Wednesday, September 30, 2009

First Missed Run

Well today I skipped my first run since my marathon training began at the end of July. I still have lingering soreness in my groin and hamstring and thought the rest would be a big help with the half marathon coming this weekend. Both occurred on my right side and doing hill sprints up a curved hill to the right probably didn't help the injuries. I was originally planning on an eight mile run today, but wisely backed off. It's certainly not the end of the world.

I could've battled through these injuries, but at this point, I'd rather be safe than sorry. It's kind of ironic because after reading a book where the author commented that hill sprints help prevent injuries, I decided to mix those into my routine. I probably did too many though and now I'm injured and have missed my first day. I never really planned on not missing any days, but I had a nice streak going. I also don't mind missing days to rest a sore body. It's missing days because of laziness (as I have done in the past) that bothers me.

Tomorrow, I'm going to take it easy with a flat four mile run. Hopefully skipping the long run today will act as a taper before the half marathon. We'll see how I feel after that race. I might take it easy again next week too. Getting these injuries under control before my most intense training period is going to be a big key.

The good news is that at least the injuries haven't bothered me while running. I should be able to complete the half marathon. Hopefully, it won't add too much additional stress. I still need to find ways to do some hill work or more runs with hills anyways. Even though the marathon course is flat, I want to be stronger.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Belmont Plateau

I ran this morning on the Belmont Plateau cross country course. It's really the only course for runners in the city. Last week, I was at the Catholic League meet there. I checked out the course and although it looked a little difficult, it ended up being much harder than I anticipated.

It was definitely a humbling run. I planned on taking it easy, but the course was too tough to really do so. I went slow, but still had to work hard. The course is interesting because it starts and ends with a grass loop. In between though, it winds through a wooded trail. This is the area Will Smith referred to in "Summertime" (a place called the Plateau was where everybody goes). There are a lot of empty beer bottles around and when I went there on summer afternoon, it was a ghetto hangout.

Anyways, back to the run. The course starts on grass and has a steep hill early on. My groin and hamstring were both quite sore when I initially started. That went away within a couple tenths of a mile. Although grass is more forgiving that roads, it took some getting used. I never ran cross country and don't venture much on anything other than pavement. It was also very windy today out in the open grass portion and that was very tough.

The wooded area was where things got really difficult. I had wandered back there last week and the parts I encountered were pretty stable. There was a big hill and that was difficult to get up. Even tougher though, ended up being the descent. It was very fast and hard not to slip on rocks or the acorns that had fallen from the trees.

I had trouble throughout the run with my footing. I was running in my regular shoes. Some sections were smooth with small gravel, but others had large rocks. Making it equally difficult was that it rained the night before and there were still some very muddy sections.

I didn't know quite where I was going when in the woods. There are multiple routes in there. They have been marked off for the cross country meets, but I initially missed the one turn. I wound up on a nice, smooth path. I had no clue where it was going though. I ended up at the Philadelphia Recycling Center. After that point, I decided to head back and find the rest of the high school course.

That part was very tricky as it was winding, narrow and muddy. There's actually no room to even pass another runner in this portion of the run. I eventually make it out and back onto the main path. I was exhausted when I came out of the woods. I ran the remainder of the grass route, which included another run up the hill. I finished at cruising speed.

My legs and hips were immediately sore afterwards. All of my recent minor injuries are on my right side. They don't bother me during running, only afterwards as I'm walking. Things aren't getting better though. It isn't serious pain, but it is nagging and seems to be getting worse. I used a heating pad quite a bit tonight.

Because of the soreness, I skipped the hill sprints today. I'm going to attempt to run the remainder of my runs very easy this week. Hopefully, that'll help me recover before Saturday's big race. I really don't want to miss any training runs, but I may have to. So far, I've kept a perfect record since I started marathon training. My cross training is the only thing that has slacked at all.

I'm back at my parents house now and will stay here for the remainder of the week. I have an 8 mile loop in mind tomorrow, but it does have some tough hills. I think for my 4 mile run on Thursday, I'll probably just cruise around the high school track at an easy pace. We'll just have to see how things go.

~3.5 miles - 34:18

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Why Am I Alone?

On most Sunday mornings, I head out the door on the bike for an hour ride. Even if I'm riding at a decent pace, I'm usually blown away by cyclist after cyclist. So where were they on this day?

Sure, it was raining pretty hard and it was still early in the morning. Regardless of the treacherous conditions, I expected encounter more than 2 cyclists on my 10 mile journey. I only saw two of them the entire time and both were riding the opposition direction. Not one passed me the whole time.

The number of runners out was greatly diminished when compared to normal too, but I at least came across 10-15 of those in my journey. Why were the cyclist afraid to come out? Are they not that dedicated in their training?

I certainly don't consider myself a cyclist. I'm slow, not efficient on the bike and don't know what I'm doing. Today, I was more of a cyclist though than all those usual cyclist who were at home comfortably in their beds.

I probably looked goofy riding along with my cheap jacket and with fogged up sunglasses that I wore because I don't have cycling glasses. With no one there to see it though, I guess it didn't really matter.

I actually felt smooth and very efficient. I tried using some of the form that I learned about in the book that I read. It might've helped me be more aerodynamic, but it wasn't very comfortable. I had a solid ride though. Certainly didn't break and time records, but I got a nice workout in. Most importantly, I toughed it out when others didn't.

This week will be my usual week of running with the hill sprints removed on Thursday. I'm still slightly sore from yesterday's 15+ mile run, but I should be well recovered by tomorrow. I am very eager to test myself in Saturday's half marathon. Unlike in shorter races, I have more time to recover if I make any mistakes in that one. I really love that.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Second Longest Run

Today was the 2nd longest run of my life. I ran almost 15.5 miles, mostly along Kelly Drive and through to Manayunk. I ran the final 14 miles of the Philadelphia Marathon, all the way to Green Lane in Manayunk and back. This is great prep for the race in November.

I got out very early, starting off at 6 AM. I didn't think anyone else would be crazy enough to run at that time, but sure enough I passed someone on West River Drive. I started out there and ran to the 12 mile marker of the marathon course and back.

Yesterday, I bought a Nathan's fuel belt. I really didn't like the hand held bottle, so the belt was a relief. It took some getting used to though as it probably weighs a good 5-10 pounds. It definitely slowed my pace down. I also had to adjust it a couple times to make sure it fit more comfortable.

It was dark for the first half of the run so the temperature was nice and cool. I felt good throughout, although I probably should've tied my one shoe a little tighter. The slower pace that I was running because of the belt, kept me at a nice slow pace early on.

I tried running on the roads as much as I could when I got to Manayunk. That was a big help and I wasn't dizzy this time around. The road was sloped some though, so that was annoying. I think drinking properly and eating GU energy gels was a big help to my wellness.

I took one gel about 35 minutes into the run and another between Manayunk and Falls Bridge on the way back. That kept me fueled and fresh. I drank all my Gatorade, but two of the bottles were filled with water that I just ended up dumping them. I won't fill them up as much next time.

Although the belt is a bit of a pain, one nice thing is that it gets much lighter as you drink. That allows you to be significantly faster towards the end of the run. I ran very well and relatively fast from Falls Bridge back to the Art Museum. I'm getting so used to this route.

One guy passed me and I just didn't have enough to stay with him. I ran my own run then and passed a lot more people. I finished very strong and didn't realize how hard I had worked until I finished in a little over 2 hours on the road. My legs haven't had a workout like that in a long time.

After being sore earlier in the week, I felt very fresh today. The slowed paced run on Thursday really allowed me to recover better. I need to learn how to slow down on easy days with more regularity.

It's funny because I ran for over 2 hours, but it dawned on me afterwards just how focused on the run I was. In the past, I would often daydream. Today, I couldn't think of what thoughts passed through my head other than thinking about the run itself.

It's crazy to think that this was one of the longest runs I ever did, but elite runners do this all the time and it's often an average day. It's equivalent to what a four mile run is to me. Eventually, I'll get to that level. For now though, I'm just very exhausted and sore.

In a lighter moment, I walked by an older lady with a cane after the run and realized that I walked as poorly as her now. I was limping along as I tried to recover by walking to Dunkin Donuts.

It's so rewarding finishing up a long run like this. It's an excellent way to start the weekend. Even better, is starting so early. It was nice at 8 AM when I was finishing up my run and most people were just heading out to start their workout.

I checked with the Philly Runner store yesterday, but they aren't hiring yet. He told me to send my resume because they should have some openings in a few weeks. I don't have much running experience, so I'm not sure what to really include. Hopefully, I can get a job there. That would certainly be a huge help me get to the elite level that I'm hoping for.

Tomorrow will be an easy hour recovery bike ride before I head off to the Eagles game. I'm definitely feeling ready to run the half marathon next Saturday. I will run easy with hill sprints on Tuesday if my body feels good. Wednesday will be a hard day again. Thursday will be easy with no hill workout.

I'm excited to see what kind of time I can put up at the Lancaster Half Marathon. I'm hoping to run a 7:30 pace. The hills will make it a little tougher. We'll see what happens.

15.46 miles - 2:12:28 (8:34 pace)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Garbage Train

I was hoping to run the Belmont cross country course, but that changed because it rained last night. I knew the grass and trails would be wet. I instead elected to run the Schuykill Banks from Lloyd Hall and then add on a short out and back to the Art Museum.

For once, I did a good job of taking it easy. I went out nice and slow and maintained that pace. Oddly, there weren't as many runners out as usual. One guy that was walking, did start running right before I got to him. I think he might've been trying to push himself. I paid him no attention though and didn't pass him before the turnaround. I easily could have though.

One thing that really sucked was that there was a train filled with cars full of garbage next to the trail. The smell was pretty bad. It's bad enough that we have to breathe the usual city air, but then you add the smell of garbage to that.

Running a slower pace than usual really did help my legs recover. The muscles worked in a different way than they are used to and thus weren't sore. It was actually kind of hot so that was a bit of an issue.

I've been drinking tea too close to bedtime lately and haven't been able to get to sleep easily the last two nights. I guess I need to drink it earlier. This problem caused me to get up later the last two days and thus battle some more heat than I'm used to.

After the run, I decided to run hill sprints on Lemon Hill. I did 5 repeats on the short, but steeper hill. The only thing I don't like about it is that the hills curve. The hill is basically U-shaped so it puts odd stresses on the legs. To counter it, I'll run the other side of the hill in the opposite direction on some days.

It is really nice because there are few cars. The hills were certainly challenging and I actually pushed hard, but not as hard as I could've. On the last one, I kicked it into another gear. I'll have to do it at that rate next time around. They definitely seemed more productive than the Art Museum hills. It would still be nice to have a straight hill though.

For awhile now, I've been weighing myself after runs. Obviously after losing water, this is the lightest that I'll be. Just for fun, I kept watching to see if my weight would drop under 160 lbs. It finally did last week. After the intensity of this week and last, it has now stayed under 160, even after eating.

Initially, I was hoping to get down to 155 lbs, thus losing 25 lbs. I'm really surprised with how fat I still am though at 160. I actually have to get under 150 lbs now and maybe even under 140. That'll happen over time obviously. I'm happy with what I've lost, but disappointed with how much fat still remains.

Tomorrow is an off day and Saturday morning will be my longest run to date. Hopefully my knees recover for the 15 miler. I'm going to try to do the final 14 or 15 miles of the marathon course. This time, I'm heading to Manayunk with a water bottle and GU gel though. I'll be more prepared than my last long trek into that town.

4.1 miles - 34:45 (8:29 pace)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Found the Limit

Well much like yesterday's run, today's was a struggle. It was the same long 7 miler that I ran last Wednesday along Kelly Drive. Of course, last week I was actually helped out by some bathroom breaks that gave me rest.

Today, my legs were sore early on, but at least they didn't feel as dead as they had on Tuesday's shorter 3 mile run. Despite that, I went out pretty hard and pushed the envelope. I struggled, but made it to the turnaround at about the same time as last week. One thing that is really tough is staying focused and pushing so much early on. At least on the way back, I can sense the finish. On the way out, all I can work towards is the turnaround, knowing that over half the route is yet to come.

I knew even before the turnaround, that I would be using a 2 minute walk break. After running for about 5 minutes past the turnaround, I decide to walk and conserve energy. It helped my legs recover a little, but not as much as I had hoped. I did still feel okay when pushing to the St. Joe's Prep boathouse.

It went downhill from there though. I tried to focus on segments again, but this time it didn't work so well. My legs just had nothing. I even tried to tell myself that I need to get tougher in a run like this if I truly want to be elite.

I still pushed to the grandstands, but really just died after that. I tried to walk again, but to no avail. My legs were just so dead. I was passed by a runner and had nothing for him.

I sputtered home. I was able to get enough energy to close out the last half mile strong. Even with two walk breaks, I still nearly ran an 8 minute pace. The hardest thing with the walk breaks is getting going again and really getting into a rhythm.

The hill sprints and the extra intensity are obviously causing me some trouble now. I'm definitely going to try to back off in some way next week. I doubt I'll do any Thursday hill work and possibly none on Tuesday either depending on how I feel. While I don't want to taper for the half marathon, since it's not my goal race, I still want to be somewhat fresh.

I was disappointed with how the run went, but also satisfied too. You don't know what your limit is until you reach it and try to go beyond. I obviously found out where it was today. That should make me stronger, provided this extra work doesn't continue to be a problem. Too often, I have felt like I left too much in the tank during a race. The more I can know my limits, the closer I can come to those limits.

I decided to attend the Philadelphia Catholic League cross country meet today. I wanted to see where they actually run on the Belmont Plateau course. Some of it is on grass and some is stone trail. I'm going to run it tomorrow. There are some steep hills, so I might not do any hill workouts afterward. The run will be an easy 4 miler. I'm always excited to find a new course.

Hopefully my body will recover well on Friday. I have a big 15 mile run to cover on Saturday. My legs were sore as I rested in bed today, but once I got to the meet and got them moving, I recovered better. My groin continues to bother me after every run. Hopefully it'll get better at some point. At least it isn't bothering me during my runs yet. At least with the soreness I'm feeling now, I know I'm working hard.

7 miles - 56:18 (8:03 pace)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Not as Strong

Well after a great week last week, I figured things could go downhill. Today wasn't a terrible workout, but I was clearly feeling the effects of last week's higher intensity. I ran an easy four miles on West River Drive and followed that up with five hill sprints behind the Art Museum.

Early on, my legs didn't feel strong. I figured they'd come around, but they never did. They felt sluggish all day. Hopefully it was just a bad day. More likely, it was due to putting in a tough week last week. I thought with all the recovery I allow myself, by only running four days a week, that it wouldn't be a problem.

I'm not going to change my plans this week, but will monitor it into next week. I will only do one session of hill repeats next week (early in the week). Hopefully my body will adjust to the training and I'll be fine. I need to be cautious now with the half marathon just around the corner.

I was surprised at how many people were actually out running on West River Drive this time. I saw a guy up ahead on the way out and tried not to focus on catching him. Eventually I did catch up though, right before the turnaround. I elect not to pass him.

Shortly before the turnaround, I saw a college age girl and older guy running near each other. I didn't try to too hard initially to reel them in, but as I got closer I just had to. The girl looked like she was running a tempo run or something because she sped up to catch him and then fell behind him and then passed him again. The second pass happened right as I was making my move. It was the final half mile. I opened up my stride and cruised on by her. I think she wanted to follow, but quickly realized I was too fast. I finished at a decent speed, but still never felt good.

After some walking, I jumped into the hill repeats. I might actually have to find some steeper hills to use. It just seems too gradual and my legs don't really hurt until I get to the much steeper portion of the hill at the finish. I don't feel like I'm going hard enough, but I can't get my legs to really go any harder either. I got a little light headed too. Maybe I'll try the repeats on Lemon Hill later in the week instead.

I didn't have it today, but I'm still happy to get through the run. I'm really starting to focus on the half marathon now. I'll be camping near there and will drive the course the night before. Initially, I was hoping for a 8 minute per mile pace, but now I'm looking more towards a 7:30 pace. We'll see how it goes. Clearly the hills out there will be tougher than what I typically face around the river here.

Because of the photos I took at the Philadelphia Distance Classic, I found a good running club. One of the top female runners had on a singlet for it. It's for post college runners and looks very competitive. I have a long way to go to get to their level, but it gives me something good to aim for. They are sponsored by Philly Runner.

3 miles - 23:44 (7:55)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Running with the Kenyans

Well it's been an outstanding week and it got even better these past two days. First off, I headed down to the Philadelphia Distance Run expo. While I was there, I bought a couple things. The highlight though was the panel of experts they had speaking. Frank Shorter (1972 American Olympic Marathon winner), Grey Meyer (last American Boston Marathon winner in the 80s), Ryan Hall (current American half marathon record holder) and Catherine Ndereba (two time Marathon World Champ, 2x Olympic Marathon Silver medalist, 4x Boston Marathon winner and 6x Philadelphia Distance Classic winner), all spoke about some of their experiences.

It was great hearing their stories and I only hope one day I can be even remotely as good as they were/are. Catherine and Ryan are both running in the Philadelphia Distance Classic tomorrow morning and are the favorites to win it. It's a flat and fast course (consisting largely of the Schuykill Loop) that puts out a lot of record times.

Despite that interesting discussion, the highlight of the weekend came at the beginning of this morning's run. As I was about to start, the Kenyans ran by me along boathouse row. I'm pretty sure it was them anyways. It was 3 male runners and 2 female runners. They were definitely elite distance runners from Africa. I'm pretty sure it was Catherine, her talented brother and a couple other good Kenyan teammates.

When they passed me, I was walking, but about to start my run. I only planned a half mile run out on Kelly Drive and back, before doing the loop. I started off and ran hard. They were actually running relatively slow pace (by their standards anyways). It took some work, but I caught up and ran right behind them for about half a mile. They would've dropped me shortly at this pace though.

I thought about following them for awhile, but I decided that it was too early in the run to change my route. Too bad they didn't pass me after a few miles. I might've tried to hang with them. One thing that I noticed is that they were all heavily dressed for the weather. They had jackets and tights on, when it's still shorts and T-shirt running weather. I ended up reading a question and answer article about Catherine and the author commented that they seem to overdress when training. Typically, you want to dress like it's 20 degrees cooler than it is.

It's interesting because the Kenyans actually live in a house owned by their agent in Norristown. They train in Valley Forge Park. I might have to venture up there a few times and see if I can find them. Maybe I can join them again. I was really surprised how skinny legged the one guy was. I expect them to be thin, but still have some obvious power to their legs.

Anyways, on to my run. Their quick pace helped me through the first mile. I went out nice and felt very good as I headed through West River Drive. Since the drive was closed to cars, I ran on the road. The temperature was perfect, although there was definitely a strong head wind at times.

As I was running by, I noticed that there were still markers for miles 11 and 12 of the Philadelphia Marathon. Sometimes it gets annoying because there are markers everywhere for all the various runs throughout the year. They'd be helpful if all the races started at the same spot. The marathon ones will be useful though as I continue on with my training. I'm surprised that they are still there. They must be from last year, because they are faded. Unless someone painted a rough outline. I'll have to see if I can find the ones on the other side of the river too.

I felt very strong thoughout the first half. I even decided to concentrate on pushing the pace a little more as I hit the 30 minute mark. I planned to run faster for the next five minutes. That pace wasn't too hard, so I kept it up.

I felt good at Falls Bridge and on the way back. I knew I was making some nice time. I started to work on running segment by segment again and that was a big help. I saw a young girl running up ahead about a quarter mile and worked to catch her. I did so within the next mile.

I continued to push on as I hit the trail portion of Kelly Drive. It wasn't nearly the pace and effort of Wednesday's run. It was somewhere between comfortable and hard. My legs started dieing a little and I just backed off ever so slightly.

I stayed focused though and watched my times closely. As it became evident that I might be able to break an 8 minute pace, I really went for it. I went up the hill by the Art Museum strong and finished at nearly a sprint, to come in under 8 minutes.

I'm really impressed with how fast I am now as I'm approaching the half marathon. I feel very smooth and fresh. All the hill work that I've done in the past week has been huge. Running only 4 days a week, is giving me a lot of recovery too. Just a few months ago, an 8 minute 5K race pace wasn't easy. Now I'm cruising 10 miles at that rate on a training run.

This has easily been the best week of training I've had thus far. There's still plenty of room for improvement though and I have a long way yet until the marathon. I know not every week will be as good as this one, but hopefully there will be plenty of great weeks ahead. For awhile, I felt slow and stuck in a rut, but not anymore.

One nice thing about running for so long is that you can analyze things. I've done a very good job of relaxing my face now when I run. I concentrate on doing so and that's a big help. Today, I really noticed how stiff my shoulders still are though. It made my arms sore. I tried to relax them, but it wasn't easy to do. I found that by swinging my arms a little more, rather than being so stiff, did help. It's something that I have to work on. I'm probably wasting some energy by being so tense.

Tomorrow, I'm getting up extra early to watch the Kenyans and Hall in the Philadelphia Distance Run. First, I'm going to ride my bike for an hour though. I'm still not sure of my plan for this week. I might just keep it similar to this past week. I would like to add some more actual hilly runs though. Now would be a perfect time to start to taper for the half marathon, but I'm not going to do it because the marathon is my main focus. The half is just a fast training run.

I'm thrilled with my progress so far. It's amazing where I've come from in just a few short months. I just adapt to distance running so well I guess. As long as I can stay healthy, it'll be a great final two months heading into the marathon and hopefully even brighter years to come.

10 miles - 1:19:08 (7:55 pace)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Uphill Swing

Today was an easy 4 mile run followed by some hill sprints. I got a late start because I was up late reading a fascinating running book. I ran out along West River Drive to the end of the first parking lot and back.

Early on, I felt great. I took it easy and had no lingering effects of the tough run yesterday. It was a bit windy early on, but once I got warmed up, it actually had a nice cooling affect.

I was able to coast to the turnaround point thanks to the lack of runners around. Again, I only passed two runners going the opposite direction in the entire 4 mile leg. As it wore on, my legs did get a bit tired, even with the slow pace. I still didn't feel too bad at the end though.

I then ran some short hill sprints up the hill behind the Art Museum. I added on the short steep segment at the end. I ran 4 repeats of the hills. I actually had to rotate from one path to another a few times to avoid people who were walking. It was a great workout. I thought I was pushing pretty hard, but actually could've gone faster. That became evident as I finished the last one very fast.

As I sit around, my legs still are feeling good, even after a hard week. Tomorrow's rest should help even more. My groin area is a little sore right now, but hopefully that will go away. It doesn't bother me when I run.

I read an entire 275 page book about a group of remote Indians in Mexico that run all the time and can be the top ultramarathoners. Right now, I'm focused on the marathon, but I'm strongly considering longer races in the future. I'd have to learn a lot about running like that though, particularly because it's usually through trails. It seems like a fascinating challenge.

Tomorrow will be rest, with a nice 10 miler on Saturday morning. I'm actually still not sure where I'll run that one. Probably the river loop with some add ons, but we shall see. Perhaps I'll run the part of the marathon course that I haven't tackled yet through Fairmount Park near the zoo.

4 miles - 33:40 (8:25 pace)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Exhilarating Run

Today, I planned a good seven mile run along Kelly Drive. Things didn't go as planned, but it wound up being my best workout in 9 years. The trouble started when I got to Lloyd Hall and the bathrooms were locked. I didn't have go immediately, so I ran to the next port-a-john.

This allowed me the opportunity to go out much harder than I otherwise would've. I started just behind a fast women and followed her through this portion of the run. I didn't want to push to try to catch up so early on though. My legs felt amazingly fast, possibly from the hill sprints the day before.

Right before the bathroom, I caught a slow runner. I went to the bathroom, but it had no lock. I decided to run to the next one which was near the grandstands. This allowed me to once again kick it into high gear. I felt so strong and was amazed. Even the short break was a big help.

I stopped and the next bathroom and finally had success. Right as I stepped out, the slow runner I had passed earlier had now caught up. I quickly passed him and was disappointed when I found the fast women stretching up ahead. I wanted to try to catch her.

I didn't feel anywhere near as good after the break as I had before it. I powered along though and continued to stay relaxed and tried to keep my form good. I worked harder as I got to the turnaround point, knowing that I'd relax after that point. To my surprise, I hit the turnaround at a blazing pace. Obviously the resting portions of the workout helped me stay strong.

After the turnaround, I started to feel very sluggish though. I knew I'd make it back, but would be sputtering along as I finish. I decided after about half a mile that I would take a two minute walk break to recover. My legs were feeling it when I did this. I blame the hill sprints for my early leg strength and also for being dead at this point.

The walk break didn't fully recover my legs, but it was a relief as I began to step my run up a notch. I knew it would be a long road back if I didn't concentrate on segments. I first focused on making it to the St. Joe's Prep rowhouse. After going hard and making it there, I set my sights on the grandstand. Following that, I concentrated on the gravel path and then finally boathouse row.

My legs were hurting a little and my breathing was hard, but this segmental approach was a huge help to keep going strong. I had a side stitch just after the turnaround, but I held it off through the last couple miles.

On the gravel path, I passed two runners (one male and one female). I made sure to leave them in my dust. I finished very strong and at a hard rate. I ended up under an 8:00 pace. Obviously the breaks helped, but I even counted the 2 two minutes of walking time on the way back. I went out and came back at nearly the same pace.

The weather wasn't perfect, but close to it. It was cloudy and cool. The only problem I encountered was the wind on the way out. It wasn't killer, but bothersome. It won't be long though before I'll be battling fierce winds out there.

I've run hard to date, but nothing this hard since I came back to running. I actually had forgot what it's like to run like this. I need to try to incorporate a run of this nature into my workouts every week. I forgot how energizing and exhilarating a run like this can be. It pumped me up for the rest of the day. I actually was so tired that I slept most of the morning when I got back. I feel very good now though and I'm not too sore.

I now feel like I really know where this training is going. I want to run easy on Tuesdays and Thursdays with hill sprints afterwards. Wednesdays, I'm going to really push it up like I did today. This will work well because it's the second longest run of the week. Saturday's run will be a moderate paced weekly long run. The two full days off should still give me ample recovery time each week. This format should make me strong for the half marathon and marathon to follow.

Tomorrow will be an easy four mile run followed by some hill sprints. To make sure it is easy and not competitive, I'm going to run on West River Drive. It should be a nice way to end these three straight days of running. Hopefully, I won't be too worn down by the end of them

I can see the half marathon just over the horizon and I can't wait. I checked out a profile of the course with elevation changes and made my plan for attack. The middle of the run has some hills, so I'll take it somewhat easy until after the that. During the flat final four miles, I'm really going to turn on the jets.

It's funny because it just dawned on me that I have yet to even run 26 miles in one week. The 25 that I ran last week was a high. I'm now looking for qaulity workouts from here on out since I don't have a lot of quantity in my runs. A fun road lies ahead!

7 miles - 54:43 (7:49 pace)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hill Sprints

I elected to continue making Monday a rest day. I decided today would be an easy 3 miles, followed by some hill sprints to add some strength. I hadn't run the Schuykill Banks loop in awhile so I decided that it was time for that.

My quad felt kind of funny early on, but after I got going, that quickly went away. After about half a mile, I was surprised as a women went by me. I wisely didn't go with her that early on. I could've picked it up and battled with her, but I decided to keep it somewhat easy.

She actually still got me to push fairly hard though, as I didn't want to fall too far from her. I got to the turnaround about 50 yards behind her and was hoping she'd turnaround, but instead she got off the path. I was hoping to actually try to battle back on her in the second half. It's probably good that I didn't because I would've pushed too hard.

I was passed on the way back by another strong runner. I decided to let him go as well. I was shocked at how many fast runners seemed to be out this morning. Maybe everyone is tuning up for the half marathon in Philly this weekend. I passed a bunch of people that were flying in the opposite direction too.

It's really a fine line that I'm walking when it comes to running by the river. There are a lot of slower runners, but quite a few competitive ones too. That gets me running faster and at a better pace, which will help me in the race. I don't want to do that too frequently though or I could get injured. I need to get a happy balance. Today, it forced me to push harder, but still stay back and left something in the tank.

Today's pace wasn't easy, but it wasn't overly taxing either. After passing a runner towards the end, I sped up and left him in my dust. Following that, I slowed a bit towards the finish and felt comfortable.

After the run, I decided to do some hill sprints behind the Art Museum. There's a nice hill there and I prefer it over the steps in the front. After the hills killed me on Saturday's long run, I decided that I need to incorporate more hill work. I was kind of thinking about that lately anyways. Saturday just brought it to the forefront.

The hill is about a hundred meters long and not too steep. I did four repeats. It actually felt a bit easy, but I didn't want to overdo it on the first session. If I feel stronger when I do these again on Thursday, then I'll add one or two more.

All of the repeats went smoothly with me sprinting up the hill and then walking back down it. I wish I had chosen a steeper hill or that I really had a good option for a steeper hill. On the fourth and final one, I added a continuation of about 25 meters to the hill. This portion was much steeper and my legs felt it much more. I'll probably add that part to my repeats on Thursday as well.

A friend from high school is training for the marathon too and just developed an injury. I tried giving him some advice. Hopefully it'll help. I've been reading and learning so much about running lately. I think back to when I ran back in 2000 and really had no clue what I was doing. I had no training plan or anything. I just went out and ran. It feels good to be gathering more knowledge. I'm eager to learn even more about the sport.

Tomorrow will be the longest mid week workout to date. I'll be running 7 miles. I will likely do a Kelly Drive out and back. Hopefully I won't have lingering effects from the hill sprints. Right now, I feel pretty good. This weekend is a cutback week, with a long run of only 10 miles. I just looked at the calendar and can't believe that it'll be two weeks from Saturday that I'll be running the Lancaster Half Marathon. Time is sure flying!

3 miles - 23:35 (7:52 pace)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Humbling Run

Yesterday, I went for my weekly long run. I was camping with the family at a state park near Clinton, New Jersey. They had a triathalon there the next day. I decided to run nearly the entire route that they biked. I cut it a bit short and ran 13 miles instead of 14.

We drove the course the day before. Although it looked challenging, I'm not one to back down from such ventures. It included a very steep hill in the middle portion, but other than that was either flat or rolling hills.

The run was much tougher than I planned, but still very rewarding. It was a lovely setting with some beautiful old farm houses as well as some fine wooded areas. The weather wasn't so nice as it was cloudy and cool with a light mist to light rain throughout.

I started off at what I felt was a relatively easy pace. Getting off the main road in front of the park entrance seemed like an eternity. It was about 3 or 4 miles long and had very narrow shoulder. That made for some tense moments. I always find it more difficult to run when you don't have a good feel of where you are going too and that was certainly the case here.

After finally getting on to the second road, I was relieved. That was short lived though as the next road was a fairly busy two lane highway. It had a lot more shoulder, but a steep camber as well. That made running very uncomfortable. Add to it, that I was carrying a full water bottle and things weren't easy.

The water bottle made it tough as I found myself rarely moving the hand that was holding the bottle. Instead, all the work was being done by the other hand. I did switch the bottle hands about every five minutes. If I'm going to continue using the bottle, I'll have to get used to it and not throw off my form so much.

As I hit 4 miles or so, things got tough. I hadn't hit the steep part yet and I already felt exhausted. I eventually made it to the hill. I decided at that point to use a GU Energy Gel. Although it didn't work right away for the hilly portion, it did eventually help. I actually walked for a few minutes as I took the gel. That was big help to allow me some recovery time.

I took on the hill and it was very steep and pretty long. I pushed through it though and made it to the top, albeit at a slow pace. After that, it was a mixture of up and down segments. I felt good during some portion and dizzy and exhausted at other times. Overall, I did feel stronger after the energy bar though.

I eventually headed back to the main highway on the return home. On the way back, I was on this road much longer this time. It seemed like forever. I was wondering when I'd even hit the portion that I ran earlier. My parents gave me a bottled water during that segment and it was a big help as I was nearly out of gatorade.

I again walked for a couple minutes to drink the water. This portion was a fairly sharp dowhill. My legs and feet were really feeling it and becoming sore. The rest was much needed.

I continued back to the main road and lumbered back towards the campground. I eventually stopped and walked 5 more minutes for one final time. That was a big help because I was getting very sore. After that, I felt awesome coming into the final stretch. I pushed pretty hard down the narrow shoulder and finished strong.

I only ran 1 more mile this week than last week's run, but it took me an additional 20 minutes this time around. It wasn't a recording breaking day, but the challenge of the hills made it one to remember. It'll be a big boost to my training too.

I knew I could use more hill training and some more speedwork, but didn't appreciate how much I needed until this run. I'm going to incorporation some short hill sprints in after my workouts. The first one will probably be tomorrow (even though it's my rest day). A book I'm currently reading discusses the importance of hill workouts.

Even though I had to walk a little, it was so rewarding to finally finish. I had been complaining about how easy my training had been to that point. That workout was just what I needed. This week, it'll be back to more typical workouts with the additional of the short hill sprints. This will be a big help to me as the Lancaster Half Marathon should be pretty hilly.

I'm looking foward to another good week of running as I continue to get stronger. I am happy that I made it through this one and I feel much better for it.

13 miles - 2:04:06 (9:33 pace)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Finally Taking It Easy

Today was a nice and easy, rather uneventful 3 mile route. After pushing hard the last two days, I backed off today. It was actually a really good run as I got into a nice rhythm. Even though I was going slower, it finally wasn't too difficult to do so.

The weather was a bit chilly and early on I was regretting wearing a tank top. The temperature wasn't too bad, but the wind made it much worse. Once I settled into my run though, things got more comfortable.

I ran a nice out and back along West River Drive. I didn't see a single jogger running my direction, so that made it much easier. I didn't get into any competition. At one point though, a cyclist came up from behind pretty close to me and startled me. It was my fault though because I was in the center of the path and not paying attention.

The one thing I don't like about slow easy runs are how the pace feels. Even though I really wasn't going that much slower than normal, it felt like half speed. The short three mile run seemed to take forever. It's funny because I hate going too fast, but also can't stand going too slow either.

Tomorrow will be a much needed rest day. My legs weren't too sore today and they should be able to recover even better tomorrow. Saturday, I'll be camping near Clinton, New Jersey with my family. There is a 14 mile bike race there on Sunday. That makes an almost perfect route for my 13 mile run on Saturday. I'll try to follow that path. Hopefully on Sunday, I'll get in an hour of walking.

It feels good to keep plugging along on my marathon training. I can't believe how much is still left, but at the same time, it's going down quickly. The half will be here very soon and the marathon itself before I know it.

3 miles (26:18 - 8:46 pace)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Changing Paces

Today was a 6 mile run out along Kelly Drive and back. I went to just past the Strawberry Mansion Bridge before turning around. It was supposed to be easy, but of course that's hard for me.

I was very worn down before and during this run and really should've backed off. The usual soreness in the first half mile to a mile never went away. I didn't rest on Monday, as I walked a lot. Now I'm really paying for it. I definitely to get more rest on the usual rest on Friday.

Another sign that I am worn out, is how late I awoke. The alarm went off at 5:30, but I didn't get out of bed until 6:20. I didn't push the pace hard and tried to take it easy. The problem that arose came from running so late. There were a lot of runners out at that time and I ended up racing with a few of them.

Early on, someone went by me and I let him go. After awhile though, I got competitive. Every time that I was running by someone, I'd immediately pick up the pace after going by. This usually breaks them, if they have any desire to run harder.

I was really struggling on the way back and thought of quitting. I then talked myself into running short segments. This worked, but I ended up running hard through each segment. My legs still felt very tired too. I really pushed it to get by this guy just before the gravel path ended.

After that, I came across two people that were actually turning around just after I passed them. Even though they weren't running as far, I still felt the need to try to break them. I thought I did, but then noticed one continued to come up on me as I got through Boathouse Row. I did hold him at bay, but worked harder than I should've.

I eased up the hill, but then finished hard once again, passing another female. I really shouldn't have run so hard. It did feel good, but I need to back off now.

Tomorrow is an easy 3 mile run. To make sure it is easy, I'm going to run the less crowded West River Drive. The competition is nice on Kelly Drive, but I need to learn to be more patient with it. I need to give my body a break.

6 Miles - 48:15 (8:03 pace)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Water Bottle

Today was my first run of the week. I went out and did a 3 mile run which included the always tough Lemon Hill. My schedule got screwed up because I wanted to watch an auto race late last night. Therefore, I didn't wake up until about 10:30 AM and didn't start this run until after noon.

It started off great as a running group actually happened to start just ahead of me by the Art Museum. They set a nice pace and I just followed right along for quite awhile. After a nice early downhill, it was mostly the difficult uphill portions of Lemon Hill through the rest of the first mile.

I pushed fairly hard on these parts. I brought my new hand held water bottle with me, so that made it interesting. It's a little uncomfortable, but not too bad actually. It'll take some getting used to, but I'll definitely start using it on the long runs. I stepped in a steep hole in the grass at the bottom of Lemon Hill. I'm lucky I didn't get injured.

The temperature was only about 70 degrees, but felt pretty hot. I'm not used to midday runs. I felt kind of sluggish. It was supposed to be raining at that point, but it wasn't.

I battled on and ran pretty hard. After running back from Lemon Hill, I came to the stop light to cross Kelly Drive near Boathouse Row. I timed it really bad and ended up spending probably close to 30 seconds there waiting for the light to change. I did keep my watching going and it certainly cost me quite a bit of time.

The route then went to the Girard Avenue Bridge and back to the end of Boathouse Row. I continued to push myself through this flat portion. I finished pretty strong and was out of breath at the finish. It was a great run though.

Tomorrow, I'll probably just do a 6 mile out and back on Kelly Drive. I'll be so well trained for this portion of the marathon when it comes around. I'm not sure if the road versus the pedestrain path will be a hug difference. I guess we'll see on that day. Tomorrow is back to the normal time schedule too.

3 Miles - 24:01 (8:00 pace)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Keep Battling

Today was another good simulation for the marathon. I essentially ran the final 12 miles of it, with only a few minor exceptions. One of those exceptions was that I didn't run on roads. I ran an out and back on Kelly Drive through to Cotton Street in Manayuak and back.

I went out well and felt very good early on. Starting off downhill at the Art Museum really helps to get a nice pace going. That's exactly what happened. I didn't push myself too hard, but instead concentrated on running nice and smooth.

After Falls Bridge, things got interesting. Shortly after that point, it turns to sidewalks. The road is narrow, so running on the sidewalks is a must. I'm not sure if it was a result of running on a different surface, but I started getting disoriented. I eventually made it to the turnaround, but wondered how I'd make it the full 6 miles back.

On the way back, I ran on the side of the roads in Manayuak where I could. That sort of helped, but I still didn't feel well. I just decided to see if the surfaces were the issue. I figured if I got back on to the usual path and still didn't feel well, then I could walk.

Once back on the Drive, I started to feel much better (especially when getting in shade). I actually took it pretty easy for the next couple miles. I had a couple runners go by me, but wisely chose not to try to go with them. I hadn't drank any water, so I told myself I'd just run to the water foundation. I actually still felt very good when I got there, so I just kept going.

I had read that a lot of people make it through multiple miles by telling themselves, "just one more mile to go" over and over. I did that and it really worked. I finished the run very strong. As I got to the uphill before the Art Museum, I came across a women running at a nice pace. I followed her up most of the hill, before throwing on my patented finishing kick. I blew by her and finished strong, although tired.

I didn't drink any water and that might've been some of the reason for the disorientation. I did work on breathing better too, so that might've worked as well. I bought a hand held water bottle and need to try it out this week. I didn't want to do that on such a long run. I'll do it on a short run, possibly on Tuesday.

I didn't eat an energy gels either. Rather than eating them before long runs, I'm only going to use them during runs from now on. I think they might've been contributing to my bathroom problems. I didn't have any bathroom issues this time.

I didn't feel that I pushed hard in the second half, although the last two miles were pretty strong. However, I'm pretty sure I was faster in the second half of the run. That was quite surprising because I thought I slowed down.

I am very happy with my progress thus far. I feel like I'm already good to go for the half marathon. I still have 3 weeks before it too. I still would like to improve my speed some though.

Tomorrow is a scheduled cross training day. I'm going to count walking at the AMA Motorcycle race as cross training. I'll definitely be walking for over an hour. I actually did that today as well. I'm sore, but it's a refreshing soreness.

12 miles - 1:41:37 (8:28 pace)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

It's Never Easy

Today was supposed to be an easy 3 mile run after a hard day yesterday. I did run it nice and slow, but for me, I find that harder. I felt as sore as I have in awhile. My feet were especially sore early on after injuring them during sprints yesterday.

I ran the Blue Eagle 5K route. I forgot the short additional loop on the way out. I rarely run that part of the route, so I often forget that. I slept in a little so the sun was in my eyes at some points. The weather was actually cool though.

I added on some distance at the end when I got to the elementary school. I had to run around some cars as school was just starting.

All in all, it was a productive week. I ran well back home, including some tough hills and a couple sprints. I am really looking forward to the 12 mile run on Saturday. I'm going to simulate a lot of the end of the marathon as I'll be running to Manayunk and back.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Red Bridge

I set out for a fairly long mid week run early this morning. I ran 6 miles. I did the old Red Bridge loop from my high school days. It includes the crazy hill on the Schoeneck route, plus another couple miles of ascending and descending.

The one nice thing about the huge hill is that it's in the beginning of the run. You get about a half mile to warm and then boom you hit it. That means you aren't tired. You'd think the hill would be a problem, but I've always found it relatively easy. The only exceptions have been when I've run it during extreme heat or high winds. I guess I'm just made to run hills. Even though I don't run them much anymore, they still don't give me a lot of trouble.

One of the funnier things along the route occurred early on. Before I ran up the hill, I noticed one of those portable speed detectors. I decided to run in the middle of the road, but it wouldn't register a speed for me. I guess it doesn't go that low.

The top of the hill was a bit windy. That's all that really bothered me from the hill. After that, I encountered a lot of bright sunlight right in my face. I couldn't even see the cars for a couple moments. Luckily, that went away pretty quickly.

After getting to the top of the hill, it's relatively flat for about half a mile. Then there's a crazy downhill section. I usually like to cruise downhill and let gravity do all the work. At the steepest part, I actually had to slow myself down though.

After that was the hard part. It's another big uphill section. The difference between this one and the first one is that this one is longer and not as steep. I really sputtered up this hill and appreciated how much the first hill had actually taken out of me. I had very dead legs. I think some birds above sensed it to because they started making noise. They were probably circling too.

I eventually made it up the hill. As they say, what goes up must come down. That's the case here as a long downhill follows. That allowed for me to relax and recover. It's amazing how much you can recover with some downhill sections, provided you don't go too fast.

Following that, I pushed it through the final stretch around the high school. That included a short but steep uphill section. I finished right in front of the school as many of the students were walking to class. All in all, it was a good run.

I've really been eager to do some other stuff. Since I was feeling good this evening, I decided to run some sprints on the soccer field at my old elementary school. I sprinted the length of the field, concentrating on form. I then walked back as my recovery. Initially, I planned on 10 of these. That didn't do too much though so I extended it to 15. I did run two of them barefoot and the rough surface actually made my foot hurt. I won't do that again.

I'll throw some ice on my foot and hopefully it'll be fine come tomorrow. Tomorrow will probably be an easy day. I think I'm going to run the Blue Eagle 5K loop again. Then I'm headed back to my apartment.

6 miles - 51:38 (8:36 pace)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Chilly Morning

I decided to run back home at the parents house for a couple days. I'm trying to keep my runs different and therefore relatively fresh. I don't want to get tired of them before the marathon itself.

Today, I ran around some new houses on the opposite of the elementary school from my parents house. It was incredibly cold. I really hate running in the cold. Mainly because I can't stand the uncomfortable feeling early on. Just walking over there made my hands ice cold in the 49 degree weather.

I began running at about 6:15. I probably should've started later with the cold weather. It took most of the run until I warmed up. I was blowing on my hands quite often. I still went out in a short sleeve shirt and shorts. I wanted to add a long sleeve shirt, but couldn't find one here.

The neighborhood has a bunch of dead end roads so I just had to run to the end of those and back. I encountered a lot of middle school/high school kids that were waiting for the bus on their way back. Overall, the route was quite boring and dull.

I ran through the neighborhood at what I thought was a decent pace. I didn't push much, but thought my time would be better, especially without the heat. I ran behind the school and finished in my parents neighborhood. The course was actually disappointing in that it had no hills. I probably won't run there again until they extend the neighborhood more.

I've been reading a lot lately. I read a book about the first 100 years of the Boston Marathon. I also got through Running Times magazine. This all in the course of two days. I love reading about running right now and I'm trying to soak up everything I can. Reading about so many successful runners is inspiring me.

I really am eager to run and look forward to every day's route. I can't wait to get out the door in the morning. That's obviously a good sign that I'm training well. It will certainly get be through my first marathon. I just feel that with so much time on my hands right now, I should be doing more. I'm thinking more and more about adding an easy bike ride or two in the evenings. That won't stress legs, but will add strength. Maybe I should just stay with the current program until at the least the halfway point and then see how I feel. It just seems too easy right now.

Tomorrow, I'm going to do the old Red Bridge run that I did once or twice in high school. It goes up the huge hill of the Schoeneck route, but adds another loop. That should be a nice and difficult 6 mile mid week run. Even if I run them differently, I definitely should focus just as much on the easy 3 mile days like today. It's hard not to focus on the longer runs though, especially the weekend ones. I probably shouldn't even look at the runs beyond the next one on the schedule.

3.12 miles - 25:34 (8:12 pace)