Dec 31, 2009

The end of 2009 is upon us

And I'm enjoying it with rest (from running), and will be enjoying it A LOT with friends tonight. Woo-hoo!

This past month I didn't do a lot of running. 22 runs, 135.86 miles. Ran in two 5K's, no runs were longer than 10 miles, and I haven't run since the 27th. A great run, by the way. Felt great. But I've decided that this week is going to be a week of total rest. No running. At all. I can't remember the last time I took a full week off. But I'm going to rest, refresh, and be ready on Monday to get after it again. Marathon training will begin in earnest. And none to soon. As much as I love "just running", I love having a schedule to follow, and a goal to hit every day, even more. I know that isn't always a healthy approach, but it's how I tick. If I were to get injured, I know I can step back and accept taking the time off, and be OK mentally. But when I'm healthy, I want set a path, understand what needs to be done, and get there. So now the next question...

Which marathon? Not sure. I'm leaning pretty heavily towards the Country Music Marathon, in Nashville, TN, on April 24th. It's 16 weeks out from this upcoming Monday. It's the earliest of the races I'm considering. There are several others out there in that general time period, but I have a little time to decide. Currently, I'm not planning to run the Flying Pig this year b/c there's a chance I might be going to the Kentucky Derby (same weekend) with friends who might find a way to get some tickets. I'd love to go to that!!! The Derby is one of those things that every sports fan should attend once, and I have yet to be there. And I love going to the track. I've never had a horse, I've never even ridden a horse, but I think they are one of the most beautiful animals there is. I love going to the track and seeing them. Strong, agile, lightning fast. Kinda like how I wish I was. I'm currently 0-for-3 there, but I like to think I'm still a work in progress. :) So I plan to keep that weekend free, in case they can score some tickets. I've looked at what other races are out there b/w late April and the end of May, and none of them really scream out to me more than Nashville.

What appeals to me about Nashville:
1) I know the atmosphere will be fabulous, b/c it's a RnR race.
2) It'll likely be my wife's first half-marathon too, and that kind of excitement would be a lot of fun for her.
3) It's within driving distance
4)  I've never been to Nashville

So I'm about 80% sure that's where I'll be heading. Sounds like fun. After that, I'll throw my name in the hat for the Chicago lottery and see if I can get in. If not, will do the same with NYC. If I get shutout of both, we'll see. I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.

My 2009 totals: 293 runs, one marathon, one half-marathon, one 10K, five 5K's, one marathon DNF, 1,924.28 miles run. This far exceeded what I thought I'd accomplish this year.

This year...this year...2009...

Now that I think about it, I have to say, I've had enough of 2009. More than enough. If there were any more of it, you could have it, I don't think I'd want it. Goodbye 2009! A new year awaits. What will happen? I have no idea, but I'm ready for it. Very ready. Ready to make 2009 a distant memory. But not too distant. Not so distant that I completely forget it, b/c I was reminded just how things can change in a hurry and make you re-evaluate everything you thought was good, or safe, or sure. In the end, nothing is truly certain. I learned that very valuable lesson this year, and I have 2009 to thank. But I'm on to bigger & better things in 2010. I'm ready to enjoy it, take every day as it comes to me, and be thankful of what I have and what I can do. I want to motivate the people around me to live healthy lives. I want my family to feel more loved by me than they ever have. I want to feel like I'm becoming a better person, and a better runner.

And I want a million dollars.

Have a wonderful (and safe) New Year's Eve, and I hope 2010 is as good for you as I hope it is for me.

Dec 12, 2009

It's Too Cold to Run?!?

"Shut up, lace them up, and run damnit!"

This was what I had to tell myself earlier this week when Cincy was hit with it's first true cold snap. Temp was 21 degrees, but it was the wind that was making it tough. Wind chill was 7 degrees. Certainly not unbearable, especially compared to many other areas of the country. But it was cold enough to make me question whether I really wanted to run in it. Ultimately, grudgingly, I decided that I did.

So I went upstairs and started digging my gear out:

Wind briefs, running tights, and fleece lined running pants.
Wicking socks and Smartwool socks.
Nike Coldgear baselayer, Mizuno 1/2-zip jacket, and a nice, heavy fleece.
Two pairs of gloves, fleece hat, fleece headband, and balaclava.
Sunglasses to keep eyes from watering b/c of the high winds.

That oughta do it. Lace up my shoes, grab my iPod, Blackberry, & Garmin, and out the door I go.

My body warmed up within the first 1/2 mile. My hands finally warmed up at around 2 miles, enough so that I peeled off my outer pair. I made sure to run into the wind to start so I could have it at my back to finish. Ultimately, it turned into a very nice 7-mile run.

But here's the point of this post. What I got out of this run was more important than any physical benefit I got from actually running. The conditions sucked. My attitude wasn't very good, and I could easily have packed it in and stayed home. No one would have questioned me. The battle was far more MENTAL than it was going to be physical. But it gave me a chance to remind myself that once I get out there, I love being out there. And when I finished, I re-confirmed something I've always known...I'm can be as mentally tough as I like to think I am. So the next time I think to myself, "Eh, just stay in. The weather is so lousy. You don't need to run today.", I'll remember that it won't be as bad as I think it will be, and I'll likely end up enjoying it, and even be proud of myself for doing it.

Get out there and run, folks. You'll be glad you did.

Dec 7, 2009

The Year in Review

I know it's not yet the end of 2009, but I got to thinking about how this year has gone for me. Some goals, I met. Others, I didn't. Still others, I didn't start the year with, but then wondered if I could reach them or not.

For example, I didn't start off the year with a goal regarding how much running I'd do, except to say I expected to run more this year than last year. And given that I planned to train for both a spring & fall marathon, this wasn't going to be too tough to accomplish, barring injury. I finished 2008 with 1,118.0 miles. How far might I run in 2009? I wasn't sure.I simply trained for the events I wanted to run, and let the miles add up. But then I started getting to the point that I thought I might be able to reach 2,000 miles run for the year. That blew me away. I hadn't realized I had a shot at 2,000 miles until around late September. At that point, I kinda, sorta thought that might be a goal. I finished October at 1,684.0 and thought I had a real shot at it. But I did a very minimal amount of running in November, as I recovered from my marathon on 11/7. And as a result, at the end of November I was at a total of 1,788.4. So 2,000 is out of reach. Eh, that's OK.

I put in 31 miles this past week, and hope to put in another 135-140 or so by year's end, as I start to ramp my mileage back up in preparation for whatever spring marathon I decide to run. So that'll put me just short of 2,000. Still, a good year, IMO. Especially since (knock on wood) I should end the year injury-free! Aside from general aches & pains, of course. On this note, my left knee which I was beginning to worry about if I'd torn something...I'm now of the opinion that I didn't. The pain I was feeling, I haven't felt in weeks. It still aches sometimes, but both knees do that. Nature of the beast when you pound the pavement, right?

Some other goals I had in 2009?

Two marathons. Didn't happen. DNF in the spring. I've come to grips with it, and have put it well behind me. Doesn't bug me anymore b/c I got my marathon in this fall. I don't even really want to consider it a PR, although of course it is, being my first completed 26.2. I think of it more as my baseline marathon, a time simply there to be improved upon. And it will be improved upon! My fall training was short (8-9 weeks, since I decided late which race to run), very casual (nothing but base building, with absolutely no speedwork), and I paid far less attention to my diet than I normally would have. Why did I take this approach? Because this time, I insisted on really wanting to focus on just running the event. I didn't want to get hung up on all the other things I did before the Flying Pig. My diet was going to have to be "good enough". My speed, I didn't care. All the extra hours of sleep I'd get by getting to bed early every night? Nope. Not this time. I was just gonna live my life as if I wasn't running a marathon, and then on race day, run comfortably with no expectations. The benefit of this approach was I put no pressure on myself this time. And because I knew my training was no where near what I did in the spring, I knew I wouldn't get greedy for time on race day. I'd simply run comfortably, for as long as I could. If I had gas in the tank to kick at the end, fine. If I didn't, that was fine too. Turns out I didn't. No big deal. I didn't care how fast I crossed the line. I simply wanted to cross it. Next year...I'll care. My baseline has been set, and now it's time to focus on improvement. Even if it's a slow, gradual improvement.

Other goals?

Run a few 5K's, some for fun, some for time. I ran two for time and set PR's each time. 20:27. Will shoot for a sub-20 next year. The rest, I've run for fun. And I really am having fun with them. I have one more this year.

Start a running podcast. I've got the recorder and mic. I've "practiced" a few times, listened to them, taken notes on what I want to improve on to make it easier to listen to, and I hope to have my first episode out at the start of 2010. I'm a bit self-conscious about how I come across, but I'll get over it. If the episode is honest, open to others, and opinionated, and I feel supports this running community, I'll be very pleased.

Inspire others to start running and living better, healthier lifestyles? I don't know if I've done this or not, because I think the desire to take to the roads is an internal one. I can offer advice. I can give tips & ideas. I can cheer them on, run beside them, or any number of other things. So at best, let's just say I've tried to ENCOURAGE others. I'll support their decisions to the fullest. Ask me for help or to join you on a run, I'll do my best to be there. But inspire? I'm not the person to ask.

Lastly, to continue to learn. Through podcasts, magazines, books, social networks like Twitter & Facebook, and my own experiences, to name just a few sources. Learning more encourages me to run more, and to run better. To take each run a find something in it that I didn't know about myself before. Or to find something that is challenging and overcome it. Not every run can be personal best. But every run should help you to be your best.

That's my 2009 in a nutshell.

2010? Here I come!

Dec 6, 2009

Four runners, three PR's - Jingle Bell Run 2009

This past Saturday, my wife Susan, my 10-year old step-daughter Melanie, and my buddy Jason, joined me for the Jingle Bell Run 5K. Race started at 10AM. Weather was clear, crisp and and cool 36 degrees. Absolutely perfect, in my opinion. We arrived at the race, and quickly met up with Jason. Everybody seemed ready to go. I was going to run alongside Jason, Susan was going to run with Mel.

Jason and I took off, and settled into our pace pretty quickly. I told him to make sure that HE set the pace he was comfortable at, and not let me lead. I would run whatever pace he wanted. He seemed to be doing quite well. We were running comfortably and talking, and really enjoying ourselves. The only somewhat tough part of the course is the C.W. Bailey Bridge. Is it a huge, steep hill? No. Can it look a bit daunting to a beginning runner? Yes. There's some definite slope there. In any case, we ran a really nice race, and finished in 31:54. That's Jason's PR, since it's his first 5K. =) The first of many, I hope.

Melanie and Susan seemed to have had a nice race too. This was Mel's first 5K also. She'd never run a race longer than 1.5 miles, and never run more than 2 miles (twice, this week, with me). But I had no doubt she could handle it. While Sue & Mel did have to walk a little, they finished in about the amount of time I expected. Right at the end, Susan told Mel to take off for the finish. So technically, Mel beat her mom. 41:27 to 41:32. This was also a PR for Susan. The best part of it for her I think was that she felt so much better after this one than she did in her 2 5K's this summer. She felt strong at the finish. She could run the distance w/o walking, but sticking with Mel was a priority. I think Susan's got a sub-40 in her right now, and I think she thinks so too. I suspect she'd like to run another race soon and see. But it won't be the Egg Nog Jog on the 19th. That's in Mt. Adams, which means there might not be a flat section of longer than 0.1 miles throughout the entire race course. It's all hills out there. I will be running it. I mean, free egg nog after the race, at The Wine Cellar. How can you turn that down? You can't. I'm hoping it's "fully loaded" egg nog too. But soon, we'll get Susan into a race she can run and set a new PR.

So three PR's. Can't complain about that. That's a good, good day.

Saran Wrap on my feet?

Yeah, I actually tried this the other night. It was raining here in Cincinnati, at times pretty hard, but I really wanted to get out and put in a few miles. Well, a night or two before that my wife asked me if I'd ever wrapped my feet in Saran Wrap in order to help keep them dry. Apparently she's read this somewhere. I thought it was kinda silly to even consider when she first asked me. But now I was wanting to run, the rain was coming down, and it didn't seem like it was going to stop anytime soon. Maybe I need to consider this a little more seriously. Hmmmm......

I learned that wrapping your feet isn't all that easy, but I managed. I made sure to wrap beyond my toes, so I could fold the extra over, in order to help keep water from seeping in that way. I grabbed some old running shoes, and I slipped my foot into it. It kinda felt like I'd ripped through it. I took it out, looked it over, and realized I hadn't. Just a strange feeling.

I went out and tried to run through every puddle I could find. If I was going to test this, I might as well do it right. When you go through the puddle, you get this weird cold sensation from the water. But surprisingly, my foot didn't seem to be getting wet. Very cool! I ran 6 miles that night, and my shoes were soaked. But at no point could I feel any water squishing b/w my toes. When I got home, the Saran Wrap was still wrapped around my foot, and my socks were no more wet than normal. The real tell-tale sign for me was my skin. It didn't have the cold, wet, clammy feel to it. I actually think this worked. Well enough that I'll certainly do it again.

So that led me to wonder...why hasn't anyone invented "Saran Wrap booties" for runners to wear over their socks in rain & snow? I'm picturing a sock shaped baggie, with a piece of tape, like on baby diapers, at the top, to cinch around the lower leg to help keep water from coming in at the top. Or does such a product exist? Seems like it would. I can't possibly be creative enough to invent anything.

Dec 1, 2009

100th Thanksgiving 10K Turkey Trot

This past Thursday I ran in the 100th 10K Turkey Trot, in Cincinnati, Ohio. The biggest holiday 10K in the world...according to the organizers. There were over 17,000 runners registered, and it was a beautiful day to run. Sun was out, temps were in the 40's, and only a little bit of a breeze.

I'd gotten a message from my friend Lance, who lives down in Birmingham, Alabama, but has a wife who's from Cincy. He said that he'd be running it, and wanted to know if I wanted to run too. Sounded like a great idea to me, so we made plans to meet up and we'd have a nice run together. He's about to run the St. Jude Memphis Marathon on 12/5, so he wasn't looking to race this 10K, which was A-OK by me. I'm still not 100% recovered from running the marathon in Indy. I have good days, and I have days where my legs still fell fatigued. Thankfully, on this day, my legs felt very good. We planned to cruise around in around 8:30/mile, his planned marathon pace.

First mile was a little on the slow side, but not bad. The rest were all right about on pace. He asked if I wanted to kick it up a bit on the final mile or so, and I said whatever he wanted to run, I'd run right along side of him. I didn't have to worry about a marathon the following week. So we picked up the pace after mile 5. Felt good to stride out a bit and get that turnover. No sprinting, just a nice pickup. Effort level at around 7.5/10. Our splits were...


Finished in a time of 51:19 (8:18/mile). Had a great, great time. Lance picked my brain about what worked and didn't work at my marathon 2.5 weeks earlier, and I was happy to share. We talked about mutual friends, and family, and about how much we were looking forward to the rest of the day. I'd love to run this every year. It's so nice to get up early, get out in those crisp temperatures, and get a nice run in before going and eating like an idiot...which I totally did, and LOVED! =)

He we were at the finish. Happy as could be.

I normally race, and almost exclusively train, alone. And that's fine. I like it that way. I like getting out there to run, and being able to think and reflect on whatever I want to. But to go out for a friendly run, with friends, on a beautiful day, and share that experience is something I very much enjoy too. I hope to do this more often than I do. Matter of fact, this weekend is the Jingle Bell 5K Run. My wife is going to run with Melanie, her 10-year old daughter, and I'm going to run with a past co-worker who has recently taken running back up. He ran 3 consecutive miles for the first time last weekend, and I twisted his arm into signing up for the race. I'll be running alongside him. Can't wait.