Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Animals started to gather, lining up two-by-two...

If the rain comes, they run and hide their heads.
They might as well be dead.
If the rain comes. if the rain comes
---The Beatles

Last week was one heck of a week and just reminds me of why I don't beat myself up on training for a marathon and do it for the fun and adventure. I put in exactly 10 miles (well, not exactly as the path around Lake Galena was flooded and couldn't do a full lap. More later.)

The week started with a 2AM start time for work on Monday morning. I'm not a morning person. I'm grumpy when I'm tired. And, boy, was I tired. I got home around 3:30p that afternoon just flat out exhausted.

Tuesday night I flew down to North Carolina for business. I had a chance to try to get a run in on Wednesday night, despite the rain they had and so desparately needed. I had about two hours to kill after work and before meeting up with some people for dinner. The hotel I stayed at was in a crowded area so I wasn't comfortable running in the streets (or, more realistic, highways). I was only about 4 miles from North Carolina State University so I took the chance and ventured that way to see if I could find a track. I was hoping to do a few laps around the track to, at least, just loosen up a bit. I did find their football stadium and, was hoping, there was a track there. But... The traffic around the stadium suggested there was going to be some kind of event there that night. (Found out later the NHL Hurricanes have their stadium around that area and they were playing a home game). So, no run that night as well. And, I came back Thursday night not arriving home until 11p (due to flight delay).

I had every intention running in the Skeleton Scurry 5k in Hatboro, PA on Saturday but it rained and rained and rained... My mother did teach me to come out from the rain!

By Sunday, I was emotionally and physically exhausted. I intended (notice the theme here. Intended IS a key word) to meet up with people at 8a but I felt I needed to sleep in at least one day. I did get out (ta-da!) to Lake Galena at 9:15a.

Part of the path around the lake was flooded out so I (and almost everyone else) ran to the flooded area and ran back and around and back. We looked like a swarm of bees around the lake. Usually, there is a certain rhythm you have running the loop, saying hello to people, knowing where you need to press and where to take it easy. All thrown out the window that day. I ran across the dam for three miles and then back for another 3 miles. Then I ran towards the flooded area (which is only about 1/8 mile from the 2 mile mark) and then back again. And, I had so much energy from NOT running the whole week that I nearly burned myself out in the first 3 miles. I was trying to reign it in but I kept on picking up the pace unintentionally. I used to run with a Garmin GPS for training and, when needed, still do. But, I find that I wind up being a slave to the time rather than running what I feel like. I know I am running a faster pace than normal but is it critical to know how fast all the time? Not sure.

And, it was windy that day. This year's Marine Corps marathon was held on Sunday and the day reminded me so much of when I ran it last year. It was also windy that day and it just killed my legs. The same happened this past Sunday around the lake but to a lesser degree. With a year removed, I blamed my conditioning for the time I had in that race. But, in the back of my mind, I always felt the conditions of the day played a part in it. So, in truth, it was a bit of both--I was not in good enough condition to run on windy days.

Only three more weeks to go for Philadelphia. We are starting to organize on going down there and how we are meeting up. Steve has called me to let me know when he was coming down. The excitement is starting to build. I'm looking forward in completing my fourth marathon.

Note: Congratulations to Harvey, one of my colleagues in North Carolina, who finished the Marine Corps marathon on Sunday. Harvey sustained a foot injury leading up to the race and gutted it out finishing only a 1/2 hour behind his goal time (the way he described it, finishing became the goal after 18 miles). I plan on doing 20 miles on Sunday doing a 5:1 run/walk ratio. I've changed my mind about the marathon and plan on using this ratio for the race instead. Having done it for my 18 mile long run last week, I felt great afterwards and think this might work better than 9:1. We'll see.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Quick Update

As sometimes happens, work is getting away of my fun. So, this is only a quick update on marathon progress.

Last week, I decided to add racquetball into the mix of training. (I normally play racquetball in the winter months and, yes, this isn't the smartest idea) The first few times out are very hard as I'm using my sprinting muscles and not the long-distance muscles in my legs.

I was very sore on Wednesday when I did 10 miles and began to have leg cramps halfway through the run. I continued to be sore for the rest of the week but went out Saturday for a 3+ mile run to stretch it out a bit. That and Tiger Balm helped out as I was ready for my Sunday long run.

Eric and Kelly joined me on Sunday for an 18 mile run (Kel for the first 8 miles). Eric is thinking about doing Philadelphia marathon but will decide after our training runs. We decided to do a 5:1 ratio (run/walk) and, considering we were out there for 3 hours and 48 minutes and the temps climbed to the 70's (F), I felt good afterwards. Even on Monday, I felt good.

This certainly helps my confidence going into Philadelphia. And, this is why I like the Galloway method as training can be more enjoyable as you don't have the soreness that you would have if running the whole way.

This week is going to be tough getting in any runs (yikes!) as I am going to North Carolina for the next few days for a business trip. I'm hoping to get in at least a 3 miler. Right now, the Hatboro 5k on Saturday may be in my plans and then a 10 miler on Sunday.

That's it! Nothing earth-shattering. See you next week!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Galloway training my way to Philadelphia!

I wanted to finish my thoughts on how I'm preparing for the Philadelphia marathon this year and how my methods can relate to anyone. To reinterate what I previously said, my belief is, participating in a marathon is more a mental challenge than a physical one. Once you convince yourself you can do it, you need to make sure you are properly prepared for the challenge.

I will admit that I am not prepared to do a 4 hour marathon, nor a 4:30 marathon. In truth, it would take a lot of time in training to be able to reach those goals. Don't get me wrong, I would like to set that as my goals. But, my one hour commutes and personal committments limit the time I can train for a marathon. So, my goal this year is to shoot for a 5 hour marathon. That is roughly a 11:00/mile pace.

I will be using the Jeff Galloway run/walk method. Jeff Galloway is a former Olympian and advocate of what I'm preaching of 'where there's a will, there's a way'. There are different variations of run/walk depending on your goal level. If you are interested in finding out more, check out his website: http://www.jeffgalloway.com/

I have participated in three marathons in my life and I have used run/walk in two. The idea behind run/walk is, by taking walk breaks, it will save your energy at the end of the race when you need it most. It is also important to note that you should use run/walk in your training as well and not just on the day of the race. Again, the details are on the website, but you should start using it when you start to do your 16 mile or longer long runs.

I tested this theory out before my first marathon in an 18 mile race on Long Beach Island, NJ. I was running 6 minutes and taking 1 minute walk breaks. It definitely felt funny stopping to walk after the first 6 minutes and watching people pass me. But, when I hit mile 16, I was passing the same people who were passing me at mile 1. So, it does require patience, for, afterall, this is a marathon you are doing.

For, Philadelphia, I plan on doing 9 minute run, 1 minute walk for no other reason than it will be simpler to calculate on my Garmin watch. Doing the 6/1 is fine in the beginning, but, try doing that calculation after 20 miles (heck, try to remember your name after 20!). Will I reach my 5 hour goal if I do it that way? I dunno. It's my strategy going in and, if it doesn't work, I'll try something else next time.

So, you see, you don't have to RUN a marathon in order to participate. In fact, Jeff Galloway preaches that you can actually lower your time substantially with run/walk. So, think about it. Give it some thought of checking this off of your lifelist right after 'Visiting the Grand Canyon' but before 'running with the bulls in Pamplona'. I'm guessing you will finish and say 'never again'. And then two months later, when the aches go away, you will be looking on websites on where you want to do your next marathon and will forget about running with those bulls.

Note: Congratulations to my friend Kelly on an excellent performance at the Baltimore marathon. She was only 1 minute off her goal time and I bet she could have reached that time if she saved her strength and didn't yell at the hills throughout the race. Congrats to my friend Steve (SteveRunner) on setting a PR at the Bay State marathon over the weekend. He came oh-so-close to his 4 hour goal but I know he can reach that time in Philadelphia! And, finally, congrats to the worldwide half community of runners on an excellent effort over the weekend!
Finally, some words for Mr. Bill McGurk of Folsom, PA. But first, dear readers, please read the bottom letter in this link entitled Limit marathoners to follow along: http://www.philly.com/inquirer/sports/20071014_Letters____Phils_show_true_leadership.html

Mr. McGurk sent a letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer which was printed in the Sunday edition of the paper (The 700 Level). This letter was in reference to the issues in this year's Chicago marathon and marathons in general. Mr. McGurk stated that 'greed is the main culprit' for the troubles at Chicago and questions how many people were actually in shape to run 26.2 miles. He also states that 'in Philly, people were still running-if you can call it that (his words)--six hours after the marathon began. You aren't a runner. You are a wannabe.'

I suggest, Mr. McGurk, you read the following article from the Baltimore Sun of why people would spend 6 hours out there on a marathon course.
Everyone has their own personal reason for doing this. It doesn't always have to be about winning. And, who are you to determine what a certain time a marathon should be? Most marathons DO have certain time limits for runner's to finish the event. In fact, when I ran the Cape Cod marathon, I knew I had to finish under six hours. I trained properly for the race but sustained an injury and limped home. But, I did it! And, I'm damn proud of that accomplishment!

So, following your logic, Mr. McGurk, I am calling on a ban of all softball/basketball/bowling/whatever amateur leagues you play for because you guys aren't real. You are wannabes. You might get hurt. You are causing our insurance rates to go up. How dare you guys have a goal in life!

So, Mr. McGurk of Folsom, PA, why don't you do some research on websites and blogs and find out the REAL reason why people would subject themselves to participating in a 26.2 mile or any running event. It's not always about kicks and giggles. It might just open your eyes!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

My thoughts on the Chicago marathon

I want to address what happened at last Sunday's Chicago marathon of the things I have heard from various people. If you haven't heard, one person died and as many as 200+ people were taken to the hospital during the marathon. The temperatures that day were 88 degrees (F) with high humidity. My understanding is that water was an issue for back of the pack runners from the beginning of the race. The faster runners did get fluids but, as the race wore on, the people in the back weren't getting water or Gatorade. Eventually, the race was cancelled after about 3 1/2 hours.

It's important to note that the police officer who died had a pre-existing heart condition. It may have been triggered by the weather but it is not considered a heat-related death. When I did the Marine Corps marathon, I saw a man lying on the ground, around mile 17 with people around calling for an ambulance. I later found out that he also died but, again, had a pre-existing heart condition as well. I guess what I want to make sure is you don't get scared off by these reports and think marathons or running in general is bad for you. There were over 25,000 people at these events. I'm sure people have heart attacks at baseball games, with similar crowd size, but it would never get reported. But...

I can't stress enough that, though I say that you can do a marathon, please, please check with your doctor first. My point is that my belief, participating in a marathon is more of a mental exercise than a physical one, doesn't mean you ignore the physical element. I also want to emphasize that you can't just show up for a marathon. You do need to train for it. Steve and I ran with a guy who did just that at the 2004 Cape Cod marathon. His buddy talked him into it the week before. He did finish but he said he was sorry he tried doing it that way.

To finish my Chicago marathon thoughts, it sounded like a brutal day out there. I read other blogs stating if people were in better shape, the heat shouldn't have been a factor. That is utter nonsense! Some people tolerate heat better than others. There is a huge difference in how I race between a hot day to a cool one. Steve and I talked about entering the race this year but I would have been one of the ones affected by this.

The Chicago marathon race organizers have stated they felt there was enough water on the course. People who ran the race in the back of the pack felt otherwise. I know this was not a typical fall day in the Chicago area. More like a summer day. And, I know that because it was such a big race, it will get more press exposure. I have been in races where they have run out of fluids. I only hope this is a lessons-learned experience and they will take better precautions for this in the future.

Notes: I actually wanted to continue my thoughts from last week on marathon training but will talk about it again next week. As mentioned, I will be using the run/walk method for the Philadelphia marathon. For more information on this, click on this link: http://www.jeffgalloway.com/training/marathon.html
Jeff Galloway is a great resource for this.

Congratulations to my friends Melissa and Eric on their marathon performances last weekend on a hot fall day. Melissa participated in the Steamtown marathon (Scranton, PA) and did a sub-4:00! Eric participated in the Hudson Mohawk marathon in Albany, NY and had a bit of a rough day but did finish the race. Races like that will test what you are made of and hats off to you, Eric, for having the guts to leg it out. Also, congrats to the other runners in the Doylestown area who participated in the Hudson Mohawk half and full marathons. I was suppose to go on that trip but had to change plans when I was sick in July and couldn't train properly.

Because of personal committments, I had to do most of my training during the week last week. Same thing this week, as I plan to do my long run tomorrow instead of over the weekend. One thing I learn is that you have to be flexible with your schedule.

So much for October baseball for the Phillies! Geez, you couldn't have won one game, guys! Give us a little hope???!!!

Go get 'em, Kel!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The First Steps to a Marathon!

It's official. I have signed up for the Philadelphia marathon which is on November 18, 2007. (Bib # 6430) And, Steve from Massachusetts (aka SteveRunner) has also signed up. (Bib # 6433) And, for any of you who follow Steve's podcast, I have found Blueberry Ale in the Doylestown area and am happy to buy the one I owe him from the Falmouth race when he comes down.

First, let me say, if you are a reader of this blog and you can do a marathon in less than 4:30, this week's episode is not about you. I thank you for checking in. See you next week!

OK, now that we got rid of those 'fast' people, here's a little secret for the rest of you. If you have never done a marathon and kind of wanted to, let me put your mind at ease---You CAN do a marathon. You probably thought I meant CAN'T. Oh no! You CAN do a marathon. You may not scare the Kenyans with your speed and you may not be able to run the whole thing, but there are ways of training so you can participate and finish a marathon.

But (isn't there always a 'but' to these things?) you need three things--reasonable health (as they say, check with your doctor before you start any exercise program), patience and a spirit not to give up.

What do I mean by reasonable health? You don't need to be a super athlete. You just need to have been exercising for a period of time. Or, at least, willing to start exercising on a regular basis. And I don't mean you have to exercise everyday. And, you don't need to eat Tofu and raw oats for the rest of your life. But, if you are huffing and puffing to get the mail at the front door, you might want to get in enough shape to, at least, get the paper at the end of the driveway. Hey, it's a start!

And, what do I mean by patience? If you are a runner and only have done 5ks, I wouldn't sign up for a marathon this year. Or next year. And, that's when the patience kicks in. Because it will take awhile for you to get used to the idea of running for that length of time.

In the beginning of 2004, I decided I wanted to do my first marathon by the end of the year. So, I trained for the Cape Cod marathon, which is run at the end of October. The month before the race, I wound up with Iliotibial Band Syndrome, which is pain and inflammation on the outside of my left knee. I rested as much as I could leading up to the race and ran the first half of the marathon in a reasonable time. But, the second half of the race, the pain kicked in and I wound up walking most of the last half of the race. Yes, I finished, but I didn't feel I did anything special (especially since they ran out of medals at the finish. They did mail me one later.)

If I had to do it over again, I would have waited the following year. Because, my pain was caused by socks that were comfortable for a 5k but uncomfortable for a longer distance run. And, I never bothered to change running shoes that year from last because they were still good, right? In that first year, I learned so much about what worked and, especially, what didn't work in my training leading up to the race.

So, if you can do a 5k, then make it a goal to do a 10k and a half marathon next year and wait for the marathon the following year. You just need to know what it's going to feel like to be out there for that long. Believe it or not, it does get easier as you do more and more longer events.

Now let's talk about spirit. To paraphrase Yogi Berra, running is 50% physical and 90% mental. You need to convince yourself you CAN do this! And, you need to keep convincing yourself, that you CAN do this! Because, physically, you WILL be able to do that. But, your mind will try to convince you otherwise. You need to have the will and determination to realize that pain is temporary but accomplishment is forever!

You will be out there for 5 hours. Or maybe more. And your friends and families will think you are crazy and try to talk you out of doing it. But, don't listen to them. Because something inside of you tells you that its important to do this. And, keep listening to that voice (but ignore the one that repeats RED RUM! that voice is creepy) while you are training and participating in the marathon. It is that spirit that will get you through and help you along the way.

I plan on training and participating in the Philadelphia marathon using the Galloway run/walk method. If you don't know what that is, I will talk more about it later.

Out of the three, spirit will become the most important. You can get yourself in physical shape, be patient along the way in getting there, but, when the gun goes off at your first marathon, think to yourself--I CAN DO THIS! And, you will!

Note: I ran 5 miles on Wednesday and started my long run training on Sunday with 16.5 miles. Good luck to my friends Eric, Kelly and Melissa in their upcoming marathons in the next couple of weeks. Make the Blue Dawgs proud! And, finally, I thought it would be a long time before I ever uttered these words again--THE PHILLIES ARE IN THE PLAYOFFS! OCTOBER BASEBALL IN PHILADELPHIA!