My Time, My Marathon

Less than 24 hours until I toe the line of the 2013 Philadelphia Marathon.   The training is done.  There were a few points during training where things didn’t go as planned, especially here in the last week.  I felt like crap, chest congestion, cough, stuffy nose, so I did the best thing I could do, rest.  I was able to time my vacation from work around this event, so I haven’t worked since Monday, and am beyond mentally relaxed as well.  I don’t think I could do much else to prepare for this event.

What’s my strategy going into this run?  First and foremost is to be patient.  I can’t go out and blow my load the first two miles feeding off the adrenaline of the crowd.  I need to run smart, and that is running the first half of the marathon slower than the second half.  I need to hold back in the beginning when I feel like pushing, and push when I feel like holding back in the second half.  Second is to stay well hydrated.  I will hit every water stop early in the race.  The cold medicine I have been taking, has been leaving me very dehydrated.  Third is to clear my mind of all distractions and be focused.  No worries about the rest of my life, and what might happen tomorrow.  While I’m out there, there is no tomorrow!  It is just me, the course, and the clock.  Last is to leave every ounce of energy, every ounce of my being out on that course, so that when I cross that finish line, I have nothing left to give.  

Concerns?  Yeah I have a few.  One of the biggest feelings I’ve had throughout my training, and why I named this blog “Where it All Begins Again”  is because I have felt like I’m getting ready for my first marathon all over again, and it is in Philadelphia where I ran my first back in 1999.  So I guess I’m a little scared, I feel like I’ve never gone this distance before, even though I have 11 times.  I wonder whether my mind will let me put my body through it.  Although Rocky Balboa said it best, ” I think you try a little harder when you’re scared, this is what has worked for me.”  Second concern is my right ankle, it has been bothering me for a while now.  Nothing out of the ordinary, but it worries me over the long haul.  I’m going to be wearing a protective sleeve over it tomorrow for a little extra support.  Other than that, I am in perfect working condition.

Wow, I just can’t believe the big day is just about here.  The last two weeks have definitely creeped up on me fast.  Tomorrow, all the hard work pays off.  I’m ready!   As the Rocky sayings go, “you’re gonna eat lightning, and you’re gonna crap thunder, they’re gonna have to put you in a cage kid.”  The time I spend out there, whether it be 4 1/2 hours, 5 hours, or gulp…5 1/2 hours, that is my moment.  It is my World Series, it is my Super Bowl, it is my Stanley Cup, it is my Wrestlemania, it is my time, and my marathon!  I’ll see you at the finish!

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Just Your Friendly Neighborhood Marathon Runner!

When I go on my training runs, I see a lot of people.  Whenever I pass somebody on the sidewalks going in the opposite direction I always make it a point to either smile, wave, nod my head, say hello, or GASP all of the above. I do this regardless of whether the person is a fellow runner or just somebody walking to the Wawa down the street. Most of the people I pass return that courtesy to me.  However I’ve noticed lately that more and more people are more ignoring me as I run by, or just give me the proverbial “mean mug”.   If you want to be angry at the world that’s cool, I’m angry at the world sometimes too.  If you’re having a bad day, I get it, we all have them.  We all have issues and things that upset us, but why take it out on a stranger?  Especially if that stranger is going to say hello, or shoot you a smile?  I’m just your friendly, neighborhood, marathon runner!  If we all smiled and said hello to each other more, I bet this world would be a lot happier of a place.

Okay now that I have that off my chest, back to training.  Today I sit 10 days away from my 12th marathon.  I attempted that final 20 mile long run that the “experts” say is good to have under your belt.  About 10 miles into it, I did the worst thing I could do.  I started to think about things.  I lost my mental focus and got in my own head.  I ended up stopping at 10,83 miles.  I’ve never been one to listen to “experts”.

Where do I go from here?  Do I attempt another long run?  No I don’t.  I’m going to do what works best for me, and what’s always worked best for me.  I’m going to put in three or four 4-8 mile runs between now and race day, just to keep me loose.  I’ll hit the gym a few times as well.  Most importantly though, I am going to have an advantage that I’ve never had in a marathon in my adult life.  I am going to have the 5 days leading up the marathon off from work, so I will be properly rested as well.  Although I’ve had some hiccups in my training like yesterday, I will not let them defeat me.  This is my time, my shot, my opportunity.  I will make the most of it.

Refreshed and Getting Ready

For those who follow and read this blog, let me begin by apologizing for being AWOL for the last week or so.  I hit the wall and I hit it hard.  Between working 60 hours or so a week as a restaurant manager and training for this marathon, I burnt myself out.  I was going out on runs feeling like I had been hit by the express train.  I would sleep 8 hours a night and feel like I slept two.  Although because I’m stubborn and hard headed, have more balls than brains whatever catchphrase you want to use, it took an important part of my training equipment to break down for me to stop and realize I was breaking down.

Two Christmases ago, I received a re-gift if you will from my younger brother Jake.  It was more of my Mom got him a Nike sport band at his request but the boy genius failed to mention or realize that you needed a special Nike shoe for it to work.  A shoe that I just happened to have had for a few months, so it was given to me since I would use it.  Since then, I’ve used it to track all of my mileage, calories burnt, and pace.  I’ve loved it and sworn by it since then.  Yeah I’ve had some issues with it.  Most recently when I had to go buy a new one a few weeks ago because my chip shorted out when I got caught in a torrential downpour during a run.  Well I was out on a run last week, and it just stopped working again.  Not sure why, but it did.  I was about 3 miles into my run, and it had stopped working at 2 miles.  A day later, after I came home and reset my timing chip, I ventured out again, thinking that it’s going to work.  This time I made it about 2 miles and it stopped working at 1.4.  At this point I’m pissed that I’m physically feeling like crap, I’m in the middle of a 7 day in a row streak at work, and now I can’t even track how far I’m running.  I was over it.  I decided to just relax for a few days.  No running.  Force my body to rest a bit. Try and decide on a new timing and tracking device, and then go back at it when I feel better.

Over the course of the last two days, I realized I had a timing/tracking device on my Nike app which is installed on my phone. So that was one problem solved, and the expense of having to go out and buy a new saved.  Physically I was starting to feel better too.  Today, I woke up and felt like I needed to be out running, so I did.  I felt pretty good out there.  I missed being out there.  It was a beautiful, crisp fall day here in suburban Philadelphia.  My time and distance weren’t totally accurate because I accidentally paused the app in the middle of my run, but that’s ok.   We are in the home stretch in now.  Less than a month until the Philadelphia Marathon.   Today, I feel like I turned a corner. I’m going to have the balance the rest of the way of rest, and hard work.  I will be ready November 17th.    

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Time for a Tune-Up

My last competitive run was back at the end of July.  It was a 5-miler down at Valley Green in Chestnut Hill called The Run for the Hill of It.  This run is near and dear to my heart because it was my very first road race in 1995.  This year however, I was in a bad place on race day.  I had originally hurt my left hamstring for the first time playing softball about 10 days before, and was just starting to slowly feel better, but physically probably shouldn’t have been out there.  Mentally I was just emotionally drained from the year I had up to that point.  Honestly, I just wanted to be out there to feel something.  I didn’t care if it hurt, I just wanted to feel something.  Needless to say, it wasn’t a good race, but I felt refreshed mentally.  I still wasn’t 100% physically, I actually ended up re-injuring my leg that next week playing softball.  So basically I’ve run three road races this year.  The Midnight Run on New Year’s Eve/Day which wasn’t spectacular but at least I didn’t puke at the finish line like I did the year before. The Broad Street Run which I ran in memory of my Grandmother who died in March.  It didn’t go the way I wanted it to go, but everyone around me said I made her proud,  Lastly was the Run for the Hill of It, and I haven’t competed since.

That all changes in just a few hours.  I received an interesting email several days ago about a 5K to be held today.  It’s interesting because it’s being held at Parx Casino.  For those of you who don’t know the area, Parx Casino is the old Philadelphia Park horse track which now has a casino as well.  What makes this 5K interesting, is that part of the race is held on the horse track.  Actually it’s the final 7/8th of a mile, the stretch run, whatever you want to call it, and it is announced by the track’s announcer.  Not to mention the race will be shown on TV’s in the infield, the picnic grove, and on the big screens in front of the building.  Sounds kinda cool!

A 5K is not a mileage tune up for a marathon, BUT it is a racing tune up.  I need to get my racing mentality, my competitive  edge, my eye of the tiger back.  I need to prep my body to not go out too hard, to run strong in the middle, have an awesome finishing kick, and to leave it all out there!  As has been the case with me lately, I’m going to be going on little sleep.  I closed at work, and got home about 45 minutes ago.  It’s almost 4am here, the race is at 10, but I have to be there by 8 to sign up.  If I can bust out 13.1 miles on 0 hours of sleep earlier this week, this should be cake!  MMMMM cake!  

I’ll post my results later today or tomorrow!

Running in the Rain, just Running in the Rain

A few weeks ago I set out on a run.  The sky was overcast, but we hadn’t seen a drop of rain yet.  At least not in my neighborhood.  I didn’t take any precautions just in case, I planned on a quick 4 miles and be back in the comfort of my own home before it started to rain.  No windbreaker or poncho, no protective case for my phone with my music, no plan if it started to pour.  A little less than a mile in, I started to feel rain drops, light, little, rain drops.  No cause for concern, I don’t melt.  I continued on.  By 1.5 miles it felt like I was caught in a monsoon.  Not just any monsoon, but like a Gorilla Monsoon!  Heavy, blinding rain, blustery destructive wind, unavoidable puddles.  I had no choice but to finish my run, it was the only way I was getting home.  3.5 miles later, I was soaked to the bone, so were my shoes with my Nike timing chip, and my phone with my music on.  The phone recovered, my timing chip did not, I had to go out and get a new one.  I promised myself I would not make this mistake again, and a little voice whispered in my ear said I was never going to go run in the rain again if this is what is going to happen to my stuff.

I’ve always enjoyed running in the rain, or just in bad weather in general.  I just have this feeling of being productive after a good bad weather run.  It toughens you up I guess.  I’ve had a protective covering for my phone that I can run with, that I never use because it is extremely uncomfortable compared to my normal arm band that holds my phone.   Maybe it was time I stopped being stubborn and get used to using it?  I know there is probably somebody that is going to read this that is going to say, “why don’t you go to the gym and run on the treadmill?”  Very simple answer, I HATE running on the treadmill.  It beats up my knees, and is boring as hell to me.  Since I’ve joined my gym, I’ve used the treadmill there, 1 time.  

Today, I needed to run.  I ran 13.1 miles two days ago, rested yesterday.  I needed to get back out there.  The weather forecast for the next few days is calling for rain.  I looked out my window, and all I saw was that overcast sky again.  I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get 7 miles in like I was planning, but I wanted to get out there and do something.  I broke down, I got my waterproof, protective phone holder, I threw a windbreaker on as well, and I headed out to run.  The first 2 miles the weather stayed tame, only a light drizzle.  The final 2.5 miles is was a steady continuous rain.  There were no huge puddles on the sidewalks I was running, I did however get splashed by one jerk off in a BMW who drove by.  At this point I was praying my precautions would pay off.  4.5 miles in the books, I was soaked, but my phone wasn’t, and neither was my timing chip.  My pace was a lot faster than I felt like I was going, which was great.  A great run in the rain today!  It’s amazing how much better things work out when you prepare!

Next up, a tune-up race this Saturday.  It’s only a 5K, but I need to get that competitive race mentality thing going again!

Early Mornings

When you commit to running a marathon, one of the biggest commitments you make is that on race morning, you’re going to be ready to start early!  I can remember the starts of both the Disney World and Tampa Bay Marathons getting started at 6am, and running in the dark, being several miles in as the sun was coming up.  Heck, I almost missed the start of Tampa Bay one time, and I was staying in a hotel a block from the start line.  D’oh!

For the last 4 years, I have been a restaurant manager.  I love what I do for a living, and I love the company that I work for.  However the schedule I work does not allow me to have a consistent training schedule.  I work a lot of late nights getting home at 3am or later.  Getting up at 6 or 7 am to go put in a decent chunk of miles is near impossible for me to do.  Usually I train in the mid to late mornings, or early in the afternoon.   Recently though I’ve been thinking a lot more about training my mind as well as my body for this race as I have mentioned in previous posts.   I feel part of the mental preparation involves getting my mind and body used to running a long distance very early in the morning.  If my mind and body are in harmony and comfortable with going out running early in the morning now, it should make race morning that much easier.

Today, I am trying something different.  Last night (Monday), I closed at work, and left there shortly after 3am.  I arrived home, and have spent the last half hour in front of my laptop finishing some work I had to bring home with me.  It’s a little after 5am, and by 6am, I have every intention of being out the door and getting some miles in.  How far am I going to go this morning?  Well considering I’ve taken the last several days off due to my work schedule, I’m thinking a minimum of 7.  If I feel unstoppable out there, maybe 10-14.  If this goes well, I think I am going to have to start to get myself in the habit of not going to bed when I first get home from work on a close, and go for an early morning run.

The Demons of My Training

I ran my first marathon when I was 19 years old.  The only thing I “learned” that day in Philadelphia was that I could run 26.2 miles and I enjoyed the thrill of being able to do it.  Now at 33 and having 11 marathons to my name, I have learned a lot more.  Sadly most of it I didn’t learn until my last three.  Some of those lessons included the following:  1. I’ve punished my body a lot and have not cared for it the way I should have since high school.  2.  This means I’ve drank wwwwaaaaaayyyyy too much beer, and have not run enough miles, that’s all! 3.  I can no longer just show up on the day of a marathon with half ass training, and expect to run it the way I did in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.  4.  Lastly maybe all the books I read on running were right; cross-training, speedwork, and the long run are crucial elements to a good marathon training program.  For me, all three of those elements have been missing from my training for the past 11 marathons.  This time around I am trying to turn over a new leaf, maybe you want to call it growing up, whatever you want to call it.  I am trying to give myself a steady diet of all three during the this training camp.  It’s been a matter off the good, the bad, and the ugly so far.

The Good:

The cross training thing has actually gone pretty well.  I joined Planet Fitness earlier this year, and after a few months of not using it, an injury forced me to start using it.  I’m usually in there for an hour and a half 2 to 3 days a week.  I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but I’m not there to bulk up, I’m there to tone up.  Usually I’ll do 30-40 minutes of the cardio workout on the bike, then I’ll do some ab work, followed by some lifting.  Sometimes I’ll run in the morning, and head to the gym at night.  Doing this cross training thing has been great, because it keeps me active on the days I’m not running, and leaves me feeling stronger when I am out running.

The Bad

Incorporating speedwork into my training regimen hasn’t quite gone well.  I need to start finding my way out to the track at least once a week.  Playing with speeds during my daily mileage just isn’t cutting it.   There isn’t much to say on this subject, I just need to get out there and do it.  Hopefully there will be a post in the next few weeks saying how I’ve embraced getting back on the track and building my speed back up.

The Ugly

The long run is the ultimate key to any marathon training program, because on race day that’s what you are doing, running long!  However, it’s a battle that I’ve constantly struggled with.  In leading up to previous marathons, the furthest I’ve gone is maybe 15 miles ONCE!   How I ever finished any of my marathons respectably without a 20 miler under my belt is beyond me, but I did.  Whenever I would try to do a long run, I’d get bored, and just told myself I’d be fine come race day. Earlier this week, I hit my single run mileage high for this training with a little more than a 7 mile run.  Yesterday I decided it was time for my first real long run of this training.  I was thinking 10-13 miles would be a good start. I got out the door, and felt great.  I coasted for the first 5 miles, and was starting to think I’m going to get a little closer to 13, maybe even 14 miles.  It was a cool morning, probably low 50’s, and I was wearing running shorts and a t-shirt.  As I started to work up a good sweat, it was that cold sweat.  I started to get chills, which basically made my stomach start to turn on me.  This is where everything started to get ugly.  I’m not going to get into the gruesome details of the rest of the run. Let’s just say it was a struggle, and I ended up having to end just a little past 10 miles.  Now granted it was 10 miles, the longest I’ve run since May, and I’m good with that.  I just wish I could have felt better and gone a little longer.

Today, I feel pretty good.  I’m a little sore, but I’m more tired than anything.   That I think has more to do with working late last night.  I’m going to rest today, and get back out there tomorrow.  I also now have a long run plan for the rest of training.  By October 15th, I want to have one 13-15 miler complete, and by November 1st, one 18-20 miler complete, which should have me in a great spot come November 17th!