My Work is Done Here

May 13, 2014 by

My Work is Done Here

PostsPhotoIt has been six months since I last posted.  Work, home life and some new interests have really done a number on my running motivation and time for writing.  I had pretty much made up my mind to let the blog fade away, but a couple of loose ends need to be tied.

First, something keeps bugging me. Like many bloggers, I use a platform called WordPress to create my site.  WordPress provides a mobile app for editing the site and checking usage statistics.  Everytime I check my stats, there’s one number that I see that bugs me.  Its the 99 in the graphic to the right.

That 99 is the number of posts I’ve made on the blog.  Like many runners, I cannot end a run on a .9, meaning if I’ve run 9.9, then I must go until the watch says 10.0.  So, I’ll carry this over to my posts, I’m not going to end on 99.  As soon as I post this, it will turn to 100.  There, that’s better.

There’s also another reason for one last post.  If you’ve followed my blog, you know I didn’t reach my Boston Marathon qualifying goal last year and that’s pretty much where the blog stopped.  I didn’t want to drop the blog on a low note.  If you’re practicing putts or free throws, you don’t end on a miss.  I’ll apply the same rule to blogging.

The Final Story

I’ve been a runner for just over five years.  I’ve probably put way too much time, effort and money into it.  I’ve run 41 races, including six road marathons and one ultra-marathon.  Turns out, I’m just a mediocre runner speed-wise (statistics don’t lie), and I’m OK with that (mostly 🙂 ).  The best outcome from my running, though, is not the marathon finishers’ medals or the life lessons about persistence, but it’s the affect running has made on my son.

Five years ago, an eleven year-old boy started following me around the neighborhood during my runs.  I’d have to slow down and wait a good bit, but he kept at it.  Soon, he could run 5K with me, and we entered a small local race.  I figured at age 11, he’d have a chance for an age group medal and perhaps get hooked.  That whole positive reinforcement thing.  Well, that actually worked.  He won his age group that day and kept it up.  He started high school cross country in 7th grade and now cycles and swims, too.  He has a better work ethic than I ever did.

Now, after five years,  the roles are reversed.  He has to slow down and let me catch up when we run together. I’m 100% OK with that.  This past weekend, I entered us in another small local race, the Poultry Festival 5K.  I figured it was a good chance for him to finally win an overall title, and I might have a chance at an age group victory (I’ve had two in five years!).

Sometimes, things don’t work out the way you planned.  Oh, he got his first victory, but something unexpected happened.   You see, most races have a Masters division for the over 40 crowd.  It never occurred to me that might be an option for me in this race.  Wouldn’t you know, though, seconds after they announced my son as overall winner, they announced me as the Masters winner.  How about that.  Two first victories on the same day.  Is my work is done here or is it only beginning?

 

2014 Poultry Festival 5K Champs. Overall and Masters.

2014 Poultry Festival 5K Champs. Overall and Masters.

POFIFOTO and thanks for reading,

Greg

 

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POFIFOTO! Redux

Dec 17, 2013 by

POFIFOTO! Redux

If you’ve ever subscribed to a magazine, you know that after some period of time, the articles start looking vaguely familiar.  That’s because they repeat.  You know that.  Well, below is a repeat of a posting I made in July of 2011.  I think it was the fourth post I ever made, and I don’t think many people saw it.  That is one reason I am posting it again.

Another reason I am re-posting is this may be the most important lesson I have learned in the last few years.  Wish I’d known it 30 years ago.  Turns out the advice can be applied to almost any goal, running related or not.

So, in the next few weeks, as you ponder resolutions and 2015 goals, think about this:  Just start.  It is not enough to dream.  You’ve got to do something.  Start small, and keep making small steps toward your goal.  You may be surprised where you end up.

Hope you enjoy the repeat:

POFIFOTO! (First published July 2011)

Put One Foot In Front of the Other

Put One Foot In Front of the Other

In my favorite part of the Rankin-Bass Christmas classic Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, Kris Kringle gives Winter Warlock a gift, melting his icy persona and eliminating Winter’s magic powers. Now faced with having to walk, Winter doesn’t know what to do. Kris gives this simple instruction, “Put one foot in front of the other” – or POFIFOTO for short.

So it is with running. Just start. Put on some shoes (or not) and hit the sidewalk, road, trail beach or treadmill. Wherever. It doesn’t matter. Don’t make excuses.

Now, more than likely, if you have never been a runner or if it has been a long time since you ran, you are not going to be able to run very long. That is OK. Your running muscles need time to build up.

So, start small. To borrow from baseball lingo, just start hitting singles. Don’t worry about a home run yet. Try something like this: for the next 5 days walk for 5 minutes to warm up, then run for 10 minutes. Finish with 5 minute walk cool down. Even if you were able to run the entire 10 minutes (unlikely), stop at 10, and finish up with the 5 minute walk. If you are not sore the next day, go for 12-15 minutes of running. It is highly like your feet and calves will be talking to you, though. If it is too painful, skip the run for the day and go for a bike ride. Then, try again the next day. At the end of the five days, take a day or two rest. Now commit to another 5 days, and increase the running to 15 minutes, still walking to warm up and cool down.

If you cannot run 10 minutes (I couldn’t at first!), then try something like this. Walk for 5 minutes, run 1 minute. Repeat this for 20-30 minutes. The next time out, increase the run time and decrease the the walk time. Follow this for a few weeks. It won’t be long before you’ll be running 20-30 minutes non stop.

Here are 3 keys to successful running start

1. Start slowly. Give your out of shape feet and legs time to build strength.

2. Consistency. Commit to 3 – 4 runs a week or try every other day. You be surprised how much you’ll progress in a month.

3. Variety. Sure, running can be boring, but it doesn’t have to be. Change your surroundings. If you run on a treadmill, get outside. If you run on the street, try a trail run. Invite a friend or your kids to go with you. Just mix it up!

Get started today!

POFIFOTO!

 

 

 

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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year…Not!

Dec 4, 2013 by

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year…Not!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

With the kids jingle belling

And everyone telling you “Be of good cheer”

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

-Andy Williams, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

This week, one of my favorite local radio stations changed its format to full time Christmas music until the big day.  This irks me, but that’s a different story.

When I do hear Andy’s song, I have to disagree.  If you’re a runner, this is a terrible time of year.

It is dark.

It is cold.

It is wet.

Stink.

Stank.

Stunk.

So, what is a runner to do?

Three choices come to mind:

  1. Hibernate until spring
  2. Hit the treadmill
  3. Suck it up

As you probably figured, number one is not an option for me.  It is tempting, especially since I feel like going to bed at 8:30pm ever since we moved the clocks back to standard time.

As for a treadmill, I have done my share of miles there.   Five years ago this month, my running journey started by dusting off the old treadmill in the garage and running a minute or two at a time in between walk breaks.  So, I’m not totally anti-treadmill.  They have their place.

This year, though, I’m going to try to avoid the ‘mill as much as possible.    This might be as much of a mental test as a physical one.  Here are some strategies I’ll use to beat the elements:

1. Gear up.  Unlike the very early days of my running, I’m much more prepared for the cold.  Gloves, caps, long running pants, jackets.  I have it all now.  One thing I don’t have yet, though, is a headlamp for better night running.   Maybe Santa is reading.

2. Warm up inside first.  During the warm months, I almost always warm up with a mile walk.   Now, I’ll do 10-15 minutes on the exercise bike before heading out.  Then I can hit the ground running and it doesn’t seem as cold.

3.  Shorter workouts.  Blasphemy, I know.  I usually don’t run outside during my lunch trip to the gym.  This week, though, I did an easy 10 minute warm up, then 20 minutes of quarter mile intervals on a short road beside the gym.  Sure, it wasn’t ideal, but I was outside in the daylight!

4.  The Brick.  This is actually a combination of numbers 2 and 3.    I use this in place of my long run on very cold sunny days.  I’ll ride the exercise bike for 45 minutes to an hour then head out for a similar length run.  The workout isn’t shorter, but the length of time outside is.

5.  Hit the trails.  Running trails might not help much with cold, but if it is wooded, the trees will block a lot of wind.  Also, the scenery might take your mind off the elements.

Hope this helps.

POFIFOTO!

Frost on my head at the 2013 Harbison 50K

Frost on my head at the 2013 Harbison 50K. Brrr.

 

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2013 Outer Banks Race Report

Nov 18, 2013 by

2013 Outer Banks Race Report

OBXBib On November 10, 2013, I ran the Gateway Bank Outer Banks Marathon.  This write up is a report on my performance.  I trained using the 3:25:00 Boston Qualifier plan outlined in the book Run Less Run Faster.  You can find summaries of those workouts here.

If I can find some time, I may do an additional report on the actual event.  Two thumbs up is the short version on the event, though.

Finally There

At 7:10am on Sunday, November 10, after 16 weeks of focused training and no less than 77 workouts, I was finally at the starting line for the Outer Banks Marathon.  Despite only four hours of sleep before the race and waking at 4am (had to eat and then catch the shuttle to the start), I actually felt good and ready to run.  The air temperature was about 50 degrees and the forecast was perfect.  I removed my “donation” pull over and laid it on the ground beside the starting corrals.  At 7:20am, the elites started and thirty seconds later, my corral was off and running (no elite corral for me :-)).

I’d trained to run the race at a 7:49 pace, and I really wanted to make sure I didn’t start too fast.  If there’s one lesson I keep learning the hard way over and over again, it is ‘Do not start too fast!‘.  If I could hold the target for the first twenty miles, I’d try to run the last six at a faster pace.  Thanks to my GPS watch, I could see I was too fast about the first half mile, so I slowed down.  I hit the first split at 7:47.

After a faster second mile at 7:42, I worked a little harder to slow it down.  Third mile, 8:00.  That put me right on 7:49, I see sawed up and down for a few miles, but through mile seven, I was right on track.

I had a problem, though.  This early in the race, I expected to still be feeling good having to dial it back as in my last few training runs, but I was struggling.  My heart rate was too high for this early, and I was having to push too hard to keep my goal pace.  This was not good.  We weren’t even to the off road section yet, where I expected to have to give extra effort.

The first trail hill

The first trail hill

As we entered the off road section at around mile ten, I was still hanging in there, right at a 7:50 pace.  The first two miles of the dirt road, didn’t seem too bad.  The ground was pretty firm, but fairly undulating.  The scenery was nice.  I managed 7:54 for mile eleven and 8:08 for mile twelve.  At about mile 12.5, we turned off the dirt road onto the real trail section.  It was straight up a short, steep hill, then up and down hills for about a half mile.  I didn’t think it was all that much different than the Harbison Forest trails I run occasionally.   We exited the woods and my mile thirteen split was 9:19.  Ouch.  Overall pace per mile had slipped to 7:58.

Doing the Math

Now, I’m not a math genius by any means, but I knew this meant I’d have to run around 7:40 miles the rest of the way to meet my goal.  I tried to ramp it up a bit.  Mile fourteen was 7:42.  OK, not bad.  Mile fifteen was 7:44.  Not horrible, but I still wasn’t finding a groove, though.  Mile sixteen proved to be a struggle at 8:15.  I gave one last super effort on mile seventeen for a 7:50, but that was the last I’d even come close to goal pace.

Mile eighteen was 8:15, and I officially hit the wall during mile nineteen, coming in with an 8:55.  After that, I just resorted to ‘just finish’ mode, running as much as possible but having to walk every so often.  I felt terrible.

The most brutal of the last six miles was mile 23, which included the bridge.  I had an awful 11:14 for this mile.  After that, I did manage to close with increasingly faster miles of 10:28, 10:20, and 9:28.

My official finishing time was 3:42:30, an 8:30/mile pace.  Believe it or not, this was a PR for me by 5 minutes and 10 minutes faster than my spring marathon this year.  I was 14th of 76 in my age group and 125th out of 1,112 overall.

Official results can be found here: http://www.precisionrace.com/outer-banks-marathon-results/

Here’s a chart of my split times.  The blue line is the actual times. The dotted line is the goal, and the red line is the pace average.  Unfortunately, this chart follows a similar pattern to my other marathons.

Splits Graph

Splits Graph

Conclusion

So what happened?  How did I end up 17 minutes off my goal.   That’s quite a miss.   I wish I knew. I did run less and did run faster.  After all, it was a PR.  Am I happy with that?  Honestly, no.  It is a character flaw, I guess.  Mr. Malcontent.

My training success seemed to indicate I’d be much closer to the goal.  I really expected to be on track the first twenty miles and then possibly struggle to a 9 minute pace over the last six miles, if I hit the wall.  That would be a 3:31-ish worst case.

My best explanation is the long trip up the day before (complete with broken down car and emergency car rental at the Fayetteville, NC airport) and lack of rest the night before really hurt more than I expected.  I suppose the extra effort required on the trail section didn’t help, but it wasn’t any worse than the hills around my house where I trained.  Everything else seemed to be on track – training, weather, nutrition.  Maybe I’m just slow.  Who knows.  I guess stuff does happen.

So what’s next?  Not sure about that, either.  I’m contemplating the next move.  I do know, however, I will NOT wear a Batman shirt for my next race.  What seemed like a fun idea at the time turned a bit annoying by the end of the day as I received way more than my share of Go, Batman!, along with chants of the old TV show theme song and one old guy pointing out his Chuckie T high tops with Batman logos.  It was fun high-fiving the little kids, though.

Batman at the Finish

Batman at the Finish

POFIFOTO!

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Race Preview: 2013 Outer Banks Marathon

Nov 7, 2013 by

Race Preview: 2013 Outer Banks Marathon

OBXLogoHey, guess what?  I’m running the Outer Banks Marathon on Sunday, November 1oth.  If you’ve read my posts over the past four months, then you are probably tired of hearing about my preparation.  I understand. I am certainly tired of training!  Here’s some information on what I’ll be facing on Sunday.

Why Outer Banks?

After my disappointing second half on the killer hills of  last March’s Columbia Marathon, I decided I wanted to go back to the coast for a flat marathon.  My personal best was at Myrtle Beach in 2011.  I also wanted a fall race, where most training would be in the summer heat, but race day would be cooler.  This is the opposite of spring races where I’ve trained in the cold only to be hit with too warm conditions late in the race.

So, given those requirements, a few close races meet the mark.  There is Kiawah Island near Charleston, SC in December.  Also, there are two November races, Savannah (Georgia) Rock ‘n Roll and Outer Banks, North Carolina.  I decided Kiawah was too close to Christmas and, besides, I’d done it once.  So, that left the other two.  Despite not visiting Savannah in quite some time, I decided to go to Outer Banks, where I’ve never visited.

The Course

The course is a point to point layout, mostly north to south.  At least it is not a double loop. We’ll start in Kitty Hawk and end with trip over the Washington-Baum bridge into Manteo for the finish.  Here’s a picture, courtesy of TazRunning.com:

OBXCourse

For a slideshow tour of the course, click here: http://obxrunners.appspot.com/route/agpvYnhydW5uZXJzcgsLEgVSb3V0ZRgBDA/play

For videos of the sections of the course by Village Realty, click here: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLC0DEB5774A8B363B

Elevation Changes

While the course is extremely flat compared to the Columbia Marathon and my usual training routes, there are two spots that will make it harder for me to reach my goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.  The first is around mile 10.  The course organizers decided to showcase some local trails and threw in about a 5K’s worth of cross country running.  The first 2 to 2.5 miles of this appears to be on hard packed dirt roads, but we take a turn about the 12.5 mark onto mulch covered sand dunes trails.  Hmmm.  Sounds like quicksand to me.

Mulch Trail

Mulch Trail
Image Courtesy of Thea Ganoe

The second point of concern is around the 22-23 mile mark, the Washington-Baum bridge over Roanoke Sound.  On the elevation map, it is barely a blip, but at mile 23 it will seem like Mount Everest.

Washington-Baum Bridge. Image Courtesy of Thea Ganoe

Washington-Baum Bridge.
Image Courtesy of Thea Ganoe

 

Here’s the elevation map for the entire course (courtesy of FindMyMarathon.com):

Elevation Map

Elevation Map – Courtesy of FindMyMarathon.com

Weather

Looks like my plan for perfect running weather is looking good.  I run best with temps in the 50’s. Here’s the forecast for Sunday:

 

OBX Forecast

OBX Forecast

 

Personal Goal

My goal for this race is to beat 3:25:00.  This is over 22 minutes faster than my previous marathon best and would qualify me for the Boston Marathon.  The goal may be quite a stretch, but my training has come together nicely over the last two months.  I’ve completed all my planned workouts and feel great.  It is gonna be close.  Click on the image below for more details on my training with the Run Less Run Faster program.

Workout Scorecard

Workout Scorecard

 

Now I just have to make it to the starting line.  I’ve made some planning and logistics mistakes, but that’s another story.

Now I’m off to complete my playlist…

POFIFOTO!

 

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