Monday, February 27, 2012

Just Drop Me Off, and I'll Run Home!

It sounds cool, doesn't it? "Drop me off here and I'll just run home."  That is essentially what I told Hiroko yesterday morning.  She needed the car, and I planned to run a 10 miler in Umstead.  However, as it got closer to the time for us to leave, I began to do some complex mathematical calculations simple addition and realized that the Ready Creek Trail through Umstead was approximately 5 miles one way, and the Greenway from Meredith College to Schenck forest was 4 miles one way, and there is about 1 mile between Umstead and Schenck, which made 10!  10 miles by my monkey math and it got me thinking, so I told my wife, "just drive me out to Umstead and drop me off, I'll run home." 
Now, my wife is kind of use to my hare brained ideas, since the time that I rode my Japanese granny bike from Kasukabe to Shin Koshigaya and back on a whim.  The trip is normally over a 20 minute express train ride one way and took me nearly three hours.  I repeated the trip the next weekend just for fun.  So, when I told Hiroko that I wanted her to just drop me off roughly 10 miles from my home with no cell phone, a hand held water bottle, and a Garmin, she knew that I was serious.  In fact, this run had been something of a goal of mine for some time now.  The mileage wasn't a problem, but the course is hilly as all get out (as you cans see from the elevation cart below.  However, the idea of being committed to the run is what appealed most to me.  One way or another, I was going to have to cover that ten miles in order to get home.

Also, I enjoyed this run a lot because I feel like I had been building up to this run for some time now.  I have run portions of this course over the last year, but I have never tried to connect all the dots in one run before now and doing so gave me a thrill.  I enjoyed the idea that every step I took got me on step closer to home and it helped me to keep moving forward.  There were only two drawbacks to this run.  1).  The second half of the course would be run on sidewalk and paved Greenway rather than compacted gravel and a little harder on my feet than I needed.  2).  The hills from mile 7 to 10 loomed heavy on my mind for the entirety of the run.  I won't try to say that they didn't suck because one look at the grade on the hill at the end of mile 7 will tell you that I was lying if I tried say otherwise.  Even though, I have run 10 miles and beyond several times over the last 12 months, this run gave me a particularly large feeling of gratification when I finished it.  Mainly because I can remember a time not too long ago that the thought of completing this course was beyond unimaginable.  Now all I can think about is the day I do this as an out and back!

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Athlete's House of the Rising Sun

Runner's Porn Site
Today, I have an affliction that is common to athletes around the world on a rest day.  It is the Athlete's  House of the Rising Sun, and it's been the ruin of many a poor boy, And God I know I'm one . . .

I am lusting after OPPA (Other People's Physical Activity).  Yep, I'm staring a you little miss jogger in the NC State Track Tank, not because you're hot, but because I want to be running down Avent Ferry Hill like you.  Yes, Boring Runner, I'm cyber stalking your blog today, and it is not because you talked about running "naked," but because you were running intervals this morning while I was making plans to clean of my cat's litter box!  And, I know that I have spent an amazingly unhealthy amount of time on a few of those websites that my wife doesn't like to see me on (because of the  fees)!  No, not the ones Charlie Sheen has bookmarked!  The Race Listing you pervs! 

Yep, I am on a rest day, and even though I am in a long term committed relationship with my training plan, my eye is wandering, and I am breathing heavy thinking about all those sexy little pieces gym equipment just waiting for me at the Y or those lovely trails out at Lake Johnson with all their curves, not to mention all the tantalizing temptation presented the more than ample hills of Umstead Park-- someone, pour a bucket of water on me!  I know that I need to stay strong and faithful to my training plan even if all we have planned is a night in front of the TV together in sweats.  Yes, this is a beautiful Friday night with all kinds of potential for the trill of a spontaneous workout fling.  I must put these lustful thoughts aside and stay true because the wandering eye the athlete will only lead me to ruin.  I keep telling myself that the short term cheap thrill is not worth the risk.  But, Lord knows I am a week man! 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wednesday's Words from the Wise

Caught in the Rip Tide of Fitness and Running

Growing up in WV, the ocean seemed like it was an entire world away and was mostly unimaginable.  I know a very little about the ocean, most of my knowledge has come from books or TV.  I can tell you that if it weren't for the old TV show Simon & Simon that I wouldn't have heard of Rip Tides or Ebb Tides until well into my adult life.  So, I am no expert about the sea in the slightest.  However, I recently moved into a new office where nature and weather are a large focus and on one of my filing cabinets was a sticker warning of the dangers of Rip Currents (apparently the term "Rip Tide" is a misnomer, but I think it sound better, so I am sticking with it).  Well, I've stopped to take a look at this things on many occasion, not really for any reason other than the fact that it was there.  But, yesterday, as I was changing for my lunch time run, I began to think about the idea of Rip Currents and fitness.  My buddy, Hank at The Business of Losing Weight, put up a post about his recent struggles with the scales that really got my noodle working about the concept of escaping from a Rip Current might apply to the struggles of fitness and running. 

My love for running grew over time from my efforts to lose weight.  I began to workout at first to lose weight and this blog originally was a place for me to document my workouts in detail (Sorry, ZZZZZzzzzzzz).  When I began working out, everything went swimmingly.  Life was a real . . . Beach!  Honestly, I got quick results and weighing in was a rewarding experience.  But after a while, things began to change, I worked out but the weight wasn't changing.  I changed things up and began lifting weights more . . . no change.  I stopped lifting and started running, but still . . . nothing.  I got sick of the scales and avoided them.  I was caught in a Fitness Rip Current that was pulling me out to sea.  Swimming against the current wasn't working, and I was going crazy and getting frustrated, then I entered my first 5k just on a lark, and was quickly hooked on running.  I still focused on my weight, but running offered me other goals to focus on.  And for a time I just focused on running and went with it.  Distance and PR became my knew measuring stick of my fitness progress.  I calmed down, began to look at my training differently, and made changes not to try to keep the scale moving but to improve my running.  And, low and behold I was free from the Rip Tide and swimming in open water.  The scales weren't moving, but I was free.  Then rather unexpectedly, the scales began to move.

I felt great for a time, but then injuries and lack of progress in my running nearly sucked me into another Rip Tide.  But, this time instead of panicking and swim into the current, I just went with it.  Instead of focusing on running, worrying about PR and investing tons of time in speed work, new shoes, and a running videos, I looked for holes in my training program that weren't connected to running.  I focused on making healthy choices that would improve my lifestyle and I ate better, workout more on my own, rather than with the group classes that had been attending, in order to focus on my personal weak areas.  And, once again, slowly I swam free from the Rip Tide.  Now, I am not claiming that running is the answer for anyone who finds themselves struck in their training, running was only part of the answer for me. More importantly, I learned that this process is more about reshaping the mind than it is about reshaping the body.  Turning the corner occurs when we realize that the external changes don't matter as much as the internal and find joy in our new active lives.  This doesn't mean giving up on our goal, on the contrary, it is like going into a with more than one goal in mind.  I know that it is really hard not to focus so much on the scale, but the day to day fluctuations are often arbitrary and not connected to the Cheetos someone may have broken-down and eaten. Honestly, the scale is a really poor indicator of effort but so easy to latch on to a confirmation of progress. Yes, we want to see the number on the scale get smaller, but I am much more interested in being healthy and active regardless of the scale (or even my 5k PR), and it is that realization that will set a person free from the Rip Tide and have them swimming with the happy-happy little rainbow dolphins in the deep blue sea. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Pitfalls of Training For the Athlete on the Rebound

I've been training for the Tobacco Trail Half Marathon for the last few weeks.  The race is getting closer as February, thankfully, comes to an end.  Seriously, I will be happy to see March just so I don't have to hear that annoying "Februany" Subway jingle!  Arrggg!  Anyway . . . the race is four weeks away, and I have been hitting the gym and working out rather hard following my return from south Florida and the Miami Half Marathon.  As my long time followers already are all too aware, I was not pleased with my results in The Sunshine State, and am eagerly awaiting a chance to take on the Half Marathon again.  I am . . . An Athlete on the Rebound! 
However, I am precariously close to falling into one of the major pitfalls of training following a poor performance.  Often athlete's (even the recreational athlete like myself) will have their confidence shaken following a poor result and become overly cautious about their next attempt or feel that they don't have what it takes and begin to loose their edge.  We've all seen this story played out in every medium humanly imaginable -- it is a very old tale, perhaps as old as athletics themselves and is an easy story with which to relate.  However, it is not my story, my confidence was not shaken in a manner that left me with a debilitating feeling of doubt.  My confidence might have been given a bit of a stir, but I have not been paralyzed by my lack luster performance in Miami.  On the contrary, my internal pendulum swung entirely in the opposite direction and have set about doing everything I can to ensure a better result from the Tobacco Trail Half.  I know that I just had a bad day and have set out to prove it by running four days a week with gym session following all but my Sunday long run, full gym sessions on the two of the three days that I don't run.  I've pushed myself to run more hills and insisted that I return to the gym to finish workouts that I couldn't complete before work.  Laying an egg in Miami did nothing but steel my resolve, and that is the crux the problem.  I am on the edge of the major pitfall of over reacting to a poor performance and training either to the point of injury or exhaustion: The Zealots Rebound Training Trap.   I want to slim down and tighten up more before the race and set myself up for a success so huge that it will erase the bitter taste in my mouth from my last race.

But, attacking this race headlong and full force like Mel Gibson attacking a six pack of Foster's is more likely to guarantee another poor performance than the type of results that I covet.  Thursday morning, I pushed myself through and 6 mile run despite a persistent soreness in my ankle and heel, and I stubbornly followed it up with a hill 8 miler on Saturday.  By Sunday, I felt worn out,  yet so strong were the urges of my athletic rebound that I nearly refused to compromise and take an extra rest day.  I kept attempting to justify the extra off day to both myself and my wife, who eventually just told that there was no need for me to justify anything to her, and I should do what I wanted/needed.  That was when I realized what just how close I am to falling into The Zealots Rebound Training Trap.  I need to be confident that my training will have me ready without going complete workout crazy.  I need to be flexible, listen to my body, and not rigidly adhere to plans that are were good in theory  when I made  them, but are now a tad unrealistic.  The Pitfall is there.  I see it.  Now, am I smart enough to avoid it?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

How I Jinxed Either The Run Green 8K or The Tobacco Road Marathon (maybe both)!

To call this day anything short of gorgeous would be a crime -- I kid you not!  Unfortunately, my workout and running schedule called for me to do a quick 3 miler and a gym workout.  To make matters worse the weather for tomorrow, when I am suppose to do my long run, is crap.  Rain.  Snow, maybe.  Now, I am not opposed to running in the snow or rain, but the idea of passing up a gorgeous day and running on a yuck day like tomorrow to stick to a schedule that I made for myself, seemed way too rigid for the likes of me.  I know that my next race could have been a rainy day, and I should have run tomorrow no matter the weather in order to prepare.  But, it wasn't just the weather.  Also, Hiroko is working all day today and off tomorrow.  So, I made a selfish AIG-esque executive decision and decided to swap out my days for my own personal gains and risk running afoul of the gods of weather and running.  Yes That's how this works, I swapped out today and jinxed myself and every other poor soul, who signed up the same races as me.  Haven't you read The Rhyme of The Ancient Mariner?  All it takes is one asshole with a crossbow and everyone is screwed!  So, either the Run Green 8K or The Tobacco Road Marathon (maybe both) are now doomed to suffer hurricane force winds, golf ball size hail, a plague of locusts, and perhaps a nice shower of frogs.   Thanks to me.  Sorry Everyone! If it is any consolation, I did enjoy my eight miler today!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Beat Up, Worn Down, and In Need of a Rest Day

First off, let me say that I have at long last broken down and joined Twitter  so please follow me.  Also, I have created a page for Locker29 on Facebook, so you can be more connected to me than ever.  Hey, I guess that it is time that I join the collective . . . Resistance is futile after all!  Also, I have officially registered for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon in May, and if all goes well in my next two Half Marathons: Pittsburgh and The Tobacco Road, then a fall Marathon will be in order.
My Attacker: Name: Basil Aliases: Squirrel, Buddy
Status: At Large

Tomorrow is my rest day, and I hate to admit it, but I need it.  I got in all of my workouts this week despite some persistent soreness in my achilles/heel area, a migraine the day after Valentines Day, the return of The Walking Dead, and a vicious attack from a house cat while I was doing abs.  I ran 22 miles over four days this week, and got in 5 gym workouts.  I have stepped up my use of the rowing machine and have begun to enjoy it at last.  I am up to 30 min. rowing sessions and the only real issue I have with them is keeping my I-pod from sliding off my are. 

I saw this painted on a wall and snapped this picture as I ran past.

I took my camera with me on my Tuesday morning run, and had a lot of fun taking pictures as I ran.  most were crap, but I did take one that I liked a lot.  I never stop running when I take these and have no real photographic knowledge, but I enjoy taking these pictures while I run from time to time because it makes my look around at the world as I run.  The other day I was watching Forrest Gump on TV while I was in my hotel room trying to get sleepy after the Half Marathon.  The scene where he is talking about all of the places that he had seen in the world came on, and it made me resolve to stop and take in the more of the beauty our big blue world has to offer, which is one reason that I have begun to alter some of my more set running routes since I returned.  Honestly, I don't think that I ever got to know Raleigh until I began to run it.  I still have a very hot and cold relationship with the city, but it is not because it doesn't have a lot to offer visually. 
Saw this quote on a blog and just loved it.

Anyway, following a full week of workouts, I am going to reluctantly take things easy tomorrow, before getting back at it on Saturday.  I am on the verge of hitting a major weight loss goal of mine, but I am not there yet.  I'll have more about it when I reach it, but for now, I think that my eating and workouts are going in the right direction and I am excited to see what the future holds, so this is no time to do something dumb and push myself to the point of injury.  So tomorrow, I begin my rest day serenely and with a high spirit (and I hope that it sis devoid of cat attacks)!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Some Images From a Pre-dawn Run in Raleigh

I have always liked the grainy and streaked images that you get form taking pictures in low light.  Now, I am not a photographer.   I took on class in high school and made a C, but I enjoy taking pictures when I run with my little Canon PowerShot, which I am not sure really counts as a camera, so with that said, I hope you enjoy.
The Crossing

Blurred but focused

Bus or rolling death machine of mass transit.

What are you looking at?

I just like the light and haze


I like the Green, darkness, and lights

Not alone


The End

Monday, February 13, 2012

Olive Oil, Gumbo, Wind Chill, and an Umstead 10 Miler

Is it wrong that I hope Lori wasn't wearing a seat belt?
All the signs were pointing to a complete shit-show of a Sunday from the very get go.  Hiroko had to work and odd shift, which meant that driving all the way out to the Tobacco Trail just wasn't going to happen considering, I was planning to do a nice Valentines dinner for her and  watcher the afternoon Capitals-Rangers Game.  If I wanted to get everything done that I need to without stressing myself out or setting fire to the kitchen, I would have to take on the hills of Umstead Park.  This was not an appealing idea.  A 10 mile out and back run along the Ready Creek Trail is just a festival of hills.  And when it is compared to The Tobacco Trail, it becomes rather absurd (grant Ready Creek is not as ridiculously unreasonable as the Turkey Creek Trail, but I avoid that at all cost).  For an idea of the hill profile check out Shelby's post about her 20 miler on the same trail

In addition to the decision to run Umstead, I was just all kinds of discombobulated as I was trying to get ready.  I couldn't find my gloves, kept forgetting where I put my keys, and for some unknown reason nearly made myself insane trying to put compression socks on a foot that was already wrapped in KT Tape (this is impossible by the way, and you more likely to breathe under water than have this workout for you).  Also, the morning was one of the coldest we've had around these parts, but I refuse to wear my running tights in the daylight hours until we see snow, so as it turned out, I was one of the four idiots still wearing shorts on a blustery Sunday morning with temperature 30.9, calculated Wind chill of 22.2 and wind Gusts of 17.3 MPH at 10:55am according to the weather station at RDU (can you tell that I am starting to geek out on working in a Climate Office -- tons of fun data).   What does all this mean?  Basically means that was too damn cold to running in shorts and without the gloves that I forgot!  Actually, I only missed the gloves for the first mile and it wasn't that bad.  After a brief period where I thought I might lose a finger to frostbite, I warmed up and was fine. 

When I got to Umstead I noticed that there was some sort of mountain bike race going on that only made me begin to dread the run more.  But, as it turned out, I had a great run.  As I mentioned before, I thought my fingers might fall off for the first mile, but I was running well and warmed up considerably as the run progressed.  The Peanut Butter GU that I was trying for the first time wasn't bad at all, and the hills of Umstead didn't kick my butt nearly as bad I feared the would.  In the end, I ran the 10 miles in Umstead at the same 9:28 pace that I ran 8 miles on the Tobacco Trail last week.  I've no idea why or how this came about because I didn't even look at Old Bob until I had reached 3.8 miles and wanted to check for the mid point.  After a shockingly good run, I returned home watched the Capitals lose yet again!  Then began to prepare dinner.

Hiroko has to work on the 14th, so I made her Valentine dinner Sunday tonight.  Gumbo.  Made a roux for the first time in my life, and apparently I have watch so many cooking shows with Hiroko that I have learned, without being taught, to devein shrimp . . . on both sides.  God.  I feel . . . all domesticated and shit and feel the need to kill something with my bare hands soon to prove that I'm still a man . . . ok that's not going to happen, but I am going to leave the toilet seat up all week dammit!  Anyway, Hiro loved the Gumbo and we had a nice little dinner before watching the return of AMC's The Walking Dead! 

p.s. Olive Oil . . . hahahahahahaha!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Rest Day Rambling

Friday is my rest day, which I need, but I am getting antsy for no good reason--I want to get moving.  My workout week has gone well, my eating has remained under control, and I've gotten my sleep schedule in order after a little bit of difficulty at the beginning of the week.   I feel positive on many levels and am looking forward to both The Tobacco Road and Pittsburgh Half Marathons. I haven't weighed myself in sometime but don't feel the need at the moment because things are going in the right direction. Yesterday morning, I ran six miles before work, then hit the gym for a short ab session, which never would have happened before now. I really can't pin point what has happened that caused me to make such drastic changes in my life.  It wasn't long ago that I was 310 and wouldn't consider getting up a 4:30 am to run.  Perhaps, I just reached a level of dissatisfaction with myself that I had to put things in order. I am not sure. But, I am so very happy to be on this path. I don't know where it is leading me (do any of us really know), but I am so interested to find out what is in store for me. I am not really sure where I am trying to go with this post other than to say that, for this day, at least . . . I am really happy with where I am (heck, I am even enjoying living in Raleigh . . .a bit) and looking forward to what tomorrow might bring.   I know that there are a lot of changes that I need to make or at least consider, but I am more confident in my ability to change than ever.   

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pittsburgh . . . I'm in!

Yep, I just registered for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon on May 6th.  Looks like I'll need to get in some hill work because where you have three rivers you also have hills.  Most of you know that I grew up in the shadow of Pittsburgh, just across the state line in Fairmont WV.  I've not spent much time in Pittsburgh, but in a lot of ways the area is still sort of home for me.  The accent is comforting and every time I hear someone mentions The Mon I know they're from my neck of the woods. 

I hope to get some family support come race day.  I know that Hiroko and my mom will be there, but I sure it won't take much effort to get some of the other family members to drive up and see me run (even if they will be supporting the only guy in the whole damn race wearing a Raiders headband!).  Raleigh is where I live, but North-Central West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania will always home, so it will be great to return for the first time as a runner. 

P.S. it may be early on a Sunday Morning, but after the race I want one of these . . .

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Bad Miami Romance Has Me Looking for Love in Pittsburgh

Well my bad race romance with Miami has not ended my love affair with running.  On the contrary, ever since I returned home, I have been eying race calendars and looking for a new found racing romance to lust after.  Yes, I am already registered for the Tobacco Road Half Marathon, but I feel a desire for something more than a hometown girl can offer.  Sorry, but after being spurned by Miami there is no way that Cary, NC is going to win my heart.  No, I feel the need to sew some wild oats in my attempt to find racing love.  And there's a girl out there calling to me, and Pittsburgh is her name.  Pittsburgh . . . Pittsburgh!?! I know that the people, who know me well thing that this is a bad match, I mean -- I am a Raiders Fan, who also like the Washington Capitals!  I hate Pittsburgh nearly as much as I hate Denver!  But, folks the timing looks to be right, and who knows opposite do sometimes attract, so I may be just a few hours (and a spousal approval) away from Registering for the DICK'S SPORTING GOODS PITTSBURGH MARATHON & UPMC HEALTH PLAN PITTSBURGH HALF MARATHON on May 6th.

Pittsburgh is only 90 mins. from my hometown and the race coincides with my yearly visit, so it just is too good to pass up.  I will only be doing the Half if I do the race, which as it is right now the only thing that really is in the way of my registration is a pesky vacation request or two, otherwise this is a done deal.Truly, I just can't get the idea of running in another race before the sweltering summer months hit.  I came out of Miami injury free an really energized to run.

I've fit the gym with a purpose this week and feel like I am getting in some good work.  My eating habits continue to improve, and I think that my struggles in Miami have just strengthened my desire to get healthy.  Granted, it has only been a week, but I feel like I am moving with a clear purpose in mind.  I'll need to be sure not to over train, but I have gotten pretty good at listening to my body when I feel run down.

So here is a question for you: which inspires you more a bad performance or a good one?  I think that I am more inspired by a poor performance rather than a good one. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

11 Miles Beyond Miami -- Last Reflections and Moving Forward

Following The Miami Half Marathon, Hiroko and I took a trip down to Key West, which was just what we needed after a busy fall.  I didn't run or workout the entire time we were there.  I thought about running, but I just wanted to sleep in and save my legs for walking around doing touristy stuff.  Once we returned to Raleigh late Wednesday, I made up a new training schedule that will take me to the Tobacco Road Half Marathon on March 18th.  I'm excited.  As I said in my race report, Miami didn't go well from a running stand point, but I know that in the long run, it will make me a stronger and smarter runner.  Also, it has made me think more about the make up of the runner.

As far as running goes . . . I did two runs this weekend a quick 3 miler of Saturday, which was followed by some cross-training at the gym.  I also did an 8 miler on the Tobacco Trail on Sunday.  The eight miler was tough.  I struggled around miles four and five, but the sting of Miami was fresh in my mind, and I pushed trough the run.  So, I have gotten myself 11 miles from Miami, and honestly, it isn't far enough.  I need to put down some more miles.  At first I didn't want to have an regrets about that race, but as I spent more time thinking about one thing nags at me.  I don't know if you would call it a regret, more just a realization, I wasn't willing to suffer through a bad run.  Once I became aware that there was no way I was going to pull it together, my will to endure failed me.  And, I that bothers me.  I don't mind losing, but I can't stand quitting and quitters.  Granted, I finished the race, but let's face we all know that quitting in running isn't always about moving forward.  We have all seen that hallow and vacant look on someone face and know that deep down they were done.  I had that look in Miami.  I want and need to get some distance from it.  I want to lay down miles on top of mile on the streets and trails of Raleigh until Miami is just a memory that I call on when I need it.  As opposed to something present in my mind.  Sunday was a nice start, the air was cool and filled with drizzle, which is my favorite running weather.  I pushed myself through some pain, just to make sure I still had the will to suffer.  People always seem to talk about the difference between the runner and the jogger and focus on speed.  But, I my mind speed has nothing to do with it.  The will to suffer is what separates the runner from the jogger in my book.  If you have the will to push yourself past the point of suffering, you're a runner if not you're a jogger.  Unfortunately in Miami, I was more jogger than runner.

Modified Plans:  since there is a pretty quick turnaround between Miami and The Tobacco Road, there won't be much time to implement any major changes to my training.  I've therefore decided to just modify my plan from Miami, which was to keep my mileage between 18 to 24 miles a week and focus more upon bring my weight down through cross-training, extra cardio, and most importantly -- an improved diet.  I did fairly well with these goals in the between The Neuse River Bridge Run on October 15th and Miami on January 29th.  I am most proud of the changes in my diet, which were pretty significant and saw me lose 5-7 pounds and a pants size through the holidays rather than gain.  I know that a lot of people, like my buddy Hank, have gotten great results from weighing out their food and writing down what they eat, but my process has been different (and "different" means -- different, not better or worse).  My process has been to make slow incremental changes to my eating habits and lifestyle that I feel confident that I can maintain for the rest of my life, rather than making commitments to ideas that I know will get results, which I might give up on or backslid away from in the future.  This incremental approach is very slow and sometimes extremely frustrating, but my weight continues to go down and my diet keeps getting healthier.  One day, I may get to the point where I am ready to weigh out my portions and keep a food journal, but I am just not there yet.

I am however going to make three changes to my training plan:
1) I am going bring in a few more exercises with weight in attempt to firm up and give my body some better support.  I loath lifting weights, but I know that over the long term that firming up a bit will help me ward off some injuries and bring down my weight.
2.) I plan to focus on strengthening my core and my glutes.  These are my two major problem areas, and I need to give them some real attention.

    3) Stretching . . . more more more.  I don't do enough, and I must make stretching a priority.

    Thursday, February 2, 2012

    Miami Half Marathon Expo and Race Report

    Happy to have my bib
    The Miami Marathon and Half Marathon was my first major race in large city.  I'd been looking forward to this event for nearly seven months and at one time had hoped to do the full marathon.  If you've followed this blog for long you'll know that I wisely dropped down to the half last October.  At the time, I knew that I wouldn't be ready for a full marathon, and it was the right choice.

    I was looking forward to the Expo because I have read about them on many blogs and just wanted the experience one at a major event.  I had been to a couple of smaller mini expos that were nothing to really write home about, and mainly just made me want to see an expo at a major event even more.

    The Expo: The excitement of the crowd and buzz in the air from a room full of fellow Runnerds just can't be beat.  I love just being around so many people, who share the same sort of passion and obsession with running.  And, I have never been in a room before with so many taped up knees and achillies tendons in my life!  I fit right in here!  Hiroko and I walked from our hotel to the expo shuttle bus with a couple from Austin, TX.  We talked about running, races, and injuries all the way to the pick up spot and most of the bus ride.  If I had any complaints about the expo, it would be the location and the buses.  The start and finish of the race were in downtown along with most of the hotels where runner's were staying.  However, the expo was in Miami Beach, which meant you either had to drive or take the shuttle buses.  I don't know if the the separate locations was a way to spread out the economic impact of the race or if it was just do to scheduling, but it caused a lot of confusion.  Also the shuttles just sucked.  They were school buses that were uncomfortable and didn't maneuver well through Miami traffic.  The trip across town, which seemed to take close to an hour left me drained.   

    Ryan Hall speaking to the expo.
    Ryan Hall was speaking at the expo just as I arrived and it gave to room a sort of celebrity in the house vibe.  I didn't try to get an autograph or really listen to that much of his Q&A because I didn't feel like standing still.  I wanted to get my race packet, walk around and take in the expo.  The packet pick up was easy breezy and done in a flash.  After picking up my packet, I stopped by a lot of the booths but wasn't over whelmed.  Most of the clothing looked like remainders, and I wasn't here to really shop.  However, I did enjoy just walking around the room and seeing all of the different gear that was available.  The one thing that I was most interested in was the Rock Tape, but the line was really long, so I just made a mental note to look into it once I returned home.

    After cruising the room a few times, buying some gel, and picking up all the free swag I could get my grubby little hands on, Hiroko and I went for lunch then returned for another hell ride on the shuttle.  The ride back was worse than the ride to the expo.  Everyone seemed to agree that riding the bus was just awful.

    Race Morning -- Hiroko and I got up and made our way to the Finish line with no problem.  We spent a few minutes scouting out the area and decided where she would be at the end of the race so we could see each other as I made my way to the finish.  Afterward, we went to the starting area and scouted out a place for her to stand at the start she could cheer me on as I began the race.   
    After a few pictures, I left and tried to find a port-a-john line that seemed to be moving, but after striking out, I decided that I didn't need to go and made my way to my corral.  Luckily, my decision to forgo the last bathroom break wasn't a major factor in my performance.  I regretted it a little, but the struggles that befell me were not caused by natures natural calling.  Once in the corral, I began to sweat, but I didn't notice the humidity.  I just thought that I was sweating because of nervousness and being cramped in the corral.  I tried to stretch a bit, but there was no room, so I just waited for the sound of the start and tried not to get too hyped up, trying to go over the start of the race in my mind and remember not to go out too fast.  Mentally I felt great as the other corrals began to start.  I was in Corral E and when D was sent to the shoot to the starting line, I was still feeling awesome. 
    View from the starting line

    A great Picture of the stating area that Hiro took.
    The Start and Mile 1 -- I was excited as I made my way down to the start, but I everything felt very natural and relaxed despite the fact that this was the first time I was in a race this large.  It was like  . . . fish meets water . . . just completely natural.  I hit Old Bob just as I crossed the start and got under way.  Hiro was waiting for me about two blocks past the starting line, and I gave her a high five as I ran by.  I was going a little slower than wanted, but everything was in order as the first mile progressed.  I was weaving through slower runners a bit and a few walker, but for the most part I didn't feel like I was expending too much extra energy.  I tried to find runner that seemed to be going my pace and stick to them, but it was hard to hang on to anyone person in the crowd of people any length of time.  My goal was to get as close to a 9:11 pace as I could for the first half of the race and then try to negative split the course.  Following this plan I thought a sub 2 hour finish would be achievable.  I did mile on in 9:51 but attributed the slow start to the density of the field.

    Miles 2, 3, and 4: False Hope -- These mile were on the MacArthur Causeway, which was a great place to run in the morning.  The cruise ships along the causeway provided a spectacular sight.  I was running well and enjoying the chatter from the other runners around me.  I picked up my pace by skipping the first water stop.  I ran to the outside as most of the runners moved over to get water and hit the port-a-johns.  Mile 2 went by right at my goal pace of 9:11.

    Mile three went well and was fairly uneventful other than I notice two disturbing trends.  The first thing was that I was sweating profusely and I was drinking more water than I had on any run since late summer.  The temperature wasn't too extreme, but the air was thick with humidity.  The other disturbing thing was that volunteers at the aid stations had begun to throw water bags to runners rather than passing then to runner', which turned the aid stations in mini water balloon fights.  I made it through the third aid station without issue and did mile 3 in 9:22

    Mile four saw things begin to get dicey.  As we entered Miami beach we were greeted by what some locals said were a pimp and two prostitutes who were doing their best to support the runners.  Honestly, the ladies were clapping and cheering just like any other people along the road, but their attire was slightly different, and since they were speaking Spanish, I have no idea what they were saying, but people seemed to find them amusing.  I still felt like I was running well as I approached the aid station at mile four, but I looked away for a second and didn't notice the guy beside ask for a volunteer to throw him a bag of water, which he tossed short.  I unknowingly turned into it and got hit right in the face.  The bag didn't bust but caused me to drop my own water bottle which I had to stop and pick up.  I was a little pissed but decided that I was going to do my best to just shake it off and enjoy the race.  What sucked most was that I could hear other runner's laughing about it.   Despite the water bag to the face I did mile 4 in 9:44  From this point on all of the aid stations became stressful messes.  Also, all of the wet plastic bags on the ground made them slippery and dangerous.  If I were the race director, I would do away with the water bags next year.

    Miles 5, 6,and 7: trying to put up the good fight -- Frankly, I could feel the race slipping away from with each successive mile from this point on.   I tried to tell myself that everything was alright during this period of the race, but I just couldn't find the right gear.  I was feeling slow and fighting harder than I am use to on such a flat course.  Mile 5 was 9:42, and led me to think that maybe my pace was evening out, but Mile 6 slipped to 9:52.  I hoped that I could muster a second wind, but Mile 7 slipped to 9:59.  Sweat was just pouring out and with it my ability to keep up the fight.  I kept pushing and hoping that things would just suddenly click, but as we headed down Dade Blvd., the knowledge that we still needed to run the length of the Venetian Causeway began to wear heavily in my mind.

    Miles 8,9,10: fighting the bonk -- The feeling that every runner dread was beginning to solidify in my hear.  I knew that picking up the pace was no longer an option at this point.  The Causeway was kicking the heck out of me.  I just wanted the pain to stop.  Pride was pushing me forward.  I wasn't enjoying the crowd, the other racers, or myself at this point.  I wished that that I had brought my I-pod just so a could center my thoughts on something outside of myself.  Mile 8 was 10:22 and I knew that the race had gotten away from me.  Mile 9 I took my second gel, which had turned to liquid rather than remain gel.  It was disgusting and nearly caused me to vomit, but I fought it off. I finished the mile in 10:30.  Mile 10 was my last ditch attempt to dig deep and push through the race, but it was to no avail.  I pushed a little, but the race pushed back.  I did the mile in 10:26. 

    Mile 11, 12, 13: THE BONK-- All of my attempts to avoid this failed.  I didn't want to stop running, and I knew that if I did the rest of the race would be a mental hell.  But, I just couldn't get my legs to keep moving.  And the bonk was on.  I staggered through the next the miles trying to will myself to run.  Sometimes I would push myself or someone int the crowd would cheer me on and pride would push me a few blocks on, but my will to run would falter, and I would find myself walking once again.  Then another runner or a policeman directing traffic would read the name on my bib and yell some support that would fuel me for a few more blocks.  I remember one police officer and old runner, whose encouragement momentarily steeled my resolve and pushed me forward.  I felt so much gratitude to them that I wanted to keep going more for them than for myself.  Still my legs were just spent, and I just couldn't keep them churning.  Still, I was moved by the support that was offer to me.  People could tell that I had mentally checked out, but were doing their best to help me find the will to push on.  I was moved by the sentiment and is something that I'll always remember fondly.   I did mile 11 in 11:07 and mile 12 in a horrifying 13:00.  Mile 13 was a little better than the last and the prospect of see Hiroko aided me.  I was able to push a bit and did the mile in a sluggish 11:45.  The last .1 was just me deliriously scan the crowd for Hiroko, when I saw her, I forgot about the pain, my time or the last few miles ran right up to her, kissed her, told her I love you and headed to a painful 2:17:31 finish.

    Post Race: Immediately I decided that I was fine with the results of this race and wouldn't spend a minute beating myself up about anything, and I've managed to keep this promise to myself so far.  The experience was amazing and something that I'll never forget.  The race wasn't what I wanted, but as soon as that finishers medal was around my neck, everything felt just fine.  I was sweaty mess, and my legs hated me, but after some of the mental fog of the last few miles faded away, and I stretched out my legs I could stop smiling.  After returning to the hotel, I had the most wonderful ice bath and a fabulous nap.
    Male Elite Half Marathon Finishers

    Michele Suszek former winner of the Miami Marathon and 3rd place finisher in this years Half.

    Miami is an amazingly multicultural race. 

    Not posed in any way.  Just crushed.

    Beginning to return to human form

    Sweaty as hell, but starting to enjoy life again

    Ok, I am a happy man.