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Archive for March, 2011

Bounce

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Do you feel that?

That almost rhythmic bounce? A rapid, nervous hammering?

Do you feel it?

Do you know what it is?

It baffles scientists every year around this time.  It’s in the air, it’s in the ground, it’s in the pit of our stomachs.

I finally figured out what is causing it.

It’s the up-and-down movement of over 27,000 knees as runners preparing for the Boston Marathon enter their taper*.

***

Despite this being my 6th marathon in 18 months, I can already tell this taper is going to be the hardest yet.  I’ve trained harder and run longer than any other training cycle – I just want Boston to get here.

What do you do to deal with the taper?

*For the uninitiated – the taper is the last 2 – 3 weeks of training for a marathon.  During this time, runners reduce their weekly miles somewhat dramatically, leading to what many call Taper Madness – an overflow of nervous energy where runner don’t know what to do with themselves and often get a little grumpy.

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Chicken or Egg

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Over 15 weeks down, less than 3 weeks to go.  I’ve been diligent. I’ve stuck to the program.  Whatever Pfitz has told me to do, I’ve pretty much done it.

And you know what?  I feel pretty good.  Over 700 miles into this training cycle and I’m feeling pretty damned good.  Not that I was expecting not to, but after logging more miles in the last 4 month than I ever have in any given 4 month stretch, I wasn’t completely sure that my body was going to hold up.  But, knock on wood, it has.

I love my training.  I love training for the marathon.

But I wonder, am I training for the marathon or am I running the marathon for the training?

***

I started running two and a half years ago in support of my wife.  She had signed up for the Hyannis Half-Marathon, and  I just couldn’t let her run it alone.  I had never run more than 4 or 5 miles at a time and I knew that 13.1 miles was going to be a long distance (especially in the middle of the winter on the Cape).

In this particular case I was training for the event.  I knew that I needed to get in shape to be able to complete that distance.  Despite not having a plan, I quickly went from running “0” miles per week to 30.  With the half-marathon on the horizon, I kept pushing my distance just little bit with each subsequent run until I finally hit the 10 mile mark in a single run.

That’s when something clicked and I went from being someone who ran every now and then to a runner.

Though someday I would like to, I never did end up running the Hyannis Half.  What I did take away from that stretch of time though was having a goal race on the calendar helped keep me motivated to get up and run every day.  A few weeks before Hyannis, I ran my first 10K.  A few months later I finally ran my first half-marathon.  I immediately set my sites on a full and signed up for a fall marathon.  The following year, 2010, was filled with almost a race per month.  With each of these races I found motivation to keep putting in miles even when neither my body nor my mind wanted to.

As exhausting as the training could be, my soul was happy…full.

My training reached a high point last summer when I became hyper-focused on doing well at the Inaugural Smuttynose Marathon in New Hampshire.  It was BQ or bust.

Even though my ultimate goal was to run a BQ at Smutty, I look back and wonder, was I training for the marathon? or had I signed up for the marathon so I would train hard?

In the end, it doesn’t really matter, right?  The end result is the same.  Whether you sign up for an event as motivation or are motivated to do well at an event, the goal is to do the best you can.

This winter I’m back at it.  Training with a vengeance – looking to improve on my time at Boston.  Still, I’m not sure whether it’s the goal or the training that’s driving me.

Do you train for marathons? Or do you run marathons for the training?

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To GU or not to GU, that is the question…
Whether ’tis nobler to hit the wall
or take on possible stomach issues

That is the thought that ran through my mind for nearly 13 miles of my run on Sunday.  I have been a little gun-shy of  ingesting anything other than liquid refreshment during my runs since my stomach disaster in New York back in November.  That experience, though mildly triumphant, was physical misery.

I knew I was going to have to make a few adjustments for Boston.

The first adjustment I made coming out of New York was to give in to Gatorade. It was not my preference, but I knew that if I didn’t want to carry anything (i.e. a water bottle) at Boston, that meant I would have to take what they were serving.  That transition went easily enough.  I have to say, as much as it pains me to admit it,  I have grown to actually like  Gatorade.

But how many calories am I really going to be able to replace with a sip or two of Gatorade every mile?  Sure, I’ll be fine with the hydration aspect of the race, but if I don’t replace the carbs at a higher rate (8oz. of Gatorade has only 50 calories), it will be sooner rather than later that I hit the wall.

And yet, I put off incorporating any kind of gel or gu or semi-solid substance into my long runs.

I have been training hard this cycle.  I’ve seen improvement and am feeling confident.  Unfortunately, that confidence has been feeding into pushing off my GU dilemma.  With each successive long run, I was finding that I was running faster, drinking less and feeling better and less fatigued at the end of each.  I tried to convince myself that maybe I could just run Boston without any help.  All of my runs of 17 – 20 miles have me ahead of pace, and for almost all of them, I’ve felt strong at the end.  In one recent 18 miler, I drank a total of maybe 3 or 4 oz of Gatorade and that was it – and I felt great at the end.

I almost convinced myself.  Almost.

What happens if I hit the wall at 23 or 24 or 25? Once you hit the wall, you’re done.  Oh, you can still finish the race (see my marathon debut), but if you truly hit the Wall, it’s a death march the rest of the way, even if you do take something afterward.  After the Wall, you aren’t gonna hit your target time.

And that thought haunts me.

How pissed would I be if I were cruising along to a 3:15, or dare I say it, a 3:10, and my body ran out of fuel somewhere in the last 10K?

So yesterday, with just over 3 weeks to go, I decided I would suck it up and re-introduce GU into my running.

Truth be told, I almost left them in the car, for fear of getting stomach cramps 10 miles away, but I thought better of it.

Now it became a question of when.  Most gel-makers recommend taking one 15 minutes before race time and then once every 45-60 minutes thereafter.

***

I didn’t take one before my run.

***

When I hit 6 miles 45 minutes later, I didn’t take one.

***

When I hit 12 miles at 1:32 I still didn’t take one.  I kept thinking, what if I get nauseous?

***

I realized that New York was playing with my mind.

I just had to do it.

So at mile 13, a full 1:39 after starting my run, I finally downed a Lemon-Lime GU.

And you know what?  It wasn’t so bad – I’ll just have to make sure that I time it with a hydration station during the actual race – and maybe the GU had something to do with being able to rip off a 6 minute mile for mile 20.

So now I have to figure out just how many GU’s I will need.  I’m leaning toward only bringing 2 with me – one for mile 10, and one for mile 20.

Any words of advice?

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Predawn

In the dark
Alone

Emptiness
Subsides

Energy
Restores

Soul
Renews

Before
Sunrise

I will walk tall
Another day

Because I run
Predawn

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It’s less than 4 weeks away. It looms larger and larger with each passing day. The Boston Marathon will be here before we know it, and to be honest, I’m starting to get the butterflies.

But I’ve been training hard. Once or twice a week I’ve taken to running parts of the Boston Marathon course. The hills coming into Newton, especially after 17 miles, can be brutal whether in the race or on a training run. But I’ve stuck to what I said back in November – I have been trying to live by the mantra – Train for the Terrain. Hills have been part of my training.

What the hell does this have to do with Brad Pitt?

I want you to look at something:

What do you see?

Yes, yes, it’s Brad Pitt. Yes, it’s Brad Pitt with his past girlfriends. But take a closer look. In each of these pictures, you will see that Pitt has adapted himself to take on the look of his main squeeze of the moment.

Uh, right Luau. Been reading a little too much US Magazine lately? What the frak does this have to do with running and the Boston Marathon???

Well, it has less to do with the Boston Marathon specifically and more to do with Marathon Training in general, as in training for the terrain – adapting to the current situation. My hope is that I have managed to “Brad Pitt” my training and will be perfectly matched up for Boston – downhills early, uphills late, more downhill near the end.

My stated goal at the beginning of the cycle was 3:15 or better. That still remains the goal, though I’m gonna take a long, hard look at 3:10.

How’s your Spring Marathon training going? Have you Brad Pitted it? I wonder if you can work the verb “Brad Pitt” into a conversation today?

I guess the burning question now is – Is the Boston Marathon Juliette, Gwyneth, Jennifer or Angelina?

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Names

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Last week my friend, E, who I find to be pretty awesome, went out for a run.  She hadn’t run in a while.  She was pumped.  She had found renewed energy and focus.  She was happy to be out on the streets, putting one foot in front of the other.  She was just finding her groove, battling a hill, when some jackass yelled out and called her a name.

It doesn’t matter what the name was – suffice it to say, it was hurtful and demoralizing.  By the end of her run, my friend was alternating between tears and anger.

When I read what had happened I was furious.

On the micro-level, I was furious that someone would belittle my friend, a woman who was working hard to better herself.

But there was  a whole other  macro-level of furious that boiled up in me.  As the parent of a girl with autism, I know that I have become overly-sensitive to the concept of name calling.  Words like “retard” make me want to grab the speaker by the shoulders, shake them and then pop ’em in the kisser with a left-cross (and my left-cross is pretty good).  I usually take a deep breath, take stock of the situation.  If it is the only time I have ever heard this person say it, then I usually let it go, but if it becomes a regular thing, that’s when I kindly ask them to stop.  The wife actually wrote a very good post on the topic.  You can read it —>HERE<—.

But I digress.

I know in this day and age, it ain’t cool to be PC, and quite honestly, I tend to think that as a society, we tend to over-think things a lot.  There are a lot of PC concepts that I just can’t get behind (everybody wins all the time? does that teach anybody anything?).  But the truth is, words hurt; words scar.  And if you are particularly insecure about certain things, certain words can cut even deeper and leave scars that take a long time to go away.

So when I heard this story, my heart went out to E.

She wrote that it might be a while before she gets out there again with running shoes on.  My hope is that she can find her inner duck and let the name calling roll off her back.  When she runs, she inspires more people than she knows.  She may not be fast – in fact, I think she would be the first person to admit that – but she runs, and through her running and her humor she brings smiles to faces and gets people thinking about health and fitness.

I hope she will Tai Chi the crap out of the hurtful words, turning its energy against itself, turning it into something positive.  I hope she gets angry instead of demoralized.  I hope she decides to take the power away from the jackass and make it her own.  I hope she remembers that running is cleansing and can wash away the dirt people throw at us.

I hope to see you out there running soon E.

You can check out Miss E at – http://fromfat2fab2009.blogspot.com/

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We interrupt your regularly scheduled running blog for this message –


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A couple of days ago, my wife was asked to write a letter to the President…yes, that President!

The point of the letter was to tell President Obama why she thought that he needs to light the White House blue on April 2nd in support of World Autism Awareness Day.

She did a fabulous job.

Ideally, there will be enough comments left in the comments section of this letter that our President will feel compelled to do it.

I’ve been reading through the comments though…so many. I have noticed that the voices are mostly those of mothers, sisters, aunts and grandmothers…where are my fellow fathers, brothers, uncles and grandfathers? Come on guys! Your lives are just as affected and your voices can be just as effective.

Please read her letter and leave a comment —>HERE<— and tell President Obama to light it up blue!

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