27 January 2010

Long Overdue Update

Sadly, I have been absent from running since I finished the marathon in November. This is definitely not by choice, and has been killing me ever since. Pain in the knee during the marathon has forced me to rest, and after a month of no running I still felt pain, so I went to the doctor.

The good news is that there is no damage to the knee and the x-rays look healthy. The doctor thinks that some PT will help and I start that next week. I have a follow up appointment with the doctor in six weeks, but I am hoping that I can start running before that.

This injury has made me narrow my focus a little better. Last year I was very ambitious with my goals and thought that I would be running very long distances with an insubstantial base. That was foolish of me, and now it looks like I am starting over.

There are some races that I would like to do again this year, such as The Broad Street Run, but I may not be able to do them. I am at square one and now my focus is on running the Philadelphia Marathon again this year, but really knocking it out this time.

So for now I am doing what the doctor says and will be re-building my base.

24 November 2009

2009 Philadelphia Marathon Race Report

Running for twenty six point two miles gives you a lot of time to think. It gives you time to question things, ponder things, and even have an epiphany or two.

I have decided to make this race report a list of things that went through my head, and lessons learned, while running my first marathon. Here goes...

  1. Stay near the back of my corral. Don't start too fast, and we're off.
  2. Okay... first mile was good. Slow down a little, we got a ways to go.
  3. Penn's Landing is nice from this point of view.
  4. GU goes down better if you hold it in your hand for a mile or two first.
  5. Why is that guy wearing a Wonder Woman cape?
  6. Someone just yelled my name... oh yeah, it's on my bib.
  7. South Street is cool. Why didn't I hang out here more?
  8. The body thinks that it is weak. The mind has to prove otherwise.
  9. Just keep moving forward.
  10. Counting steps along the dashed center lines helps your running.
  11. Running skirts are sexy... wait... that's a dude!
  12. 1..2..3..4.. 1..2..3..4.. 1..2..3..4..
  13. My knee is really hurting... you can walk at the next water stop.
  14. Keep moving forward.
  15. That's the 5:00 pace group pulling away from me... crap.
  16. It is okay to be passed by a 50 year old woman, as long as it's her birthday.
  17. Who defines "fast flat course"... there seems to be a lot of hills.
  18. 1..2..3..4..5..6..7..8..9..
  19. I should have brought Motrin.
  20. My knee is going to explode... keep moving, you can walk at the turnaround.
  21. How can anyone drink beer while running?
  22. Don't ask for a ride... just keep moving forward.
  23. It is not cool being passed by an 80 year old, but still inspirational.
  24. People yelling your name when cheering is awesome... even if you do not know them.
  25. This is sure different than the Philadelphia Distance Run.
  26. The finish is almost there.... run hobble until the end.

The marathon beat the hell out of me. It was worse than I expected. If my knee did not give up I could have run a much better marathon.

But you know what? I finished! Next year I am coming back with a vengeance.

21 November 2009

Philadelphia Marathon Race Expo

Tomorrow I am fighting a monster in brutal hand to hand combat. Today I prepared for combat by going to the Health and Fitness Expo.

I arrived early so that I could sign my son up for the Kid's Run. This was his first and he was excited to do it. That excitement turned to nervousness and then to fear as the crowd grew larger and we moved down to Arch Street for the run. He wanted to back out and was crying, but luckily one of the volunteers said I could run with him since he was scared. I am glad I could, because if I didn't go, he would not have done it. We reached the finish and he got a kids medal and that was it. He didn't want anything to do with pictures or anything else, he just wanted to get away from all the kids.

After that we went back up to the expo so that I could get my packet. Names are printed on the bibs, which is the first for me and a little exciting. The goody bag is not a plastic bag, as was the case last year, but a light re-usable canvas and mesh bag. Very nice and one that I will be using a lot in the future.

The shirt is a little disappointing. It is nice and high quality, but I was expecting a looser tech tee that I could wear around for everyday use. This is a snug shirt with tight fitting sleeves. I will be wearing it when I run, but I only like to wear snug or tight fitting clothes while running or cycling. For everyday wear I prefer a looser fit.

As far as the marathon merchandise, I have mixed emotions. I bought a nice pair of arm warmers with the logo on them. Plain gray ones, not the ugly argyle ones. These were only $20 so I think a good deal. I also got ear warmers made of the same material. Both of these are very warm and will come in handy this winter.

I wanted to get a Philadelphia Marathon jacket too. Something I could wear everyday to show what I have done. Again, they had a very nice jacket that looked really good. Very nice quality too. But it was similar to the shirts in the fit. Snug and tight in the sleeves. I can do that for shirts every now and again, but I need my jackets to be loose.

I got a few other supplies, my kids got some balloon swords and we looked around rather quickly.

Only one other event was noteworthy. We passed a blind lady in the expo. She had a seeing eye dog. My kids are scared of dogs, even if they look nice. So as we are walking by I am saying to the kids that "the dog will not bother you" and "its a nice dog." The lady turned directly to me and pulled her dog away and said (in a very mean voice) "DON'T BOTHER THE DOG WHEN HE IS WORKING."

Now I am sure the lady gets sick of people bothering her dog. Many people probably do not even realize it is a seeing eye dog, because they are too ignorant to take notice of the harness. But damn, give me a break.

Anyway... all in all a good day. I am scared and nervous about tomorrow, but really looking forward to it!

15 November 2009

This Is Going To Hurt

It is marathon week.

Time has gone by faster than one thinks that it would. Fifteen weeks of training has passed in the blink of an eye, and now here we are one week away from the Philadelphia Marathon.

There is a huge mix of emotions when you are this close to a major race. Especially when you have been thinking about this race for the last year. I have put in a lot of training time for this, my first marathon. Despite recent setbacks, it has been painfully good.

One can not help but think of the marathon while you are training. A lot of times you dream of a fantastic run, crossing the finish line under your goal time, and raising your hands victoriously. Sometimes you think of the hard times, maybe hitting the wall, and imagine how to get through it. Training for those hard times will make it a little easier to get through them.

I have done a lot of day dreaming about my first marathon. But as we get closer, the day dreams have not become as glamorous as one might hope.

The marathon is painful for everyone regardless of preparation. Some are more prepared to deal with the pain than others, and that what marks the differences between the thousands of runners on the course.

My marathon is going to be on the higher end of the pain scale. I hurt my ankle a few weeks ago, right at the peak of training, and because of that missed my longest run of the training plan. I did not make up that run, but let the ankle rest and picked up at the current spot on the training plan once my ankle had recovered.

It is best to be honest with yourself as a runner. I know that I am not as prepared as I should be for a 26.2 mile run. I have adjusted my time goal three times since the beginning of the year based on my training and fitness level. Now I have no time goal. I just want to get over the finish line in one piece.

I am sure that I will do it. I am also sure that it will hurt... alot, and I will not look good doing it.

07 November 2009

Run The Bridge 10K Race Report

I am finally writing a race report for a 10k that I did last week. It was my first 10k, but the significance of being the first time at this distance seemed a little diminished considering I have already done a 10 miler and half marathon. I have not progressed through the distances like many runners do.

Run The Bridge 10k is in southern New Jersey. You run across the Ben Franklin Bridge toward Philadelphia and immediately turn around and run back, through Camden and into Campbell's Field. The minor league home of the Camden Riversharks. This is one of the first races I found when I started running not too long ago and one that I really looked forward to doing.

The morning started a little rough. Two trips to the bathroom and cramps in my thigh had me worried that I would not do very well. I had done almost no running in the two weeks leading up to this race because of my sore ankle. A short run a couple days before the race did not bring on any pain so I felt confident I could do the run. I tried to warm up by jogging very easy before the start and I just felt out of the groove. My head was telling me that the run might not be so good.

I started feeling much better as we walked to the starting line. Maybe it was the people around me, or some primal connection with running... whatever it was I suddenly had a sense of calm come over me and I knew I was ready to run.

My main goal for this race was to practice my pacing in a race setting. It is typical of me to start too fast in the beginning and then keep an uneven pace throughout the run as well as needing walk breaks in longer runs. Today I wanted to start slow and keep a very steady pace throughout the entire 6.2 miles.

I ran faster than I wanted to, but that did not cause a problem. No walk beaks needed, but I started feeling it toward the end of the run and really had to push through some hurt. I forced my body to respond to my mind, instead of the other way around, and I kept running.

The end of the run was rough in more ways than one. Along the Camden waterfront are brick walkways and stone paths. These are what we ran on and I could really feel the difference in impact between that and the road.

Relief came when we entered the outfield of Campbell's Field. The soft grass felt incredible underfoot and the finish line was only a couple hundred feet away. I was able to put in a strong finishing kick and ran hard through the finish line.

My chip time ended up being 1:00:07 for a pace of 9:42 per mile. This was the first time I ever held a sub 10:00 pace for more than three miles.

My goal for this run was to keep a steady even pace. Despite going a little faster than I thought I would, I did accomplish this. Here are my splits:

1      10:31
2        9:33
3        9:16
4        9:14
5        9:32
6        9:26
6.2     2:35 (8:43 pace) <--- great finishing kick!

This has been the best race I have done in my short running "career" and has given me a good boost in my confidence for the marathon, now just two weeks away!

23 October 2009

KT Tape

I was first exposed to kinesiology therapeutic tape the same way most mortals were. Watching the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. Beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh was seen with the tape spread all over her shoulder. I was confused with it at first. I had never seen athletic tape spread out in patterns like this was.

All that I learned from the tape was told to me by the announcers during their color commentary. Not much to go on, just the basics. I forgot about the tape after the women's volleyball event was finished.

The next time I saw the tape was in my goodie bag from the ING Philadelphia Distance Run. KT Tape had a free sample pack in the goodie bag. Guess who has the endorsement contract? Thats right, Kerri Walsh.

When I hurt my ankle a little bit ago, I was doing the usual icing, wrapping, resting and all of that. I saw the sample pack on my desk and checked out their website. Of course the reviews there were all good. I found their Facebook page, and user comments and questions taught me a lot about the tape.

I asked on KT Tape's Facebook page the best way to tape my ankle based on my pain. I took their recommendation and used the two sample pieces that were in the pack.

The tape is very comfortable. It is 100% cotton, and while cotton is many runners enemy, it works perfectly here. An application of the tape can last about 5 days and stays on despite shower and sweat. It moves with your body in such a natural way that you can sometimes forget it is even on.

I found a Sports Authority near my house that sells the tape, and bought a roll. The roll is pre-cut strips, so there is no need for scissors.

Since putting the tape on, I have not felt any pain. The most notable improvement is when I first wake in the morning. Usually my ankle was most painful when I woke. The last two mornings, with the tape on, there has been no pain.

My foot is comfortable. I am giving it a few more days rest, and then will be trying an easy run to see if I can stay comfortable on it. I have a good feeling that I will be able to get back to my training and get through the marathon!

19 October 2009

Frustrated and Worried

About a week and a half ago my foot started bothering me. Just a slight pain on the arch, near the ankle. Recently it has been worse.

I was resting it for a little while, and decided to try an easy run on Friday. It lasted about 20 minutes before the pain in my foot became constant and I began to feel tightness in my shin. It was not unbearable pain, but it was not the good kind of pain. I knew I needed to stop.

I have not run since, and plan on resting and icing for a while right now. But I missed my long run yesterday. It should have been 3 hours and 30 minutes. No way I could have done that.

I probably will not run all week. This weekend I am scheduled for a 4 hour run. I was also planning to run a 5k this weekend. The first race I ever ran and a nice way to revisit the beginnings of my running. I am not sure I will be able to do it.

With the Philadelphia Marathon only 5 weeks away, I am getting worried that I will not be properly prepared to run for twenty six miles.

If my foot heals properly over a couple weeks, I can probably adjust my schedule to get some more long runs in and shorten my taper a little. It still will not make me as prepared as I planned, but perhaps it will prevent me from totally bonking on the run.

This is frustrating and getting me a little worried about race day.

09 October 2009

Sticking To It

One thing that frustrates the heck out of my wife is my uncanny ability to take up a hobby with an intense amount of passion, and then quickly lose interest after a few weeks or so. I have supplies and items tucked into closets and storage bins all over my house. I keep them because sometimes I revisit the hobby, but never keep at it for long.

Lets see. There is painting. My favorite medium is acrylics. I did some sculpting with polymer clay. I did a couple detailed model cars. I flew kites. I molded chocolate candy. I did some wood burning. I almost tried woodworking, and now I want to start sketching.

One of the reasons that I give up on these things so easily is because I am lazy. I am not going to lie. I am a lazy couch potato that does not want to work hard to get good at something and in turn I lose interest in the thing that I am doing.

This blog is a good example. Since it has to do with running, I have not lost interest in it, but as you can tell I am lazy and procrastinate. I put off writing the numerous blog posts that creep into my head and do not update nearly as often as I would like to.

But if I am lazy, then why start the hobby in question in the first place? The only thing that I can think of is that I am not content with sitting on the couch and rotting in front of the television.

Luckily I found running. As with everything else I quickly became passionate about my new "hobby". I started reading running magazines and websites and even bought a new pair of running shoes at the local department store. I could go on for hours about how that last part was a mistake, but I think we have all been there.

As with everything else I do, running almost didn't last long. I was doing the Couch To 5K program, and was sticking to it very well. Of course after about three weeks I started skipping workouts and eventually stopped doing the program all together.

Now my stopping has nothing to do with C25K itself. It is actually a very good way to start running and I liked it a lot. Remember I am lazy and that is why I stopped.

A couple of months later I revisited the running thing again. This time I not only became passionate for it, but I really fell in love.

As of this writing I have been running regularly for over a year. I have ran a 10 miler a half marathon and multiple 5k's.

Next month I will be doing a 10k and the full Philadelphia Marathon.

I have actually stuck with running, and I do not see myself stopping anytime soon. So why haven't I given up on it like I have with everything else? It is hard to explain, but if you are a runner then I don't have to explain.

01 October 2009

Dog Day Tempo Run

The word for today is leash. Apparently there are a lot of dog owners that do not understand the concept of a leash, nor do they own one.

On the plan today was a 55 minute run with 30 minutes at tempo. During my warm up I noticed a rough looking dog on my side of the street. The look of this dog made me think of some wild mutt running around picking fights with other animals. I decided to cross the street.

I slowed down in an attempt to not alarm him, but as soon as he noticed me, he began trotting across the street. Half way across he started barking, and I noticed that his eyes were the very window into Satan's soul. I stopped and yelled "NO". He veered away from me and went onto a nearby lawn, but started to growl lightly. I didn't dare turn my back to him, and walked very slowly backward as he sniffed around the ground. Finally something else caught his attention, and when I was a safe distance away I continued with my warm up.

When my watched beeped to signal the end of the warm up, I was feeling very good. I quickly got settled into my pace and felt comfortable. I did not realize it until I started my cool down, but I was in a zone. I was not even aware of the sounds of my feet. I was focusing on my breathing, and I think that helped me zone out and lock in a nice steady pace.

With about six minutes to go, I heard more barking. The sound of this barking was the high pitched yapping of two small dogs running toward me. Now I understand if dogs get loose by accident. Maybe you opened the door to grab the paper and they ran under your feet or something. I am sympathetic to that, but these dogs did not need to plan an escape, it was handed to them.

The lady was standing in her yard talking on the phone while the dogs just wandered around. The yard was not fenced in and they were not on leashes. As the dogs are jumping up and nipping at my legs I started to get irritated because I had to slow to a walk. I heard the lady yelling stop. She repeated the word over and over again, but I didn't realize she was talking to me until she said, "stop walking."

Now I was already irritated because my tempo was messed up and I was forced out of a zone. I looked at her and said, "I am trying to keep a pace here." All she could say was, "well stop walking and I will grab them."

What? Here is an idea. If you have two annoying little dogs that run after every moving object in the street, why not keep them on a leash. I wanted to speak my mind, but held back and just said, "Put them on a leash." Then tried my best to get back into the groove for the final five minutes of my run.

Of course those last five minutes were horrible. I got a stitch in my side and struggled to keep an even pace. My breathing was wrong and I was frustrated. I finished those last few minutes and then went into my cool down.

Besides the dogs, I had a very good run. For those 30 minutes at tempo, I ran an average 9:19 pace for a total of 3.22 miles.

In the beginning of January of this year I tried running a full mile at a sub 10 minute pace, and could only do it for barely a half mile, and it killed me. Today's 3.22 at a 9:19 pace felt awesome.

The improvement feels incredible!

21 September 2009

2009 Philadelphia Distance Run Race Report

I am not going to lie to you. I am writing this post a week late. You did not miss it the day after the PDR, I am just predating it in an attempt to hide the fact that I am a major procrastinator. Especially when I have a head cold.

One of my favorite things about major races, is the race expo. The atmosphere at the expo can be exhilarating. The large number of runners, all bustling about in a cloud of nervousness and excitement. You can find some great deals on running gear, as well as some great freebies. And if it is free, it is for me.

I went to this expo on Friday afternoon, so it was not as crowded as they usually are on Saturdays. My highlight of the expo, and probably of the week to that point, was meeting Ryan Hall. I actually walked by him while he was talking to some people. I was not sure if it would be rude to interrupt, but I went over and said hello. We talked for a minute, but I kept it short because he was getting ready to talk to the crowd that was gathering in the runners lounge.

Here are some of the elites talking to the crowd. In the blue Asics jacket is Ryan Hall. In the red is Constantina Dita, winner of the 2008 Olympic Marathon in Beijing. And on the right is Catherine Ndereba of Kenya.

Ryan Hall ended up winning the PDR in 1:01:52 and Catherine Ndereba won the women's in 1:09:43.

One of the great things about running is that the professional athletes in the field are so accessible. See how close they are to the crowd. They talk directly to the spectator and back of the pack runners as well as to the other elites and pros. You can just walk up and say hi and on race day you are all running the same streets... although I was running way behind them. They were finished before I was even at the halfway point.

So then came race day. Going to the expo on Friday rather than Saturday was a mistake, because the excitement builds at the expo and then you have to wait an extra day for the run. Not too much of a problem, but I think I will go to expos on Saturdays from now on.

The morning was great. I rode my bike over to the art museum from the University of Penn Hospital. That was a nice start to my warm up. I met my brother and cousins and we hung out while we waited for the start.

We were in line for the bathroom when the race started, but our corrals were in the back so we were fine. I was in corral 16 and the rest of my group was in 18. I decided to just hop in 18 with them.

It took 30 minutes to get across the start line, but since I was so far back I was able to control my pace a little better. That lasted for only about a half mile and as I started passing people I started picking up the pace. It was nice to seem fast, but I would pay for it later.

I have raced two major races in my short time as a runner. The Broad Street 10 Miler in May and this, the Philadelphia Distance Run. The one thing I learned in these two races is that I cannot keep my pace slow enough in the beginning to run efficiently in the end. I always plan to start slow and negative split, but I always get caught up in the crowd and start too fast and end up slowing down at the end.

I was doing good through mile 7 or 8, then I started walking through the water stations. As the run went on, the walks got a little slower.

Mile 10 was a good point for me, because until now that was the furthest I had ever ran. This gives you a mental boost because every step from then on is further than you have ever ran before. With only 5k to go I picked up my pace again, but the high did not last long. I quickly slowed down as I came to the next water station. My legs were telling me that I could not hold a fast pace for three more miles, and I allowed my mind to listen to them.

The final mile was pretty incredible. As I was winding my way toward the finish, I could not help but get a boost from the crowd. They were cheering and shouting words of support, which was much needed for the back of the pack runners such as myself.

As I rounded the final turn for the finish I noticed my fan support. My Mom and Dad brought my sons up, and my Uncle was there with two of my younger cousins. It was great to see them.

My legs were dead for the last couple of miles, but I tried to give it a good kick at the end. I was able to sprint for the last couple of hundred yards, but after crossing the finish line I though my legs would buckle.

The key was to keep moving, and they had the finish area set up very well for that. Maybe it was because I was so close to the last of the runners, but there was no waiting in line for your medal, or for much needed refreshments. And they had the path set up so you walked around and out and it was not a mass of people aiming for one tiny exit.

My chip time was 2:24:12. I picked up a pace bracelet at the expo for 2:15 not really expecting to be able to do it, but I think now I could have. I just needed to pace myself better at the beginning and run negative splits at the end.

All in all I am impressed with the run and the way it was organized. Next year the Rock and Roll brand takes over so it is going from the ING Philadelphia Distance Run to the Rock and Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon. Along with the name change is a price hike. Early registration this year was $55. Early registration for next year is $80. I paid $80 for the full marathon in November, so paying the same for a half marathon in the same city seems a little steep.

I am now halfway to 26.2. After this run I am feeling confident that the full marathon will be a good run. I am feeling good with my training and excited to give it a go for the full.

As I write this, I mentioned to my wife that the full marathon is 8 weeks away. She said "Are you sure you are ready for that?"

My only response was, "I will be in 8 weeks."