31 December 2008

2008: A Year In Review

Well, 2008 has been a great year for me. It is the year that I finally fell in love with running. This may be a long post, but here it goes.

I started the year cycling. I had been doing it on a regular basis for a bit over a year. I was doing it to get back into shape, but was pretty "business casual" about it. I was still using the no name mountain bike that I had bought at Target over 7 years ago, but I changed out the knobby off road tires for slick road ones.

Over the last few years I have tried to take up running a few times. It was not until April of this year that I found the C25K program, and thought that it would be perfect for me. I was basically a couch potato and would love to be able to run 5k on a regular basis.

I did the first week in these crappy shoes that I got from PayLess. My feet were killing me and I knew that I had to get real running shoes. I could not afford the local running store, so I went to a department store and got a pair of New Balance. Immediately I could feel the difference and I fell in love with running shoes. I still to this day have some sort of weird thing for them, and actually check them out on other runners.

By this time I had started to abandon cycling and really wanted to get into running. I followed the C25k program for only the first three weeks. To be honest I do not even remember why I stopped, but I regret stopping. The first week in May would be the last time I would run until August. On top of that I would not ride my bike, except while doing it with my, now 5 year old, son.

Something clicked inside of me near the beginning of August. I wanted to run and I knew that I just had to do it. I would go out and run for 15 minutes and then turn around and run back. I never really got far, and there were a lot of walk breaks involved, but I was doing it. It was easier for me to do because I was not really tracking my runs, just running.

My first breakthrough came a couple weeks later when I ran two miles without stopping. It felt really good, and I realized that I could have done it all along, but I was not letting myself do it.

I kept better track of my runs and worried more about building mileage and endurance rather than speed and pace. I noted improvements in time, and celebrated milestones in speed, but my main focus was distance. I increased mileage gradually, I think sometimes too slow, but focused on running longer and farther.

My first race was a pumpkin run 5k in October. I signed up less than a week before it and got my brother to do the same. We got there and were immediately intimidated. Everyone looked faster and more experienced at running than us and I was sure that I would finish dead last. Three point one miles was the farthest I had ever run, and I only did it once.

I got caught up in the excitement of running with so many other people and went out too fast. I walked quite a few times and thought I was going to die on one of the hills, but the race was a good one. I finished near the back of the pack, but there were plenty of people behind me!

The following week was the Run The Bridge 10k that crosses the Ben Franklin Bridge into Philadelphia and back, then goes through Camden and ends in the Riversharks minor league baseball stadium. I did NOT run this race, but I was pissed off at myself because if I had continued with the C25K program and ran through the summer I know I could have done it. There is always next year.

Late November was the Philadelphia Marathon. I had no intention of running this at all during the year, but as I fell in love with running I knew that I was going to go over and watch it. I have already decided that this will be my first marathon, hopefully in 2009.

It was a fun day watching the marathon. I got over there early with my brother who was attempting the full marathon for the first time. His training was interrupted by injury, but preferred to try it than have a DNS.

I had a great time watching the marathon. I never thought I would like watching strangers run, but it was fun. I enjoyed the atmosphere and the festivities of such an event and was glad that I went. I am excited to be a runner next time rather than a spectator.

My brother ended up stopping at the half, because his injury was acting up again, but he has vowed to run it all the way through next year. I will also be doing it.

My second race was a 5k that came in December. I was by myself, but much more confident since I knew a little more of what to expect at an organized race. I just got a Garmin Forerunner 305 a couple days before and was excited to try it out.

This race was even better than my first. The route was nicer, the weather was better, and I ran the whole thing without stopping. On top of that I PR'd with a 32:14, breaking my goal finish of 33 minutes.

My mileage gradually increased each week and each month. The last few weeks of the year I have developed some serious shin splints, so I am resting up. 2008 has been a great year, and I am excited to run through 2009.

Here are some numbers:

Total Distance in 2008: 114.9 miles
Longest Month: 30.9 miles
Longest Week: 8.6 miles
Longest Single Run: 5 miles

Races Run: 2 5k's
PR's Set: 2
Fastest 5k: 32:14

I will be tracking all my runs in 2009 and setting bigger and better goals... but more on that in the first post of 2009.

29 December 2008

This Is Killing Me

Monday's are usually rest days, and when I am resting I am thinking about running, but it feels okay since I know running is so close.

Today is only the first day of a long rest in order to make sure that my leg is okay and it is killing me, because running is so far away. I feel bad for saying it, because there are other bloggers who are currently sidelined for a long time, but I miss running already.

I hope to go for a couple of bike rides this week, but even though cycling was originally my first love, it will never replace running.

28 December 2008

Done For The Year

For the past few weeks my left leg has been bothering me. It does not hurt while running, nor does it hurt all the time, but after running on the weekends it hurts the most.

I do my long run on Sundays and it has been fine during the run, but hurts later that night and hurts the next couple of days. The pain never fully goes away, but it feels better by Thursday and I run again.

I want it to heal fully, and I definitely do not want it to get any worse. I am starting my first official training program in February, and I really want to go into it as healthy as possible so that I can run the Broad Street Run in May.

So I will take the next week off and hopefully I will feel better. Then it is back to building mileage in January and then training for Broad Street starting in February.

God Willing.

The Last of The Firsts of 2008

I am warning you now... this post is going to be long.

I have had a lot of firsts during 2008, and I will talk about them in a later post. Today was my last day of running for 2008 (more on that in the next post), and I find it fitting that it was full of firsts.

The first time that I drove somewhere in order to run.
I wanted a little bit of fresh scenery, and I have been tossing around the idea of finding more places to run and writing about them, so I decided to go to Copper River Park in Collingswood, NJ. I used to think it strange to drive more than you are actually running, and I still do a little, but it is nice to get out of your neighborhood and find new places to run.

The first time I carried a camera and snapped photos while running.
It seems that I see something amazing on every run that I do, yet I never have anything to record it with. I decided to carry my camera with me this morning since it was my first time running Cooper River Park. I snapped some pretty nice pictures. Check them out at my Flickr page. I will not carry my camera with me every time, but one thing it did for me today is help me keep my pace slow during my LSD and also helped me to enjoy my surroundings and have a relaxing run.

The first time I ran 5 miles.
Today was my LSD run, and 5 miles is my new record for long run. I did it at a very slow and relaxing pace, and did not take any walk breaks. I only stopped for about ten seconds at a time to snap a photo.. This run was a very good quality and it also boosted my confidence that my endurance is improving.

The first time I ran over 1 hour.
Again, proof that my endurance is improving. I had no walk breaks at all and I felt incredible after the run. My pace was very slow and 5 miles is not very far to go in an hour, but I will be working on speed next year.

So here is my run. The distance around the river is about 3.75 miles, but I wanted to do 5. So when I finished my lap around the river I did the last mile and quarter on the track that they have there.

The track is nothing fancy, just dirt, but it felt great running on it. I had to make a conscience effort to keep my pace slow, and the pace of the track part of my run was almost a minute faster than the rest of my run. This is another confidence builder, knowing that I will be able to go fast on the track when I start my speed workouts.

Speaking of tracks, I am glad I found this one because all the local schools keep theirs locked up tighter than Fort Knox. I have two high school tracks within running distance of my house and can not use them. In fact if you look closely at this satellite photo you will see a much nicer track above and slightly to the right of this one. That belongs to a Catholic high school and, of course, is all locked up.

25 December 2008

Run Hard

I planned on doing three miles today, but after unwrapping gifts with the kids, my parents came over. I was getting ready for the run when they got here, so I still went out, but I cut the run down to a little over two miles.

I have not run since Sunday, and since my leg was bothering me early in the week I wanted to take the run nice and easy. My decision to slow the pace was also made easier by the wind, which was a little gusty.

My pace was just under 11:00 minutes per mile, but as I neared the two mile mark I was feeling good. I decided to run hard for a quarter mile and see what I could do.

Visions of a YouTube video popped in my head. I could see Ryan Hall smashing the half marathon record, and now I was running beside him. I pushed hard and ran as fast as I could while still keeping a semi-decent form.

I finished the last quarter mile just over an 8:00 minute pace, with a best pace of 7:05.

I do not do any specific speed work right now, because my main goal is to build mileage and endurance, but I am confident that I will someday be able to hold these paces for an entire race... perhaps even for an entire marathon.

Merry Christmas!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday all year, but Christmas is is also special to me. First because what we truly celebrate with this day is the birth of Jesus Christ! Secondly it is growing more special because of having a family, with two awesome sons. One is 5 and the other is 2.

There are three stages to a man's life. He believes in Santa, He doesn't believe in Santa, and finally he is Santa. It was fun last night, clearing out the cookie bowl and leaving only a few crumbs. My oldest was in awe at how hungry Santa was. The look on his face all morning was priceless!

My dear wife bought me two Under Armour cold gear shirts, and they feel great. I did not use them on my run this morning, because I like to wash my clothes before wearing them. But I can tell that my cold runs will now be much better with these shirts.

So let me wish you all a Merry Christmas, and remember that born this day in the city of David is a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord... who is for all people!

21 December 2008

Long Cold and Wet

Last night, when I checked this morning's weather report, I was excited to see that it called for snow early in the morning. It was supposed to turn to a wintry mix around the time I was scheduled to run, but the snow would accumulate to about an inch.

I was excited because it meant that first thing in the morning everything would be snowy, the sky would be overcast, and there would be a natural peace to the atmosphere. I was excited to run in such weather and even more excited that it would be my long run. I mentally amended my run to take me by some places that would look nice in the snow and I made sure I would have my camera on hand.

When I woke up and looked outside... nothing but rain. Heavy rain that was freezing all over everything. When I got outside the steps were slippery, the cars were iced over, and the roads were already slushy. The only good thing was that there was still a natural peace in the atmosphere since no one dared get out of bed yet.

I could barely stay stable on the icy steps and worried that the road would not be any better. My mind began thinking about making screw shoes, and wondered if I would be able to get through my run today. The road was better. Icy in parts, but bearable. I again amended my route, but this time to stay away from heavy traffic and take roads that would allow me to move back and forth in order to avoid ice.

It was not long before my jacket was dripping with water. There were multiple times in the first mile that I thought about cutting the run short. This weather was miserable. Shortly after the first mile I stepped in a puddle that was much larger than it appeared. Cold quickly went though my foot. I was going to use this as an excuse to stop, but decided to keep going.

A few walk breaks, and four puddles later, I decided to loop around this one block onto the main road and run back to the main intersection a few blocks from my house. Since my jacket was covering my Garmin I was not sure how far I had ran, but estimated it was almost three miles, and decided that would be enough for me.

When I got to the intersection I looked and my Garmin told me I had already gone over three and a half miles! I did not even realize it. I decided to finish the entire four miles and immediately felt better about the run.

While finishing that last half mile I thought about running. This is one of the reasons why I run. To test my limits and my endurance. To run no matter what is thrown at me, and to keep going.

Most people run because it is fashionable to run a mile every day or spend thirty minutes on the treadmill at the gym. A lot of people run a single marathon so that they can cross it off their list, just to never run again.

I run because it is primal and the human machine can push it's limits and run no matter what the circumstances. I run to build my endurance and eventually expand my limitations. The harder I run the better I become at it.

I run because that is what I am created to do.

20 December 2008

I Want To Breath Smoke

My favorite times during a run are when I drift off into a daydream state and it seems as if I am having an out of body experience. It does not happen every time I run, and it can be simple or complex.

Today was one of those days.

It was an easy two mile run. I actually turned my alarm off and slept in. I sort of regretted doing that, but as soon as I woke up two hours later I went out and ran.

It was cold outside. The coldest I have ever ran in, 29 degrees.

At one point in the run, my eyes followed the road, and my breath hung thick and heavy in the air. My eyes drifted from the road to my breath floating in front of my face.

I watched it come out thick and spread around me. Immediately my mind started wandering to the different endurance athletes I read about on the Internet and watch on YouTube.

My mind floated away and I no longer focused on pain or distance or pace. I felt invincible. I felt like I could go on forever and take on anything. I felt like a machine.

I felt like I could breath smoke.

18 December 2008

Road ID

I have been tossing around the idea of buying the Road ID for some time, and I finally broke down and did it last week. I usually ran with nothing, but sometimes would put my drivers license in my pocket and hope that it did not fall out.

With this it is much easier. I strap it on my wrist and have nothing to worry about. I got the yellow one, because I like to be noticed. It straps pretty snug on your wrist with Velcro. It is very comfortable, but I would like it to fit loose like a bracelet rather than snug like a watch and I am thinking about ordering the larger size band for it. The metal tag is removable and compatible with the other Road ID products.

I think that this is a pretty smart piece of equipment to have, considering you never know what is going to happen. I have had a couple close calls in my short time of running, and it makes me think "what if?"

Hopefully I never have to rely on this thing, but I am glad that I have it.

100 Miles

Today I ran my 100th mile. It really is not a lot when you look at the big picture, but I just started running this year, and have only been doing it seriously for about four and a half months now.

It is ironic, however, that such a milestone mile would turn out to be a bad run.

I was overdressed for the weather. I am still getting the feel for what to wear for each temperature and this morning I had too much on my upper body.

Also, I did not warm up or stretch properly. No wonder my legs were feeling tight during the run and my body was not relaxed.

Finally I started too hard. I have not run since Sunday's long run. My leg was hurting and I gave it a few days rest. It felt fine this morning and I started too fast for my own good. I knew it too, but continued with the pace because it felt good. Before long I was slowing and pushing myself through the run.

When I look back over my runs I can see what the good runs have in common with each other and what the bad runs have in common with each other. It is easy to see that a good run requires certain ingredients.

You need a good warm up, a good stretch, and you need to go at the proper pace. That with a few other elements can make or break a run.

Now as long as I remember that I should be fine.

14 December 2008

Future Runner

I have two sons. The youngest will be two next month and the oldest is five years old. They frustrate the hell out of me sometimes, but they are everything to me, and truly a blessing from God.

When I finally got my Forerunner 305 a couple of weeks ago, there was only one person as excited as me. My five year old son. The reason he was so excited was because I told him that when I got my Garmin, he could have my other running watch. It is really nothing more than a timer and a very poor heart rate monitor that uses the pulse from your fingertip.

As soon as I opened my Forerunner, he ran over to the desk to get his new watch.

The next logical step was to get him shoes. We went to Foot Locker and tried on a few pair. We settled on a nice looking pair of Nike Shox. My son likes them because they have the "shocks" in the back and he thinks they can make him run faster and stop him from falling.

After the shoes I promised to take him for a run. We finally got our first run in this afternoon.

There is a field down the street from us, so I figured we would run down there and run around the field a bit. Of course this was before my long run this morning. (See previous post). My legs were killing me, but I took him out anyway.

He ran along the sidewalk, and I paced him in the shoulder of the street. I told him to take it slow at first, (more for me than him) and keep upright. He was doing well and he looked so adorable running down the street. I wish I had my video camera with me.

We got to the field and saw a deer. Then we ran around the field a bit. We raced and had fun. He controlled the running and decided when to walk. I am impressed because at moments we were running a 9 minute pace. Now to just keep him interested in running... Maybe he will BQ before I do.

I used my Garmin because we had to have our running watches in order to run. I also thought it would be neat to show him our path of the run and were we had gone. Most of this is walking, but we ran a lot of it...

LSD and More Milestones

Today was a long run. In the past my long run pace was about the same as my easy run pace, which I do not think is a good thing to do. All week my plan was to do this long run at a much slower pace and to make it my longest distance yet. A couple of steps that I hope will build my endurance.

Four miles was the planned length. I was afraid that I would need to cut it short because my left leg has been bothering me for a couple days. I keep telling myself that it is just shin splints, and I think that I am correct because it did not hurt at all during the run, even though the leg has been sore the rest of the day. I plan on resting it for a couple days and if it does not feel better I will probably look for a doctor to check it out.

So the leg felt good during the run. I changed the display on my Garmin to show nothing but the pace so that I could focus on keeping it slow and steady, and not worry about the time or distance until I got closer to the end of the run. At first it felt weird going so slow, (which is doubly weird since a few months ago that was fast for me.) but I got in the groove and my legs coasted along the road.

I figured that I might need a walk break or two, since this was my longest run ever, but I did not feel like I needed one at all during the run. Even when I went through a park and passed the water fountain that I planned to stop at, I decided to keep going and not stop.

It felt so good to run for such a long distance. When I came to the end I slowed to a walk, and my legs felt like they wanted to keep moving faster.

So all in all I did 4.02 miles in 50:33 which comes out to a 12:35 pace. Just where I wanted to be.

So a few more milestones... I ran the longest distance I have ever run. I ran the longest time I have ever run. I needed no walk breaks at all. And I had my longest weekly mileage.

I am feeling very good about my running right now, and am so motivated to keep going and building my mileage. As long as my leg feels better and nothing is wrong, I should be able to build up my mileage over the next couple of months and start training for the Broad Street Run. God willing.

I have a lot more topics going through my head, so you will probably see multiple post over the next couple of days. And since I need to rest my leg and can not run, the only thing left to do is write about running!

13 December 2008

Ice and Blogs

My left leg has been bothering me just a bit for a couple days. I iced it down real well tonight and it feels good right now. I am going to see how it is later tonight and pray about whether I should run tomorrow or not.

I am planning on a LSD run tomorrow and will be doing my longest distance so far of 4 miles. Tomorrow I am focusing on the distance rather than the time, so I will be keeping a slow steady pace and see how my leg feels.

Another note... I have been exploring a lot of blogs lately and keep finding some great running blogs! If you have time to explore then make sure you check out the incredible runners in my list.

And if you know of any good blogs, or have one that I have not seen yet, make sure that you tell me about it. I love reading the progress and story of others, and I hope they enjoy reading about mine.

09 December 2008


I believe that it is very important to note milestones and achievements, whenever you are striving to improve yourself at something. No need for big celebrations, but you should at least note them in writing so that you can come back to them and see that your hard work is paying off. After all, the big achievements are nothing more than a set of small milestones put together to form a larger one.

So here are some of mine. Some of them seem incredible to me when I think about how I am changing. Others seem insignificant, but I know that they are adding up to something bigger.

I have been running only since August of this year. That will only be 5 months come New Years. In that time I have gone from...

  1. watching too much television to watching next to none.
  2. not being able to run more than a couple minutes, to being able to run for over 30 minutes. (and soon even longer)
  3. running my first mile in over 14 minutes to being able to hold a 10:22 pace for 5k.
  4. struggling to hold 10 minute pace to being able to hold 8:xx pace for short periods.
  5. not running at all to running 3 to 4 times per week.
  6. not even thinking about running to loving it.
  7. not caring about running, to searching out and watching endless video of runners on YouTube.

Not only that, but I have entered two 5k's in the last two months, and I am always keeping my eye out for more. I spent the day over in Philadelphia watching the marathon. (If you would have told me a year ago I would be watching strangers run, I would have thought you were crazy.)

I have found an entire community of bloggers that love to run and have some of the same goals as me. There are runners that are better than me, runners that are where I used to be, and runners that are at the same level as me.

When I look back at my running, and my improvement, it gets me excited and motivated. Excited because I know I will be reaching my goals with time, and motivation to work hard for those goals.

07 December 2008

Official Results

The website for the 5k For The Holiday run did not post official results yet, but I went directly to the Compuscore site and looked up the results.

Here are mine:

Time 32:14
Pace 10:22.4
Place 109/179
Gender 62/77
Age Group 7/7

I finished last in my age group. I think it is funny, but at least I did not finish last overall. And I can always say I finished 7th in my age group... that sounds better.

Oh Yeah... and here is the route from my Garmin. (No point in really showing this, I just like playing with my Garmin.) :)

06 December 2008

5k For The Holiday

Today was my second 5k since I started running. It was the Run 5k For The Holiday, and benefited the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. It is run on a very nice course that starts at a park in Burlington and loops around back to the park. Pretty flat with some hill, but not much.

I was very nervous when I arrived, for a few reasons. First, I had gotten sick around 3 in the morning and was hoping that it would not effect my run. Second, I was by myself. When I ran my first 5k I did not know anyone, but my brother was with me. I did not know anyone today either and I was by myself. Finally, my calf was hurting a little bit. Not a sharp pain but a tightness, and I was afraid it would get worse and slow me down during the run. It took a while to feel better, but I was okay after my warm ups and stretching.

I had a couple goals in mind for this 5k. First I wanted to run the entire thing without stopping. It sounds simple enough, but I have never ran 5k without a few walk breaks.

My next goal was to break 33 minutes... I know it is slow, but my pace is usually over 11 minutes per mile, except for short runs which are around 10:30 to 10:45 a mile. Breaking 33 minutes would also be a better time than my first 5k and therefore be a PR.

I started near the back of the pack, as I did in my first 5k, and planned to start slow enough that I would not wear myself out. Since I have my awesome new Garmin Forerunner 305 I was able to keep an eye on my pace and go exactly as planned.

The run felt great from the beginning. Believe it or not I passed more people than passed me. I was feeling excited, but calm. I was keeping my pace a little faster than 11:00 and feeling good. I continued to pass people and did not once feel like walking.

As I got close to the end I almost slowed for a walk break because I was forming a cramp in my side. I think I may have taken a drink of water too fast. As I started to slow, I told myself not to and kept going. I could see the finish now!

I turned the corner for the final straightaway to the finish line and tried to push it harder. I could only pick up the pace a little bit because I was getting worn down. I did finish strong and did not walk the entire thing!

Official results are not posted yet, but my Garmin time is 32:12 with these splits...
Mile 1 - 10:37 (10:37 pace)
Mile 2 - 20:44 (10:08 pace)
Mile 3 - 31:02 (10:18 pace)
Mile 3.1 - 32:12 (9:00 pace)

According to my Garmin (I love this thing by the way) My best pace was 8:15, but I am sure that I only held this for a short time... It was probably while I was passing someone since I usually speed up when I come around them. It also said I had a HR of 122 bpm in my last split... which is funny since I was not wearing a HR monitor. It must have picked up some one's monitor when I was coming through the finish.

When I was leaving I stopped to talk to one of the other runners. We talked about how we got into running and how much fun it is... I truly love running and every time I have a run like this it just makes me love it more.

03 December 2008

Now I Can't Wait

I can not wait to go running.

I ordered the Forerunner 305 from amazon.com a few days ago and it arrived today! I got home, charged it up and now have been playing with it for a few minutes. It is 9pm and dark out, but I am seriously considering going for a run.

It is so cool. It does so much. I will be running Friday morning and I have a 5k Saturday morning... the runs will be so much better with this... (well not really so much better, but I will feel so much cooler.)

It is amazing because all of the information this thing tracks and reports. And you can set different training programs.. oh my gosh I am so excited.

I feel like a kid at Christmas.