually the exact opposite direction to home), I was super excited when I got my bag and shirt.  They were so awesome!  The dog food that they also included was....different.

Race morning arrived cold but clear.  My friends and I headed into town together, which set the tone for how amazing of a day was in store.  After warming up a bit (both from the cold and preparing for the race), we, of course, had to commemorate the day with selfies.  This picture truly embodies our personalities so well!

As we situated ourselves within the corral, I checked with Mike about the pacing.  He had a few different goals in mind with his "super A goal" being 1:40, his actual "A goal" coming in at 1:50, but his most important goal being to just finish.  I naturally wanted Mike to meet his wildest expectations, so 10:00 minute miles it was.  And with the horn sounding, we were off!

I would not be honest with myself if I didn't admit that a little part of me wanted to surge ahead into full race mode like usual.  However, I reigned in those primal inclinations and settled on pace trotting along side Mike as he loaded up Zombies, Run! on his phone (yes, he and I are both that awesomely geeky).  Today, I was making my race about someone besides myself and if felt really good!

The day could not have been more perfect conditions for an early November race.  With each mile under gorgeous  sunny skies, Mike and I were able to stay either on or above our goal pace.  We reminisced on how some of the neighborhoods we ran through were parts of the Pittsburgh Marathon 5K we had completed the year before and were looking forward to doing again this spring.  We also practiced a very smart strategy of walking through the aid stations to recuperate and not drench ourselves in water (running and drinking at the same time just don't mix).

It was around mile 8 (or as Mike called them, his "Hobbit miles" since it was the furthest he had ever gone) that we slowed.  One of the sneaky things about running through downtown Pittsburgh is that each bridge is actually a small hill.  In addition, the city itself is peppered with climbs and descents all over.  I could tell that Mike was starting to wear down, but the determination to finish was clear.  If I found myself getting too far ahead, I would adjust accordingly so that my pacee knew that he wasn't running alone.  Mike would always give a smile and a wave when he saw me looking - love that attitude!

For all the uphills that seemed to crop up everywhere, the race finished on a downhill.  Mike did his best to give it all he had in the final mile giving us a finish time of 1:40:49.  While in some ways I felt like I let him down by not breaking 1:40, he was stoked to have finished and well below 1:50 at that.  I was unbelievably proud of Mike for his accomplishment - he is now slated to run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon in May at which I know he will do awesome.

Following the race, we headed for mimosas then off to Diamond Grill for lunch (we had our priorities straight!).  On a completely un-race related note, the city was also having a reenactment of a stunt Houdini had performed 100 years ago, so we stayed to watch.   After all this fun and excitement, the time had come to part ways.

When I signed up back in mid-July for the Pittsburgh 10 Miler, this was not necessarily the race I envisioned.  However, in looking back, I would not change a single thing.  If anything, pacing Mike helped me realize that I would really like to pace others to their own achievements.  While I have no races on my calendar between now and May, I may just have to keep an eye out for opportunities to serve another role at a race than just be a runner.

Happy running!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Tuesdays on the Run: Along for the Journey

The theme for this week's Tuesdays on the Run with PattyErika, and Marcia is about taking a step back to consider how I've changed since my blog was first set up a year and a half ago.  And boy has life been interesting!

Since May of 2015, both my running life as well as personal life have grown through completely new experiences.  I started this blog back when I first signed up for a half marathon, a distance that both frightened and excited me.  I wanted to chronicle the return to the sport of my youth as I took on a new challenge.  What I didn't expect was that I would be hooked by this new endeavor.

Something about doing a race that was completely foreign to me and I thought I could never do unlocked my potential to push my limits and see just how far I could go.  Running the Pittsburgh Half last spring affirmed this drive within me.

I'm not entirely sure when I set out to blog my adventures that a marathon was on the docket, but it's the surprises that keep life interesting.  I've now survived 26.2 and am crazy enough to do it again this May.  The fear of the unknown that I sometimes live my life by is slowly dissipating, which I would say is for the better.

Added on to how my running life has changed, August 9th marked the birth of my newest running partner.  Having a daughter gives a whole new meaning to life.  I'm now responsible for another human being - God help her!  Though sleepless nights have become a norm, the little peanut also gives so much joy to those around her.  And she was so excited to share the love that she came four weeks early!

Since starting my blog, I've loved bringing others on the adventure that is my life.  These posts have helped to capture many moments that now define me and help me to be a better person.  I hope you continue to follow along as the fun continues!

Happy running!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Tuesdays on the Run: Winter Crosstraining

The theme for this week's Tuesdays on the Run with PattyErika, and Marcia is a look into the future at the frigid months that await us and what we as runners can do when the roads are sheets of ice and the polar vortex is looming.

Two words the cause me to break out in hives when used in the same sentence are "winter" and "crosstraining."  The former conjures up bad memories of cancelled birthday parties from being a January baby and the latter just isn't as appealing as pounding pavement.  But regardless of my dread, I can neither stop winter from coming (unless anyone knows a Heat Miser who needs some business...) nor deny the positive benefits of crosstraining.  So what do I do when I can't log the miles in the chilly months?  Yoga!

While I do not see myself as a yogi, I have accepted that this traditional practice really enhances my running and is the perfect exercise during winter.  Between sitting inside more due to the limited amount of daylight and the cold weather tightening my muscles with a vengeance, my body just isn't in its peak shape.  Adding in the stretching and strength work awakens tired and tense limbs making the days when I can hit the roads way better.

While yoga provides me with a number of physical benefits, the mental component of the exercises is just as important.  As someone who gets more irritable from the lack of sunshine and fresh air, a meditative practice that allows me to redirect my negative emotions toward something productive generally leaves me feeling more optimistic about life.  I become less embittered about winter opening the way to actually enjoying the beauty that accompanies the season.

As someone who a year ago adamantly refused to partake in the practice, I've since become a willing yoga participant to the point that a significant number of my workouts conclude with some key poses.  If you're not sure where to look for sequences, start with the Runner's World Yoga Center.  The routines are really easy to follow with special attention to the muscles most used in running.  If you are someone who gets more out of social exercise, consider signing up for a class.  Many studios will give you a free trial session.  Going to a class can also be really beneficial in the winter, since it encourages you to abandon the warm covers for something that you will be thankful for later.

Haven't given yoga a try as a crosstraining method?  Consider broadening your horizons!  Worse comes to worst, you only used up one of many cold winter days.  On the other hand, you may have just found your new go-to for the days when running isn't on the agenda!

Happy running!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

October Runfessions

In deciding to try something new, I'm going to throw my hat in with Marcia for this month's runfessions.  While October has been a pretty decent month, this past week in particular has provided me with a plethora of topics for which I feel a need to runfess.

I runfess...
...that I really hope my daughter will decide to become a runner.  My wife and I are trying our best to not form too many expectations for who our daughter will become.  At the same time, it's really hard not to imagine what, if any, of our interests and talents she may adopt.  I like to say she is destined for runner-dom due both to the fact that she loves going on runs with me in her stroller and her legs are constantly moving all over the place.  I even suggested to my wife that we should sign the peanut up for the Pittsburgh Marathon Toddler Trot in May, but apparently a "nine month old can't run."  We'll see who's right....

I runfess...
...that I have been dragging my feet, for no apparent reason, to get my Road ID.  With almost all my runs taking place on roads and having had a few close calls, I'd say my need for an ID is pretty high.  To give even more credence to my laziness, I won a $15 gift card in August for one, but never took the next step of placing the order.  I finally today (three months later!) decided on which Road ID to get and hit submit.

I runfess...
...that a little part of me wanted to mow down a few individuals with the jogging stroller when I was out on my most recent park run.  Now, I like to think of myself as a pacifist with a fairly level head.  But, when people are constantly breaking pedestrian lane etiquette it drives me nuts.  Yes, I know you and your 16 closest friends want to walk next to each other, but you do not own the path.  This is especially dangerous when you not only take up the entire pedestrian lane but also the bike lane, thus forcing the rest of us to have to go into the motor vehicle lanes.  An accident is bound to happen due to this behavior.  The same is also true for people who, while walking or running, crank their music up in order to block out the world.  It's not just the world you're disconnecting from, but also the ability to hear if someone/something is approaching from behind.  These problems boil down to being about safety and respect.  Okay, I'm stepping off my soap box on this one....

I runfess...
.... that I would be totally content to never see another goose in my life.  I've lost count of the number of times these little buggers have hissed at me as I run past.  They have also done their fair amount of damage to the ponds and sidewalks from the sheer amount of feces.  As winter approaches, the geese presence will not be missed in the least.

With a first runfession in the books, I'm feeling much better with November approaching.  What are your October runfessions?

Happy running!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Tuesday on the Run: Looking Back to Akron

The theme for this week's Tuesdays on the Run with Patty, Erika, and Marcia is, in a nutshell, a "what-if" scenario dealing with looking back at a race and considering what could have been done differently.  As irony would have it, on this day one month ago I was taking on the Blue Line in the Akron Marathon.  I was thinking about doing a post now that time has passed, so this TotR aligned in my favor!

While none of us owns a TARDIS (or at least ones that work!) or have a time-jumping DeLorean, it would be interesting to see how things could be different if we applied information we have now to events in the past.  Hitting that redo button would be so tempting, especially after a marathon, which most of us only run once or two a year.  In not so much dwelling on the past as learning from it, three special lessons come to mind that, if I had practiced, may have resulted in a very different race experience in Akron.

1.  Run Smart - I will be the first person to admit that I didn't "run my own race."  The pace at the beginning was way too fast and unbridled confidence got the best of me.  On top of that, I convinced myself that I was fueling properly, though my Gatorade and water-soaked shirt said otherwise about my drinking-while-running skills.  I made one mistake after the next creating my own perfect storm - no need for outside factors to do it for me!

2. Set Realistic Goals - The two weeks prior to the race, I barely ran more than a couple miles and suffered a variety of injuries.  Yet, when race day rolled around, I still set out for the 3:25 goal time.  I'm sure some part of my brain attempted to reason toward more practical goals, but irrationality had already taken over.  While "stretch goals" are awesome for pushing for something long-term, pull something too tight and it will snap.

3.  Have Fun - In trying to make pace and push hard, I lost a little bit of the fun I could have had.  One of the most enjoyable parts of the race was when I chatted with a fellow runner named Matt.  Having a little conversation back and forth was really nice and I could have had a lot more of it if I hadn't let self-competition dictate my race.

With these tidbits of wisdom in mind, I feel much the wiser approaching the Pittsburgh Marathon in May.  I'm even going to push for the positive in hoping that a month after that race, I'll want a redo because it was so epicly amazing!

Happy running!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Tuesdays on the Run: 2016 Goal Check-In

The theme for this week's Tuesdays on the Run with PattyErika, and Marcia is a check-in on final goals for 2016.  It's so hard to believe that only a little over two months are left to the year!  Back in December of 2015, I posted a list of goals I had set for myself to accomplish at some point over the following 12 months.  As we approach the end of that window, now is as good a time as any to look back at how things have gone so far and what can be done to possibly check a few of them off the list.

1.  12 in 12 - I had planned to try and run a race at least once a month during the year.  Looking back, I'm at about 50%.  I was right on track to meet this goal until the summer months hit and then things got unexpectedly busy.  I'm currently slated to run the Pittsburgh 10 Miler in November to round the year out at seven races.

2.  Strength Training Regularly - I've been trying as of late to incorporate either a short strength routine or yoga into each day.  I've become a believer in the benefits of these practices when it comes to both feeling better when running and injury prevention.  I've even noticed a little bit of toning in my upper body, which I haven't seen since swimming in high school!

3.  Finish First Marathon - I got to check this off the goal list in September with the Akron Marathon.  If you want to hear how it went, check out my recap post!  And since I just couldn't wait, I already signed up for Pittsburgh in May.

4.  Increase Days of Running - With the training plan I followed for my marathon, I shifted from four days a week of mileage to five.  Though it took some getting use to some days, especially when I wanted to come home and be a couch potato, I found that most days turned out pretty well.

5.  Become a Running Group Regular - I never realized how many different things I have going on on Saturday mornings!  Something always seemed to come up on days when I planned to join SCRR for runs.  I still haven't given up on this goal, though, and plan to make full use of the weekend mornings to join in group runs.

With some time still left for the year, I haven't given up hope yet!

Happy running!

Friday, October 7, 2016

5 Signs of Running Withdrawal

Over the next few weeks, many runners will be crossing finish lines for their fall goal races.  And as is usually advised after completing a hard running effort, recovery is the next practical step to healing to body up from the pounding it endured.  However, as is unique about runners, the moment we take to relish our achievement is quickly followed up by a desire to begin our next training cycle or maintenance workouts.  We go through a sort of "running withdrawal."  So for this Friday Five, I'm linking up with Courtney at Eat Pray Run DC, Cynthia at You Signed Up for What, and Mar at Mar on the Run to give the five signs we're craving the trails while recovering.

1.  Vicarious running - Even though we are taking time off, our obsession with every other person's running progress seems become the highest priority.  We gobble up every Runner's World article and running books in addition to spending extra time analyzing our friends' training on Strava/Twitter/etc.   In some way, we live through the experience of others to meet our own need to hit the roads.

2.  Unhelpful Recovery Methods - Whether it's in an article online or instructions from a coach, taking time away from running after a major race is an important task.  However, we as runners also seem to have a propensity to sabotage our healing by engaging in other activities of similar intensity.  Even as I write this blog post I'm currently making my way to 20k steps for the day at a 2.5 mph pace on the treadmill.  Going any slower or shorter just felt wrong!

3.  Cluelessness Regarding Free Time - When an hour or two of every evening as well as weekend mornings are spent on the roads, this newfound free time leaves us a little stir crazy.  Suddenly the idea that we can have a "social life" is a real possibility.  We may even discover that there is a crowd who stays up later than 10pm.

4.  "The Ache" - Within every runner, there is an itch that can only be scratched by doing a workout.  This desire to run seems to intensify during periods of breaks.  We feel our legs twitch when we see a runner go by, especially when the weather is perfect for a few easy miles.  At moments like these, we realize running has become a part of our DNA.

5.  Planning Ahead - It's kind of crazy that the moment we stop running, we are already looking to the future for when we can head out again.  We mark our calendars and start signing up for races so those blank days on the training schedule feel complete.  Even those of us who procrastinate find ourselves making preparations.

What is your running withdrawal symptom?

Happy running!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Tuesdays on the Run: Bucket List Race

The theme for this week's Tuesdays on the Run with PattyErika, and Marcia is all about the bucket list race.  I've given some thought at different times about where I would love to run.  I've toyed with the idea of attempting to BQ (which, if I don't get any slower in the next 30 years, I could totally do by the time I'm 60!) or enter the lottery for Chicago or NYC.  At the same time, I've also been realistic about my aversion to huge crowds of people as well as being a little bit of a homebody.  With all this in mind, the one race that sits on my bucket list is the Pittsburgh Marathon.

Courtesy of Pittsburgh Marathon website
Besides a very short time after college, Pittsburgh has always been my hometown.  I know the different neighborhoods that make up the city and have run through a number of them.  I think this is one of the reasons for such a strong PR last year in the Pittsburgh Half Marathon (10 minutes!).

I've also found that races tend to be more fun with friends.  Since the race is local, several of us join in the Saturday 5K as a shake-out run followed by spending the afternoon at the expo.  And after the race on Sunday, we head to lunch to refuel and relax.  We make the most of race weekend!

In addition to those of us running, our families are able to come out and cheer us on.  During my marathon in Akron, my wife wasn't able to spectate due to our daughter being too young to be in large crowds.  Since this will no longer be the case in May, my wife is already planning the sign is she going to make!

Yes, I know, I'll be crossing it off this May and will then have to find a new bucket list race, but until then, it's going to sit on the list until I hit the finish line.

What is your bucket list race?

Happy running!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Akron Marathon Race Recap

Doing anything for the first time is always a learning experience, including running a marathon.  No matter how many 5Ks, 10Ks, or half marathons someone runs, these races never fully prepare you for those 26.2 miles.  The Akron Marathon tested both my physical and mental grit in ways other races never had and challenged me to find our my true limits.

Having never run an out-of-state race, I was anxious about a number of the details going into this event, including finding the Expo for packet pick-up, quality of sleep in a bed that wasn't my own, and looking for parking spaces race morning.  In addition to this stress, my body was still in recovery mode from a number of injuries.  With all these thoughts buzzing through my head, my focus was a tad scattered.

At 7AM on September 24th, I found myself standing before the start line of the Akron Marathon about to embark on a painful but rewarding adventure.  I was a little pressed for time, since the parking garage I chose had me a little further away from the start line than I had planned and I also wanted to make a quick bathroom stop before entering my corral.  I made it with a few minutes to spare, but at the expense of not really warming up like was my routine.  I lined up next to the 7:49 minute pacer choosing to start conservatively with the game plan being to pick up time in the second half to meet an average pace of 7:45.  At the sound of the horn we were off, surging along the blue line with 26.22 miles ahead.  

As the first mile blew by, I could feel that the pace seemed a little on the speedier side, to which my watch was no help since it was having problems picking up signal between the cloudy skies and tall buildings.  By mile two when I could get a more accurate pace reading, I found my suspicions to be true.  While I slowed down slightly, something in me wanted to keep pushing it.  I took on every hill with a vengeance doing my best to maintain the pace on the inclines.  What I didn't realize was that I was burning up more energy than I was consuming.  Once I crossed 13.1, I felt each step coming with a little more work.  In addition, my left knee began to feel stiff causing my form to adjust for the worse.

It was at at mile 17 that everything fell apart and I hit the "wall."  With each successive mile, I got progressively slower with walk breaks becoming more frequent.  In those long miles, I dug back into what I remembered learning from podcasts and articles about running marathons.  I convinced myself that if I walked through the water stations, I could then jog slowly to the next station.  I actually found that around mile 22 I gained a slight second wind that pushed me through the next few miles.

The end of the race was a blur both due to the sheer size of the crowd in the stadium as well as being exhausted.  In a daze, I accepted my medal and made my way to where the food and water was offered.  While not usually someone who eats right after a race due to GI issues, I didn't care one single bit as I scarfed down a slice of pizza.  It tasted so good (and I didn't get sick from it)!  It wasn't until I got back to the car that the reality set in as to what I had accomplished - I just finished a marathon!  While my time wasn't anywhere near my A goal (2:24) and was a little disappointed by this, I was still able to break four hours with a time of 3:46:59.  For a first marathon, I'm thinking that's not too bad!  

I'm currently taking two weeks off to rest and recover (something I've done pretty poorly in the past!) before I hit to roads again.  In running the EQT Pittburgh 10 miler in November, I'm planning to do it just for fun.  I'll then be setting my sights on the Pittsburgh Marathon in May where I'll tackle my second 26.2.  Especially with a new course currently being developed for this race, I'll intrigued what it will entail!

Happy running!

Friday, September 30, 2016

5 Summer Running Lessons

While I am loathe to admit it, summer is officially at a close and autumn is taking over.  With an end to the sunny season, now is as good a time as any to reflect on what can be learned from summer running.  For this Friday Five, I'm linking up with Courtney at Eat Pray Run DC, Cynthia at You Signed Up for What, and Mar at Mar on the Run.

1.  Run smart - As runners, we love to show our tenacity, our drive to push the limits of what was previously thought impossible.  While this amazing attribute has gotten many of us through those tough races, it can also result in ignoring common sense.  More than one run this summer, either due to heat or humidity (or both!), I should have called it quits early or cut way back.  If I had listened to my body in running by feel, fewer runs would have ended in pain and suffering.

2.  Hydrate - Dehydration is a sneaky little bugger.  It can happen quietly over time that, before we know it, we're panting like crazy for water.  Even if carrying a hydration pack or handheld seems unnecessary, it's better to be safe than sorry.  I found myself hurting for water more often than I should have.

3.  Early to bed, early to rise - Very rarely during the summer do the morning temps happen to be worse than the afternoon.  In stalling and ho-humming to the point the sun was high in the sky by the time I hit the road, crazy hot miles for the day were inevitable.  Setting the alarm a tad earlier and having everything laid out I need for the run makes all the difference in completing the workout before the day gets too toasty.

4.  Dress for success - Dark-colored clothing is the enemy of summer runners.  Choosing the wrong color turned me into a human Easy-Bake Oven on more than one occasion.  Instead, defaulting for "light and bright" from June to August both keeps me from sweltering as well as wakes up the driver who isn't use to looking for runners on the berm of the road.

5.  Enjoy it - Summer is an amazing time to just get out and enjoy the sport we love.  Focusing too much on all the factors that could (or did) sabotage my runs made me lose gratitude for what was around me during those miles.  Smelling the sweet scent of food on the grill, seeing all the vibrancy of the trees and flowers and hearing so many people out having fun allows me to take in so many things by just being.

How did your summer training go?  What have you learned from those many hot miles?

Happy running!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Akron Marathon Training: Week 18

Race week is finally here! When I signed up for the Akron Marathon back in February, it seemed so distant.  However, like so many things in life, time flew by as the Blue Line called to me.  Going into this last week of training, I wasn't exactly sure how things would turn out.  I still wasn't at 100% but I wasn't going to back down.

Monday-Wednesday: Rest Days - As I continued to let my body rest up, yoga was a part of each day's routine.

Thursday: 3 Miles - With only a few days to go, I knew I had to at least see how my body would react to hitting the pavement.  After a decent bit of walking and stretching, I set off to the aches and pains of tight muscles.  This tenseness, while uncomfortable, was not nearly as bad as I expected nor did it last the whole workout.  While the run was not long, it did give me some confidence in my ability to go 26.2, which had been lacking as of late.

Friday: Rest Day - In being an out-of-state race, I spent most of the afternoon traveling to a friend's house near the course.  After packet pick-up and an amazing dinner (the hamburger and quinoa were so good!), I hit the hay relatively early.  I slept surprisingly well considering I could feel my nerves starting to build!

Saturday: 26.2 Miles - Wow, to see that number typed out and in my running log still feels surreal.  The race did not go exactly as planned, but I made it to the finish line in one piece with a time of 3:46:59.  I'll be posting a recap of the race in full shortly, so stay tuned!

With that, the journey to my first marathon is complete!  Some runs went better than others, but that is all a part of the experience.  I'm planning on taking the next two weeks to recover - my body has made it very clear that it needs it!  After that time, I'll be gearing up for the EQT 10 Miler in November and the Pittsburgh Marathon in May.

Thank you for following my adventure to Akron and happy running!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Akron Marathon Training: Week 17

While this post is an update on my training, I sadly don't have a whole lot to document from this week of workouts.  As I had commented last week, my right glute and left knee hadn't responded well to the 12 miler.  And the truth is, things only got worse.

Monday & Tuesday - Rest Days: Getting out of bed Monday morning neither leg felt back to normal.  The swelling in my knee had decreased but it was still warm to the touch.  My glute had shown even less progress as each time I lifted my right leg I could still feel the tightness and pain.  I decided at this point that even if I couldn't be out on the roads, I still needed to keep my legs in shape.  Yoga became my alternative to the miles - while not a perfect exchange, I wasn't going to just let myself sit idly on the couch.

Wednesday - 4 Miles - I decided to go for a trial run after having taken the previous few days off.  By all accounts, I found out pretty early on that my injuries had not yet healed.  My pace felt sluggish as I couldn't use the full range of motion of either leg.  The one advantage was that I could determine where specifically the pain was radiating from and focus on stretching/foam rolling the trouble areas.

Thursday - Sunday - Rest Days: After Wednesday's run, I figured it was in my best interest to take additional time off.  I continued to get out the foam roller daily and spent time in some much-needed yoga poses.  Each day things have gotten a little better.

With the Blue Line only a week away, I'm still not entirely sure how I'll feel on race day.  I've already made the choice to show up to the starting line and do my best.  If I earn my first DNF that day, oh well!  At this point I'm either ready for 26.2 or not - I'll know soon enough!

Happy running!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Akron Marathon Training: Week 16

Each day ticks away and each day takes me closer to the Blue Line!  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and its got me really excited.  Now just to survive these next two weeks of easy training and marathon #1 will be under my belt!

Monday: 3.1 Miles - I decided to begin the week with speed work due to both time constrains and how the rest of the week was looking.  Alteration 200s between 5K and Tempo pace was a tad of a challenge with no access to a track, but improvising worked just a well!

Tuesday: Rest Day

Wednesday: 4 Miles - To say this run was "not ideal" would be an understatement.  The humidity lately has been a beast to deal with and this day was no exception.  I had planned on going for 8 miles, but knew in the back of my mind that the weather was not exactly agreeable to it.  This was affirmed by about the first half mile when I found myself having difficulty breathing and muscles tiring already.  My pace was also not up to par with what is generally my norm.

Thursday: 2.2 Miles - The weather was a little more forgiving during this hill repeat workout.  I was able to finish the run pretty quickly, but did notice that my right glute was a little more sore than normal.  I didn't give much thought to it, which was probably a mistake.

Friday: Rest Day

Saturday: 12 Miles - Today marked the two-week point until race day.  I started my run nice and early figuring that it was going to be a toasty day later on.  What I didn't consider was the ugliness of the dew point and humidity that was already present in the air.  I found that no matter how hard I pushed I just couldn't hit my normal paces.  If anything, I seemed to be making my body break down faster by not slowing down like I should have.  When I finished my run, both my right glute and left knee didn't feel right.  By the time I went to bed, my knee had swollen and I could barely lift my right leg enough to get into bed.  This didn't bode well...

Sunday: Rest Day

I survived speed workouts, the crazy long runs, and a hot training season, and it's during the taper that I now find myself injured.  Go figure!  I've pulled back big-time from what my training plan said in the hopes that everything will heal in time.  Maybe my body just needs a few days to recoup so all well be better!

Happy running!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Akron Marathon Training: Week 15

It's taper time!  Going forward, my mileage will be slowly decreasing so I'm raring to go on race day.  Until then, though, a few more speed workouts and long runs await me.

Monday: 9 Miles - Speed work for me usually entails fast paces and short distances.  This workout threw me for a little bit of a tizzy then since the first 5 miles were to be run progressively with the last 4 being at tempo pace.  Unexpectedly, this type of run played to my favor since by the time I reached the second half of the workout, I felt warmed up and ready to take on the faster pace.

Tuesday: 8 Miles - For being a recovery day, I once again took this run too hard.  Once I finished, I made a mental note to not repeat this mistake on my next easy workout.  For having a watch that can track my pace, you'd think I would have better control over my speed!

Wednesday: 9.17 Miles - Looking at the workout for this day made me cringe slightly.  The run was to consist of alternating miles between tempo pace and marathon pace with 2 minutes of recovery in between.  In not having any flat routes that can last this distance, I knew I'd have to push it up the hills to keep the pace.  Like Monday, I was surprised in the end to have actually done well with the workout - I guess these past weeks of training have started paying off!

Thursday: 4 Miles - As I had decided on Tuesday, I kept this recovery run a little closer to the prescribed pace.  Especially as race day approaches, I keep reminding myself that recovery is just as important as the hard runs.

Friday: Rest Day

Saturday: 16 Miles - Wow did this run take more out of me than it should have!  I'll be honest - out of laziness, I decided not to take my water bottles with me for these miles since I figured I'd be running near water fountains and could just hydrate there.  What I didn't consider was how quickly the temperature was going to skyrocket nor the stickiness of using Swedish Fish for fuel.  While I wouldn't say I suffered major dehydration, it was definitely have been a better workout with a little more water.

Sunday: Rest Day

In looking back at this week, I'd say training went pretty well.  The weather was mostly cooperative (a light reprieve from the heat has been amazing!) allowing me to run at pace and get all my workouts in.  I've been resisting the urge to look up the long-range forecast for race day figuring that, unless its dangerous, I'll be taking on all 26.2 regardless of what Mother Nature may send!

Happy running!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Akron Marathon Training: Week 14

With this week of training, I hit the official one month mark until the Akron Marathon.  I've also reached the quintessential workout of any marathon training  - the 22 mile long run.  Because this week held a run I had never done before, I knew things would be interesting.

Monday: Rest Day

Tuesday: 8 Miles - I've gotten into the habit doing my long recovery run at the beginning of the week.  It allows me to know that the remainder of the week I will be spending a little less time on the roads.  I was pretty happy with my pace and felt decent for the duration of the workout.

Wednesday: 4 Miles - In being slightly nervous about the long run at the end of the week and always seeming to pull something when I do speed work, I decided to still do the total distance for the workout but run it at a comfortable pace.  I was also in the process of breaking in a new pair of Brooks Ravenna 7's.

Thursday: 4 Miles - I slowed this recovery run slightly so it was more in line with what my training plan suggested.  One of my big tendencies is not treating workouts for what they are intended to be.  By dialing the pace back a bit, I knew I would benefit from the easy miles.

Friday: 4 Miles - As I began this run, a thought occurred to me - my rest days were probably not the best planned for the week.  Especially in leading up to my long run, I probably should not have run for four straight days before it.  On the other hand, the lack of a break meant that I'd be running 26 miles within a 24 hour period, which may work to my benefit.  I'll know soon enough if it was!

Saturday: 22 Miles - The workout that I had heard the most about from marathon veterans had finally arrived - the longest run of the training cycle.  I had spent the week thinking about where I would run knowing that I needed both access to water fountains and a good bit of shade.  After tossing around a few ideas, I ended up just staying local since I knew where I could get water as well as was close to home in case the workout turned south.  Overall, the miles went really well!  By the time I finished, my legs were a bit worse for wear but I felt great.  This run gave me the confidence that I can go 26.2 and maybe even clock a decent time.

Sunday: Rest Day

Starting next week the taper takes over.  I'm sure I'll be feeling the "taper crazies" but I will also be able to get a little extra sleep (which has been in a bit of short supply since the little one came).  As these last weeks tick away, I'll also be trying out some new nutrition routines to see what will work best for race day.  I'm thinking that even if the weather is great, GI issues can sabotage all the hard work.  No plans to let that happen!

Happy running!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Akron Marathon Training Update

No, I have not fallen off of the face of the Earth!  However, a time of year for teachers that is slightly less hectic that September to May turned into a flurry of unexpected surprises both good and bad.  To keep things simple, I figured I'd give a "cliff notes" version of the ups and downs from the past two months.

July was one of those months when my training just clicked.  I felt great and was hitting mileage numbers I never imagined year ago I could have accomplished.  At the same time, the major hurdle I had to overcome during these weeks was the heat.  Wow has it been hot and humid!  I found myself either have to go out early in the morning or just prior to sunset in order to avoid the sweltering sunshine.  I made the mistake once of starting a long run too late and has to abandon it before even reaching the halfway point.  It was a great lesson in humility and recognizing that "pushing through" has its limits.

While July was a full, strong month of training, August was a completely different story.  The month started out with some IT band issues that sidelined me for four days.  My first run back from the minor injury was a local race - a 5K that became a 6K after getting lost on the course.  I still placed second (woohoo!) and got to catch up with a friend I hadn't seen in a while.

Following this race, running was placed on hold for a week due to an unexpected event - our daughter decided to come a few weeks early!  She is perfect in every way (I'm a little biased!) and has brought so much joy to our lives in the few weeks since she was born.  While I know life will never be the same, I'm excited for what is to come next.

Now, as you can imagine or know from personal experience, sleep with an infant is at a premium.  Add on to this the fact that I knew that I had to get in a few miles to get myself back on track for marathon training.  So, in a slightly sleep-deprived stupor, I laced up my Brooks for a 4 mile easy run.  I don't know if it was "new dad" endorphin or what but the workout felt amazing!  The sporadic-ness of my August running may have been just what my body needed to recover for the final weeks of training.

In less than a month, I will be meeting the Blue Line and 26.2 for the first time.  Excitement and nervousness are taking turns occupying my thoughts.  Either way, the race will be here soon enough, so I am going to make the most of the time I have left whatever may come!

Happy running!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Akron Marathon Training: Week 6

While the past five weeks were relatively predictable regarding training, this week was an odd one.  The reason for this is fairly simple - I joined my students on a mission trip building houses, feeding those people in need, and having fun.  The days were long and sleep was in short demand, but I wouldn't have changed a thing!

Monday: 5.5 Miles - A number of the students who attended the mission trip are on the school's cross country team and were adamant about needing to run during the week.  In being in an area that is not necessarily safe as well as relatively unknown to them, I told the students they could only do their workouts if I joined them.  Dang was it hard, but I loved it!  The guys kept pushing the pace, which was made even harder by the fact that any direction we ran was either uphill or downhill.  Even though I was pretty sleep-deprived, the endorphins woke me up and kept me going throughout the day.

Tuesday: Rest Day

Wednesday: 6 Miles - Though we had two hard days of work in, our numbers for this run actually grew!  Weaving up and down various streets, we remained relatively close to our housing to prevent getting lost.  While the pace was slightly slower during this workout, we trudged on at a decent clip.

Thursday: Rest Day

Friday: 3.5 Miles - By this day, I think we were all worn out.  Where on Wednesday, we had 7 or 8 people out running, for this final workout of the mission trip the number dropped to two (the student in charge of waking everyone accidentally shut off his alarm - whoops!).  I was really proud of the one student who pushed on through the miles even though she isn't on the cross country team.  While the opportunity to run with my students is rare, I'm always glad to share my joy of the sport with them.

Saturday: 5 Miles - To say I was tired while running this workout would be an understatement.  After arriving home in the early afternoon, I knew I still wanted to get a run in.  My only goal during these miles was to finish them, so mission accomplished.  I figured after a good night's sleep, I'd be back to my old self.

Sunday: 10 Miles - Though I knew I was not fully recovered from the mission trip, I still took on the long run for the week.  I'm not sure what caused it, but I was flying during this run.  I looked at my watch at one point and realized I was actually running my marathon pace - guess I know I can do it!  I was sore by the end of the workout, but invigorated at how well I handled the mileage increase this week.

At this point, I'm a third of the way done with my training cycle.  Only 12 more weeks and I'll be running the Blue Line in Akron.  I know that some much longer runs await me, but here I come!

Happy running!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Akron Marathon Training: Week 5

A full month has passed since I started training for the Akron Marathon - crazy!  While things have not gone perfectly, I'm starting to get into the routine of five days running and two for recovery.  I think I may just stick with this training pattern for future races.

Monday: Rest Day

Tuesday: Speed Work - With the local track still closed for refurbishing, I continue to be relegated to the park loop for any and all speed work.  While I don't mind running there, especially since I was doing 800 repeats, the course does present two challenges: slight incline and geese.  The small hills make running at mile pace a little difficult, but add on to that the fact that the geese like to occupy the pathway with an obligatory hiss toward anyone who approaches.  I had to do some improvising to make do while accepting that all that could be asked of me was my best.  On a positive note, an older gentleman saw I was struggling with the water fountain and offered me a cold water - sweet!

Wednesday: 4 Miles - Like most runners, I tend to follow the same course on recovery days since I know the distance landmarks by heart and don't have to think too much about where I'm going.  Because of this repetition, I've become accustom to where the various canines are along the route.  However, one of my fears, even when I prepare myself for the barking that will ensue near particular houses, is that the dogs will not be leashed leading them to give chase as I go by.  Well, this was one of those runs in which that took place.  Even though her owner was with her outside, the dog still barked and bolted up to the berm of the road coming within a few feet of me.  And for the record, saying, "She just wants to play!" does not do anything to ease a runner's anxiety that the dog may attack.  When situations like this happen, I have gotten into the habit of walking until the dog is out of sight.  While it may mess with my pace a bit, it seems to keep the canines from following me.

Thursday: 8 Miles - As always, the long run for the week is my favorite.  As the mileage continues to increase, I've started to piece together various routes to meet the workout distance.  In some ways, this is a reason for why I enjoy these runs since they change up the routine.  I just need to work on pacing as I've finished these workouts more out of breath and tired than I should be.

Friday - 4 Miles - For this recovery run, I chose one of my "flatter" (relatively speaking) routes.  Though courses that involve turns and change of scenery are great, sometimes a straight path out and back is nice.

Saturday - Speed Work - Well, the time had finally come for my first fartlek workout.  The routine was fairly simple going from 1-3 minutes alternating easy and hard effort.  After completing the rotation twice, I was pretty wiped!  But, I guess that's the goal of these workouts!

Sunday: Rest Day

Another great week in the books!  Now, next week is going to be a little different due to a major change in routine.  More details to follow in the Week 6 recap.

Happy running!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Akron Marathon Training: Week 4

Training for a race is a balance between pushing hard to obtain a PR and making good choices on when to pull back to regroup.  This week of training has been about following a favorite Latin phrase of mine: tantum quantum.  Roughly translated, it means "as far as," which, when applied, recommends a person use a technique or practice as much as it is helpful.  And if it doesn't work, don't use it!  While simple, it's an effective way to make a training plan personal and apply to my own situation.

Monday-Tuesday: Cross-training - As I had decided on Sunday, I was going to spend the following days working on my strength, flexibility and recovery.  While yoga isn't the most high-energy activity, it can cause you to break a sweat!  I've also discovered areas of my body that I rarely stretch, but need to get into the habit of addressing.

Wednesday: 7 Miles Biking - In other exciting news, I finally have a bike AND a way to transport it - yay!  After taking more time than it probably should have to hook the bike rack up to the car, my wife and I headed down to the Three Rivers Heritage Trail.  While not moving at an exceedingly fast pace (one of us is currently 6 months pregnant!), we followed the trail down to Point State Park to sit by the fountain for a bit.  As lunchtime approached, we decided to head back to the car, though did make a mental note to visit the Strip District for lunch on our next pedaling adventure.

Thursday: 4 Miles - Like many runners, one of the final things I do before going to bed is to look at the following day's weather forecast to figure out when it would be best to run.  In having been woken up during the night by torrential rain and thunder and knowing that a similar fate was predicted for the daylight hours, I attempted to time my workout for the two hours between storms.  I made it as far as finishing my warm-up before the rain started coming and the thunder rolling.  I was then relegated to the treadmill for the remainder of the workout.  All in all, things felt pretty good in light of my return to training.

Friday: 10 Miles - Of any type of workout, long runs are my favorite; going the distance at an easy pace just feels right.  As I warmed up for my run, my legs felt light and loose with each step being smooth.  The miles seemed to melt by as I made my way around the loop course twice.  The only thing I still need to figure out is a good energy source - tried another energy chew brand but still didn't like it.

Saturday: 6 Miles - In not feeling like hills, I chose a route that would be relaxing so I could recover from the previous day's workout.  While I was in the midst of my workout, I went past a large group of people who I assumed were hikers based on their gear.  Though I was a little confused, I did Google the place where I saw them only to discover that where I live apparently has an entire conservancy dedicated to exploring the Western PA trails.  Cool!  I may just have to join them one day.

Sunday: Speed Work - We all know how I feel about speed work.  For how much I despise it, I suck it up and get it done.  The workout began and ended with a mile at tempo pace with two 800s at 5K pace in the middle.  I guess the one benefit of speed workouts is that they don't last too long.

While the week didn't start out ideal, I'd say that things turned in my favor as training resumed.  I am sure that at some point in my running future I will make a mistake like I did last week, but I'm confident that it's possible to get back on track with a little common sense.

Happy running!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Akron Marathon Training: Week 3

Some training cycles start off great and just keep getting better.  Others, however, require a healthy dose of "It'll get better!" and "This is only one race of many!".  Week 3 of training can best be characterized as a set-back week and a reminder that the human body does have limits, regardless of how much of running is a mental game.

Monday: 6 Miles - The first run of this week started off pleasantly well.  The weather was amazing, my legs felt light, and I was changing up my routine a bit as to where I was going to run.  Things seemed to be going so great that when I looked at my watch after completing the first mile, I thought that maybe it was broken since the split was way faster than I normally run.  Not giving a whole lot of thought to it and just pushing on, I continued with negative splits until mile 5.  As I was booking it at the end of the workout, I suddenly felt a pull in the back of my leg between my heel and calf.  Ouch!  While I didn't feel or hear a pop, I could tell by the pain that it also not just a cramped muscle.  When I finally got home, I realized that I had somehow strained my Achilles, which is a first in my running career.  I immediately went for the ice pack hoping that the tenderness would subside and all would be good the next day.

Tuesday: 3 Miles - I think when a person starts running, the section of the brain that contains common sense gets lost amid speedwork split times and route locations.  When I woke up Tuesday morning, my Achilles felt tight and sore resulting in a slight change in my gait when walking.  Nevertheless, I packed my running bag since I was planning on doing my workout between various meetings.  As I started my run and progressed through it, the dull ache in the back of my leg grew more pronounced with each mile.  While the pain never reached a point where I needed to walk, going downhill was not a pleasant experience.  I made a mental note at that point to listen to my body regarding what it could handle, even after a minor injury.

Wednesday-Thursday: Rest Days - After my flub of running with an injury, I decided to take two days off.  My run from Tuesday seemed to have aggravated the tendon a bit more than I had realized.  I spent the days icing and that's about it.  A little bit of laziness also seemed to have crept in, since the small voice in the back of my head that was telling me to at least do a little bit of strength training and stretching was drowned out by Netflix.  Bad decision...

Friday: 5 Miles - In always looking for the silver lining, I can say with certainty that I really enjoyed this run for the fact that I got to do it with my brother-in-law who was visiting us for a few days.  He is currently getting ready for his first season of cross country (he's much younger than my wife), so we had a great time talking all things running.  However, outside of this experience, the workout was down-right ugly.  In looking back, I'm thinking a few things contributed to this.  First, the decision to run at 4:00pm in summer is never a good thing.  Second, I had been pushing my body way too hard.  In looking at my mileage from the previous week, including in it my warm-up and cool-down miles, I had logged 37 miles - that's 12 more miles than I had done the week before!  And third, my diet was way off.  As someone who has recently been working toward a mostly plant-based diet (though I do enjoy my meats!), the fruits and veggies were lacking during mealtime.  In some ways, I think my body shifted itself into survival mode.  I really knew the workout was bad when my wife even commented how terrible I looked at the end of the run!

Saturday: 4 Miles - My hope for this workout was to redeem myself from the mess of the day before.  While I did do better, my Achilles was really starting to hurt and my legs were swinging all over the place.  You could say I supplemented this workout with cross-training - the lawn really need cut and rain was in the forecast so out the mower came!

Sunday: Rest Day - My plan for this day was going to go one of two ways - either a run or recovery.  After some consultation with my body, taking a little bit of time off was in order.  I figured that until I let my muscles recover and my Achilles fully heal, I was making myself more prone to injury and also wasn't allowing those parts of me that were hurting to get any better.  I did make a commitment though that unlike earlier in the week, I would spend time each of the next four days doing the following: icing, foam rolling, yoga, and strength training.  While not the same as a run, I've come to appreciate the value of each of these secondary aspects of running.

At this point, a part of me keeps thinking, "Only 15 weeks until the big race!  That's like three months and I'm so unprepared!"  I think this panic is what led me to push too hard these past two weeks.  I've since come to terms with the fact that there is still time between now and the marathon, and that I'm in better shape now that I have been in a long time.  I also need to give myself a daily reminder that the reason I run is because I enjoy it, regardless of what time is on the watch or if I meet a goal.

Happy running!