Archive for December, 2010

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With my goal of 1500 miles for 2010 out of the way (I passed it last week) and the end of the year rapidly approaching, I want to take a look back on my running goals of 2010 and then look ahead to those of 2011.

Last Christmas, the wife was thoughtful enough to give me a leather-bound journal to use as a running log. One of the first things I wrote in it were goals for 2010. They included the following: 5K – 20:00 (check! 19:27), 10K – 40:00 (check! 39:29),  Half-Marathon – 1:30:00 (nope! 1:33:47),  Marathon – 3:20:00 (YES! 3:19:19),  Total Miles – 1500 (check, I should finish the year at around 1550). I am happy to say that I was able to accomplish 4 out of 5 of my goals (just missing on my half-marathon goal).  Not bad for my second year of running, right?

In the process of accomplishing much of what I set out to do, I ran 12 races – 2 5K’s, 2 10K’s, a 5-Miler, 2 Half-Marathons, a 20-Miler and 4 Marathons.  Along the way I set 9 PR’s and was in striking distance of a 10th.  I got to run Boston and then I qualified 6 months later to run it again.  I was asked to join the RaceMenu/mix1 racing team, which I have been running for since April.  I even had a few podium finishes (both overall and in age group).

It has been a fantastic year of running.  When much of my world around me seemed to be going to hell in a handbasket, running kept me centered and grounded.  For that I am grateful.

A few days after I passed 1500 miles for this year, I realized that with no chance of accomplishing a 1:30 Half-Marathon in the remaining days of 2010, maybe it was time to look ahead to 2011.   So, I pulled out my running log and began to jot down some numbers.

5K – 18 minute handle
10K – 38 minute handle
Half-Marathon – still 1:30:00
Full-Marathon – 3:15:00
Mileage – 1800 miles

All respectable goals I think.

But I got to thinking, should my running goals continue to be solely number related?  Yes, numbers are a big part of what we do.   Their importance varies from runner to runner, but there is a reason why we wear stop watches, count miles and run races.  Numbers have meaning to us.  They show us whether we have made progress or not.  Sometimes we use these numbers to see how we compare to others, but 99% of the time, we use these numbers to measure our current state against ourselves.

Still, something continued to tug at me, so I turned to the people I knew would have the answer – You!  On Twitter I asked the question, “what are your running goals for 2011?”  I thought that I was going to receive a flood of responses related to race times.  What I was surprised to find is that for most, it had more to do with race location than race time (although a BQ was on many people’s lists).  Another popular answer was to stay injury-free.  Of the responses I received that had to do with numbers, the most common one was that people hoped to run more consistently from month to month.

So, based on your wisdom, I have revised my goals somewhat for 2011.  I am still hoping to accomplish the times I have set for myself, but I want to run at least one race this year in a state I haven’t run yet (not hard to do considering I’ve only raced in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York).  I would like to remain relatively injury free for the next 12 months.  I would like to run more consistently from month to month.  2010 saw me run a monthly low of 75 miles in May to a monthly high of 210 miles in March.  My goal for 2011 is to run a consistent 150 miles per month, every month.  Finally, I hope that I can run at least 12 races in 2011, ranging in distance from 5K to possibly taking on the mountains of Vermont in a 50-Miler.  I already know where I’ll be come SuperBowl Sunday (the SuperSunday 5K/10K is a fabulous race located in the heart of Boston) and on Patriots’ Day (the Boston Marathon – this time I won’t be the very last starter of the second wave).  Boston 13.1 in June (where Autism Speaks will be the sponsored charity)  and the possibility of the Vermont 50 in September aside, the rest of my calendar is wide open.

Do you have running goals for 2011?  Maybe it’s just to start running?  Whatever they may be, I wish you the best of luck in the New Year!

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Everything in moderation. My father says that all the time.

In Buddhism, it is called the Middle Way, a mid-point between extremes, that by it’s very nature keeps one safe from the dangers of those extremes.

Some would say (the wife included) that over the past two years, I have taken my running to an extreme. Well, maybe as far as the general population is concerned, but within the running community, I don’t see myself as too far off the reservation. The only thing that I had been pretty extreme on is my choice of footwear.  In June of 2009 I made the switch to the Vibram Five Fingers and I didn’t look back. I embraced it whole-heartedly and became somewhat of a Five Finger preacher, evangelizing the wonders of barefoot-style running.

3 Marathons, 3 Half-Marathons and several other races later, I still thought that they were awesome.

The problem with going to extremes however, is that you very often blind yourself to the benefits of the other extreme or to the possible issues within your own extreme.

Look at both the political climate in our country and the religious climate in the Western Hemisphere. People are entrenched in their own positions, refusing to even acknowledge that there might be something positive coming from the other side. Christians and Muslims continue to go at each other despite sharing some common beliefs, and Democrats and Republican continue to put their own interests ahead of the interests of the people who elected them.

And so it was with my conversion to the Five Finger religion. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am still a huge, HUGE fan of the Vibram Five Fingers. If you haven’t tried the new Bikilas or the Treks yet, I highly recommend them. They are both wonderful for running, and I still use them on a regular basis.  BUT, I have come to a place now where I am willing to look a little more carefully at the finer details of my running.   A little over a year and a half into the Vibrams, I’m still a moderate heel-striker.  My form has improved, but I have not been able to completely transform myself into the mid-foot striker I would like to be.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am not complaining.  In fact, I am very pleased with how my year of running has gone (more on that on Thursday), however, because my my form tends to break down in the latter half of my longer runs, I need to take the long view and protect my legs.

Over the past several months, I have come to appreciate the Larson School of Thought as it pertains to shoes.  Larson (actually my buddy and fellow BQ Pete) believes in rotating one’s shoes.  I think he does it in part because he loves running shoes, but the main reason is because each shoe is slightly different and therefore puts stress on slightly different parts of the body.  When you rotate through 2 – 5 pairs of shoes, you reduce the risk of overuse injuries because the stress points that your body has to deal with are being moved ever so slightly.

I have found that since I introduced the Saucony Kinvaras into my rotation, my aches and pains have reduced dramatically.  That’s not to say I don’t have aches and  – running can be hard on the body – but I find that I am running harder and stronger yet recovering more quickly.   I am convinced that much of that has to do with keeping my legs and feet guessing as to what they are going to be running in on any given day.

Extremes can be good.  They open our eyes to new possibilities, but in the end, the path to longevity lies down the Middle Way.

Are you a multi-shoe runner? or do you stick to your favorite pair?

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There are dozens, if not hundreds, of plans out there promising to help you train for a race. Whether it’s a 5K or a marathon or anything in between, there’s a plan. Before running my first marathon in November of 2009, I followed a plan that I had found on-line. If I am going to be honest, I didn’t follow it too well. Like most plans, it had a variety of runs that I was supposed to run at very specific paces. I ignored the pacing all together and simply ran at the speed my body wanted to that day. Most of the time that meant running 20 – 40 seconds slower than my expected marathon pace.

Yes, it’s true, I simply looked at the distance and ran. I would do the speed work at the recommended pace, but when it came to the Recovery Run, the Medium Long Run or the Long Slow Distance Run, I didn’t want to have anything to do with the recommended pace.

Run almost 2 minutes slower than my goal pace? No Frakking Way! What’s the use of that?

And then I promptly injured myself. And then I injured myself again.

Looking back, I’m convinced that the most probable culprit for my pre-Manchester Marathon injuries was probably pace. I also think that my lack of running LSD’s may have had an impact on my leg freeze at mile 20 of that same race. I didn’t fully understand the importance of the Long Slow Distance Run nor did I fully grasp the concept of balancing hard workouts with easy ones. In some ways, the easy workouts are just as important as the hard ones, and to a degree are much harder to master.

The slow run has a physiological benefit, however, I think that there is another benefit to having the discipline to run the Recovery, Medium-Long and Long Runs at the recommended paces. It’s the mental aspect of the marathon. When you are forced to run much slower than you are capable of, it’s easy to get bored, let the mind wander and lose focus. I know that even with short recovery runs, I sometimes have to fight to get to that 5th mile, in part because I feel like I should already have completed that distance. By learning to stay focused during the slower runs, you are more capable of keeping your head in the marathon during the latter parts of the race.

In training for the Smuttynose Marathon, I finally put my faith completely in the program. There were days when life got in the way, so I was unable to follow the schedule to a T, however, I made a huge effort to do what I was told, and that included running long runs at a pace that was much slower than I was comfortable.

The payoff? An 11 minute PR and a BQ.

A week into training for Boston 2011, I have to remind myself to slow down.  Just yesterday I took my first longish run of the cycle – 12 miles.  I should have run it at about an 8:15 – 8:20 pace based on the 3:15 I’m shooting for in April.  Instead I let my legs take over and ran it in a 7:55 pace, with the last 6 miles at 7:30 pace.

Not exactly listening to my own advice. Hopefully next week I can be a little more disciplined.

So remember to take your time and enjoy your LSD’s.

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So by now you may have heard about the woman in California that is suing McDonald’s for “getting into the heads of her children”.   She says that McDonald’s knowingly makes it hard for her to say “no” to her kids by including a toy in their, what I read one person call “Shut Up in a Box”, Happy Meals.

The Right is up in arms. This is the Left and Liberalism run amok! And you know what? I have to agree.  Let me state here that I am a card-carrying member of the left side of the aisle.  I believe in social progressiveness.  I believe that big government can work.  I believe in welfare and Medicaid.  I believe it is the government’s job to help make us a better society.  I believe the very rich should pay higher taxes.  I believe in spreading the wealth.  I used to like John McCain before he went crazy.   I think Michelle Bachmann is an entertaining, dangerous nutjob.  I believe Sarah Palin is just plain dangerous.

But this woman, this Monet Parham is giving me agita.  It is people like her that give the rest of us on the left a bad name.

I am not very political.  I generally keep my politics to myself.  I’m with Jon Stewart, who believes that the extreme 15% at each end of the political spectrum has taken over the system, while the “middle of the road” 70-80% of us are busy with our every day lives.


Are you really serious about suing McDonald’s because you’re tired of saying “No” to your kids when they ask for McDonald’s? Seriously? Really?  I’ve seen parents like you.  The ones that just can’t say no because then their kids will cry.  You deserved to have your parent-card revoked.  Someone should call DSS and have you’re children taken into foster care.  You know what happens to those kids who never hear “no” ?  They become brats who walk around with a sense of entitlement and then can’t figure out why the real world doesn’t cater to their every need when they are grown-ups.  You ought to be ashamed of yourself.  McDonald’s doesn’t advertise themselves as a health food restaurant.  They advertise themselves as a fast food restaurant.  It’s not meant for daily consumption darlin’.  You think they have a moral obligation to produce a healthier product?  How about YOUR moral obligation to raise your kids properly?  To teach them proper nutrition? To teach them restraint and moderation?  To teach them about wants vs. needs?  Fast food is not the enemy.  Refusal to take on personal responsibility is.  McDonald’s isn’t good for you?  Guess what, Monet?  WE ALL KNOW THAT!!!

This is one of the few time that I find myself in agreement with the likes of Michael Graham and Jay Severin, and that really ticks me off.  The truth is the food at McDonald’s sucks…but it tastes so good!  It’s salty, it’s fatty, it’s all the things that aren’t good for you in large quantities.  That’s why in our family we tend NOT to eat it more than once, maybe twice a month.  That doesn’t stop the kids from asking for it every time we drive by a McDonald’s.  That’s their job.  They’re kids.

An amazing thing happens though 95% of the time we drive by one.  I say no and we move on.  This may seem magical and mystical to you Monet, but you might want to establish who the boss is in your house.  The problem today is not the soulless corporations; it’s the parents who are unwilling to be the hard-ass at home.  It’s the parents unwilling to say “No’ or the ones who deliver empty threats – the ones that say, “if you do that again there’s going to be a consequence,” and then when the child does it again, the parent simply shrugs his/her shoulders and says, “what can I do?”

What can you do, Monet?  Stop whining and be the parent!

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Back in May I went running. I know, nothing unusual about that.   I took my time running through town, proudly sporting my 2010 Boston Tech T, steadily making my way to one of the more popular running roads.  As I turned left on to that road, I could see another runner coming from the opposite direction.   He was younger, faster and wearing the same shirt. A quarter mile later he caught up to me.

“Nice shirt,” I said as he began to pass me.

“Yeah, you too,” he replied.

He fell in step with me and asked how I did.

“3:32,” I said, “not bad for a old guy.”

“Not bad at all,” he said genuinely.

“You?” I asked.


Cue record scratch sound. Cue my stutter step and double take.

“2-, 2:25? 2:25?”

“Yup.” He almost seemed uncomfortable with it and quickly changed the subject to my then spankin’ new Bikilas. We chatted for another quarter mile or so, but the whole time I was thinking “2:25?” I looked at this kid. He must have been somewhere between 18 – 25 (it’s getting harder to tell as I get older), running along gracefully with the stride of youth.

I started thinking, “wow, I’m old. I could be twice this kid’s age and he’s running a 2:25. Who am I with my 3:30?” Pangs of doubt led to the awareness of the pains of age. Every little pang I usually ignore in my legs suddenly became very noticeable.   Suddenly I felt very much like a 40 year old, something I hadn’t felt since I started running.

I asked myself, “why am I doing this?”




5 months later I answered that question – Why am I doing this?

I’m doing it for this feeling:


Official Time - 3:19:19 - BQ

It was shortly after that run in with “2:25” that I reminded myself that yes, I was probably twice his age BUT I should be proud of that.   The truth is, when I was that kid’s age, there was no way I would/could do what I am doing out there today.   I was a physically old 20 year old.  Today, I am a physically young 40 year old.  Comparing myself to this kid was ridiculous, but comparing myself to my 20 year old self made a lot more sense.

Aging is inevitable.  Regardless of how well we take care of ourselves, we will eventually have to yield to Father-Time.  But how we get from 20 to 40 to 80 and beyond, and how long it is before we must ultimately throw in the towel, is, to a degree, in our own hands.  I will be 41 next Wednesday.  If I focused solely on the number I would end up down a rabbit hole of depression.  In widening the lens, taking in the bigger picture, I realize that at 41 I will weigh less, run faster and be stronger than I was at 21.  I may not recover as quickly from a night of partying like a rock star like I used to, but in the end, 41 is looking pretty damned good.


20-something year old Luau

40-year old Luau

Do you know what you want to look and feel like on your next birthday? or are you already there?

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You’ve put in the work…now it’s time for your victory lap!

My buddy Doug right before the Smuttynose Marathon

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18 weeks until the Boston Marathon.  My training starts today!  Well, kind of anyway.  Day 1 of my 18 week training program starts with a Rest/Cross-training Day.  So, technically training starts today, but my first run isn’t until tomorrow.  I am excited to start.  The 5 weeks since New York have consisted of free form training, and to a degree I’ve been feeling a bit at sea.  It will be nice to be able to look at the schedule and know what to expect for the coming week.

I will be following the Pfitz 18/55 program (for 18 weeks/maxing out at 55 miles per week) from his book, Advanced Marathoning.  I used his 12/55 program in my BQ at Smuttynose, and I think that the 18 week program can advance my marathoning even further.  I highly recommend his book.  You don’t need to be an advanced marathoner to use it.  I used it to great success and by no means am I an advanced marathoner.  It is chock full of useful advice and has programs ranging for those willing to run a max of 55 mile/week (starts with 33 miles/week) to those crazy enough to run over 105 miles/week.  I’m still trying to wrap my brain around that one.  105 Frakking Miles?  Along with advice on marathon training, Pfitz also outlines some core exercises, strength training and a good stretching regimen.  I plan on using them all as I train for my assault on the Newton Hills (my downfall last year).

Anyway, so here I am – the first day of my Boston Marathon training and I don’t get to run.  I guess it’s a perfect time to start the core and strength training, right?

For those of you running Boston this year, when do you start your training?  Have you already started? What program are you going with? And for those running other Spring marathons, what programs do you use?  Or are you like my hero, the British Bulldog, Steve Spiers (he recently defended his Cayman Islands Marathon Title…Rock Star!), who just kind of makes it up as he goes?

People…or at least I…want to know!

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Pass the Mic

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Here’s something new and different. Today you can find me —>HERE<— as a guest on Chris Russell’s latest podcast at RunRunLive. I’m at the beginning introducing the show and reading my Kool-Aid post. A totally new medium for me. When you’re done, come back and let me know how I did. I hope you enjoy it.

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One of the many things I love about running is that when we race, despite the fact that we are all running against each other, our true opponent is ourselves. Whether we are pushing the envelope on a tempo run or attempting to hit a time in a marathon, in the end, we need only ask ourselves, “did I give it my all?”

I was recently involved in a race, one that had nothing to do with running. Competitive natures as they are, each contestant still wanted to win. My approach to the race was fairly laid back. In the end, it probably came down in part to being a popularity contest. I’ve never been a fan of those because they tend to cloud the issues and prevent the most qualified people from being elected.

It was suggested to me by several people if maybe every candidate could be declared a winner. The parent in me kind of understood this – there were four of us vying for three positions. Why leave one person out in the cold? What are we showing our kids if we’re essentially voting to exclude one person?

As the parent of a daughter with autism, one of, if not the biggest fears I have is her being excluded because she is different. My wife, in fact, is the founder and driving force behind our elementary school’s Inclusion Committee. We are ALL about inclusion.

However,that is not how the real world works.  Even if the wife and I are able to realize the dream of a full inclusion society, that doesn’t mean that everybody gets to be a winner every time (if at all).  In the real world there are those that win and those that lose, and more often than not, in a race of any kind, there are more losers than winners.

If the conversation ended there, that statement could seem a bit harsh.  To me, this is where those on the far right and those on the far left often stop with there one liners, yelling and screaming AT each other, never talking TO each other.  That 15% of America has taken the fun out of competition.

The race doesn’t end at the finish line.  To me, it’s not whether you win or lose (though I am competitive enough to prefer a win), but HOW you win or lose.

To go back to the election I was recently in, several people had approached me about lobbying to allow every one a slot.  Truth be told, the world wasn’t going to end either way.  It was argued to me that we are teaching our kids exclusion by leaving one of the four candidates out.  But something kept nagging at me on the other end.  I could hear the “it is what it is” voice in my head – the one that said the rules are the rules.  But it’s just one more person. Nope! You gotta follow the rules!

But then it hit me.  The greater lesson to our kids would be, how did the person who came in 4th handle their loss?  Would they simply disappear?  Would they get angry? or would they still make sure their voice was heard?

A friend of mine, J-Ro, once said to me, and I’m paraphrasing here, that we learn much more about ourselves through loss and adversity than through victory.  I believe that to be true.  And I think America as a whole used to believe that too.  However, I’ve helplessly watched our political system go into the toilet because the extremists in our country either a.) don’t want anybody to lose or b.) never learned how to learn from loss (I’ll let you figure out who’s who).

I know that I learned much more about myself over the course of 2010 BECAUSE I failed so miserably at the Manchester Marathon in 2009.  Had I cruised to a BQ on my first marathon attempt, I don’t think I would have appreciated it as much as I did when I finally broke through at Smuttynose.

Loss is a good thing.  Failure can ruin us, to be sure, but only if we let it.  Whether you lose by a nose or get your rear end handed to you, it hurts.  It’s what you do with that hurt that matters.

I like to think that failure is there to make us better, stronger, sharper.

I know it’s made me a better runner.

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On Saturday night, Jess and I decided to forgo our regular date night. Instead, we, along with Katie and Brooke, traveled an hour and a half away to a attend a party for a man we had never met or spoken to.  No, this was not a family obligation.  This party was to celebrate the safe return of the husband of a blogiverse friend of my wife.  He had spent the past year serving in Afghanistan.  Jess’ friend had no idea we were coming.  She had no reason to expect us to come.  In fact, she and Jess hardly know each other (they had never met or spoken to each other), but to a degree, that wasn’t the point.

This family is an ordinary family like yours or mine.  Like mine, they have two children.  Like mine, they have a daughter on the Autism Spectrum.  UNLIKE my family, they made it through this last year with one parent serving our country in Afghanistan.  Sergeant Major William is a proud member of the National Guard.  He is an ordinary guy doing the extraordinary.  I am extremely grateful for what the Sergeant Major does.  I am always floored by the men and women who are willing to put their lives on the line for me.  Because of Sergeant Major William, and the rest of the members of our armed forces, I get to do what I do.  I get to be a stay-at-home-dad.  I get to run marathons.  I get to write this silly, little blog.  No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, I think it is important to show gratitude and respect for our soldiers.  They are heroes.

But I don’t view Sergeant Major William as the only hero in his family.  His wife Rachel, along with many of our servicemen’s spouses, have spent the last year home, alone, going to bed every night wondering if their soldier is going to be okay.  Add raising a child on the spectrum and the pressure mounts.  I believe Rachel, and spouses like her, deserve recognition for the sacrifices they make so that we can send our soldiers overseas, so that we can do what we do, whether it be running  marathons or vegging on the couch or whatever the heart desires.

For a more in-depth description of the party, please check out Jess’ blog post —>HERE<—.

We have Veterans’ Day every year in November.  I propose we take today, December 8th, to thank the Rachel’s, Jeneil’s, and every other military spouse who hold the hearts of our soldiers – a Veterans’ Spouse’s Day.

What does this have to do with running?  Nothing…and everything.

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Running, and by extension physical activity, is a gift.

As with all great gifts, it is one worth sharing.

Often people don’t want it. They look at those of us who are regularly active and think that it is easy for us to run, that it is easy for us to exercise. To a degree, that is true. Those of us who call ourselves runners (or swimmers or cyclists) wake up with the urge to run, or swim or bike – maybe not as soon as we get up (I’m still trying out this pre-dawn thing), but eventually, at some point during the day, we are driven to get physical.

It’s not like that for everyone, particularly for those that haven’t imbibed in our endorphin-laced kool-aid. Our non-running friends don’t know that there was a time when the desire and drive simply weren’t there for us, but we forced ourselves to push on. Once through that wall, once through that two to three to ten weeks of faithfully getting it done, it all changed. For some of us it was a gradual awakening, for others it was a moment of enlightenment.

If it sounds mildly religious, don’t be surprised. There is definitely a cult-like mentality to dedicated runners, and the endorphin-high one gets from running is very similar to that of a religious experience or an encounter with a huge amount of chocolate. Some might call it an addiction, others might call it a religion. I like to think of it as therapy. But any way you slice it, for the greater majority of us, it is peace. Running is the place where the stresses of the day, month, year, can melt away for a brief moment in time. It is a place where we can work out the strategies of how to deal with our daily issues. Much like a drug, religion or therapy, running can ease the pain in our lives and help keep our personal demons at bay.

Just like drugs, religion or therapy however, running is not for everyone. As a running acolyte, that is something that is hard for me to remember. Just like there is room in this world for religious believers and non-believers, there too, is room for runners and non-runners alike.

Still, like many religious zealots, I have difficulty understanding how one could not enjoy the benefits running. I wish I could bottle up the kool-aid and give it out for the Holidays, just so people could have a taste of that joy that running (or any exercise that produces a lot of sweat) can bring.

I do believe that unlike religion and drug addiction, running doesn’t do harm to others in its name. It’s not like runners are about to start a runner’s war, right?

People will come to it when they’re ready I suppose. I didn’t start running regularly until I was almost 40. I wish I had done it when I was 30 or 20 for that matter, but honestly, I just wasn’t ready.

Who wants Kool-Aid?

Have you always been a runner (or whatever your sport of choice is) or did it come to you later in life?

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