Tag Archives: running

4 miles, easy

Friday night was an easy run. That phrase has a little bit of oxymoron to it. I set out on Friday evening for two laps of what I call “Little Bear”, my original 2 mile course through the neighborhood. I ran all bundled up (including a “Turtle Fur” neck gaiter I’ve become fond of this winter) because 4 miles at an easy pace hardly warms you up in 25-30 degree weather in the dark.

Despite the ‘easy pace’ of the run, the miles took it out of me. I was as zoned (not tired just… breathless) as I have been for much longer runs.

That said, I’m one run away from completing week 1 of my 10 week training plan, and Sunday long runs have always been more of a pleasure when I have the time to savor them. More about that after I run it: I’m sitting in the car finishing this post, ready to set off for 8 miles that promise to be as bright as Friday’s were dark, and as cold as Friday’s were, well, cold.

10 weeks to the Glass City Half Marathon.


Round and round

Last night was the first tempo run in more than 3 months. It seems weird when I put it that way, because I’ve made such efforts to keep running through winter, but there is running, and then there is RUNNING.

A tempo run of 3 miles at 8:22 is RUNNING. I headed out in the darkness after stopping by the gym for a valentines kiss from Stephanie. I ran a mile warmup, trying to psyche myself up for that run, without spilling over and burning too much valuable energy on the warmup.

By the time I reached my mile loop I felt ready, and in fact burned through the first mile at an 8 minute pace, faster than intended. That rush ‘out of the gate’ combined with me trying to eat dinner to fuel for the run meant that the next two were progressively slower. 8:20 and 8:37. My stomach hurt and my energy was at a low ebb by the time that final mile ended.

Not too slow, and I think on average my pace comes out about right, but the objective wasn’t quite achieved. I finished and had to slow to a walk, something I haven’t done in so long that I can’t recall the last time.

That said, the run felt good, and opening the door on my race training was a good enough result. I know that my next tempo run wi be better, and the next will be better than that.

2 months 12 days 12 hours until the Glass City Half.

Waking up

I never wake up early.

Once it was youthful lethargy, the late nights and late mornings of a child, given permission to grow in 4 years of college, and consciously cultivated in a 9-5 office job. I proudly told people that I was, no doubt, up later than they were. I slept until I woke to an alarm that for most of my colleagues would have been a last resort.

When I became a runner, most people had varying degrees of one reaction, that I remember most distinctly from my mother; “I didn’t ever think you’d ever be a runner; don’t you have to get up early?” Even still, I was right there with them, shunning the cliche of the dawn time runner. “It’s perfectly possible to just run during the day or at night after work. Races are early but that’s hardly most of being a runner!”

But near the end of my last training plan I had two things collide that eventually do for every runner. Life vs Training. Do I want to get in my weekly tempo run? Or do I want to have dinner on Friday night with my friends?

There was a third option, of course. And at the time, setting that alarm for the bleary hour of 4:30 seemed like something I could do once, just to get me through that Friday.

But a strange, perhaps predictable thing happened; I actually liked it.

I ran mile repeats out in a neighborhood across the road that by design or happy accident has an almost exactly 1 mile circular loop and is a almost exactly a mile away. Setting out in the predawn darkness, I felt silly wearing my sunglasses, but as the neighborhood and sun awoke at parallel rates I appreciated them. Suburban developments in the fall are lonely places, but in the morning hours as people bustle off for work and school they are a fraction more alive.

While I wasn’t entirely without reservations, I found myself scheduling the next few Friday runs for before work.

Here in the new year, the first run of my training plan for the Glass City half was a 4 mile run on Tuesday. And rather than give up on standing Tuesday plans. I woke up before the sun and set out to that other neighborhood, to watch them wake up, and wake up a little myself.

2 months, 15 days and 9 hours until the Glass City half.

Musing on a taper week.

Monday was the first day of week 16 of a training plan that has succeeded, to a boring degree. I set my sights on a modest increase in my pace in the half marathon, and I’ll know soon if that training plan has succeeded. These 6 days are populated with a mere 11 miles of running.

With only the vaunted (or dreaded) taper remaining, that particular outcome is decided, but unknown. It is Schrodingers race. Right now it has both succeeded and failed, but I will not know until I open the box on Sunday morning and let loose all those tempo runs, all those mile repeats, and try to run 13.1 miles at an 8:43 pace and finish the Detroit Free Press Half Marathon in 1:54:xx.

Over the past few weeks, my training plan hit the 30+ mile weeks that I knew were coming. And at first glance, I felt like I did not do anything new. The plan was so similar to my Pittsburgh plan. And because it was so long, the differences snuck up on me. I haven’t tracked the milestones, but I have turned in some of the fastest, hardest and longest workouts of my entire life this training cycle, and I did it without feeling miserable.

I’ve adjusted my life, my sleeping schedule, and my attitude, to hit those key workouts. I’ve run in the rain, in the dark of night, in the hour before dawn. Things I didn’t do in my last plan, I did here. I did them to achieve a number most people don’t care about, something you can’t even explain. With breaking two hours, people got it. Now, it’s just another 5 minutes. But that is what is left to me, what I drive toward as long as my body will gain another 5 minutes, before I have to change my goals to a different kind of growth. Today I am young, and I am getting fitter, maybe too late to have ever seen what I was truly capable of, but certainly not too late to know what I am capable of now.

So this half marathon is not a milestone. It’s not my first, it’s not my first sub 2. It might be the next PR, but I won’t know that until Sunday. But at some point you go from laying your keystone, to laying just another brick in the wall, and I always said I was in this for the whole building.

The 2012 Detroit Free Press Half Marathon – Training

Committing to a running plan is, paradoxically, a relief for me, rather than an intimidating event. Writing the plan, or researching it, or picking a race, all of those tasks, that involve choice so heavily, are intimidating. With a choice, or worse, with dozens of small choices, I am faced with the reality that not only might I not make a good one, I will likely not make the best one. These are the kind of things that afflict those of us with nervous minds.

Once the plan is laid in, typed into the calendar, the goal race set, and the paces all determined, the relief is palpable. At last, no more choices! There is only “run” or “don’t run” and I know which one of those is the best choice.

My plan for the Detroit Free Press Half comes, lifted whole, from Runner’s World Smart Coach, a free iPhone app that takes a recent race result, a goal race, your basic training stats (miles per week, experience) and spits out a training plan. This is perfect for the symptoms described above. I signed up for Detroit because I didn’t get to do it last year, and when I was still agonizing over 5k and 10k for the summer, I realized that the 16 week window I had used for optimal training for Pittsburgh was creeping up for Detroit.

So I told the app to spit out a plan, and it did. 16 weeks of runs, with the three pillars being a long run, a workout, and 3 easy runs each week. It also features a drop back week every fourth week with only easy runs. To see the whole thing in detail, check out the plan over on the Training Calendar tab above.

My ability to stick to the plan may take some flexibility, as my current schedule is a little out of phase with Steph’s workouts, but it feels good to have a plan again. The Detroit Free Press half is in a few months, and I have no reason to believe I won’t show up there with another sub 2 half. And if it goes well, maybe another incremental PR.

That said, I think there’s some room in the plan for using a 5k or 10k as a check-in race, but I’m not sure I want to go down the road of looking for one again. My indecision shines through when I start that process.

The other side of the hill

Certainly, whether you’re a runner, or just a person who has taken the stairs instead of the elevator, you know the feeling when you crest the hill and the climb is over.

In more than one way, this week is that for me.

The Pittsburgh Half Marathon is in the morning. My training was 100% on target until these last two weeks, when work intruded on multiple of my runs. The worst casualty was my last hard speed workout, where a Thursday night run last week that was supposed to be 10 miles turned into an unwilling rest day when I got home from the office at 10pm. Up until about 8:30, I was still convinced that I was going to manage to get out and clock it anyway. But it was already once I felt trained. With the few runs being so close to the main event, I didn’t feel like I was losing out, more like the universe had said “let’s taper a little more than the Runner’s World App said to.”

As stable as my running career has been, my engineering career has been volatile. At the beginning of March, my direct supervisor announced he was moving on to a career leadership program. For most of March and April I’ve been riding the roller-coaster of that change at work. At first, what does this change mean? Next, how do I show that I’m the best one for this job? Then doubts, stress, preparation, agonizing amounts of patience, and finally, a few weeks ago, a respected friend and colleague of mine and I found the perfect solution. After interviewing separately for the job, we agreed to apply jointly. And, as of this Tuesday, we are officially job sharing the supervisor role. This past Monday was the last Monday I’ll work for the foreseeable future, as I move to a part-time (Tue-Fri) schedule, while taking a big promotion to the management team at Ford.

I feel very fortunate. Life isn’t always so kind as to give us exactly what we need, regardless of whether we foresaw that need ourselves. This promotion could have been a life-changing amount of stress, and a lonely road as I learned the ins and outs of managing a team. The job share solution ameliorates that in two ways; giving me the flexibility to manage my stress and load through the part time schedule, and giving me a partner to share the hike up the learning curve.

With that taking effect, and the race travel winding up and dropping me here, in Pittsburgh, hours before the race, I truly feel that I am at the crest of a ridge, looking out over someplace new. It’s a triumphant feeling, but not entirely without trepidation. Tomorrow morning, I’ll know if this hard Spring training plan paid off. And once that immediate challenge is over, I get to take on something I’ve looked forward to for a long time, professionally.

My bib number is 22818, and the race website was offering live tracking, if you want to play along at home. No live tracking on the new job, but I think you can assume you’ll hear about it here. As Brit said in comment to my last post, I’ll need the constancy of running during this exciting time, and I think that experience; the meditation afforded me during a long run, will make for some interesting blog posts.

8.5 hours to the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. I’m trusting my training when I say 10.49 hours to the finish line.

Wish me luck, folks.

When training takes a back seat

Sure, this could be a post to say that I haven’t kept up with my goals, that I haven’t stuck to my plan and earnestly recommitting myself to my half marathon plan with just a month to go before I toe the start line at the Pittsburgh Half Marathon nice again.

But that’s not necessary, because despite not writing about it, I have been running. I haven’t missed a single workout through the entire training plan. I just haven’t been writing about it. And rather than getting all tearful and “dear diary” about it, I’m just going to admit I’ve been plenty motivated without the blog. So when I say in my title that training has taken a back seat, I really just mean that it’s not up front, arguing with me about directions and whining for bathroom breaks. It’s in the back seat, getting to the destination. Along for the ride.

I’ve had some great runs these past few weeks, mostly in the form of my increasingly-brutal, wouldn’t-miss-it-for-the-world, speedwork each Thursday. Last one was 4 mile repeats at a pace I didn’t think I could hang for a 1/4 mile, never mind 4 mile long intervals. My tempo run, this coming Thursday is set to be among my longest, fastest runs yet; 5 miles at 8:56, very near my targeted race pace for the Pittsburgh Half.

My weight loss broke another plateau this week and I’m down in the 205-210 range; approaching the normal BMI range for the what seems likely to be the first time since college. I am struggling with some issues surrounding that weight loss and my feelings about it; something I want to write about more soon.

Ultimately all this unabashed good news in the areas of health and fitness is, like I said, riding along with a lot of career/work concerns that are really steering the ship. My boss announced he was leaving his current position at the beginning of March, and the time since then has been a tumult of speculation, application, interviewing and rumor as my colleagues and I all grasped at something that’s been rather sparse of late; a big opportunity to advance. Without running, I think I’d be handling myself with less grace and composure right now. I’ve gotten some great thinking done on the 5 mile runs that dominated my plan this week, and I look forward to the control of my situation that running gives me every time I step out the door.

My goal for tonight is not to let this one languish in the draft folder, so forgive the rough edges. 4 miles tomorrow. 26 days to the Pittsburgh Half.

Plague, Plows and Plans

I run all winter. I don’t do it because I think everybody should, and I don’t do it to prove a point. I do it because I feel like it keeps me from putting a box around my running and shrinking that box over time. If I plan to run in all conditions, then there’s no chance of the excuses progressing from the entirely valid “It’s snowing, pitch dark, and below 0, I’ll just hit the gym.” to “It looks like it might rain.”

Plenty of people have enough self discipline to come up with a real set of rules and stick to them. I just run unless I can’t. That’s my simple rule.

This week I had two instances where I couldn’t. Last Friday I got a head cold, which I ran 8 miles with on Sunday. I took my customary rest day on Monday, despite the day off and the warm weather. By Tuesday night I regretted missing that chance to run. The headcold progressed to seemingly a sinus/bronchial infection, which knocked me out for 17 hours of sleep, and had me miss work, and any thoughts of a run, on Wednesday.

With hacking and coughing dominating over speech, I worked from home Thursday and Friday. With that flexibility, I entertained thoughts of daytime runs, so Thursday I ventured outdoors at the end of the workday, only to find that winter had actually arrived. 21 degrees on the weather report did not tell the full story of the bitter cold I encountered as I stepped out the door. Combine that with my weak state, and I turned around after merely a 2 mile total run, with my fingertips and face going numb.

Luckily after a doctor’s appointment on Friday, the magic of antibiotics, combined with beer & pizza with friends in Toledo, had brought me back from the brink, so after a week of merely 2 miles, I ran 5 miles Saturday and 8 miles sunday for a respectable 15 mile week.

I don’t always know when that commitment to always run is going to really work, but this time it did. Running all those miles this weekend picked my mood up following a really crummy week, and put me in the mindset to lay down my plans for training for the Pittsburgh Half in the spring. Instead of feeling like Pittsburgh is just a distant concept, I’m looking forward to starting my 15 week plan in the week of the 30th.

One thousand miles

Good morning and happy 2012 everyone!

Stephanie and I are staying with our friends Chuck & Annette for our annual NYE bash with a huge group of my oldest and dearest friends. As a result I had the synchronous and satisfying experience of finishing 2011’s running right where I started it. With a 5 mile total out and back yesterday, I rounded off 2011 to almost exactly 1,000 miles. At 4.5 miles (where I hit the mark exactly, by my estimate) I was emerging from Schenley park, at the foot of the hill where Annette and I ran a few miles to start off the year, doing laps of the track on the Overlook, the Cathedral of Learning looming seemingly at eye level, as emblematic of Pittsburgh as the crazy hill arrangement that makes such a view possible. When I hit that point I cheered and shouted, though I was alone, and no one was around to share it with. I was thinking, in my heart, of my excitement to share it with all of you.

Logically I know there’s nothing more magical about 1,000 miles than there is about 999. But as with every milestone, (5k, 10k, 10 miles, 13.1 miles) the meaning is in our curiosity about them. I will tell you that among the people I told at the party, which was immodestly too many, not one asked “Why 1,000?” We all seem to understand the fascination with round numbers.

I hope that everyone out there had as good of a 2011 as I did. I will keep writing (and running) in 2012.

Jingle Bell 5k

This past Saturday I ran the first race that I’ve ever not ‘raced’. I wasn’t worried about my time at all. Instead, I was fundraising for Arthritis Foundation, and enjoying a great Saturday morning with my friend Sheryl.

I picked her up at 8:00am at her place, and we had what is almost a stereotypical experience. I asked where the venue was, she told me, but said “It’s weird, the front page said 8:30am, not 9:00am for race start…” So we headed out, not knowing if we’d end up rushing in to the start line and catching up from the back.

Luckily when we arrived at 8:20, there was no evidence of the race being imminent, so we were able to get our timing tags on, and I was able to pin on my wearable xmas lights. Yes, that’s right, since I raised $325 for Arthritis Foundation, I bought some battery powered xmas lights and ran the whole race decked out like a sparsely decorated tree.

The photograph doesn’t do the lights justice, but it was pretty amazing.

We lined up near the back, because Sheryl & Diana are still working their way up to a full-running 5k with that very popular couch-to-5k plan. Unfortunately, Diana’s bluetooth headset chirped its last before we got to mile 2, so our breaks became a little bit more random, as the ladies were alternating between that sweet race day adrenaline that makes you want to run extra, and the pain of pushing themselves. That pain is what running is all about! Great job, Diana & Sheryl!

We got near the end, and Diana tragically started lying to poor Sheryl about how much distance we had left. See, we hadn’t crossed the 3 mile line yet, and Diana started saying things like “It’s just a few hundred feet from this corner!” and “the finish is right up there”!

Then when I started reporting the real distance from my Garmin, and getting nasty looks! I’m sorry, Sheryl! But you finished, and with 5 more weeks of C25k, you’ll be running strong the whole way in no time.

The race was well organized with a great, enthusiastic finishing line crowd, and a fun raffle/awards ceremony in the movie theater afterward. My favorite form of comedy was the raffle announcements where we all had tickets from the same spool, so the first 3 of 6 numbers were always the same. Still, people got really excited every time he called out those three numbers, with an audible noise of anticipation through the room. Then you’d hear 200, then 99, then 9 people groan in outrage and agony as they were eliminated as the called the next 3 digits in slow progression. Somehow, this reaction never got old to the MC, and he started drawing out the calls longer and longer.

I had a great time going out and doing a run for the purpose of sharing the day with my friends and helping out a good cause, and can easily see myself doing some more things like this in the future.