Tuesday, June 26, 2007


No, not Michael Moore's new movie.

My intention this week was to run the Tex-Mex 5k in North Wales, PA on Wednesday but those plans are shelved. After having run 9 miles along the Delaware River on Saturday morning, I felt like I was wheezing a bit. I have grass allergies and I just mowed my lawn on Friday, so I thought it was from that. I was more tired on Saturday than I usually am from a longer run and thought I could sleep it off.

It got worse on Sunday and really bad on Monday. I went to the doctor Monday afternoon and was diagnosed with a sinus infection. I get these about once or twice a year and zaps me of my energy. Considering that tomorrow is suppose to be in the low-90's (F), I don't think it's a good idea to try to run this race. Which is a shame as it is not my favorite course but you get a taco and a beer after the race and really just sitting around having a good time on a summer's evening.

My next race then would be the Washington's Crossing 10k on July 4. I've used this race in the past to measure how I think I would do at Falmouth in August. I'm sure I will feel better in the next week and a half but sinus infections take a lot out of me. Then vacation the following week. Not exactly the plans I set out to do this summer. I find it hard to schedule sick time in my calendar.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Lessons from the Past

Last weekend I went back to Connellsville, PA for a family reunion. While I was there, I ran 7 miles on Saturday on the Yough River Trail, (pictured at right) starting at the site of British General Braddock's crossing of the river in what is known in the US as the French and Indian War. This crossing was a prelude to the disaster that was to happen to the British at Fort Duquesne where they met the French army. Connellsville was also the scene of the most disastrous race I ever ran and ever hope to run.

In the fall of 2002, I ran my first half-marathon in Philadelphia. I enjoyed the experience so much that I couldn't wait to sign up and run a half-marathon in the spring. 2002 was also the year that brought me back to a town which was a big part of my life growing up called Connellsville. At the time, I had not been back there in over 25 years.

Connellsville is where my father was born and where my grandparents lived. For the first 18 years of my life, I would go there at least once a year but more often twice or three times. Truthfully, there is not a whole lot to do there on an average day, so, we would spend our time counting the number of cars on a passing train, walking around collecting 'pop' (soda) bottles to trade in for baseball cards, anything to occupy our time. As it always seems to be the case, they were simpler times spent and I look back it with fondness.

With nostalgia in my heart and with a sense that I can do no wrong since I just ran my first half, I signed up for the Yough River half-marathon in 2003 to be held in Connellsville. This was a lesson that, just because you prepared for a race, doesn't mean you are ready for a race. That day, in 2003, I didn't eat right, drink right, wear the right shirt, wear the right socks, wear the right shoes and didn't run the right pace.

Back then, I would eat a protein bar before a race. I never bothered to bring one with me as I assumed I would be able to find one at the local convenience store. Well, not quite. I think I wound up with a donut and a muffin. I, also, can't drink water during the race as it will upset my stomach. I assumed that any 'big' race would have Gatorade on the course. That may be true but this race didn't. So, I was left with the choice of dehydrating or upsetting my stomach with water. I washed my mouth out with water but didn't actually intake any water that day. That decision would come to haunt me.

The Yough River half-marathon is an out-and-back run on a trail with frozen bike grooves. Only 110 people ran the race, so it was very easy to have your pace thrown off at the start as you don't want to be in the back of the pack. I remember feeling ok for the first 4 miles or so, even though I was running at an 8:30 pace. Up to the point, that was usually my 5k pace. No matter. I was feeling good and I'll be damned if I was going to be in the back with the slow runners.

On the turn around, that's when everything fell apart. As I was going into mile 7, my legs started to cramp up. I noticed that the long-sleeved shirt I was wearing to keep me warm at the start of the race, was now making me hot as the morning wore on. With every step, I was feeling the bike grooves on the trail. Every part of my body was hurting but, in order for me to get back to my car, there was only one way to go and that was towards the finish line.

With only 110 runners, I was far back in the pack and felt lonely and isolated. It was the longest 6 miles I ever ran (in reality, walked). I couldn't see anyone in front of me and walkers behind me. But, I was determined to finish. Finally, when I saw the finish line, I wanted to, at the very least, run the last 100 yards at the end (and before they started to tear down the finish line banner). When I crossed, my thighs seized up and I needed medical attention to be able to walk again. I'm proud to say I didn't finish last and somehow finished in front of 10 other participants.

I use that race as a milestone and compare everything I do now to what I did then. I learned the value of a fresh pair of running shoes. I learned that socks (at least for me) are very important and now will only use DryMax as they are the most comfortable for me to wear. I check before the race on what liquids they will have on the course and where I can expect the water stops to be. I bring my own food to races that are out of town. I bring 2 or 3 different shirts to choose from but will generally wear the lightest for the race and an old shirt to throw away if the start is too cold. And, I've learned to harness my energy at the start and 'take my temperature' of how I'm doing at various points along the course.

As I ran last Saturday on part of this course again, all those thoughts and the lessons I learned were going through my mind. This time, I made sure I paid attention to the baby bunnies that were along the trail, the sounds of the river, the smell of the honeysuckle and even the train whistle heard in the distance. Because, last time I was here, my only thoughts were of how to survive the disaster I created for myself that day.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

When work gets in the way

I try to post a blog every Monday but this week work got in the way of my fun.

I was hoping to write about the Chalfont Challenge 5k race that happened this past Saturday. I was hoping to do the Bud Murphy 5k in Connellsville, PA tonight but had to postpone my departure date and time to western Pennsylvania by a day so can't do the race. And, I had no chance to run this week at all as, again, work got in the way. (We need to do something about this 'earning a living' thing as a society. ) :-)

Anyway, hope (I seem to be doing a lot of hoing this week) this doesn't set me back too much. Plans this weekend is to run in Connellsville on at least one of the days I'm there.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Should I start to marathon train now?

June is the decision month of when (or if) I'm doing a marathon. I belong to an e-mail group of runners in the Doylestown area training for the Mohawk Valley marathon. I received an e-mail from the group last week that training for this event should start June 4th (Yikes!). I haven't counted but I didn't think it was 16 weeks away for that event. I did look at other websites and they suggest June 25 as the start of training. (Yes, I know I should REALLY just count the weeks out myself but now rely on the internet to do everything for me.)

In any event, I did have a chance to go out 4 times last week. I ran 6 miles around Lake Galena on Tuesday night. I did my usual stupid thing and sprinted the first 2 miles even though it was in the 80s (F). Note to self--it's summertime and you can't do that anymore. I wound up run/walk the last 4 miles.

Thursday night, I ran 2.5 miles with my wife in New Britain Park. She is training for a 5k and hopes to do a 10k by summer's end. I find these runs beneficial as it is (a) quality time with my wife and (b) short, slower runs keep me loose.

Saturday was 5 miles around my neighborhood and it was hot again. Nice, sunny, beautiful, hot day. And I ran around noontime. I don't do well on these kind of days but I did finish the course I set out to do.

Sunday was around Lake Galena again in Peace Valley Park. It was a nice slow run and did 7 miles. So, not bad, 20.5 miles for the week.

I bought a SUV with a bike rack on the roof and finally had the chance to figure out the bike rack part of it. My wife bought a bike for me a few years ago but, since I started running, really didn't have a chance to use it. But now, I'll be taking it in this week for a tuneup and start using it for cross-training.

All of this is a radical departure in my marathon training from the past. I've seen websites and articles of how many times and what I SHOULD do to train. But, reality always strikes and had to settle to run when I can and pretty much rely on the scheduled long runs to get me through a marathon. Hence, my half marathon PR time is not a clear indication of what I have done with a marathon PR.

Because I know I don't train well for marathons, I don't get too competitive about it and do it for fun (sort of like taking a sledgehammer to your legs for the fun of it.) Don't get me wrong. I DO want to break 5 hours and even 4:30. But, I don't get too upset if I don't. I hope I can keep up the training schedule I did last week, for the whole summer.

(Note: On the Falmouth Road Race website, it states that if you haven't heard by June 4 from them, then you can safely assume you are in the race as the lottery was May 30. I haven't heard and neither has Steve so it looks like the race is on! All of the above is for marathon training but I also want to make sure I'm in the best shape I can be to beat Steve this year at Falmouth! Right now, I know I have the people from the Doylestown area and Nigel from the 'Running from the Reaper' podcast in support of me to beat Steve. He will be buying the beers after the race!)