Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I Broke Up with Running

Running pulled a Tonya Harding and clubbed my right knee during the Columbus Marathon. Not cool running. Running and I needed a break from each other. We both knew I wouldn't be able to stay away. Running and I are getting back together soon.

Friday, October 24, 2008


Recently I was feeling a little bit overwhelmed and concerned about my A&P class. I got my ass handed to me on the first exam. I never really had any problems while I was going back to finish my Elementary Education degree so I was worried. As the second exam was approaching I was starting to feel stressed. This could really be a make or break test. If I didn't do well I probably wouldn't pass the class screwing up the rest of my school plans.

The week before the test I got a little intervention. One of the nurses that I work with told me how she was having trouble during her nursing school. This is a nurse that I respect and seems very intelligent. At the time she was thinking about dropping out of nursing school if things didn't turn around. One of her professors pulled her aside and gave her this advice.

C=RN. Don't stress so much over your grades. I can see that you will be a good nurse. When it comes time and you're dealing with a patient that is coding they aren't going to ask you what your grade point average was during school. You just do your job.

So that has become my approach. It's not that I won't try to do my best, but that I will do the best that I can and not stress too much over the grades.

Columbus Marathon Race Report

The starting line of the Columbus Marathon was jam packed as once again I got caught somewhere in the back around the 5 hour pace group. This was not what I was hoping for. What I was hoping to to do was get in with the 3:30 or 3:20 pace group and cruise along. No worries though. Certainly I would be able to catch up with them right? They were up there somewhere. So began my 4th marathon and another attempt at breaking 3:30. Columbus is a flat course that is known for producing Boston qualifiers. This was an excellent course to PR on and it was a perfect day for it. It started out at somewhere in the mid 40's and clear. It warmed up to somewhere in the mid 50's.

I was feeling ready. My training went well, and I had completed all my longest runs with very little problem. Although unlike the flat course of Columbus all my long runs involved major hill climbs. This was a minor cause for concern as I wasn't sure how I would handle the flat roads of Columbus. Another concern was endurance. I know I have the speed as I've run well all summer in shorter races. The question was would I have the endurance to push through the final miles.

The first half was flawless as I cruised through at 1:39. I knew I was pushing it, but I decided from the beginning to go all out and let the rest take care of itself. A great time for a half, and I felt good. I got a banana and some words of encouragement from marathon super fan Gina. I think her words of encouragement were something along the lines of "Move it Iker! You're going too slow!" After seeing the 3:30 and 3:40 pace groups go by she was thinking that I was crashing and burning. She was unaware of the fact that I had crossed the starting line a good 7 minutes after them.

What could possibly go wrong? It was somewhere between mile 19 and mile 20 that I began to feel the twinges of cramps. Oh yeah, that's what could go wrong. I stopped to stretch and hoped that I could hold off the worst of it as long as possible. Unfortunately that wasn't so long. Within the next half mile it began in my left calf. I shortened my stride and slowed. This seemed to help for a while, but only for a while. The cramps came back and by mile 23 my hamstrings were completely wasted. The miles and miles of flat road and continuous pounding on the same muscles had taken its toll. It was frustrating, because mentally I was feeling strong. I wasn't dehydrated. I still had fuel left, but the muscles were just spent.

At mile 24 I was pushing through slowly just wanting it to be over. At mile 26 I caught a wave from Super fan Gina. After that it was a short sprint to the finish, and by sprint I mean hobbling, limping jog. It wasn't the last 6.2 that I was hoping for or the finish I was hoping for, but still it was a PR at 3:34:37. This is my Columbus Marathon report or what will be remembered as 20 miles of awesome and 6.2 miles of brutal, or as Gina put it I crushed 20 and got crushed by 6.2, but still crushed it.

It's been a fun/tough run of 4 marathons over the last year and a half. The marathons are going on hold for a while. Next year is all about short, fast races and mursing school. After I graduate...we'll see.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Countdown to Columbus

A little over a day away from the marathon and I'm getting it all together and ready to run.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Mursing School

After returning to school to get my bachelor's degree in Education you think that would be enough right? You'd think I'd be teaching right now, but no. I am, once again, in transition. I've been at Children's Hospital for the last four years. A job that I took while I was in school that I could work while attending to my full time class schedule. It turns out I enjoy working at the hospital and would like to stay there. I've been working in various offices over the last four years doing customer service and admin. type work. It's good work and it's not something I don't enjoy, but not necessarily what I want to do for the rest of my working life at Children's.

This is part of the reason that I'm back in school to become a murse. It's something I've vaguely considered in the past but never pursued. This decision to pursue it was spurred on by what seemed like an inconsequential conversation, almost a joke. It all seemed to happen very quickly. One day we were talking about it over chat. The next day we were talking about program options. A few days after that I was at lunch with a co-worker and friend that was looking at nursing programs and had applied to one of the community colleges. The next thing I know I'm filling out applications, visiting school counselors, and signing up for classes.

That brings me to now. I'm currently taking Anatomy and Physiology, which is one of the few pre-requisite classes that I need to take before applying for the program. I have to admit it is quite a bit harder than I thought it was going to be. I've never thought of myself as a great student of science. English and Literature were more in my wheel house, but I'm working through it.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Off to the Races

It was quite the exciting weekend of races! First up we hit the Soapbox Races in Mt. Adams where teams were not only racing but judged on their themed vehicles and showmanship. The streets were packed as we watched some crazy racers speed down the hill...

The Cincinnati 3-Way

...and got to see some pretty awesome wipe outs...

Kool Mobile hits the wall

The theme of the day seemed to be hillsides as we then headed over to Ault Park for the Reggae Run.

I lined up with over 4,000 other runners and walkers on a perfect evening for racing. I had my goal of a top 50 finish and 20 minutes in mind, but didn't really know what to expect having never raced this before. I have a history of going out fast and hurting at the end. If I did that today it would be a super fast downhill mile and a half or so, then I would be punished for it coming back up (and I mean UP a big ass hill) into the park. I forgot my Garmin, which has become an indispensable toy tool while training and racing to keep that tendency in check. I borrowed a watch, but in the end I was flying blind as there were no mile markers either. I made a deal with myself. I would cruise down the hills. I wouldn't chase anybody down. I would let them go. I would see them again on the way back up.

So I stuck to my plan. During that first half of the race I set a steady pace and concentrated on conserving my energy as much as I could during a 5k. The course wound its way out of the park with a few minor inclines but a much larger downhill push to Delta Ave. I waited patiently and watched others around me push the pace before the real race had even begun.

We turned up Delta. This is where it begins. I shortened my stride and concentrated on controlled breathing. I wanted a quick, efficient turnover and to keep from gasping for air. I picked up the pace and started passing runners. During that last half of the race I felt completely in control of the situation. I had enough in the tank to push it up the hill and give it a good kick at the end.

The results speak for themselves.
31 ADAM IKER        Official Time: 19:46   Pace: 6:23 

Thursday, October 02, 2008

So begins another taper before the Columbus Marathon in a few weeks. In the past, and by past I mean in the last year, I've gone into these times tired, beat up, and sometimes recovering from injury. I'm feeling pretty good. I've played it a lot looser with my training this time around, ditching the constant journal entries and obsessing over getting in every run. I've concentrated on getting in the important runs: 5 weeks of hill training early on and just finished up a 6 week rotation of Yasso 800's. I got in all my long runs finishing up with a solid 20 miler last Sunday. All the other runs have been filled in as I could get them in. Some weeks I'd get in 4 runs other weeks only 3. It makes me a little nervous that I'm under trained and don't have the endurance I need to reach my goal had I put in a more regular schedule with more mileage.

On the positive side I feel healthy and haven't sustained any injuries that I've had in the past due to those high mile weeks. I guess the proof will come in a few weeks when I line up at the start line in Columbus to try to run a 3:20 marathon. I'll be testing the theory that it is better to be under trained and healthy rather than risk injury.

In the meantime I'll be running the Reggae Run 5k this Saturday. It's a tough run that begins and ends in Ault Park, and for those that don't know the park is on the side of a hill. You run down the hill out of the park, and back up to the finish. Should be fun! My goal is to finish top 50 at around 20 minutes.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Citius, Altius, Fortius

Faster, Higher, Stronger

Gebrselassie breaks his own marathon world record in Berlin.

I ran my 20 miler in preparation for the Columbus Marathon where I hope to break my own record in a few weeks.

It seemed like a good day to get a reminder, brilliantly suggested and photographed by Gina, permanently emblazoned on my arm.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

New Challenges and Goals

Remember when I had goals? Right up until the Flying Pig Marathon I was all about reaching those goals. It's amazing how much has changed since then, and how those goals seem less important now. Funny how that happens. I've been without any particular goals since finishing the Flying Pig Marathon. That's not entirely true. I am training for the the Columbus Marathon in October, but without any particular goals in mind or a particular training plan that I'm working on. It's a challenge, but one that I know I can reach with enough training to get through it. I need some challenges that are going to push me a little harder. Recently I was posed with a couple of challenges.

The first challenge is to run a 5:20 mile, and I only get one shot at running it. I like that challenge. It's either do or die. I haven't trained for running fast over a short distance in a long
time. It's been all about running marathons faster. This will be fun. I'm going to crush that time.

The second challenge is to run a 16:00 5k. My formal goal was to break 20 minutes on the 5k which I did earlier this year at the Rat Race 5k in April. I barely broke the 20 minute mark, so to take off another 4 minutes is going to be tough. But, what good is a challenge if it isn't tough?

So these are my two goals for now. This will give me incentive to get my training plan together, work on speed, and get focused. Hopefully this will help me toward the longer term goals like qualifying for Boston.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

School's Out For Summer!

Donut Girl
What better way to celebrate the last day of school
than with some trans-fatty deliciousness!

I can't believe Aiden is done with 1st grade! It only seems like yesterday that it was the first day of school! It only seems a short time earlier that it was the first day of kindergarten! I must be getting old. Isn't that what old people always say? Time is just slipping away. Oh well. I guess it happens. My little girl is getting all growed up.

I talked to her about her last couple of days of school which, according to her, consisted mostly of having a day out at a park or a "field day", a tug of war (her class came in second, so don't mess with her), and other fun and games. I need a last day of school! Funny, it sounds exactly like what some of my friends at work did last week in another department for their spring event. Crazy kids.

Last Day

Recovered from 360:

First Day of 1st Grade


It's the first day of 1st grade! Doesn't seem so long ago it was the first day of kindergarten. Wow! how time flies.

1st Day of Kindergarten
It's the first day of school! 1st Day of School 01

Aiden pretended like she didn't care, because she's just tooooo cool. Image

Okay, so I pretended like I didn't care because I'm soooo cool too. Sniff, sniff, is it dusty in here? Image

1st Day of School 02

Ang and Aiden in the classroom.

Excited about finding her seat and meeting her new classmates!
1st Day of School 03

flower girl After a successful 1st day of school it was time to relax and enjoy the beautiful afternoon.
peacocks gone wild

and the wildlife? A peacock escaped from nearby and shows up in our backyard.

Aiden practices her peacock walk.

peacocks gone wild 02

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Big Bag of Popcorn

Aiden with the Goods
You think you're getting any popcorn old man?

Monday afternoon we celebrated one of those great American traditions: the beginning of summer blockbuster season. Forget about that second rate super hero Iron Man. This is the real deal. This is the new tradition of George Lucas resurrecting and destroying our greatest childhood movie heroes. This is Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

How was the movie? Eh. It was fine. I wasn't really interested in seeing it, and didn't expect much. We had some family in town that wanted to see it, so we threw the kids in the car and took off for the movie theater. This did give me a chance to pass on one of my childhood memories to Aiden. In June of 1981 my dad took me to see Raiders of the Lost Ark. I would have been 7 at the time which is just a couple months older than Aiden. Yeah, I'm old. I was blown away by all the action and Han Solo in a fedora using a whip. I was also traumatized by spiders in the first 10 minutes of the movie and then later snakes. It was Aiden's turn to be traumatized. We were not disappointed as we first got scorpions and then ants. The digital creepy crawlies weren't nearly as creepy as the real spiders they used in Raiders, but still effective for a 7 year old. She wouldn't admit to being scared later, and said the movie was "good, but I had to drink some Coke to stay awake sometimes", which actually sums it up pretty well. I know she was scared when she was climbing up my arm during a couple of the scarier moments. I had to chuckle.

Adam, Aiden

Friday, May 16, 2008

360 Recovery Project II

It's been over a year since my great uncle passed, and I often think of him. After he passed I started seeing red tailed hawks, or maybe a red tailed hawk all the time. It reminded me of him and seemed fitting since they are very loyal and protective. He would appreciate that. So here is a quick entry I wrote about him after the service. It's also kind of funny, because after reading it again I realized I made part of it about me.

Remembering Uncle Howard
from April 17, 2007

This morning was the memorial service for my great uncle. It was a very nice service at the local Presbyterian church with lots of friends and family showing up and sharing memories of Howard. I always felt a special connection to Howard. We seemed to have a lot in common, and I found out today we had even more in common than I knew. First of all the service itself was something that I could appreciate. His body wasn't there. It was donated to the local University for learning purposes. I can totally dig that. First of all I don't want to be laid out, so people can stand around and look at the husk that was me. That isn't me, I'm gone. Besides who wants to be remembered as the creepy lifeless corpse. Put up a picture of me with my sweet, sweet, mullet. Second, I don't want to be buried. Since I'm not going to be taking up any real estate don't waste the chemicals and fuss just box me up and send me on to the school to be poked and prodded.

Enough with being morbid. Why I actually started to write this was that I learned a few things about Howard that I didn't know. His children each gave very touching eulogies for Howard, and I thought I'd share a few bits of information that I found interesting.
  • Howard was a lover of music. He loved classical, big band, and opera. His son told a funny story about how his wife Louise was not a lover of opera. She made a deal with him: I'll go do something on Saturday mornings and you can turn up the opera as loud as you want.
  • Howard studied violin at the Cincinnati Conservatory before joining the Navy. I had no idea, and I think that is way cool.
  • Howard was an agnostic. This blew me away. He was a fixture in the church. One story I heard today was that he was even asked to be a deacon in the church. His response was that because of his beliefs he might not be the right person for the position, so they asked him to be treasurer instead.
So it was with Howard. He put service before himself, served his country in the Navy and served the community through Rotary and the church, and despite being very active in the church he was never afraid to question the beliefs of those institutions. I only hope I can live to be half the man you were. We'll miss you Howard.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Run It Out

I've spent so much time training for the marathons for the last 9 months that I forgot about the most important reason to run: myself. Maybe I didn't forget, but over the last week and a half I decided to take a break from running. I was so burned out. This is only the second time I've run since the marathon. That may not seem like a big deal, but when you go from running 4 to 5 times a week to running twice in 1o days my body and my mind tend to notice. I feel more rested and less painful but not quite as focused.

This morning I was reminded why I really enjoy running. I had a sleepless night last night which will happen from time to time especially when I have a lot on my mind. Surprisingly, it wasn't a terrible night but I just couldn't switch off my brain. At about 4:30 I decided it was too late to get any real sleep so I would try to run it out.

Before I hit the road I pulled some songs from some various running mixes. This wasn't training this is running for fun and sanity music always helps. A quick stretch and I was on the road Physically I felt better than I have in a while. All the aches and pains of the marathon are a vague memory. Mentally I felt a little scattered at first, but as I settled in and evened out my breathing I started to focus.

Nothing else matters outside of this moment. I can feel myself start to sweat as I push my pace. I don't think. I just feel my legs as they pump out the rhythm and my feet pound the pavement. I listen to the music and it brings up the good feelings inside. Nothing else matters. Thoughts and stresses that were tangling me up start to unwind, but I don't concentrate on that. I breathe. I run. All those things that seemed so complicated and so pressing a short while ago seem to flutter out behind me like ribbons as they untangle themselves. They don't look all that difficult anymore. They make sense. I let them flutter out there in the wind and I run.

At the end of the run I walk along the driveway and tilt my head back to the sky. The dawn is just starting to lighten the sky to show the low hanging clouds. For the first time in 2 days I feel like I'm outside my brain. Endorphins are the best drug. Everything is a little more clear. Everything is a little less complicated. Life is too short to tie myself up inside my brain. That's why I run it out.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

360 Recovery Project I

Once upon a time I had another blog over at Yahoo's 360 community. Friends and games and good times.....good times. Then Yahoo decided that the 360 community wasn't really an important part of their game plan and the services started to suffer and continue to suffer. I've been thinking for a while about rescuing my writings from the wasteland that is 360 and with the marathon over and not much to write about in terms of training this is the perfect time.

The 360 Recovery Project begins as I bring over a fun entry from about a year ago. This entry was brought to my attention by a friend, so this one is for her. Enjoy!

Usually when I get an IM message from a stranger I ignore it. Occasionally I'll converse with said stranger. Usually, it lapses into awkwardness or I get bored and move on. Very, very rarely does it go any further than that. I hardly ever mess with anyone that contacts me... but I've always wanted to. Today I got one of those random contacts. Below is the transcript unchanged with the exception of a little bit of commentary by me in blue. I shortened Shelly's Yahoo ID, so don't bother trying to message this person.

shelly: hi (long pause as I ignore)
shelly: r u there? (another pause, but I decide to bite)
me: hi
shelly: hi (another pause as I quickly loose interest. If you are standing at my front door you just said hi twice and stood there staring at me.)
shelly: hello r u gonna type
me: sure, what's up?
shelly: how old r u
me: 32
me: you?
me: what? suddenly nothing to say?
shelly: shut up (at this point I'm guessing age of 12)
me: shut up? I don't get it. You messaged me.
shelly: I HAVE TO GO
me: sure, bye (ready to forget about it and move on)
shelly: BYE FUCKER (oh no she di'nt!)
me: okay weirdo (Come on, I'm not going to cuss at a 12 yr. old.)
shelly: ugly ass (oooooh burn. You cut like a knife Shelly.)
me: haha, ugly ass? you don't know me. I am hideous though. freakish.
shelly: stop iming me i have to go ok (Oh no Shelly you won't get the last word)
me: ok go then
shelly: BYE (Shelly must be young or naive. By this time I would have put her on the ignore list)me: talk to you later. can we be friends?
shelly: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO (I'm sensing some negativity here)
me: that hurts. I thought we had something special here.
me: Just leave then! I'm not stopping you. Walk out the door! be that way! I love you. call me later?
shelly: ew no
me: you run so hot and cold. one minute we're best friends, the next you're asking me to leave. what's wrong? bad day?
shelly: stop i have to gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo if u dont stop im calling
me: my mom?
shelly: no just stopppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp
me: ok, but be careful there are a lot of freaks out there. bye.

That was fun. Honestly, what do you expect when you IM a complete stranger? I don't get it. I get these messages frequently from people wanting to chat, and I usually ask early on, "how did you find me?" More often than not the answer is 360. That's fine, but if you found me through 360 and you want to have a chat take a second and read my profile or a blog entry. It's all right there. I'm 32, I'm married, my interests are pretty well spelled out. I'm not hiding anything!
However, if you're a kid or under age please don't contact me I don't need that. If you want money, don't bother I don't have any. If you're starting a secret society looking to overthrow the governments of the world....drop me a line, I've got some ideas. If you're Shelly stop IM'ing strange men. I was just messing with you, but there really are freaks out there waiting for you.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Flying Pig Marathon 2008 Race Report

My 3rd marathon and 2nd Flying Pig turned out to be an interesting experience where I saw some great improvements that didn't lead to what I had hoped for: a personal record. The lack of success on that front was partially due to outside forces, but ultimately lands back on me. Every race is a learning experience including this one. Despite the lack of a PR the overall experience of the race was excellent. The improvements I'm seeing are due, in part, to the new friendships I've made leading up to this race. It's changed the way I train. It's changed how I experience race day.

Rather than going through a long, drawn out play by play of the race I thought I would play a little game of High/Low and re-cap some of the highs and lows of the race.


High: I nearly pulled off the perfect race day preparation. My pre-race plan went off without a hitch....mostly. The plan was to get up at 4, grab a quick shower to shake off the sleep, eat, dress, drive down and meet the TNT Team at their hotel for some quick photos, then meet up with Dave and the Striders to hit the start line. Everything went off without a hitch. I was out the door and on my way.

Low: Everything was going right on track until I hit downtown and was driving up to the parking lot and pulled ot my wallet. Empty. Oh no, I had left the cash I set out for parking on the table. Why didn't I just put it in my wallet? Who knows. It was just after 5 am. The major street closings weren't until 5:30 so I had time to find an ATM and get back over to the lot, no problem. 20 minutes later after a quick, frustrating drive around the city I found the ATM, grabbed the cash and was back at the lot. No TNT meet up for me. It was now 5:35. They were probably headed from the hotel at this point.

High: Gina's "Five Minute Mile Mix". I chilled out at the car for a few minutes while I made my final preparations and listened to my friend Gina's "Five Minute Mile Mix". I popped open the trunk door while I loaded up on Gu, electrolyte tabs and tied my shoes. Everyone showing up in the lot got some of Kanye "Stronger", Beck "Earthquake Weather", or Gwen Stefani "What You Waiting For". They didn't say it, but I think they were quietly thanking for that little early morning boost. Thank you Gina and you're welcome Flying Pig runners.

We're so fast we're blurry before the race!


High: Having a good running partner to pace with during the race. Dave has been a great running partner during training and on race day. A little trash talk gets the competitive spirits up. Pushing each other during training gets the race pace up. Someone that can make you laugh and talk about anything for hours while running keeps it fun. I hope to beat him in many more races.

Far, Far Back from the starting line

Low: Getting stuck in the back of the pack. At the start of the race we got stuck way back in the pack near the 5 hour pace group. We were shooting for 3:30, so this was kind of a nightmare. We spent 9 miles weaving around runners and walkers as we tried to get up to our goal pace. We added an extra 1/4 mile onto our run with all that weaving. In retrospect we should have pushed a little harder at the start. I was 5 minutes behind my time last year at the halfway point. Despite the fact that I felt like I ran a better second half than last year I didn't make up those 5 minutes.

High: Having a Garmin 305 to help set the pace. This gadget is a dream. During the race I could see my pace at any given moment and make adjustments as necessary. I have a tendency to go out to fast at the beginning of races, so this will be the perfect tool for that.

Proud to wear the Purple Jersey

Running for Team in Training. The crowd support for TNT runners is phenomenal. They have "scream teams" spread throughout the course to give support to the runners. It is such a boost to hear your name called out and see the groups of purple yelling and giving high fives. Dave would have to reel me in whenever we would pass one of these groups because it was such a rush that I would pick up the pace.

Low: Leg cramps. It is a consistent problem with me. I sweat very heavily and my body seems to fall out of balance at some point during the marathons. I have been working on pushing back the point at which this happens. Last year during the Pig it happened at mile 19. It was nearly debilitating. The last 7 miles were a nightmare. During Disney they struck even earlier due to the high heat and humidity that we weren't prepared to deal with. This year during the Pig I decided to drink a lot of Gatorade early on, take on a steady stream of Gu, and hydrate as much as possible. It really worked. The first cramp hit at mile 20, but it wasn't bad. I was able to stretch it out and get back on pace. I had a few cramps in the final miles, but none of them touched what I had gone through in previous marathons.

High: I was able finish strong. Thanks to a fellow runner and friend that I made during the Disney trip I finished the last couple of miles strong. I met up with Steve early in the race and we exchanged hellos and talked. He said he would be there during the final miles and sure enough he was. At about mile 24 he came out of nowhere and talked me through the final hill of the course. I think I was talking mostly nonsense to him as I pleaded, begged, threatened, and made deals with my legs to fight off the cramps that were threatening and push through those final miles. I owe him for that.

Post Race

High: Snacks! What better reason to run all that way! If you ever thought about running a marathon or half marathon this might put you over the top. About 10 feet after the finish line you get draped in a mylar blanket and handed a shiny metal. You walk another 15 feet and your surrounded by snacks: bagels, chips, bananas, oranges, ice cream!, juices, water. It kind of makes the whole thing worth it. If you don't feel like waiting until the end you can always go by the Gina school of running.

Low: Pain. Now that I've reached a goal that I've been working towards for 4 months, and I've finally stopped running everything hurts. I mean EVERYTHING hurts. The best thing to do is just keep shuffling along and collecting snacks to eat, because everything else is pretty much out of the question. Sitting is okay, but standing back up is a challenge, and I don't really need another challenge today. Stairs, hills, and any sort of step is pretty much out of the question.

High: Sharing the achievement with friends. I spent 4 months training with Team in Training and the Striders. Nothing makes the achievement sweeter than sharing it with fellow runners. We all love our families and are sooo thankful that they are there for us during those months of training and on race day, but when you can see the joy, pain, relief, disappointment and other emotions of another runner it's on a totally different level.

High: Family. After that last paragraph I realized I was being silly. Of course families are hugely important! You are the best I love you all!

Low/High: Ice bath. This awful/wonderful act of craziness can really improve recovery after a marathon. It's not that big of a deal. On your way home pick up a 5 lb. bag of ice. Fill up the tub enough to cover your legs and dump previously mentioned bag of ice in to the water. Step into the tub. Take some deep breaths and psych yourself up. Sit down. No really, sit down. Come on man! You can do this! GO! Once you get yourself into the freezing water you can just feel the heat seeping out of the muscles. I recommend a pair of headphones or something else to take your mind off the c-c-c-cold. I swear it's worth it.

These are some of the highs and lows. There were so many more memorable moments from this race that I could go on. There was coming across the bridge back into Cincinnati early in the race and feeling the bridge bounce under the pounding of thousands of runners.

There was this guy:

The Official Time:

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Kind of Purgatory a.k.a. Taper

Here we are seven days away from the start of the Flying Pig Marathon. I've trained my mileage. I've finished my speed work. I've got my race day gear pretty much ready. I have a race day running plan and fueling plan in place. There is nothing to do but wait...and wait. Maybe I should get one more long run I can' t do that there's no point. I should do some more cross training this week. No, that's not going to help anything at this point besides wear me down. I guess I'll just sit here and wait.

This will be my third marathon in a year, starting with the Flying Pig last year, and taper is one of the hardest parts to deal with mentally and emotionally. This seems especially true for spring marathons. We've spent 4 months training in all sorts of good and bad weather and spent many days stuck on a treadmill due to snow or rain. Now it's beautiful outside the weather is warm I'm well trained and relatively healthy and ready to go and..I can't. I think the term Purgatory is appropriate. My body is in a process of mending and repairing itself in preparation for race day which may end up being heaven or hell depending on how things go.

To ease my mind a bit I've been going back and reading excerpts from The Principles of Running by Amby Burfoot. This book is a must have for beginner runners and a great reference piece for experienced runners. The chapters are very short and concise, and each chapter is followed by a list of principles. If you want to refresh your memory on something all you have to do is flip to the chapter and scan the principles. Let's take a look at the principles in the Taper chapter in the section "Marathon".
  1. The last week before a marathon...seems as if it should be a joy, but most runners find it an emotional roller coaster. (Put your hands up! Weeeeeeeeee! I remember saying a couple of weeks ago "I am so ready for taper". Note to past self: you're an idiot.)
  2. Don't be surprised if you notice aches and pains you haven't felt before...and you have trouble sleeping at night. These are all common during taper. (Here I am at 6 am on a Sunday morning writing this so, yeah, I get the sleeping thing. I've definitely noticed every little ache and pain over the last few days, and having plenty of time to think about it hasn't really helped.)
  3. Reduce your mileage to just two to four easy miles a day or every other day, depending on your schedule. On Wednesday or Thursday, do four two-minute repeats at your marathon pace goal. (It doesn't say I can't ride my bike...right?)
  4. Continue to eat lots of low-fat carbohydrates and to stay well-hydrated. Don't eat foods you're not accustomed to, which is one of the most common marathon mistakes. (ummm...Is ice cream okay? I swear I won't eat the whole pint. It's not like it's my birthday. I will be bringing my big jug of water to work all week.)
  5. Try to take your mind off the marathon with diversions like books, videos, movies, and so on. Do anything that your find and involving. Save your greatest mental focus for the race. (Check. Gina, you're running mix is ready, yo. )

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Rat Race 5K Race Report

I've come to the conclusion that, for me, the 5K is one of the toughest mental races to PR in. There is very little room for error and very little room for doubts. You have 3.1 miles to run your fastest. I've been slowly eating away at my 5K times over the years. I started out at about 25 minutes a few years ago and have been knocking off minutes ever since then. I reached a point last year where I wanted to make a run at a sub 20 minute 5K. It became more than a goal. It became my Mount Everest. It seemed insurmountable. It would mean running 3 miles at under 6:30 per mile with enough left for a kick at the end.

The Closest I've come to reaching this goal was last summer when I ran the Big K 5K. I came so close but fell short by 8 seconds. It was a tough defeat made a little easier to swallow with the delicious award I got for finishing 3rd in my division. So, here I was a little less than a year later on a late April afternoon in perfect weather conditions with it cool and overcast, the perfect flat fast course with no bridges to slow me down. I had been feeling good about my speed work. There was only one minor thing that could go wrong: my legs. With 9 months of marathon training under my belt the wear and tear was in full effect on my shins and feet. I stretched and warmed up thoroughly taking a run through the course to get a feel for it and made a deal with myself. If nothing else I would run as fast as I could. I would leave nothing. I would do my best and let everything else take care of itself.

Before the race I had a couple of nice encounters that kept my spirits up and my mind off the pain that was sure to come. This was a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society event so Team in Training was out in full force as many of the Flying Pig runners were there to run the 5K or 10K. One the members from my Striders Running Group was lining up, and my biggest surprise was meeting one the Sparkpeople Running Team members at the starting line. I saw that she was going to be there but had no idea if I would be able to pick her out just based on the photos from the website. I recognized her right away and we met for the first time and had a nice little pre-race chat. Even if everything fell apart on the course it was shaping up to be a fun evening.

The Race

600 or so runners and walkers stood around the starting line in a sort of purgatory as there was a delay for the runners who were waiting in line for the bathroom. I just listened in on idle chatter around me as I tried to keep from psyching myself out. I didn't want to think about the race anymore I just wanted to go. Finally the national anthem was completed and we were ready. Set. The gun went off and we were away.

Mile 1

I positioned myself near the front of the pack and near the outside. I looked at the results from last year and felt comfortable being near the front. In a race this short there is not time to wait for the crowd to thin out. I needed to be on pace immediately. There was no pacing myself. I just bolted and set a pace what felt like just below an all out sprint. I was shooting for a pace that I hadn't been really training for during marathon training. I needed to push it way past comfortable the whole time. We headed out for a loop through a neighborhood that would come back near the starting line to turn on to the bike path. That first mile was a blur. I had a nice long 4 mile warm up so I didn't feel stiff. I didn't feel great though either. I wasn't breathing very smoothly and my stride felt off, but I kept pushing it. Mile 1: 6:00 flat.

Mile 2

I was heading into mile 2 feeling pretty good. The super fast runners were steadily pulling away, but I wasn't being passed either so I wasn't panicked. We were turning on to the trail and my stride was feeling a little more in sync, but my breathing sucked. I was getting a solid case of cotton mouth building up and it wasn't helping matters. At some point around 1.5 miles I nearly choked on my own spit as I inhaled it. That didn't help. It also didn't help that I was already feeling fatigued and like I was all alone as I was in the no man's land between the super fast runners and the pack behind me. The long flat trail seemed to stretch out forever and time seemed to slow to a crawl. The turn around was a little past the two mile marker. Where was it? Time seemed to be creeping away. I grabbed some water from the water stop to try and clear out the cotton mouth and passed the mile 2 marker. mile 2: 12:46.

Mile 3

I was starting to have my doubts. My pace had dropped off sharply. Where was the turn around? Time seemed to be slipping by at a snail's pace, but not as slowly as I felt I was running. My hamstrings were quivering and felt on the verge of cramping. "At least if I got cramps I would have reason for my failure". Oh no. The voice of doubt had been awoken. I hit the turn around and headed back. I could see the pack coming the toward me now and saw that I had a guy coming up behind me very quickly. I didn't speed up. I figured he would just buzz by me furthering fueling the voice of doubt. He didn't. He fell into pace behind me. I moved closer to the edge of the path to be sure he would he have room to pass if he wanted but he didn't. His breathing was as labored as mine and it sounded like he was sitting right on my shoulder. This actually made me feel a bit better knowing I wasn't the only one suffering. "Just slow down a bit and let him pass. You're 20 minute goal is out of reach anyway". No, I wasn't going to slow down. No, I wasn't going to just let him pass. How could I make the voice shut up? Count. Count! I began to count my breaths as time continued to stretch out. 1, 2, 3, 4, "Seriously just slow..."5, 6, "are you listening...."7, 8, "fine, whatever...".

Another thought occurred to me as I was struggling. What would Dave think if I just quit? Really? How much grief would I have to take if I just decided to give up? Maybe none. Maybe a lot. I didn't want to find out. I was going to see this out even if it meant puking on the finish line and collapsing which both seemed very good possibilities. Finally, the mile 3 marker came and went. mile 3: 19:11.

The Final Push

This was it. I found that I had a little gas left in the tank, so I punched it. I picked up my pace for the last tenth of a mile. Time didn't matter anymore. It was now a race between me and the heavy breather that had been on my shoulder for the last mile. He began his own sprint to the finish and creeped up next to me. We could both see the finish line and were totally zoned in on it. My head was pounding my breathing was ragged, but amazingly I had one more gear left and kicked it up again. All I had to do was make it into the finishing chute ahead of heavy breather. Nothing else mattered, and it was over. I walked to the other side of the finishing chute to get my tagged ripped. I hadn't even looked at my watch and just barely caught a glance of the finish line timer. I knew I was close. mile 3.1: 19:56.

My official time was 19:58 as I finished 2nd in my division and 11th overall. I was all smiles and happiness after I stopped aspirating my own spit and was able to breathe again. The rest of the evening was spent enjoying food, drinks, and the good company of the Team In Training group. I caught up with my Spark friend again after the race for a moment and she was happy with her race as well. After years of chasing the goal it was done. I was satisfied and buoyed by the knowledge that through the groups that I have been training with and the people that I've gotten to know I had a wonderful group of friends to share these races and experiences. No matter whether I met any of my goals the rest of my running life I was no longer running alone.

But speaking of goals how awesome would it be to qualify for Boston?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Speed Training: Check

I finished up my final session of speed training this morning at about 7:30 am. Write it down, check it off, I am done. Sweet. It's been 6 weeks of Yasso 800's once a week mostly on the hamster wheel at the gym. Each week I add one more 800 interval on to the workout. Each week the workout gets a little tougher and takes a little longer. Each week I go through moments of doubt, despair, and thoughts of quitting. It's not what you'd call fun, but I'm hoping it will pay off in the upcoming marathon.

It's been a bit of a learning experience. I hate the treadmill to begin with so it's been difficult to stay focused and motivated during the intervals. It's been difficult to find something to grasp on to on the low moments. Usually about halfway through I start to lose my focus and just want to stop so badly. In those moments I really question my sanity and why I'm doing this at all. I've been looking for a trick to pull me out of the downward spiral that happens in these moments. I look for something to pull me out of my own head. To find that little thing would also help on marathon day. Late in the race you have those same moments out on the course only intensified by the knowledge that you're not on a treadmill or track working out you're there at the event you've spent months preparing for and things seem to be falling apart. Mentally you are wrecking your race.

I found that little thing that may do the trick a couple of weeks ago. Actually I found two things that will do the trick, but it's good to have a back up. I found a good running partner that I can talk to while running. I cannot stress enough how much this has changed my training and race experiences this year. To have someone there in the same moment feeling the same pains to talk to immediately takes you out of that self-destructive head space. It stops the downward spiral. The other thing I found, in case of emergency, is to count breaths. It sounds silly, but it works. On the treadmill I breathe approximately 160 times over the course of 3 minutes and 30 seconds during an 800 meter interval. I tried counting steps, but it doesn't have the same effect.

Counting breaths calms me, centers me and pushes everything else to the background. It also has an added benefit. While I'm counting my breaths I become very aware of how I'm breathing and control it better. I don't gasp for air. I count and I blow out just like I was taught by Bob Roncker. Breathe like you're blowing out a candle. It's simple and effective. It's not race tested yet, but it will probably be after this weekend.

On Saturday I'm going to be chasing the elusive sub-20 minute 5K at the Rat Race 5K & 10K. It's going to be an all out 3.1 mile sprint. Let's see if those intervals and breathing techniques pay off.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

34+18x2/20 = Awesome

It's all in the equation. It was an awesome weekend thanks to many different people and several great events. I turned 34 on Friday, which honestly who cares because didn't birthdays stop really mattering after you turn 21? It's the last birthday that anything really cool happens. Everything after that is just hearing people freak out about getting older...blah, blah, blah. I don't mind getting older. I don't have to worry about trying to be "cool" or "hip". Have you seen my Facebook profile pic? I was kind of cool back then, hah! Besides as you get older you say the most inappropriate things and people just don't seem to mind as much. But I digress. Here are a few highlights from the weekend.

18x2 = two awesome 80's mixes that were born out of the epic 80's Mix Off that dropped Friday at lunch. It began as a conversation about music that lead to a trading of mixes, that lead to smack talk, that lead to a challenge, that ended Friday at noon, sort of. I think my frienemy Gina covers it pretty well, albeit with a slight, very subtle bias in her blog. Dave provided some delicious birthday cake and the hype. Joe Esposito said it best "You're the best around, nothing's ever gonna bring you down" Dave. Missy brought a preview to some sweet dance moves to said Joe Esposito song. I do expect to see the complete interpretive dance at some point, who wouldn't want to see that? Gina dropped the bomb and brought the sweet mix and the funniest cd cover eva. Thank you all for the best workplace, lunch time, cafeteria birthday in the history of workplace, lunch time, cafeteria birthdays. It rawked. Check out a preview of the mixes at under My Playlist.

/20 = 20 miler weekend. Saturday morning was our longest long run in preparation for the Flying Pig. Before the Saturday morning long run though Angie and I enjoyed the company of some of the Team In Training participants, mentors, coaches and heroes Friday evening for some major carbo loading at a pasta dinner. It was really nice to be able to talk to the runners that I've been seeing this spring while they are not running and sweating. It makes conversation a little easier. It was also very nice because Angie knows some of the heroes (Leukemia and Lymphoma survivors) and their parents from Children's Hospital. It is always special to see these kids healthy and happy after seeing them at various stages of sickness and treatment in the hospital. It puts it all in perspective.

Saturday morning Team in Training, our hospital running group and several other running groups and friends of runners met at Ault Park for the 20/12. There was somewhere between 500 and 600 runners out to run the course to downtown Cincinnati and back to Ault Park, which if you are not familiar with Cincinnati topography sits, literally on top of a hill. It was a tough run made a little bit tougher by dropping temperatures and gusting wind. Overall though, it was great. The atmosphere was that of a race day with the groups providing food, physical therapists stretching people after the run, and a DJ from Q102 providing some tunes.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Born To Be Wild

In my quests for running and riding faster and farther I sometimes forget the simple joy of riding or running without looking at the timer and worrying about stride, pedal stroke, cadence, posture, breathing and the laundry list of things to worry about while training or racing. This past weekend I got a reminder of the little bit of freedom we are afforded in the simple act of getting on a bike.

My daughter decided to make the leap from training wheels to a full on two wheeled bike rider. This is something that we've all known she could do for the last year, but she just lacked the confidence to try. She's been riding razors, and skateboards on her own, but when it came to the bike she just wasn't quite ready. Saturday she decided to make the transition, and it was a revelation to her much like it is a revelation to us all when we have a break through and reach that goal that seemed impossible before. Now she wants to ride every day.

Let us all remember that sometimes it's good to forget about all the stuff we worry about as adults and just get out there and run, pedal, swim, play and move.

It's worth noting that when we made the move to riding on the road and sidewalks that the helmet rule was and is enforced. I always wear my helmet when riding on the roads and did so with my daughter as we went for our first ride around the neighborhood.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Heart Mini '08 - 2 Beats

So often when I finish a race and have done well I temper my enthusiasm with little put downs that keep me from getting really excited about what I've accomplished. I did really well in that 5k, but if I would have just started out a little slower, or if I would have just not slowed down that second mile I could have run just that much faster. Following which begins the laundry list of items that I will do differently next time. It's a disease. Very rarely do I think that I did the very best that I could do during that race on that day. The Mini-Heart Marathon on Sunday was one of those rare exceptions. I know to my core that I did the very best that I could do on Sunday, and I am completely happy with the results without reservation. I have no laundry list of improvements to make for the next race or next year when I run this race again. I am totally happy.

This is the first time I've ever run the "2 Beats" category. The 2 Beats is actually 2 races. You run the 5k race at 9 am and the 15k race at 10 am. You get a time for each race and a combined time for both races. I wasn't really running both races full on. I wanted to use the 5k as a warm-up of sorts and concentrate on the 15k. I've got another 5k coming up in April and this hilly course is never going to be a PR course for the 5k. However, this is the only 15k that I run during the year, so it could very well be a PR day for that distance. Here is a quick recap of both races.

I met up with my work running group before the 5k and lined up with them. The plan for Dave and myself was to run a fairly easy 5k and keep the pace at about an 8 minute/mile. It wasn't going to be easy because we are both a bit competitive and tend to push each other on training runs. I've had far faster training run times this spring than I ever have. I'm hoping it will pay off come marathon time. It definitely paid off today. From the sound of the gun the 8 minute/mile plan was dust. The pace came easy and the cool, cloudy day was very helpful. I broke a sweat somewhere around mile 1 as we joked that I might need to grab some water to replace my bead of sweat that I lost in fluids.

Somewhere around mile 2 we came up on a pint sized runner that had been ahead of us the entire time. I asked him what grade he was in to which he replied "6th grade" and followed up by asking him if this was his first race to which he replied "nah, I run cross country". I think Dave felt threatened because he pushed the pace up a bit...or maybe that was me. We cruised through the third mile and into the home stretch feeling comfortable. Dave sprinted the last 25 yards to beat a tall, lanky 15 year old girl...and I thought I was competitive. I finished up the 5k at 23:27 which is a 7:32 pace, which is slightly faster than we had intended. All is well though I was feeling good.

Official Time: 23:27
Pace: 7:32
Overall: 132/1535
Sex Pl: 119/750
Div Pl: 13/87

I jogged to my car to change clothes. I ran the first race in running pants and a fairly thick running shirt to keep warm on the cool morning. I definitely worked up a sweat in the last couple of miles and felt the sweat cooling starting to chill my skin. I didn't need that. I wanted to be dry and comfortable, which is why I came prepared. I changed into my Race Ready shorts and a lighter long sleeve running shirt. It wasn't warming up quite as much as they had predicted as heavy clouds still hung around threatening rain at any moment. Fresh clothes and a banana and I was ready for the main event.

The size of the field had doubled for the 15k..almost literally. There were 1535 finishers for the 5k and 2926 finishers for the 15k. Luckily the road was wide and the race longer. We would have plenty of opportunity to get out wide around the crowd, or make up time if we couldn't. We lined up somewhere in the middle of pack on the edge. Far enough up to get in front of the runners that would be slower than us, but not so far up that we would get swept up in the mania of a sprint start. That would be bad.

The gun went off and once again Dave and I were striding away from the start line. This time we had a goal in mind: 7 minute/miles. That would mean we were looking to cover our 9.3 miles in 1:05:14. That is a full 5 minutes and 4 seconds than my finish last year. 5 minutes and 4 minutes may not seem like a lot in normal human time, but in runner's time that's pulling about 30 seconds off each mile that I run. I had my doubts especially with the specter of Torrence hill looming over mile 6. Now you may not know what I'm talking about, but the course starts in downtown Cincinnati and is an out and back on one of the routes out of the city. It's a very hilly course with a mean little trick at mile 6. After you turn around to take the seemingly straight shot back into the city you make a sudden right hand turn up a nice steep hill for about a 1/4 of a mile. I'm betting it is a very sad moment for a lot of first timers.

The first 5K was flawless with a time of 21:41. We were cruising along nicely now a little ahead of schedule. Of course that's the easy part. Somewhere between mile 4 and mile 5 Dave started to feel a little bad. He was getting some tightness in a calf. We slowed the pace a little bit. No big deal we had a good 20 second cushion. Miles 4 and 5 were at about a 7:20 pace and Dave wasn't feeling any better. He decided to slow down a bit and try to work out the calf. I pushed on ahead. I was feeling very, very good. I had a little tightness in my left calf, but it was completely manageable. Everything else was going exactly as planned. As I pulled away from Dave I got a little nervous. He's a talker when he runs, so it makes the miles go by very quickly and easily. Suddenly I was by myself.

I spent the first part of mile 5 collecting my thoughts. I concentrated on my breathing for a little while and checked my watch. If I could get up and down Torrence without losing too much time I could actually pull it off. The final mile or so was a downhill stretch into the city. I made the right turn and pushed up the hill. I shortened my strides, concentrated on breathing and tried to keep from blowing up. Some were pulling ahead of me, others were falling back and a few weren't even going to challenge the hill and walked. I kept saying to myself that I wasn't going to win the race on this hill, but I could lose it if I pushed too hard. I chanted to myself in the final push to the turn around "I'll make it up on the downhill, I'll make it up on the downhill" and I was around and the cone and striding back down the hill. The 6 mile mark was near the bottom of the hill where we would turn back toward the city. I looked at my split for mile 6 in a little bit of disbelief...6:58. In that moment I knew that this was a PR day.

Mile 7 flew by in a blur as I collected myself after the hill and began to make plans for my final break. The fact that I was even thinking about a final break got me excited. The only thing standing between me and my goal was one last hill in mile 8 then it was a straight downhill shot into the city and a final sprint to the finish. Did I have a sprint left in me? No doubt.

I picked up the pace to hit mile 8 with a 6:38. Fantastic. Mile 9 was steady with a 6:52. Perfect. This was the final push from the edge of the city on a flat, straight finish. I sprinted. This was .3 miles. This was slightly longer than my Yasso's that I've been doing for 6 weeks. I focused on the person up ahead of me and pushed harder. I only had a few minutes left and I can see the finish line. I passed the runner and picked up on the next person ahead and bared down. Every muscle in my body was screaming and I was breathing very hard now. It didn't matter the finish line is closer, and closer, and there. I raised my hands as I crossed the line in triumph. It was a moment of triumph. I had caught a glimpse of the clock as I was coming to the finish line. I knew I was just over 1:05. I was shaking from head to toe from the effort and felt like I was going to puke. That is the sign of a good race!

The miles went like this: 7:05, 7:06, 6:32, 7:20, 7:20, 6:58 (the hill), 7:02, 6:38, 6:52, 2:09 (.3 sprint to the finish)

Official Time: 1:05:05
5k Split: 21:41
10k Split: 43:43
Overall: 163/2926
Sex Pl: 146/1512
Div Pl: 23/211

Finally 2+ years of blogging these events pays off. I was able to go back and look at the last two years of running the Mini-Heart and see just how far I've come. Two years ago I was psyched to run an 8:30 pace. How sweet is that? Check it out.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"It's so damn hot. Milk was a bad choice"

Aaah, the immortal words of Ron Burgundy. I think we can all learn something from his little nuggets of wisdom. You know what else is a bad choice? A couple of hours before a hard interval workout eating runny, scrambled eggs, bacon and biscuits with gravy from the workplace cafeteria. It's a terrible choice that I made last week. I now know the true meaning of the term gastrointestinal distress.

Besides the gastrointestinal stuff going on it also caused other problems. I think all the blood and energy that would otherwise go into powering my brain was in the vicinity of my stomach trying to process the ball of dough and eggs and grease that I had consumed. I was on the treadmill feeling nauseous, light headed, and generally shitty. As I pushed through the intervals my stomach was complaining and my legs were sluggish. As I slowed to recover my brain felt like it was floating away only tethered by a weak string. Being the stubborn, stupid guy that I am I pushed through anyway and finished. It felt terrible, but I hope to take away something positive from this experience: a valuable lesson as I prepare for my third marathon and second Flying Pig Marathon.

These kinds of mistakes bring to the forefront the importance of my nutritional needs for training and race day, my fuel. It is something that is easy to ignore most days and on most runs. I can skate by on short runs with nothing more than water. I can thrive on longer runs on a Gu or two and some water or Gatorade. The differences between training my longest training run and marathon race day make all the difference.

The first difference is distance and time. My longest run is 20 miles, which I do once. I'm not pushing myself particularly hard usually. The marathon is 26.2 miles. That last 6.2 miles makes or breaks the race. In these last 6.2 miles you find out if you've paced yourself properly, fueled properly, and prepared properly. If those are the standards, then I have to say that I have failed somewhere along the line in the first two marathons. The problem is figuring out which one. There are so many variables to consider: pacing, speed, nutrition, weather...

I think I can narrow it down to two variables. Pacing, which I will talk about in a second, and nutrition. Based on the fact that in both instances I've experienced severe leg cramps I can safely say nutrition is going to be very important going into my next race. What am I going to do? I've tried the electrolyte caps and that seemed to help on duathlons, but not so much for the marathon. My experience was so far outside the norm in terms of weather and climate, that it is tough to say that it wouldn't work under normal conditions. I'll have to give it some thought.

The other big difference in marathon day: pacing. The excitement of the race can so easily lead to a fast start which, in turn, leads to problems at the end. Got to go out easy. That is always tough for me. I'm getting used to the excitement of race day and it's becoming easier, but it is always a challenge. I have two strategies for dealing with this and they are both in training. The first strategy is to run more goal pace runs. I'm shooting for around an 8 minute/mile. I've been running a lot more of my long runs and goal pace runs at that speed. I'm starting to feel that 8 minute/mile. We don't need no stinking Garmin! The second strategy is training for negative splits. I'm teaching myself to start slow and end fast. I get so caught up in getting a fast start that I think I burn too much energy at the start of the race leaving nothing for the finish. That's just no good, and I'm working on it.

I got off on a little bit of a tangent, but what I'm really thinking about is nutrition. I need to devise a smarter nutrition plan leading up to and on race day. That's the goal for now.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Mental Game

I'm really surprised that I have not written about this aspect of running yet. I went back through some of my old entries and could not find anything. Certainly there is something buried in there somewhere for my marathon training last year. I'll have to take another look. I'm curious what I thought about the mental preparation last year and how my thinking might have changed after 2 marathons. I just can't seem to find it. Oh well let's take a stab at it today.

If I am going to be honest I think I have to admit that the mental aspect of running, especially long distance running is my weakest link. I plan out my training schedule. I try to eat the right things to prepare for racing (for the most part, ice cream may not be on the list of suggested training foods), but the mental aspect seems to fall by the wayside or is an afterthought. It is something that I need to think more about. All too often in a race I break down mentally and talk myself out of doing my best. All too often I let the negative voices win over.

I have a plan though. I have a plan that is already in progress to fight back the negative voices, to prepare me for those late miles of the marathon so that I can run my best.

1. Ditch the iPod.

I've long run with my iPod. I always thought that it helped me relax and enjoy the run, especially the long runs. I still think that it can have some benefit for those short recovery runs and medium recovery runs, especially on the treadmill. I've decided though that on my long runs and intervals, hills or other concentration intensive workouts I'm going to leave the iPod at home. I've found that when I've worn it for longer races, the marathon in particular, that it becomes a distraction late in the race. When I should be concentrating on my breathing, my technique and staying relaxed I'm stuck in my head with the iPod while I'm gasping for breath and running poorly. I need to start working on this now during my training. I leave the iPod at home and concentrate on technique.

The other reason to leave the iPod at home is that I'm running with a group more now. It is easier to be social and interact with the other runners with earbuds stuck in my ears. I still believe it has its benefits for running just not for me for now.

2. Find that technique that will help me late in the race.

I'm searching for that one thing that will motivate me late in the race when I'm tired and want to stop. There are many different methods that people use to motivate themselves or keep themselves on pace when things get tough. Some people disassociate themselves by latching on to a memory or other thoughts that take them away from the pain. Some people use their heroes to motivate them. This is particularly true for the TNT group. We are running for our heroes that are going through cancer treatment and tough times. If they can do what they're doing I can run a few more miles. Some use the love of their family, while others just concentrate on their bodies and count their steps.

I'm still looking for that one strategy that will push me through. It's easy to pick some things now, as I'm sitting here typing this, but I won't really know what's going to work until I put it to the test. This final weeks of long runs will be the testing ground. Right now I'm thinking that it won't be one particular thing, but a combination of strategies that helps. I'm still working it out.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Edge of Spring


It's 40 degrees and sunny. It's 50 degress and sunny. It's 35 degrees and raining. It's 20 degrees and we have 14 inches of snow fall in a day. It's 40 degress and sunny. This time of year can be tough on the spirit and the plans of a runner in marathon training. You never know what you have to look forward to from day to day let alone from week to week. It's forced me to spend a lot of quality time with the treadmill, so much so that I've been writing little poems and love/hate letters to the treadmill in my head. They are all pretty terrible and not worth sharing. You'll just have to trust me on that.

What's been going on in my month of silence? Team in Training and just training. I've been mentoring for Team In Training fundraisers for the Flying Pig Marathon. It's been an interesting experience so far. I think I was expecting a much more interaction between myself and the mentees. So far that has not been the case. I sent out emails introducing myself and giving some tips. I called people to introduce myself. I've spoken with some. I've had good conversations with a few. A couple were confused as to who I am, and what they were supposed to do be doing. A few I've tried to get a hold of, but haven't responded at all. I guess they're out there doing their thing....I hope. Maybe my expectations were all wrong. Maybe this is typical. I'm not really sure. I'll just keep doing my thing and hope for the best!

My training is going very well. It's been helpful to go back and look at my training entries from this time last year when I was writing a short blog for every workout that I did. That was before I started using Buckeye Outdoors, so this was my training log. I can go back and see what my expectations were, how naive I was about marathon training, and how I was feeling. Based on where I was at this time last I think I'm in pretty good shape.

I'm just getting into my speed training for this marathon, and I'm feeling optimistic. It's the toughest part of the training as the miles really start to increase and the workouts become more intense. Despite what I know is coming in terms of pain and exhaustion I'm focused and ready to go. The time I'm spending in the gym doing strength training is paying off. I'm feeling very healthy and injury free unlike last fall's Disney training. The time I'm spending with TNT and the Children's Running Group is paying off. I feel very connected with the groups, and know that even though I still do a lot of training alone I always have support and a group run right around the corner.

All is going well for now. So bring on the spring. Bring on more daylight. Now if we could just add a few more hours to the day, so I could get some more sleep that would be great!

Sunday, February 03, 2008


Whoa, January has just buzzed by so quickly. Things have been so busy with family fun, work, training for the Heart Mini, and the Flying Pig Half Marathon with the running group, and now one more commitment. I've decided to re-join Team in Training as a non-fundraising mentor. This means I'll be able to train with the team and run with the team for the Pig, but my only responsibility in terms of fundraising will be to help the fundraising runners reach their goals.

This won't be another full commitment apart from the running group. I will split time with Team in Training and the running group. It will also not be a solo project. I will be joining two friends and teammates from our Disney training group. We'll be working together and sharing our ideas and resources to make our job easier and the fundraising easier for the team. It should be awesome.

This is what began with Disney, and this is what I'm hoping to build on in the coming year. This is a community.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A New Chapter

This past week began a new chapter in my running story. The title of this chapter would be something along the lines of "Group Running" or something a little more imaginative. Sorry, it's 4:30 am, the creative juices aren't quite flowing yet. The point being, this past week I began running with a new running group that was formed at work. While it is developing into not exclusively a group comprised of only co-workers the original intent was such that employees of the hospital could join and train, race and socialize.

With a place as large as the hospital with over 14,000 employees and growing it's nice to get to know people from other departments and divisions. So often we get focused on our department or little group of co-workers that we see everyday that the rest of the workplace becomes this big mass of unknown people. So often you see the same groups sitting at the same tables at lunch time with very little change or interaction between groups from day to day. It seems in some ways we are all still in high school. The social aspect of the running group will definitely be a positive.

In terms of running I can see where this is going to up my game as well. Right now there is at least one other runner who I feel a bit of good natured competitiveness with during runs. After spending so much time running by myself and challenging only myself it is nice to get some external competitive stimulation. I know toward the end of my marathon training it became very easy to just cruise on my runs. I had lost a bit of competitive drive and was just happy to finish. If that is your goal then that is great, but for me part of the fun is the competition.

I also found out there are a couple of bonuses with the group. As part of the group we get access to a very nice training facility on bad weather days at the University of Cincinnati. We've been forced indoors this week due to snow and uncomfortably freezing temps. There is an 1/8 mile indoor track and of course the dreaded hamster wheel (treadmill). To save my knees I'm not going to spend a lot of the time on the track, because that is a lot of turns in the same direction over the course of 5-6 miles. The hamster wheel is much less torture, although still moderately torturous, when there is someone to run with and talk to while running to nowhere.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Disney Marathon Weekend

I've been trying to decide how to write about my Disney Marathon weekend with Team in Training. Do I want to break into two entries: one for the weekend and another for the race? One long entry? Just a quick paragraph to say hey it was awesome and keep the memories to myself? It's been tough to decide, and so much happened over the weekend that it's taking a while to sort it all out. So, what I've decided is to hit the highlights. These are the top 5 moments and revelations from my Disney Marathon weekend in no particular order.
5. Running with a team is much more fun.

My experience with Team in Training was just phenomenal. I wasn't able to make it to many of the training runs over the fall, which made me a little nervous about going down to Disney with a bunch of strangers. I was preparing myself to spend some time alone. I was good with that. Maybe I got lucky, but it turned out to be a wonderful group of people. Some of which I will have friendships with long after the weekend.

Not only did having a good group of people make traveling more enjoyable and the stay a ton of fun, but it made all the difference on race day. During my first marathon my family came out to support me which was wonderful, but they can only be so many places on the course. I saw them at about the halfway point and then at the end. They couldn't be there for me when the pain started around mile 18. There was no familiar faces when the cramps slowed me down to a walk at mile 20 and 21 and 22...

With Team in Training we had coaches all over the course to help out, to check on you, to give you support, or even to run or walk with you. We had scream teams all along the course to wave signs and yell your name. There were points in the race that I was expecting to see a friend at a certain point in the race, and it was hard to find them, because as I was running someone was yelling my name with every step! It was awesome.
With the team we had many people after the race to celebrate with, to compare notes, to console, to complain to about all the little things that happen in a marathon that nobody else would understand. With the team you have comrades in arms. It's a battle out there and you're not alone.
4. Running for a cause gives you strength.

One of the most memorable moments came before the race. The Team in Training Pasta Party was incredible. Hundreds of Team in Training participants, coaches, families, and heroes gathered to celebrate the accomplishments that really mattered. This wasn't only a marathon this was fundraising for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Wonderful stories were told by survivors. We heard the story of how Team in Training began. We met and had dinner with teams from all over the Americas with teams from the U.S as well as Peurto Rico, Canada and Mexico.

Everything was put into perspective and we were inspired.

3. Every race doesn't have to be for a PR.

3:30. That was my goal time. What are you going to run at the marathon Adam? I'm going to run around a 3:30. I can't count how many times I said that in the months before the race. Did I? Not even close. Things were looking great the first half of the race. I was feeling good. I was on pace. Everything was falling into place. Things changed shortly after mile 13. Maybe it was the heat and humidity. Maybe I didn't get enough rest because I chose to go out the day before and cheer on the half marathon runners rather than rest. Maybe it was a combination of things. What I wouldnt' say though is that the wheels fell off, or things went south.

Shortly after mile 13 I came to a realization. Today wasn't going to be the day. I was having a lot of fun out on the course with the fans and the team, but today just wasn't going to be the day for a pr. So what do I do? Quit? Piss and moan? Nah. This was 5 months of training and fundraising. This was about more than me and my pr. This was the party at the end of all the hard work. This was a celebration. A weight lifted off my shoulders. I smiled. I enjoyed the rest of the race. Leg cramps, tiredness, disgusting Powerade. It didn't matter. I smiled and ran on.

2. Smile

Race photos can be terrible. In you're mind's eye your a cheetah. You're sleek and fast and furious. In your mind's eye that determined look on your face is going to look awesome in the photos. Guess what? Unless you're a ripped, 2% body fat speed demon 90% of the time those photos are going to be cringe worthy. Believe me I've had my share. My determined running face makes me look like my grandpa running. Fat cheeks don't look cool on the run. If you see a camera, smile. Raise your hands. Do something goofy. Have fun.

1. Do something fun the day after a marathon.
There is one word that describes the day after a marathon....pain. If you don't have the pain kudos to you, but what I saw at the resort the day after Disney was a lot of people shuffling along with looks of pain on their faces. Do something fun if you can. Go to the pool, take a walk, get a massage. Get those muscles moving and feeling good. If you're in Disney it's easy. Go ride some rides!