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Archive for March, 2012

Tomorrow is April 1st.  It is the first day of Autism Awareness Month.

On Monday, World Autism Awareness Day, hundreds of landmarks and millions of homes, including our own, will be lit up blue.

I hope you will consider lighting it up blue with the rest of us.

Tomorrow will also be exactly 24 weeks before the Boston 13.1 Half Marathon.  I wrote about it a while back (I Want You) when Autism Speaks announced that it was teaming up with 13.1 to be the official charity of the Boston race.  Many of you signed up and we already have over 10% of the slots designated for Team Up with Autism Speaks filled.

***

If you are sitting on the couch reading this, thinking, I could never do a half-marathon, I want you to stop to reconsider.

Even if you have never run.

Even if you rarely walk.

This is something you can do.

And by signing up with Team Up with Autism Speaks, you are not only taking on the challenge of completing a half marathon (a tremendous personal feat in and of itself), you are taking a pro-active role in making the world a better, more compassionate place for my Brooke and those like her.

As we get closer to the date of the race, I will make another push for the more hard-core runners to join my cause, but today, the day before Autism Awareness Month starts; today, the day my Brooke turns 9 years old (HAPPY BIRTHDAY BROOKE!!!); today, I want to talk to those of you who have been looking for a reason to get off the couch, out from behind the desk, out of the sedentary life-style; especially if you are are the parent of, sibling of, child of, relative of or person with autism – this is a way to get active AND make a difference not only for yourself but for others as well.

***

Some of you may know the story of how I got into running a little over 3 years ago.  To be clear, I really disliked running, especially any distance over a couple of miles.  Over the years I had tried running on, but it never lasted more than a couple of weeks.  Three and a half years ago, Jess announced that she was going to run a half marathon…on the Cape…in the middle of February.

I thought she was nuts – she had never really run before.  I wasn’t going to let her run a half-marathon in the bitter, winter wind of the Cape alone, so I told her I would run with her.  As I began training, I remember thinking this really sucks.  Long story short, a couple of weeks later something just clicked – I had found the joy in running.

Meanwhile, Jess never did manage to get her training going.  I think a part of her problem was that she really had no guidance as to what to do.  I had no idea what I was doing so I was no help either (I didn’t discover the online running community until mid-summer).  She made an initial effort, but with no plan, the grand idea of running a half simply faded away.

***

Fast-Forward to about a month ago.  When Jess heard that Boston 13.1 would be open to walkers who could maintain a 16:00 per mile pace, a dream was reborn.

This time however, she had a few things working in her favor:

  • she wasn’t going to be running a half, instead tackling the distance as a walker
  • she would be training during the warmer month, so she wouldn’t have to brave the bitter cold
  • she knew a somewhat experienced runner to help put together a program for her that would ease her into the distance.

And so she started her program 2 weeks ago.  I put together a 26 week walking program that would slowly build up over 6 months to get her to the starting line with confidence and to the finish line without pain.  I drew upon several established programs for walkers and runners including C25K (Couch to 5K) and a modified Hal Higdon program.  The program can be used to walk or run a half-marathon.

***

I have further modified the program and compressed it to 24 weeks, meaning if you start tomorrow; if you get off the sofa and out of the house tomorrow, you could find yourself walking/jogging/running a half-marathon in September.  As big of a feat as it may seem (and is), it’s not as hard as you may think!

So I would like to encourage you to join me and Jess on September 16th at Suffolk Downs for the Boston 13.1 Half Marathon as part of the Team Up with Autism Speaks Team.  If you are an avid runner, you don’t need the motivation to get out there, but if you’ve been looking for a way to get active and make a difference, this is your chance.

Don’t think about it, because you’ll talk yourself out of it. Just do it. Click —>HERE<— to join the team and then click on the link below to get the 24 Week Walking Training Plan.

YOUR 24 Week Half Marathon Training Plan

You can do this!

 

AND if you are a Boston local, starting at the end of June, I will be organizing group runs/walks on the weekends leading up to the event along the scenic Boston Marathon course.  It will be a run/walk at your own pace kind of a thing, but we will start and finish together.  I hope you will join us.

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I remember way back in high school when I would get up in the mornings before a big test – I’d be a little nervous, wondering if I had studied what I had needed to, wondering if I’d remember anything…

…that’s how I felt two Sundays ago when I woke up before the Quincy Half Marathon.  Several weeks ago I made the transition from the Pfitz Marathon Training Program to the FIRST Marathon Training Program.  I’ve been fairly determined to make sure that I followed the new program as closely as I could.  The very concept of running less to run faster struck me as counter-intuitive, but I needed to do something to get me out of what had turned into an 8 month funk.

3 days a week – that is all I was allowed to run; complimented by 2 days of cross-training – it seemed insufficient, but I was determined to give the program a chance.  Really, what choice did I have?  What I had been doing before was no longer working.

On Super Bowl Sunday I ran the Super Sunday 5-Miler in Boston and finished with a 34:56.  My goal had been to comfortably cruise to a sub-35 minute finish, but in fact, I struggled to make it, pretty much leaving everything I had on the course.  That 34:56 translated into a 3:25:30 marathon according to McMillan’s Running Calculator.  A couple of weeks later I started the FIRST program.  Quincy was going to be my first real test of how much progress I was truly making.

***

Upon arriving, I looked for my buddy JB.  You may recall JB as one of the foursome I ran with at Vermont or the buddy who ran the Super Sunday 5 with me.  Our plan was to run about 7:15 miles throughout, with the hopes of scoring about a 1:35:00 for the race.  It would be a 2 minute PR for him, and would be an incremental improvement on my cardio-health from Super Sunday.  Although a 1:35 half-marathon only translates to a 3:20 marathon (5 minutes long of my goal), I figured that it would be a step in the right direction, especially for only 3 weeks on the program.

JB & I pre-race.

We made our way to the starting area and stood silently for the National Anthem – and then it was time to go, literally!  Not more than a second after the anthem was done, the starting horn blared.

We were off.

Fortunately for JB and I, we hadn’t moved too far to the front.  We were forced to start a little slowly.  After a quarter mile of jockeying for position, we turned up the pace and hit the first mile marker right on target at 7:15.

Perfect!

Without really realizing it, we slowly began to pick up the pace.  It was still a bit crowded, but the two of us maneuvered our way through.  Mile 2 arrived in a quick 7:07…maybe I was a little too enthusiastic?

We slowed it down just a touch for the next three miles, averaging about a 7:10 pace.  Somewhere around mile 5 we saw the leader coming the other way…he must have had a good 30 seconds on the guy behind him.  At this point, JB and I hit our first hill.  My philosophy on hills has been to attack them, lean into them and don’t let them slow you down too much.  For this first hill, that plan worked perfectly. I leaned in, JB followed and we passed over a dozen runners before cresting and allowing gravity to feed our recovery.

Once we flattened out, we hit the 6-mile marker (7:06) and we were able to see the rest of the field heading for the hill.  At this point, my legs started to feel a little heavy.  JB asked me how I was doing.  I feel like I’m fading, I said, but only 6 miles in, I knew that it had to be more mental than physical.  We continued to press the pace a little.  I knew we had some time in the bank to hit 1:35, but I also kept reminding myself that this race was a test of how I was progressing.  If I let up too early or left too much out on the course, there would really be no way for me to know just where I was with respect to where I want to be for Sugarloaf.  I needed to know if the FIRST program was increasing my cardio-fitness or if I was stagnating.

We covered the next three mile at 7:06 pace.  With just over 4 miles left to go, I started doing math in my head.  I realized that I could slow down significantly and still hit my goal – but what would that tell me?  I knew I had to keep pressing.

Unfortunately, that pressing came just as we hit a final group of hills – despite continuing to pass runners on a regular basis, we slowed into the 7:20’s.

starting to fade a little at mile 11

With 2.1 miles to go, JB started to pull away.  He looked back at me as if to say, come on dude! but the hills had taken their toll on me.  I shouted at him to just go.  He was well within range of not just beating his PR, but shattering it.  I pressed as hard as I could – I was determined to come in under 1:35 no matter what.  Mile 12 went by in a surprising 7:15.

1.1 miles to go.  It was leave it all on the course time.  I knew I was less than 7:30 away from the finish.  I also knew that I could suffer for that long too.  My legs felt heavy and my breathing was labored, but with each tick of the clock, I knew I was that much closer to being done.

As I made my way back into downtown Quincy, I could see JB in the distance.  With about 800 meters to go, he was looking great and I had run out of real estate to catch him.  I focused on finishing strong.  Coming out of the final turn, I realized it was literally downhill to the finish and let it all hang out.  Gravity pulled me along at a pace I hadn’t run all race.

With less than 100 yards to go, Racemenu Chief Alain stepped out of the crowd with words of encouragement and a high five.  I could see JB waiting at the finish.

Sprinting to the finish

I barreled through the finish, and without slowing down grabbed a bottle water being held out…I couldn’t brake…staring at a table that was closing in fast, I panicked slightly.  Fortunately a random runner stepped in to grab me and slow me down.  It was enough for me to get my footing and stop.

I looked at the clock.

1:32:forty-something.

Huh?

I wasn’t convinced that I had run that fast.  I hugged JB, asking him his time.

1:31:59 – a nearly 7 minute PR for him.  When the official times went up, mine was a 1:32:31.  I had missed a PR by a mere 8 seconds.  In most situations, I would have been mildly disappointed in missing a PR, but considering that just 4 weeks beforehand I wouldn’t have even considered the possibility of PR-ing, and that I had come into the day with an expectation of finishing in the 1:35 range, I was thrilled.

The FIRST program was working.  My legs and lungs were getting stronger.

The very next day, I officially signed up for Sugarloaf.  To be honest, I had been putting off registering because I was full of doubt as to whether I could even potentially run a sub-3:15 in May.  Quincy convinced me that I was on the right track.  My 1:32:31 translates into a 3:15:07 marathon.  Just a touch on the wrong side of the clock, but a vast improvement from where I was on SuperBowl Sunday.

This Sunday I will face my next test of fitness when I was a local 5K.  The goal is to hit 19:54 – which translates into a 3:14 marathon.  If I hit 20:00, that still translates into a 3:15.

***

I still may ultimately fail at Sugarloaf come May, but I finally truly believe that I have a 3:15 or better in these legs – and that is a wonderful feeling.

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So I was all set this morning to write about why I think I’ve been getting sick this winter, but instead this proud husband would like to share some pretty cool news about his pretty awesome wife.

This guy is now married to an official, genuine, actual Huffington Post Blogger!

After writing one of her best political pieces recently, Jess decided she would submit her post to Huff Po.  She had high hopes they would print it, but felt that it was probably a long shot.  Last night she got the news that her piece was live!

So proud of you, babe!

Check out the post by clicking —>>>HERE<<<—.

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It was only a week, but I was on a roll. Speed-training, followed by swimming, followed by a tempo run, followed by rowing – I felt great! All that was left of my first week of training under the FIRST program was to get my fast-paced 14-miler in this past weekend.

So much for planning.

I started to feel a little off Friday night, a little tickle in my throat.

By Saturday I was full-blown sick – my head hurt, my nose was congested and runny, I was coughing like a pack-a-day smoker, and my lungs were completely waterlogged. I had to bail on a bowling date with my little one, sending Jess in my stead. I slept all day, hoping that I could lick this thing in 24 hours. With a little luck, I’d get my 14-miler in on Sunday morning and then it was off to my older one’s birthday party.

So much for luck.

I woke on Sunday feeling worse than I had on Saturday. Not only did I not get my run in, but I missed my baby’s party – it just didn’t seem fair to expose her friends to my illness, especially since I was still hacking away.

It’s only one run that I’ve missed so far, but honestly, I still feel like crap and I’ve got another round of speed work scheduled for tomorrow – 3 x 1200m at 10K pace minus 40-45 seconds. If I feel like this tomorrow, there is no shot that gets done.

What if this thing lingers?

What if I get better, but the fatigue doesn’t go away?

At what point do I cut my losses and choose to walk away from Sugarloaf and race another day?

This has been a strange winter to be sure here in the northeast. According to the news we’ve received 8 inches of snow this year. That’s down from over 80 inches last winter and an annual average of about 40 inches. Yet during this mildest of winters I have been sick more times than I have over the last 3 or 4 winters combined. It has not helped my running to say the least, but I think I may know why it has been happening…

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Stay the course…

Don’t change horses midstream…

Dance with the one that brought you…

***

On October 3rd, 2010, I ran the fastest 26.2 miles of my life.  My 3:19:19 at the Smuttynose Marathon qualified me for Boston 2011 and at least got me in the registration door for Boston 2012 (though ultimately I fell 33 seconds short of having my application accepted).  To get there I followed Pfitzingers 12/55 (12 weeks, peaking at 55 miles per week) plan out of his book, Advanced Marathoning.  Every subsequent marathon that I have run I have tried to follow one of Pfitzinger’s plans, be it the 12/55, the 12/70 or, most recently, the 18/55.  When people have asked for advice on how they can improve their marathon times, I’ve directed them to the book.  It really works.

But something happened to me last summer – call it burn out or fatigue, my body needed a break.  I just wasn’t listening.  I kept thinking that if I just continued to push myself, I’d break out of my funk.  Marathon after marathon, I set out to follow the Pfitz plan.

But I would miss a workout.

And then another.

And another.

My next three marathons came in at 3:26, 3:43 and my one and only DNF.  By the time training for New York City ’11 rolled around, I decided I was just going to run for fun.  I just couldn’t bring myself to hitting every run set out in the Pfitz plan.  5 to 6 days a week of running is not easy, especially when you’re in full burnout mode.

***

After New York, my running became even more haphazard.  I convinced myself I wanted to get back to Boston, so I searched for a fast, Spring marathon.  I set my eyes on Sugarloaf.

A little over 6 weeks ago, I began the Pfitz 18/55 plan.  I had to drag myself through the workouts from the very start.

Not good.

By sage buddy Mike suggested that I spend 6 weeks rebuilding my base and then follow the 12/55 plan.  As wise as his advice was, I was happier with the concept that I wouldn’t be required to run 4 – 5 times a week than the idea of pushing off the start of my training.

My wheels were spinning.

Then, about a week and a half ago, Mike inadvertently passed along another golden nugget my way.  He suggested that I take a look at the Furman FIRST program – essentially it is a Run Less, Run Faster program.  The key to the program is that there are only 3 runs per week – a speed workout, a tempo run and a long run.  Running is not allowed on any other day.  Cross-training on two other days is recommended.  Every run is based on one’s 1oK race pace.  I was particularly intrigued by the concept that long run needed to be run at 55 – 75 seconds slower than 10K pace – read that again – that’s a good 30 – 75 seconds faster than every other program I’ve followed.

***

Now, I know one is not supposed to change horses midstream and should dance with the one that brought ya, but I have also come to realize that the Pfitz program just wasn’t doing it for me anymore – I had just been unwilling to accept that.  I still believe in the Pfitz program and I still would recommend it to anybody who has the commitment and drive to run 5 days a week.  I’ve just come to a place where I realize that my body needs the cross-training but it can’t take the constant pounding 7 days a week.

The turning point for me was this last Saturday when I struggled through my run but felt a spark at the end.  That’s when I decided that I still had the desire to re-qualify for Boston.  At the end of the run I went back and read over the FIRST program again.  The more I read, the more excited I got.

I know I am jumping in late on the program – it is a 16 week program and there are now less than 12 week until Sugarloaf, but for the first time in a long time, I believe!

I believe!!!

On Tuesday I had my first speed workout – 10 x 400 meter intervals at 10K pace minus 55-60 seconds.  I hit every interval at under 6:00 pace, the last one at better than 5:45 pace.  Yesterday I put in 1000 yards in the pool.  This morning I have a 5-mile tempo run at 10K + 15-20 seconds pace.  The first real test will come this weekend when I put in my first long run of the program – 14 miles at just under 8:00 pace.

We’ll see how I feel after that run, but for right now, at this moment, I believe again…

…I have my plan…

…and I’m glad to be changing horses.

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