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Archive for May, 2010

Remember

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Run.

Run today because you can.

Run today because there are those who can’t.

Run today because there are those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to give you the freedom to do so.

Run to Remember.

***

Thank you to our brothers and sisters who put their lives on the line every day so that we may do what we do.

Thank you to the spouses of our soldiers, police officers and firemen who support them.

Thank you to those who have been taken from us too soon.

Thank you to those they have left behind.

Without you I could not run the way I do, and for that I am eternally grateful.

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So this Sunday I am running the Boston Run To Remember Half Marathon. It will be my second time running it and my third half marathon overall. So far, in my short racing career, every race has produced a PR. 8 races, 8 PR’s. Granted, some of those PR’s were because I was running a particular distance for the first time.

I am afraid that the streak will come to an end this Sunday. In order to keep the streak alive, I need to run a 1:33:13 or better. If you had asked me last week whether I thought that was achievable, I would have bravely answered in the affirmative, however, now that I have a few runs under my belt since taking two weeks off, I am a little more doubtful.

As wonderful as it has been to be back on the road and running, I have definitely noticed a drop in efficiency. It is taking more energy to go the same distance and despite working hard to maintain cardio health through the elliptical and swimming, the combination of  two weeks of rehab and a four week taper (see Boston and Providence) may have proven to be too much.  I have read that it takes four weeks for a well conditioned runner to lose their fitness level.  Unfortunately for me, I feel like I may be 2 weeks over.

Running this week has felt great mentally, but has been a grind physically.  Even today’s 5 miler was hard to get through.  The wife asked me earlier this week if I was still planning on running this Sunday.  I nearly scoffed at her saying, “of course I’m going to run!”

But she had a point.

Maybe it isn’t so wise to jump right back into a longer distance after taking some time off.  After a 20 mile race and 2 marathons over the course of 5 weeks, I convinced myself that a half-marathon was a short distance.

It’s not.

Bottom line for me is that I will make how I run on Sunday a race time decision, and then continue to make adjustments throughout the race.  If there is nothing else that running has taught me, it’s to do a self-check every few miles or so, no matter what kind of physical condition you’re in.

Before I went out for my run this afternoon, I told myself that instead of shooting for a PR this weekend, maybe I should be aiming for an RR (Race Record).  Last year I ran a respectable 1:40:47 (though it turned out someone took a wrong turn and the course ended up being 12.95 miles).  If I beat that, if I could keep a 1:3-:– handle, I’d be pretty happy.

But after today’s run, a tough 5 miles in what felt like tremendous heat, I’m feeling like I’ll be lucky if I finish.

It all comes down to efficiency.  How efficient is my body with the energy stores it has?

This Sunday, we’re gonna find out.

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I’d like to think that I’m in pretty good shape for a 40 year old. In fact, I would argue that I’m in better shape now at 40 than I was at 20.  I feel I owe a large part of that to running.  I wasn’t in bad shape when I started running 18 months ago, but I certainly wasn’t in the shape I am now.  As soon as I started running regularly (25 – 35 miles per week) nearly 30 lbs and a 5% body fat disappeared like magic.

As great as running has been though, it does beat up the body, especially if you run 2 marathons in 2 weeks.

After  the Providence marathon my legs were worn out, particularly my right knee.   So I took 2 weeks and self-rehabbed by laying off the running.  I tried to keep up my cardio health by hopping on the elliptical or swimming laps, and I think I pretty much succeeded.  That said, I noticed both in the mirror and on the scale, that I was getting a little soft around the edges. It wasn’t a lot, and I’m pretty sure nobody noticed but me.  I was a little surprised in that I felt that I was doing a pretty good job of maintaining activity and effort.  Still, the scale over those two weeks jumped 10 pounds, so I was obviously not working as hard.

This week I started running again.  On Monday I went out for an easy 7 miler and on Wednesday I went out for a hard 5 miler in 92° heat.  Nothing unusual about that, I know.  But this is where I become ever more convinced of the tremendous power of running.  Since Monday, half the weight gain has disappeared and when I looked in the mirror this morning when I got up, the figure I saw standing before me was a lot more focused.  The softness was gone.  2 days of running and I can feel and see the difference.

That’s the power of running.

I know that swimming is supposed to be the best overall exercise for your body and that the elliptical is supposed to be much better for your knees, but I am more convinced than ever that the closest thing to a miracle pill is running.

It just works.

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Last week I ran a forty minute mile.

No, that is not a typo.

Yes, I know I was not supposed to be running last week; part of a self-imposed rehab stint to get my knee better.

But I have a race coming up on the 30th and I had to do something. The elliptical has been surprisingly satisfying, but it’s still not running. I wanted to get the motion and bio-mechanical feel of running back into the muscles. So on Wednesday I went to the local gym, put on my swimsuit and ran the pool. I focused on form and effort, keeping count of my laps as I ran through 4 1/2 feet of water.

Back and forth. Back and forth.

A lot of the swimmers looked at me as if I were crazy, but it did the trick. There was essentially no impact and I got to feel like I was running. After 38:40, I had done 52 laps, 1 mile. I laughed at the absurdity of inputting the data into my running log, but you know what? I ran that mile dammit and I was taking credit for it.

All of this, the elliptical, the heavy bag, the swimming and the water running left me with a bit of a quandary. How do I incorporate all of this into my running log? Up until two weeks ago I had been guilty of NOT cross-training once in 2010, so I never considered what I would write in the log if I had to get my cardio by means other than running.

The workouts have been good. 8 3-minute rounds on a heavy bag is a hard workout. 8.5 miles on the elliptical left me more sweaty than an hour-long run. My 40-minute mile in the pool was not only a test of physical but mental endurance as well. I feel like they have all helped maintain my cardio fitness level.

But I still am not sure how to incorporate them into my weekly, monthly or yearly mile totals. Numbers, particularly miles, can be very important to runners.  We take pride in crossing certain mileage milestones (50 miles in a week, 1000 miles for the year, etc.), so I want to be able to use these numbers. In the last 2 weeks I put in nearly 70 miles on the elliptical, but only 5 (okay, 6 if you count the pool running) miles running.   I was tempted to add the elliptical miles to my totals but decided against it.

When I posed this question on dailymile, I received more questions than answers, most wanting to know what others did.  One person said that when they are forced to do something other than running, they go with logging the time and perceived effort.  That was the best, and quite frankly the only answer I received.

So, what do you do?  What is a mile on the elliptical worth? or in the pool?  Is there an exchange rate?

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...choices...choices...

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This post has nothing to do with running. Well, maybe in the metaphorical sense, but anyway…

I was at the grocery store yesterday, working my way through the aisles when I happened upon the baby section. You know the one with the diapers, baby shampoo, formula and baby food. Every time I walk down that aisle, I rejoice and celebrate the day I bought my last package of diapers for my kids. It is a good feeling.

As I mosied down the aisle, I noticed this guy standing in front of the babyfood and formula section. He had to be somewhere around my age, prematurely grey, left hand holding a scribbled list, right hand on his forehead.

I thought to myself, I know that look.

It was the look of sheer exhaustion. I thought, That’s the look I have after running a marathon.

But then the past came flooding back to me in a very intense wave. No, that wasn’t the look I have after a marathon. This was a look of a man who had just run a marathon everyday, for the last 60, maybe 90 days. I suddenly remembered that feeling during those first few months of parenthood when a solid night’s sleep is nothing more than a wish or a fantasy. THAT is exhaustion.

I am going to carry the image of this stranger in my head the next time I am running a marathon and remind myself that exhaustion is simply a matter of degree. When I feel myself fading at mile 23 or 24, I hope I will remember to think of that guy and find a way to push myself harder – find that reserve we use during those first few months of parenthood.

I gave him a reassuring smile as I passed him. I think he was too tired to understand what it meant. I hope he eventually gets a decent night’s sleep because 10 minutes later when I passed the aisle again, he was still standing there with the same confused, tired look on his face.

I am convinced that if you have endured those early months of parenthood, you are capable of running a marathon.

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Okay, so maybe I was able to find a way to bring all back to running…

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Don’t be a spectator. Don’t let life pass you by.

-Lou Holtz

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In every race that I have run, I have always been grateful for the people who come to cheer the runners on. Whether coming for a friend or family member, these people end up cheering everybody on. It is a great energy booster for me as a runner when random strangers cheer me on and even a bigger one when it’s from my family and friends.

Last Sunday was the Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon. I had no plans of running it, but I had two friends who were. Had I not been nursing this knee, I probably would have shown up last-minute to run, however, I did the right thing and staked out a spot late in the race to cheer on my buddies (Josh – @bostoncardiovet and Alett – @petfxr…I’d find out later that Alett had suffered a minor injury and was not running). I got to my spot maybe 20 -30 minutes early. I asked a cop what mile marker we were at (just shy of 11) and then asked the spectators already there how many people had already gone by (maybe 10 at most). I looked at my watch. 90 minutes, shy of mile 11, 10 runners. I did the math. Damn! I wish I was running this. Given healthy conditions, I could have had a shot at being one of those top 10. As the runners began to trickle by, I cheered each and every one of them on. Some said thank you, others were in a zone and kept on running. I envied each and every one of them.

This was the first race I had been to where I wasn’t a participant, and I’ve got to tell you, it was hard. I’m not talking “oh geez, I wish I were running too” hard.  No, I’m talking “pang in my heart, itch in my legs, must resist the urge” kind of hard!   I was never a huge racing fan before I started running, and even after I started running, I didn’t get into races until I ran my first one. As great as it was to cheer on complete strangers, all I wanted to do was run.

When Josh came running by about 20 minutes later I kicked off my flip-flops, put my coffee down and began running with him. Yes, I know. I’m rehabbing and I’m not supposed to be running! But I promise I was forced to run lightly since I was completely barefoot. It felt great.   Just being out there with the other runners felt absolutely awesome.  After taking Josh up a particularly steep hill, I bid him good luck and jogged back to my spot, cheering each runner I passed.

So, what did I learn?

I learned that running a mile barefoot isn’t so bad. It actually got me thinking that maybe one of these days I’ll try a 10K or half-marathon completely bare.

But the biggest thing I learned on Sunday was that I don’t like being a spectator.  I will continue to support friends who run local races, but I have a feeling that if I’m healthy, I’m a lot more likely to be joining them at the starting line instead of cheering them on.  I think that I can apply this to other parts of my life as well.  How many of us have spent a good chunk of our adult years as a spectators or watchers?  While I try to figure out what that means, I’ll just have to start with a half marathon next week (anybody else running the Boston Run to Remember?) and some 5K’s over the summer.

I can’t wait to get back on the road.

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So, since the beginning of this blog, I have been a huge proponent of physical exercise. True, I definitely skew toward the power of running, but quite honestly, as long as you get sweaty and breathe hard, I don’t care how you get your daily burn. I still feel that running was the best way to achieve this…

…that is, until today.

Today I read this article from Women’s Health Magazine. Yes, I know, it’s Women’s Health. It was on a friend’s Facebook page, okay? So anyway, go ahead. Click on the link and read the article and then come back. I’ll wait. Oh, if you are the type that is easily offended, don’t bother.

Are you back? Did you just run to the gym to do some core exercises? Maybe some hanging leg raises?

The sad part is that this article really isn’t directed towards me, though I guess that would present problems of its own. Seriously though, for all the women out there looking for a good reason to hit the gym, I can’t really think of a better selling point. I mean, really, I’m surprised that there aren’t groups of women coming out of the middle of a Pilates class for a cigarette! Talk about a feel good workout! It puts the Runner’s High to shame. AND you don’t need anybody or anything else with you. I mean seriously, if I were a woman I think I’d be a core-exercise nut!

I’ll tell ya, going to the gym from now on is going to be a whole new experience!

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Here is the actual workout recommended by Women’s Health Magazine.

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