Archive for January, 2012

4:10 AM – the alarm on my phone goes off – a mix of a loud snoring sound and the phone vibrating on my nightstand.

4:10 AM.


Am I really gonna do this?  Do I really WANT to do this?

10 miles?  Really?  It’s 30° outside.

It’s cold.

It’s dark.

I could just hit the snooze…or better yet, just go back to sleep until 6:45.

Sleep is good right?  We all need sleep, don’t we?  Maybe I’ll just close my eyes…


I’d rather be sleeping….but then who’s gonna run these miles?
– My post on Facebook at 4:12AM


As I covered my 10 miles during the predawn hours this morning, I realized just how good I felt being out there on the road.

Yes, it was early.
Yes, it was dark.
Yes, it was cold.

But I felt great.  Despite my apathy at 4:10AM when the alarm went off, throughout my run I. Felt. Great!

I talk a lot on this blog about inertia.  It is one of the strongest fundamental principles of physics – a body in motion tends to stay in motion, a body at rest tends to stay at rest.  I believe it also is a fundamental principle of the human condition.  One of the most difficult things for us as humans to do is to change our inertia – couch potatoes rarely get off of the couch.  Compulsive exercisers rarely stop – for fear that they might not get going again.

The key, for those of us in the middle, is to understand that inertia is real and that to go from rest to motion, we must go through what I like to call the “Toughest Ten Minutes of the Day”.  It’s those ten minutes of putting on the shorts and shoes, walking out the door and moving that in all likelihood is the hardest part of your workout…unless maybe you’re doing hill sprints, but that’s a different kind of tough.  No matter what your workout is going to be, no matter how physically demanding, the key is overcoming the mental hurdle – the anticipation of the pain or burn, the expectation of the cold air, the knowledge that this could take a couple of hours, the call of your pillow, comforter or couch.

That ten minutes before your run can be the most difficult part of your workout.  Unlike a job you may not like, you are not getting paid to run.  Unlike a class you are dreading, you are not paying to attend.  In both cases you have the extra motivation of dollars to show up.  Unless you are Ryan Hall, Kara Goucher or the like, you are not getting paid to run.  The motivation has to come from within. You have to fight that feeling that maybe I’ll just sit here instead for this workout.

I promise you, if you can overcome those toughest ten minutes of the day, whether in the predawn hours, midday or late at night, the payoff is well worth it.

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If you don’t follow politics at all, you may not know who Tim Pawlenty is.  He is a former governor of the state of Minnesota who decided to run for President.  He was part of the large field of Republican candidates who were vying for their party’s nomination.  Last summer, after finishing a distant 3rd in the meaningless Iowa Straw Poll, Pawlenty unexpectedly dropped out.  Who did come in behind?  Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul.  He finished ahead of everybody else, yet, because he didn’t finish as strongly as he would have liked in a straw poll, he quit.


New Word Definition:

Pawlenty – verb, pawlentied

1.  to prematurely  stop, cease, or discontinue: She pawlentied what she was doing at the first sign of trouble.
2. to give up or resign; let go; relinquish: He pawlentied his claim to the throne. She pawlentied her job.

Earlier this week I started marathon training for the upcoming Sugarloaf Marathon.  18 weeks from this past Sunday I hope to cross the finish line in Kingfield, ME in under 3:15:00.  I need to run a sub-3:15 in order to qualify for Boston once again.  That’s over 4 minutes faster than I have ever run a marathon.   For my very first run, my program (the Pfitz 18/55 plan) called for a Lactate Threshold Run – 8 miles, with 4 of those miles coming in at or around half-marathon pace.

Half-Marathon pace for me should (read: used to) be around 7:05 per mile.  Try as I might, on that first run I couldn’t maintain a pace faster than 7:30 per mile for the required 4 miles.  Mentally is was a blow.  7:30 per mile is 4 seconds slower per mile than the pace I would need to run 26.2 miles in order to achieve my goal.

And I could barely maintain that pace for 4 miles?

My first thought was I need to re-evaluate; maybe I’ve passed my peak in running; maybe it’s time simply to log the miles, run the races, but ignore the times; maybe I should quit my quest to return to Boston.

But then I thought of Tim Pawlenty.  He has GOT to be kicking himself right now.  After the carousel of conservative Republicans who have taken turns being the “Anybody But Romney” candidate, Pawlenty has to be wondering “what if?”.

Pulling out prematurely is never a good thing…


And so, despite the disappointing finish in that first training run, I am pressing on, because, dammit, I am no Tim Pawlenty!

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There's an app for that...

Every New Year hundreds of thousands of people vow to change their ways, to improve themselves.  These “resolutions” come in all forms, but one of the most common is about weight loss and fitness.  My friend Greg over at Pre-Dawn Runner wrote a post recently about just these sorts of resolutions and why 90% of the time, people are bound to fail at them – whether it is over-ambition, too vague goals, or simply not knowing where to start, a lot of resolutions grind to a halt before they even get started.

One of the suggestions Greg had was tracking calories.  I have had many a friend ask me what they can do to get fit and lose weight, and I almost always reply with “running and calorie tracking”.

You may have heard of and rolled your eyes at the concept of calorie tracking, thinking, “I’m not going to be one of those people who counts calories”.

If you are, I want you to stop for a second and reread what it is I suggest and what it is you say you don’t want to be.

Go ahead…

Go back and read my reply and now read your response.

There is a difference, albeit one based on semantics.  What you call “counting calories” I call “tracking calories”.

I believe there actually is a huge difference between the two.

What’s the difference, you ask?

If you are counting calories, that implies you are keeping an eye on a certain number that you are allowing yourself throughout each day.  Every time you “count” a meal, you are subtracting that number from what you’ve been told your total for the day can be.  Each passing meal, snack, or beverage becomes something that you dread and in the end the joy of eating is taken away.  At that point, you probably give up on counting calories.

Now, if you are tracking calories, you are simply keeping track of what you eat.  As the days go by, you come to realize, based on the data you’ve collected, just how much you are eating.  You may find that some days you eat more, others you don’t, but eventually, you get to a point where simply start to make better choices because you know what’s in the food you are taking in.  If tracking the calories themselves seems too time consuming (though there are apps for that) take one step back and simply keep a food diary.

The concept of tracking calories or keeping a food diary isn’t about worrying and wringing your hands over every meal or snack, but rather to give you a picture of what your habits are – which then allows you to visualize making changes for the better.  As you make those changes, the proof is right there in front of you in both your notebook (or smartphone) in black and white, on the scale and in the mirror.

It’s a lot easier than you think!

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I have never been big on New Year’s Resolutions.  I find them to be somewhat silly – seriously, if you want to do or change something, why not do it the moment you think of it? Why wait for the turning of the calendar?

That being said, I must admit, there is something about wiping the slate clean and starting anew.

While I was out for a run on Saturday, I spent my time contemplating 2011 in terms of running and fitness.  I started that year with a bang, averaging nearly 200 miles per month for the first 5 months.  But then something happened.  I interpreted it as losing my mojo, but if I’m going to be completely honest with myself, I think I just burned myself out.  Even with big races on the horizon (Around the Lake in July, the Vermont 50 in September and the New York City Marathon in November) I just couldn’t get myself motivated and back into a rhythm.

I kept telling myself, “next week…next week I’ll get back into it”, but it just never happened.  I ended the year probably averaging less than 50 miles per month over the last 3 or 4 months (that’s including the races!).

As I ran my quick 4-miler on Saturday, I looked back at 2011 with some regret and disappointment.  For a year that started off so promisingly in regards to running, competitively it ended in the dumps.

But now, it is 2012 – nothing has changed except the number at the end of the calendar.  Nothing has changed, yet maybe everything has changed.

I now have a clean slate.  2011 is gone.  2012 is here.

I don’t know if I have it in me to ever hit 3:15 in a marathon (what I need to get back to Boston as a qualifier).  After pouring so much energy into reaching Boston in 2011 as a qualifier, maybe that fire is gone.  That doesn’t mean that I won’t try come May at Sugarloaf.  My 18-week training plan starts next Monday.  My plan is to train hard, but not burn out – for that reason I am going to stick to the Pfitz 18/55 plan as opposed to the 18/70.

2011 ended in a mess – my running was haphazard and inconsistent at best.  2012 won’t start off with the explosion of miles that 2011 did, but hopefully, I will be able to find a steady, consistent pace…that IS what running a marathon or longer is all about, right?

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