Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Health Update (Pre Surgery)

It was May of 2010 and everything was going well for me.  Although my job at a running store didn’t pay much, I was enjoying it.  After getting back into running about a year earlier, I was hooked.  I just finished my second marathon of the year and improved by over a half hour from my first marathon.  I finished that race about three and a half minutes off of the Boston qualifying standard.  I was well on my way to hitting that mark in the upcoming fall marathon.  Everything was rosy.

That’s right when everything went downhill.  Almost immediately after the marathon (actually the night before I think I had the first symptom), I started having health problems.  I had some soreness in my behind.  It was discovered that I had a fistula (which is basically a tunnel between tissues or organs).  I was on antibiotics and other treatments, but nothing worked.  The pain became so unbearable throughout that summer.  Eventually, I had to have surgery in August.

After surgery, I thought that would be the end of my problems.  I was very wrong.  It was only the beginning.  At first, I thought I was just recovering slowly.  I felt terrible every day.  I spent almost every minute in bed and had an upset stomach almost daily as well.  I started losing weight when I began running a year earlier and it continued even while I was inactive.  At my worst, I weighed a mere 115 pounds.

Eventually, in October, I went to the doctor.  After being sent to a specialist and having some tested done, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease.  It is a digestive disorder that often shows itself with symptoms such as an upset stomach, diarrhea and weight loss.  I also developed another fistula.  This fistula caused me some pain, although not as much as the first one.

Eventually after taking some medications, I felt much better.  In the winter/spring of 2011 I gained weight and was up around 140 pounds.  I still had stomach problems from time to time, but thankfully much less frequently than the previous fall.  I was on several medications in the hope that it would help the fistula heal.  Major surgery would be the last resort if it didn’t heal.  In June, I went on Humira to treat the fistula.  That is a drug that I have to inject myself with once every two weeks (not a fun task).

June was a good time for me because I began to run again a month or so earlier.  I had lost all my fitness and struggled to run for even ten minutes straight.  It was just great to be able to run again.  Although the fistula wasn’t healed, it didn’t bother me while I ran.  It was the one time I felt normal.  Before and after a workout was another story, as I was often in pain or at least discomfort.  I ran a lot over the summer of 2011 and it was great.  It gave me a purpose again.  I try to build up my mileage gradually and just enjoy that I was getting better weekly (even though I was my slowest ever).  The two 5Ks I ran were my slowest ever, but it was great just to run again.  Thinking about all the pain I was through, even made it easy to run when I was falling apart at the end of the second 5K.  I figured some fatigue was no big deal compared to what I’ve been through.

When I got back into running several years ago, I was living in Philadelphia.  I trained alone.  I led group runs at the store that I worked at, but that was my only running partners at all.  This time around, I decided I would get more involved in the local running scene (back home in the Lehigh Valley).  I began running during the Finish Line Running Store Group runs on Tuesday nights.  Although the groups were usually small, I met some great people.  I also found the Breakfast Club Runners and made some more friends.  I ran a marathon relay with them and we even took second in the mixed division.  It was great to be back running, running strong and making friends.  The Lehigh Valley Road Runners began group runs in the fall and I volunteered to help as a group run leader on Thursday nights.  Again, the group was typically small, but I met some more great people and was being pushed pretty hard physically.

My fistula still had not healed at this point.  In September, my doctor suggested that it was time for surgery.  I told him I had a couple races coming up and I’d like to wait until they were over with first.  He said that was fine.  I wasn’t getting any worse, so I figured after a year of dealing with the fistula, what was another month or two.

Things started getting worse in October.  The fistula was causing me more pain and running started to become a chore.  I struggled to finish the group runs and couldn’t run up front in them anymore.  On October 22nd, I ran my first of the scheduled two races.  It was a five mile trail race and night and it was a blast.  I did fairly well too (although I didn’t pick up an award).  That race ended up being the last time I ran.  It was just too difficult to do any more.

I told the doctor to forget about my last race on Thanksgiving Day and let’s go ahead with the surgery.  The surgery would be performed by both my doctor and a surgeon, so their schedules had to match.  That set me up for a surgery on December 12th.  It seemed like forever in my mind.  The only thing that even got me to this point it one piece was taking pain killers.

The last month plus has been horrible.  I’ve been in pain nearly every night.  I’ve lost more weight and now I’m back down to 120 pounds.  I lay in bed most of the day again.  I often have been eating only one meal a day, typically added chicken broth as a second meal.  I’ve been popping pain pills so often that I actually run out before I can get a refill.  I’m low again with a few days left until surgery.

Most people are looking forward to the Christmas holiday now.  I should be looking forward to that and my birthday on December 19th.  Instead, I’m looking forward to surgery on Monday the 12th.  That’s how sad my life has become.  Hopefully, surgery will be the start of the road back to normalcy.  That’s going to be a tough road too though.  This is a major surgery where part of my organ will be removed and then the remainder sewn back together.  It will be a lot of pain and I’ll be in the hospital for as much as 10 days.  My recovery depends on how long it’ll take until my system will accept solid foods again.  After I get home, it still will likely be tough to eat, my energy will probably be low for some time and I might have bathroom issues.  It may take two months or longer to get back to normal.  I’m just hoping for the best.

After surgery, I really want to work on improving my nutrition.  I was reading a book that a friend gave me last winter about someone who recovered from Crohn’s Disease (although they claim it is incurable, just treatable).  The author claims he was near death and tried everything possible to defeat Crohn’s.  Eventually, he found the solution by eating the Maker’s Diet.  That means to eat foods in accordance with the bible.  For example, no pork or shellfish should be consumed.  Whether it completely works for me or not, eating healthier and more organic should help some.  I definitely need to eat less processed foods.

I really wish I understood why this all happened to me and why the timing of it too.  It’s ironic that I drank excessively for years in my 20s and then quit completely almost a year before these problems occurred.  I didn’t eat healthy, but my diet had improved before these problems as well.  I was making great breakthroughs in my running and enjoying life like never before.  That seems so long ago that I almost can’t even remember what it is like to be a normal human being any more.

I’ve wrestled with the idea of why this happened.  I’m still not completely sure why God chose this path for me.  I do know that in the end it has and will make me a much stronger person.  I’m starting to think that perhaps, somehow I’ll tie together my running and Crohn’s for a good cause.  Maybe I’ll raise a lot of money through my running for Crohn’s.  I’m still not sure yet.  I know that I’ve always felt that I was destined for big things.  It sure doesn’t seem that way with where I’m at right now, but I haven’t given up on the idea.  I have so many big goals for myself to accomplish, many of them involving running.  I need to get back into shape again and qualify for Boston.  I’d love to win a marathon one day.  I also want to try my hand at the 50 and 100 mile distances.

I am grateful for the support that I’ve had from family and friends.  This certainly hasn’t been easy on my parents, having to take care of me for over a year and a half.  They thought their days of having me around the house were over.  They certainly never would’ve expected to have to take care of me again in this capacity.  They may not have handled everything as best that could (either have I), but they have been a great blessing to have by my side through all of this.  My friends, both old and new have offered encouragement as well and have been a big help too.  I’m lucky to have such a strong support system.  I could never get through this solely on my own.

As bad as I feel now, it still isn’t anywhere near as awful as last fall was.  Hopefully, that was rock bottom and I’m slowly climbing out of it.  If not, then I’ll just keep fighting and take whatever life throws at me until I get back where I want to be.  It’ll be a long road back no doubt and I need to be patient, but I’m willing to do that.  I look forward again to the day where I can stand around a room full of people again and think to myself, “I’m normal now, just like everyone else here.”  That  will be a great day.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Ghouls and Fools Trail Race

Tonight was an interesting trail race.  It was the Ghouls and Fools Trail Race at Mount Penn in Reading.  What made it so unique was that it was at night.  It was actually perfect racing weather at 7 PM.

I wanted to start towards the front anyway, but luckily someone at the start said it gets crowded early on.  I started in the first third and it wasn't too bad.  It was quite crowded out of the parking lot, but I managed to find a route around a lot of people.

The first few miles were definitely interesting.  It was a single track trail, so most of the time you had to just follow the runner in front of you.  It was my first time using the headlamp, but it worked out well.  You couldn't see much, so you had to rely on the runner in front to tell you any obstacles.  It wasn't uncommon to hear someone yell "log."

The crowded conditions allowed me to not go out too fast.  The single track sections also provided for recovery segments.  I tried to go hard where there was space and recover where there wasn't.  I definitely passed a lot more people than passed me.

After awhile things got strung out.  That was definitely better.  I was solid on the uphills, but as I suspected, I rocked the downhills.  I just flew down them and past other runners.  I followed a women at one point who was very good on them as well.  Eventually I passed her at a waterstop though.

It was up and down hills for a lot of the course.  There was a tough climb around three and a half miles though.  I recognized that it was the firetower.  I knew it would be a lot of downhill after that.  I was a bit beat though, so I didn't make up time as much as I hoped.

I knew one section looked familiar and sure enough it was the tough section that scared me during my run there a couple weeks ago.  I didn't bother me as much in the dark since I couldn't see anything.  We then came up on the pagoda.  It is lit up all red and is beautiful.  The view of the lights from Reading were amazing too.  I almost wanted to stop and look at it.

The final waterstop was at the pagoda.  I was starting to feel it at this point, so I looked to cruise.  One thing I didn't like was all the time we had to go on roads.  I lost time on those.  I made up time on technical sections.  One girl who eventually beat me, killed me on the roads, but I would end up passing her back on technical sections.  I guess I'm definitely meant for true trail running.

At one point, we actually had to run down a storm drain.  That was confusing and slowed me down.  The end had a very difficult rock section.  I thought we had another mile to go rather than just a short distance.  They said this race was supposed to be 6.5 miles or so, but I was barely pasted 5.5 miles.  I ended up walking up the rocks.  If I knew it was the finish, I would've ran up them a little and probably passed that girl.  Instead, I even got beat at a sprint to the line.  That's rare because I always win sprints at the line.

The race was fun and it was neat seeing all the lights around you.  I was just very frustrated that the distance wasn't close to advertised.  I wouldn't have saved so much in the last half mile.  All in all, I was definitely happy with the pace.  I just had a little more left.  I do wonder if starting up further would've helped a lot.  I think I would've finished higher since it was so tough to pass.  It was a good learning experience though.  I did finish 73rd out of several hundred runners.

5.66 miles - 54:25 (9:37 pace)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Missing Time

Things had been going well for me with running until the last week.  I ran with the LVRR group tonight, but it was my first run since Friday.  That's due to a number of circumstances.  My health has been the primary problem of late.  I seem to be getting worse and worse after the three hard weeks of training I put in.

I got up for my run last Saturday after little sleep.  My legs were sore, I was tired and it was windy.  I just hate running in the wind, especially for a long run.  As I sat at a stoplight, I asked myself why I was running with so many negative thoughts in my head.  I just decided it was a good time to skip a run.  I'm already pretty well trained anyway.

Monday was windy again and I was scheduled for speedwork.  I knew I wouldn't be able to hit my marks, so I decided I'd switch it up with Tuesday's easy workout.  The problem was that I was cat sitting again in the afternoon and I cramped up after a nap.  Once I cramp, my leg gets really sore and it is difficult to run for about 24 hours.  I thought about running in the evening, but by the time I looked outside, I realized it was getting too dark, so I skipped that day.

I should've run Tuesday morning.  I felt fine and in fact I usually do in the morning.  After eating soup for lunch though, I developed some bad heartburn.  I was having trouble breathing, it was so bad.  I skipped running entirely that day too.  Wednesday was my worst day yet.  I woke up with a mild stomach ache and it just got worse throughout the day.  It was so bad, that I couldn't even make it to the clubhouse to pickup the key.

Thankfully, I got a lot of sleep on Wednesday and into Thursday.  I was well rested for the group run.  There were only four of us, including the fast guy (I did get the clubhouse key then).  It was a bit chilly and windy.  I wasn't too up for a run, so I just ran at a slow pace with everyone else.

Just as frustrating was the fact that I couldn't get my GPS to work.  It was at full bars, but wouldn't start timing.  I guess the clouds created a problem.  My legs felt very fresh during the run.  I didn't seem to have a lot of energy and couldn't wait to get done actually.  The worst part though was that I was hurting and needed to use the bathroom.  I didn't want to though.  We went to the Fish Hatchery and back and then to the Robin Hood Bridge and back.  That's probably around 5 miles total.

I'm glad I'm rested for Saturday's night trail race in Reading.  I regret that I didn't get to run and try out my head lamp, but oh well.  I guess I'll learn on the fly.  I'm hoping I'll feel good and that it can be fun.  This week has basically been a taper.  I'm definitely ready for the race.

With my health seeming to get worse, I'm leaning towards having surgery early and skipping the Run for the Diamonds.  I'm starting to look forward to surgery more than the race and I think that is a sign to give up on the race.  The pain is just becoming too much and I think my training is now starting to cause harm too.  If I skip the race, I'll be able to get back to running sooner and start preparing for the spring marathon.  It's a decision I'll likely make soon.


Friday, October 14, 2011

A Little Better Easy Day

Today was another easy day.  As I've said before, I really don't enjoy these.  They are hard for me to focus.  I just usually can't wait until they are over.

This 5 miler on the Plainfield Rail Trail wasn't the most enjoyable, but it was better than most of my easy runs.  One of the main reasons for this is because I ran without looking at my watch as much as usual.  I peak at it way too often.

I started off by not even checking my watch until I hit .42 miles.  That's much longer than usual.  I looked at it a little more after that, but I still tried to just enjoy the run.  I just focused on getting to the halfway point.  I know that once I get there, I'll have to run the rest of the way back or at least walk it.  I sure I don't want to walk and take longer.

I turned around and decided to put my watch in my pocket.  That way I really wouldn't look at it.  I had passed a few walkers on the way out.  I decided that on the way back, I'd look at my watch after I passed this one lady.  She turned around too, so I waited a little longer to look at the watch.  It was about a mile back at that point.

I then pulled my watch out of my pocket and then looked at it more frequently.  I don't mind looking at it often in the final mile.  I'm close enough to the finish then.  My left ankle was bothering me, so I tried switching sides of the trail.  That seemed to help a little.

I focused on form throughout most of the run.  I didn't run harder, but my pace really picked up towards the end.  It was pretty fast.  The weather was a bit helpful from that aspect too.  It rained earlier and was quite windy.  It was nice and cool when there was a breeze, but it was still pretty humid when it wasn't.

I'll finish up this relatively easy week with a 10 mile run.  Hopefully I'll get some sleep and be able to run with the Breakfast Runners Club for a change.  They are running at Riverview Park.  It should be a good day regardless.

5 miles - 42:36 (8:31 pace)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Easing Back

It wasn't exactly a planned very easy week, but things are falling that way now.  I wasn't able to get out for my run on Wednesday and the group run this evening wasn't too difficult.  The plan on Wednesday changed to run at night to practice for my upcoming night race.  Health problems caused me to skip it though.  It was actually good because my body could use the rest after 3 tough weeks.

It was cloudy and drizzling when the group run started tonight.  There were only four of us, including three of us who are actually group run leaders.  I was the fastest one, so I knew the pace wouldn't be too hard.  I was kind of glad because I really didn't feel like pushing myself.

This time, we started at the clubhouse and ran west to Fish Hatchery and then looped to the Robin Hood Bridge and back.  The pace was nice and comfortable early on.  The other group leader that I run with was running right near maximum effort, so it was a good workout for him.

It actually seemed harder for me than it should've been.  I'm not sure why.  I think some of it might've been the soft footing of the wet trail.  My feet seemed to sink into the stone. 

I'm finding that I really love the big hill by the Fish Hatchery.  It wasn't too long, but it sure is steep.  I wanted to get a good workout on it, so I did go pretty hard up and down it.  I then waited for my training partner.  He stayed pretty close.

He did have to slow thanks to a side stitch shortly before the clubhouse.  I waited for him and eventually he told me to go ahead when we reached the clubhouse.  I couldn't finish the loop much faster at that point though.  I was in a groove and actually felt like I was working fairly hard.  Of course I could've gone faster, but there wasn't much point by then.  I was still getting a good workout.  I finished up with five miles, just past the clubhouse.

I'm just going to stick with the planned workouts for the rest of the week.  I'll take this easy week and hope it sets me up well for the race next weekend.  There's no need to overdo it.  My training is developing nicely at this point anyway.

I have an easy 5 miler tomorrow.  It'll likely be close by since I have to cat sit again tomorrow (like I did today).  Saturday's long run drops back to 10 miles.  Hopefully that will be with the Breakfast Club Runners.

5 miles - 44:15 (8:51 pace)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Switching to a Tempo Run

I ended up getting my tempo run in this morning that I planned on yesterday.  I got up earlier and was off and running before 10 AM.  The temperature was much better than yesterday too.  It wasn't as good as last Monday, but it was definitely comfortable.

I headed off on the Wilson Bike Path.  I had to make a bathroom stop very early on as well as getting held back at two of the road crossings by Easton High School.  It is a good thing that was during the warmup mile.  I ran fairly fast in the warmup to get my body ready for the tough four miles at tempo pace in the middle of the run.  In hindsight, I probably should've went out slower.

I was pretty smooth and fast in the first tempo mile.  I had to work harder than I would've liked it.  I just missed my planned tempo pace too.  I knew hitting a 7:20 pace for four miles would be difficult.  I just wanted to keep a comfortably hard pace, even if I didn't hit the time that I hoped for.

I felt decent in the second tempo mile, but again it was tough to go as fast as I hoped.  As I approached a mile and a half of tempo running, I began feeling like I was going to fall and apart and wondered how I'd be able to carry on for over two more hard miles.  Luckily, the end of the second tempo mile was downhill and I actually ran a 7:14. 

Once I finished that mile, I knew I had to turn around immediately.  I planned on running a little further before turning around, but I had already passed over Freemansburg Avenue and it really starts to go downhill after that.  Of course, the third tempo mile was tough.  I was going slightly uphill now and getting fatigued at the same time.  I just started to focus more on form and simply trying to get to the next mile.  I at least went under a 7:30 mile.

As I started the final tempo mile, I almost called it a day for the hard running.  I was thinking three miles would be good enough at that pace.  I actually started to slow briefly.  Then I told myself to just see what you have.  It is only one more mile.  I had to work to stay solid.  I just kept telling myself not to get sloppy with form.  I was slowed a bit at a road crossing and that threw me off in addition to costing me a few seconds.  I still went hard though and I'm satisfied with how I finished.

The start of my cool down mile was very slow as I tried to catch my breath.  I then got back on track.  I didn't feel like waiting around at one of the stop lights by Easton High, so I backtracked to finish up.  I checked out their cross country course afterward since I was heading to a meet there later in the day.

I didn't hit the pace I had hoped for.  I knew it would be tough.  Cooler weather might've helped, but even so, I'm probably just not that fast yet.  I can run intervals pretty fast, but holding it for mile after mile is tough.  It was still a good workout.  I need to make sure to get in a couple more tempo runs before my race.  They are definitely useful.  I might have to readjust my goals some.  A 7:15 pace at the Run for the Diamonds is probably more realistic than trying to run under 7:00.  The hill is the big X factor of course.  I do speedwork on flat surfaces, but I also am very good at running hills.

Tomorrow is the usual weekly progression run.  I'd like to make it on a trail to save my legs.  I'm hoping to go to the Lehigh Gap Nature Center and run.  We shall see.  It would be a big plus if I get up in the morning.

6 miles - 47:32 (7:55 pace)

Monday, October 10, 2011

What a Difference a Week Makes

Last week, the weather was so cool and perfect for a speed session.  Today, it was a complete 180.  It was awful.  It was hot and very humid as I headed out around noon.  I obviously should've got there much earlier.

I headed over to the Palmer Bike Path a few miles behind Walmart.  I have biked there, but never ran this area.  The plan was to run a tempo run, rather than the regular weekly speed intervals.  Since I'm running hard on Thursdays, but not shooting for actual tempo pace, I decided to switch up the early weekday speed session.

I started off okay, although my legs didn't feel very good.  They were great last week.  I headed north on the path briefly and then turned around.  I felt like I had to go to the bathroom and as I passed it I should've stopped.  I tried going just a few minutes earlier with no success.  I pressed on.

After a fast mile warmup, I started trying hit my target pace.  It was tough in the heat.  The real problem though was that I really had to go to the bathroom.  I ended up stopping less than .4 miles from the start of the tempo portion.  I walked back to the parking lot and used the restroom.  I then decided rather than trying to run hard, I'd just make it an easy day.

Getting back into the run wasn't too bad early on.  I passed a rock section that was very cool when combined with the Bushkill Creek on the other side of the path.  Being comfortable was only temporary though.  I soon headed into the sun and it started to get to me.  I even ran without a shirt the whole time too. 

There were quite a few people out on the path.  As I caught up to some, I realized I was already at the end of the trail.  It was disappointing because I thought it went farther down the road.  It was only about a mile and a half back to the start. 

I just kept focusing on short segments.  The heat was really destroying me.  Although I knew I'd finish, I was wondering how as I hit the three and a half mile mark.  The humidity was just brutal.  I'd run in worse conditions, but that was a few months ago.  This was terrible.  I concentrated on my form for awhile, but even that eventually fell off.

I picked it up a little in the final quarter mile.  It was just enough to complete the workout in under a 9 minute pace.  It was supposed to be an easy run, but the weather sure didn't make it easy.  I definitely need to get up earlier for key workouts.  Of course I didn't sleep well again or I might've.

Since I did the easy run today, I think I'll try the tempo run tomorrow.  I need to get up in the morning for the six miler.  It'll be cooler tomorrow too I guess.  I think I'll probably head to the Wilson Bike Path this time.  Even if I don't hit my times, I need to run at a fairly hard pace.

5 miles - 44:44 (8:57 pace)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Route 33 Boat Launch Triple Out and Back

I gave myself my biweekly Humira injection yesterday.  Sometimes that causes my muscles to be weak.  That was the case last night as my lower back was sore and I didn't sleep much.  Because of it, I missed the group run with the Breakfast Club Runners.

I still got out there by 10 AM though and I ran where they ran (at the Route 33 Boat Launch).  One thing that's nice about it is you can go in three directions, not just two.  I decided I would do just that and make it a run of three short out and backs for my 11 miles total.

I started off going east to Riverview Park and back.  It was nice and cool and this segment seemed to fly by.  I felt very good in the opening few miles.  By the time I arrived back at my car, it was about 4.25 miles into the run.  I stopped for a quick bathroom and Gatorade break (while keeping my watch running).

I wanted to do all these short out and backs so I could rehydrate.  After finishing the first segment, I headed north towards Freemansburg Avenue.  I knew this section was uphill and would be a bit tough.  I wanted a flat section first so that my legs could get warmed up.  The hill wasn't steep at all, instead it is a seemingly neverending gradual uphill.  After a few minutes, I looked down and saw I was already about two stories higher than where I started.  It didn't seem like it.

I wasn't sure how far I wanted to go, but I decided to run this segment in two miles each direction.  I was relieved to finally hit the turnaround and go gradually downhill.  The only problem was that shortly after I did that, I felt the urge to go to the bathroom.  I was forced to slow down, but eventually made it back down the hill.  The climb definitely had taken its toll.

The final segment was only about 2.5 miles total and west from the parking lot.  It is a dirt path right along the canal before turning into stone.  I thought it would save my legs, but it really didn't.  The uneven surface made it tough at times.  I kept on battling though. 

As I hit the final mile and turnaround point, my pace was a 9:02 overall.  I decided that I wanted to go under a 9 minute pace.  I worked really hard at picking up the pace and finishing strong.  I finished well under 9 minutes after the fine finish.  It was a relief to be done even though I was pretty sore.  An ice bath afterward was great as always.

Another solid week of training down.  I'm closing in on 40 miles a week now.  I'm very happy with my progress.  On Monday, it'll be back to the usual interval session.  I look forward to it after a much needed day of rest.

11 miles - 1:38:01 (8:55 pace)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Nockamixon Trail Run

This morning, I headed to Nockamixon State Park for an easy four mile trail run.  I've never run there before, but figured it would be nice and flat and an easy recovery for my legs after a hard run last night.

Things didn't start off too well.  I walked around for quite awhile near the trailhead trying to get a GPS signal.  Right as I was about to give up and head back to the car, I finally got one.  I started off on the trail.  The first mile was an adventure to say the least.  It was a little rocky, but not too bad.  Not too far into the run, I came to a creek crossing.  Usually these occur at a good place to cross, but this wasn't.  It was at least ankle deep with very few rocks.  I continued on another part of the trail, but that quickly ended and would've only made a short loop.

Even though I wasn't crazy about crossing so much water that early in the run.  I decided to do it.  It took me several minutes to find the best way across.  My feet still got completely soaked though.  All of that lead to a very slow first mile.

After that start, things got better.  The trail was a fun path through the woods with some tall grass from time to time.  Most of the time it was easy to follow the trail, but with so many leaves on the ground, it was tricky every now and then. 

With all the rain we've had, the ground is saturated everywhere.  I guess I should've realized that and expected all the mud that I encountered.  Some sections were very bad.  One time, I thought it was a stream, but it was actually the trail.  I love the mud though so I had fun dancing through it.  It was just tough to even see at times.

The trail was only supposed to be a 2.5 mile loop, but I had not even turned around yet and it was already over 2.5 miles on my watch.  After encountering some people with dogs, I found a dirt road.  I figured if vehicles went there, it must lead to a main road eventually.  It ended up going to the park maintenance building.  I then ended up coming out on the main road that runs along the northside of the park.  I ran on that road for about a mile.  I was worried that I'd have far to walk back to my starting point.  It turns out that I ended the run just before there then.

It was a good run and perfect for an easy recovery day.  Trails are almost always a blast, especially new ones.  Since it isn't too challenging, I won't head there too often, but I'll go from time to time.  It was pretty rough, just not tough.

Provided that I sleep well tonight, I'll be heading out for my 11 miler tomorrow night with the BCR.  We're meeting at the Route 33 boat launch.  That is very convenient for me.  I just wonder what direction we'll go.  Either way, I'll do an out and back with the group and then more on my own to complete the 11 miles.

4 miles - 44:38 (11:10 pace)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Tough Group Run

This evening was another very tough group run.  I pushed myself more than I have in awhile.  Initially, it didn't look like it would be a fast paced day.  Two of the slower regulars showed up and that was it.  We were chatting a lot though, so we didn't head out right away.  The fast guy from last week then showed.

When I first got there, there was a group of about 10 women that I never saw before waiting around.  I was thinking that it was odd to get that many new runners.  It turns out they were there for the upcoming women's 5K.  They had a group run of about 30 women show up.

We decided to run the full loop of the Parkway.  I never did that before.  We started off heading east and made sure to beat all the women to the Robin Hood Bridge.  The first mile wasn't too fast as it took my legs some time to get warmed up.  I was definitely pushing it though.

It was cool and cloudy and that made for a nice and fast pace.  The second mile was much faster.  I was cruising up and down the hills early on.  The fast guy seemed to have a little more trouble with those than me.  He could definitely blow by me on the straight stretches if he wanted though. 

As we hit the other side of the creek, we started to pass some of the women.  That naturally picked my pace up.  When we hit three miles, I told the guy that I didn't think I could keep the pace up and I'd have to slow a bit.  I really didn't slow much though. 

We ran along the north side of the creek and to the Fish Hatchery.  I'd never actually run that section before.  Little did I know, that we were about to encountered the steepest hill of the whole run.  Knowing that there were a few more decent size hills coming, I struggled up this one and saved some energy.  Of course, I flew down it though.  I always do.  I love going downhill.  That will definitely help me in Berwick.

We finally headed back, still at a good clip.  I was glad we weren't too far from the clubhouse.  I was surprised that my legs actually started to feel better.  They weren't that great early on, but really came around in the final couple miles.  I still conserved a bit for the hills to come.

The final two sets of hills weren't that bad.  They are a little steep, but actually very short compared to the one at the Fish Hatchery.  I'll have to run that one again.  That was fun.  I probably saved my legs more than I had to.  I could've pushed the pace even more in the final two miles.  I did start flying after the last downhill was over.  At that point, there was only about a half mile or less to go though.  I could've definitely went earlier and ran even faster.  I was still happy with my pace though.  It was certainly a good workout that challenged me.

By the time the run ended, it was really starting to get dark.  Pretty soon we'll have to start using headlamps for the run.  I'll have to remember to bring mine next week.  I don't think it would be too bad running there at night.  The terrain does vary a little though.  At times, it can even be frustrating while running in the light.  It seems like my feet lose their rhythm every so often.

Today was great and I'm glad I didn't run twice.  As long as this continues to be a hard workout for me, it can take the place of my tempo run.  It wasn't at my planned tempo pace, but considering the hills on this course, it was pretty fast. 

Tomorrow is an easy 4 miler with some hill sprints.  To try to save my legs, I'll probably go to Nockamixon and run.  I've been meaning to try the trails for awhile now.  I don't think they are too hilly either.  My dad is off and might boat too while I run.  Either a dip in the lake or another ice bath can hopefully help my legs recover.  They've taken a beating over the last three weeks.

6.12 - 47:18 (7:44 pace)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mount Penn

I decided to go somewhere different today.  Since I'm running Mount Penn in Reading for my night race in a few weeks, I took my training there.  I'd never been there before and didn't have a decent trail map with me, so I winged it.

I knew from a map that I had that there was a trail that sort of ran with Skyline Drive from the Pagoda.  There is a Pagoda at the top of the mountain and a beautiful view of Reading below.  I found the trail and started off on my run.  It was very tough early with some serious climbs.  I actually struggled with it and walked quite a bit.  It wasn't the rockiest trail I've been on, but there were still a lot of rocks.

What also made it tough was that there were a lot of old leaves there, hiding a lot of the rocks.  The trail markings weren't exactly great either.  There was no clear worn path to make it obvious.  I started following the lavender trail after a short distance.  With the rocks and the sloped terrain, I nearly fell a few times.  Finally, I just gave up after about a mile and headed back.  I found the actual trail through one section that I ran earlier.  It wasn't as steep as where I went through.  Plus, for some reason there was a bunch of trash in the woods, like a stroller.  That's such a shame.

When I got back to the Pagoda, I decided to head down the mountain on the road after running a short trail section.  I remembered seeing a sign for "bridal path" while driving around.  It was a little tough finding the blazed trails as I was driving around, so I wasn't sure where to run.  After a couple switchbacks on the road, I didn't see the one with the path, so I turned around and headed back up the mountain.

I wasn't feeling all that great anyway, so my goal was to at least get 3 of the 6 scheduled miles done.  On the way back up, I did find the "bridal path" along the road.  I'm not sure how I missed it on the way down.  It had a gate and everything.  It was good for about a half mile or so, but then it became too overgrown to run so I turned around to head back up the road.

By the time I got to my car, I was now approaching the 4 mile mark.  Right around there, it was a tough uphill section.  My legs and body were beat at this point.  I also didn't want to run too much further on the road.  I strongly debated quitting at mile 4, but decided to keep going.  I had been to the nearby fire tower and it looked like there might be some trails there.

Before I got to the fire tower, I came across a park for model airplanes.  There was a sign for the yellow blazed Ferndale Trail.  It said 2.6 miles long.  This was finally what I was looking for.  It was a very wide and well maintained trail.  I think it may have been a fire road.  It was pretty straight downhill and very fast.  There were a few rocks, but it wasn't too bad.  I'd imagine this is likely the path of the night trail race that is upcoming.  It is supposed to be on one of the main trails, probably so people don't get lost or hurt in the dark.  I cruised along downhill and felt so much better now that I was on the trail.

The trail crossed one road and became part of the red trail too.  One section seemed like it might get really muddy.  They built a nice stone type bridge over it.  Shortly after that, I turned around.  I had a mile left to go at that point.  This was supposed to be a progression run with the last 8 minutes hard and uphill.  It ended up working perfectly because after I turned around.  I was going uphill.  I didn't have a lot left, but I still went hard.  The only other problem was that I was running into the sun.  As it peaked through the trees, it made it hard to see the rocks on the ground.  I managed though.  I eventually got back on the road and finished up.

All in all it was a solid run.  It didn't start out so great, but it was saved by finding an excellent trail.  Now I'm more familiar with the area for next time.  I still didn't actually find where my race check-in is at though.  I have an idea now at least after looking at a map.  Since I couldn't find the trails very well while driving around, I almost skipped out on running there.  I'm glad I didn't though.  Exploring new areas is always enjoyable and I needed that after a boring Tuesday run.

Tomorrow is an AM tempo run and the group run in the evening.  I'm going to try to double up and do both this time.  I'm not sure where I'll do the tempo run at.  Probably somewhere flat.  Hopefully the group run won't be too tough.  I plan on a nice ice bath in between.  I'm surprised that my legs still haven't really adjusted to the hard work lately.  I think I am scheduled to back off a bit next week, so maybe that will help.

6 miles - 1:02:37 (10:26 pace)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

New Neighborhood Route

I had some trouble getting started on my run today.  I just really dislike easy days.  They seem like such a waste and they're hard to focus on.  Eventually I got out and ran the easy 5 miler though.

I didn't feel like going far, so I just ran in the other neighborhood.  I'm tired of the same old route, so I decided to change that up.  I ran in some of the new and old sections that I don't typically run in.  That definitely helped, but I didn't enjoy the run too much.  It was just nice not really knowing where I'd actually run to next since I had no set route.  I still knew how long I had though.

I went very easy and very slow throughout most of the run.  I didn't focus on form, so I was a bit sloppy.  My lower back got sore toward the end.  I should've tried to be smooth.

When I hit the out and back at the end of the run it was brutal.  The temperatures were cool, but what made it much worse was the head wind.  It was comfortable with no wind, but freezing when it was blowing in my face.  The only thing that got me through that stretch was knowing that it would be pleasant on the way back.

In that final mile, I finally focused on form.  I didn't run harder, but was much smoother.  My miles were typically around a 9:15, but the final one was 8:27.  I definitely need to keep solid form even on easy runs.  Otherwise, they feel much harder than they should.

I ate a heavy fast food lunch and even four hours later, I still didn't feel good.  I wouldn't have ate like that if I had an important workout.  I still need to eat better though.

I definitely need to find something to make easy days better.  They just seem so useless and such a hassle.  I need to find better places to run them at.  I probably need to stick to more trails when I don't really feel like running.

Tomorrow is a progression run with the last 8 minutes hard and uphill if possible.  I have a little more time tomorrow and think I might head to Reading this time.  I certainly need to get to Mount Penn at some point.

5 miles - 45:26 (9:06 pace)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Ironton Rail Trail Intervals

The weather really changed over the weekend and continued on through today.  I had a speedwork session to complete and I opted to run the Ironton Rail Trail.  I'd never run there before.

I was a little unsure of what to wear for the run.  I wanted to wear my BCR singlet, but thought it might be too cold.  When I put a regular shirt on, it was too comfortable though, so I opted for the singlet and some arm sleeves to keep my arms warm.  This turned out to be the perfect attire for the cloudy run.

Even though I knew I was going to be cold early on, I could tell I'd warm up in the speed segment.  I also knew in the beginning that this was going to be a good run.  Thanks in part to the temperatures, I felt great during the warmup mile.  My legs were in excellent condition and it was nice to not be dripping down sweat for a change.

This trail was excellent.  It is a paved loop of about 5.5 miles.  There is an out and back option too if you want to go further.  I just stuck with the loop for this 6 miles speed session.  There aren't big hills, but this route isn't as flat as most typical rail trails.  It is also curved, so it isn't boring and straight.  What is really cool though is how they incorporated some of the history into it.  They have a white rail crossing sign that says "Ironton Rail Trail" as well as some other cool signage.  There's an old cement plant next to the parking lot too.  Farther down the road, there's a spot that says "future caboose location."  It was a nice place to run and I'll definitely be back.

My legs came in very well and I cruised along during the first interval.  Usually, I have to work a bit hard to hit my goal because my legs aren't where they need to be yet.  I just cruised along and came under the 7:20 goal.  Today, I concentrated more on just running a comfortably hard pace during the now 4 minute intervals.  I wasn't concerned with time, but I ended up having no problem hitting my times.

The second hard interval was even faster and again I wasn't working hard.  I was simply cruising along.  I concentrated on form as much as I could and tried to be smooth.  I never needed to push too much.  I was a little worried because I increased the pace from 7:30 to 7:20 and also increased the interval time to 4 minutes and the recovery time to 2 minutes.  Looking back, I shouldn't have changed all three.  It worked out anyway though.

The third interval was pretty good as well.  I didn't need too much recovery time between intervals.  The two minutes was fine.  Both the intervals and recovery times just seemed to float by.  I did start to get a little tired at the end of my third interval, but it was nothing too bad.

The fourth interval started uphill.  Early on, my watch read 8 minute pace for that interval.  So I started to push.  I really didn't have to though and when it was under 7 minute pace, I backed off a little more.  I finished up under that 7 minute pace.  During the recovery period, a cop drove on the path.  I'm glad it wasn't during the interval.

I was starting to tire by the fifth and final interval, but I felt good.  I pushed a bit, but still had quite a bit more left in the tank.  I probably would've had no problem running all the intervals under 7 minutes if I tried it.  I don't need to work too hard though.  I just was happy to accept that I was faster than planned.

As I said earlier, there weren't any big hills, but there was definitely some incline.  It was never hard, but it just seemed like I was always running uphill during this run.  Obviously that wasn't the case, but it sure felt that way. 

For once, I didn't mind running the cool down.  Maybe it was the scenic course and cool temperatures, but it didn't seem to take forever like it usually does.  I ended up running 1.2 miles as a cool down too, so it was longer than planned.  Today was such an excellent run and very encouraging.  Let's hope the cool weather is here to stay.  One thing is for sure.  Even if it isn't, I need to do speedwork in cooler weather (like early AM if needed).

Tomorrow is an easy recovery day.  I need to get to Reading to prepare for my upcoming night race soon.  I might hit the trails there tomorrow.  We shall see.

6 miles - 47:42 (7:57 pace)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

High School Out and Back

I didn't sleep well last night and I wasn't able to go to the bathroom this morning, so I skipped out on running with the Breakfast Club Runners.  I went out on my own a bit later on.  I decided to run to my old high school and back.  That's about the 10 miles I needed for the run.  I always enjoy this route because it is fun to run into town and then to the school where my running career started.  I also love the route because it has some hills, but isn't too challenging for a long run.

It was chilly out when I started.  I went with short sleeves and was fine once I got warmed up.  I could've probably went with the arm sleeves too though.  The start was annoying because the first two miles are boring and flat along Route 946.  The shoulder slopes there so I was running on the road when there was no traffic, but on the shoulder as cars went by.  This got kind of annoying and my right side started bothering me.  I was surprised to actually pass a woman on this stretch.  I usually don't see runners on that route.

Once I got to Gracedale, the route got better.  The shoulder is wider, smoother and flatter there.  The hill wasn't too tough and I only started have minor breathing trouble once I got right to the top.  Of course, part of that was that I was running at an easy pace early on.  I was just under 9 minutes per mile.  I wanted to start easy and finish strong.

I had to go to the bathroom, but was hoping that it would eventually go away.  That didn't happen so I went to the port-o-john at the new Middle School.  That ended up being just under 5 miles into the run.  The short stop caused me to slow my average pace.  Shortly after the stop, it hit exactly a 9 minute pace.  Once that happened, I decided to pick up my pace.

As I started up the hill near the high school on the way back, I saw a guy running on the sidewalk.  I put in some extra effort to get up the hill (although still not too hard) and I ended up passing that guy.  I can't imagine he enjoyed that too much.

I wasn't really working any harder during the second half of the run, but I worked on a smoother form and better turnover from my legs.  That made a big difference in my pace without causing me to breathe any harder.  My pace really picked up as I cruised down the hill by Gracedale.  I was gliding along.  Shortly after that, I saw a cop drive by.  I saw one earlier in the run too and if it was the same one, he must've thought I was crazy to still be running an hour later.

My legs seemed to feel a lot better in the second half the run when I picked up the pace.  I continued with the solid form and my pace continued to drop on the relatively flat final couple miles on Route 946.  After I hit 8 miles, my legs did get a little sore, but they held up throughout the run.  I just kept focusing on being smooth and it really worked.

I finished up strong and negative split the workout.  I'd love to be able to do that in a race someday.  Maybe if I do it more during training.  Even running by myself and on a hilly course, my pace was only 9 seconds per mile slower than the flat group run with the Breakfast Club Runners last week.

It is tough because I like running with run group, but they usually only run on rail trails and those are so boring.  I like the company, but hate the routes.  Today presented a nice change.  I'm a little sore now, but feel pretty good.  It is great to be able to run 10 miles again.  It wasn't too long ago that I struggled with 10 minutes of running.  I'm definitely making progress.

After another 35 mile week, tomorrow is another much needed off day.  I only get one of those a week now.  I took another ice bath today after the run, but there is still some minor soreness.  I need to wear something on my feet during those ice baths because my feet get so cold.  It is a love/hate relationship with ice baths.

Monday will be some speedwork intervals again.  I'm not sure where I'll run that at yet.  Mostly likely one of those boring rail trails though.  Maybe I'll try the Ironton Rail Trail.  I haven't run there yet.  Hopefully it'll be cooler than last week's interval session.

10 miles - 1:27:12 (8:43 pace)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Easy and Cool Morning Run

I finished up my weekday runs this week with an easy morning 4 miler at the Nor-Bath Trail.  I was hoping to get up earlier, but I ended up starting after 9.  That caused me to miss some of the Paul Short Invitational Cross Country meet at Lehigh.

With all the rain we had the other day, there was quite a bit of washout on the trail.  It was certainly runnable, but a lot of the gravel was gone.  Some maintenance crews were working on it. 

The weather was sunny and nice and cool for a change.  I didn't have to sweat so much.  I ran along at an easy pace.  I just mainly focused on my form.  My legs definitely weren't as strong as I would've liked to, but luckily it was an easy run.  I was able to get through it.  I ran a fairly consistent pace.

After the run, I did do my 8X8 second hill sprints.  I ran them on a hill in the other neighborhood.  The hill wasn't as steep as I thought though.  There are plenty of hills around, but not as many that are as steep as they seem when driving on them.  Last week's hill sprints were on more of an incline and thus a bit harder.

I took an ice bath after the run too.  This time I did it right.  My legs were freezing, as they should be.  Usually I put it too much water.  It is tough to sit there with a lot of ice though.  It was great for recovery.

Tomorrow is a 10 mile long run.  It'll be good to get into double digits.  I'm likely going to run in the AM with the Breakfast Club Runners.  This time, I think I'll run out and back with them and then do another out and back.  That way I don't run as much of it alone as I did last week.  It'll end up being a second straight 35 mile week.  I'm very happy where I'm at.

4.09 miles - 36:59 (9:03 pace)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Faster Group Run

I didn't feel good this morning.  My legs were sore.  I've just been doing too much running lately.  Because of that, I skipped my morning tempo run.  Instead, I just ran with the LVRR Group this evening.

It rained most of the day, but cleared up nicely for the run.  Thankfully, we had a couple faster guys running this week.  The fastest guy was interesting.  Another guy, I convinced to come during a chat on Wednesday.  We started off on a brisk pace towards Fish Hatchery Road.  It was a bit tough for me early, because I'm used to starting off slow and picking it up.  Plus, it started with an uphill early on.

After we hit the road, I decided that we should go a little longer and head up the trail past there.  We did that and then looped around back.  There was another serious climb by the Route 78 bridge.  We ended up passing some of the group that had turned around earlier.  Before we got to the clubhouse, we the guy from the chat dropped back a bit.

After getting to the clubhouse, we decided to go farther.  We crossed the bridge there and then looped around to the Robin Hood Bridge.  We then had to stay on the road because some of the path was partly flooded.  The route ended up being a little over 5.5 miles.

It was good having some people to talk with and to run faster with than the last couple weeks.  The group is growing too and that's great to see.  We are also getting repeat running.  I'm glad everyone is happy with how it is going so far.

This route ended up having a lot of hills.  The early hills seemed to take their toll on me.  I had more left it the tank, but I was quite worn out considering the pace wasn't that fast.  Maybe the miles I've been running lately have taken their toll.  Either way, it was good and productive effort.  I'm actually glad that I didn't run hard this morning.

Tomorrow is an easy run.  I have to get out there early because I am heading to Lehigh for the Paul Short Invitational.  It features some of the top colleges in the country and some of the best high schools around.  The girls HS race will be great with some of the top runners in the state competing.  I'm hoping to get some good photos.  I just wish my Nazareth team was in it.

5.59 miles - 47:39 (8:31 pace)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Saucon Rail Trail Tempo

Fall is definitely here as I witnessed along the Saucon Rail Trail today.  Leaves are falling all over the well groomed trail.  It is a cool place to run with some nice wooden fences along the trail.  It passes along and over streams as well as by some nice houses and a golf course.  They also kept some of the old signals up from the railroad days, so that's cool too.

I as I got my shoes on and got out of my car, it started to pour.  It looked like a passing shower, so I waited it out and sure enough it was gone in about 5 minutes.  I then headed out for the cloudy tempo run.  The plan was for 5 miles with the last 12 minutes at a moderate pace.

When I started off, I just concentrated on form and running tall.  That was my main focus throughout the run.  It allowed me to move along at a brisk pace.  I was breathing maybe a little harder then I should've been early on, but didn't feel like I was going too hard.  My legs felt slightly dead early on too, but they came around as well.

I just cruised along at a nice steady pace.  It was actually quite humid again once the rain lifted.  I saw two deer sitting in someone's yard along the trail.  I've seen plenty of deer before and plenty even sitting, but never in someone's yard.

When I hit the turn around a little after halfway, I took my shirt off.  That really cool me off for the tempo portion of the run.  I just kept focused on small segments.  I picked it up with a mile and a half to go.  Those last few minutes seemed to fly by.

Without overdoing it, my final mile was a speedy 7:27.  Both of the final two miles were under 8 minutes, thanks to the tempo pace.  I finished up right before a road crossing, so that worked out well.  I felt very good.

I thought about running some hill sprints, but my legs have been bothering me a bit lately.  It isn't a problem when I run, but they're sore afterward.  I might take an ice bath after tomorrow's tempo run.  My legs have really put on the mileage lately.

Tomorrow is an AM tempo run and a PM group run with the LVRR.  I think I'll likely head over to the Wilson Bike Path for the tempo run.  I've been trying to recruit more people to the group run.  I was on the LVRS chat today and might have got some new converts there.  We'll see how that turns out.  I actually like the easy pace that we've been running so far, but I want to get more people involved.

5 miles - 41:00 (8:12 pace)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Back to the Finish Line

It has been about a month since I last did a group run at the Finish Line Running Store.  I headed over there for today's run.  It was mostly new runners, including one of the guys from the Breakfast Club group.

We were doing the short loop to the nearby park and back.  It started off at a nice pace, but after we got going, I had to push the pace a little more.  It wasn't comfortable, but wasn't hard either.  I was ahead of the other couple guys.  I cruised around the park, hoping that I'd take the right route.  For all the times I've run there now, I still don't know exactly where I'm going.  On the way back, I turned sooner than we usually do.  I still got back to the same place, but it ended up being a different route.

I ended up getting to the store and it was only about 2.5 miles, so I decided to head down the street and add on a simple out and back.  The one guy was just behind me, so we ran together for the last 2 miles.  He is from the Palmerton area and runs trails, so we chatted some about the trails up there.  Eventually, I'll head there for a trail run.

Some how we ended up doing an out and back, but wound up about two streets over from where we started.  It was quite puzzling.  I have no idea how that happened.  It ended up being a nice run under 4.5 miles.  The guy from BCR did five miles and came back later.  We thought we might've lost him.

I was prepared this time with a singlet, but of course the weather wasn't bad.  It was hot earlier in the day, but actually became cloudy before the run.  Luckily, the rain held off until just after we finished up.  I forgot to run hill sprints after my run.  I'm terrible at remembering that.

Earlier in the day, I went to the Nazareth Cross Country meet.  Freedom's top runner won and the great Liberty girl ran away with the girl's race.  There was a scary moment though in the girls race.  One of the top runners, from Freedom, staggered to the finish and collapsed.  They were giving her water and pouring it over her too.  Hopefully she just cramped up and was dehydrated.  It wasn't pretty to watch.  It is something you might expect to see at the end of a marathon, but not really a 5K.  I guess she really pushed it.

Sometime, I might run the Nazareth Cross Country course at the Borough Park.  It has a nice hill and runs through some wooded trails.  I'm not crazy about running on the uneven surface of grass though, so we'll see.

Tomorrow, is a 5 mile progression run with the last 12 minutes being moderate.  I'd like to incorporate a hill at the end of it.  Not sure where I'll run yet though.  My leg has started bothering me again and I might need to stick to the trails.  I didn't notice it while running, but the high ankle on my left leg is sore now.  It was a problem back in the spring and forced me to take a week off.  Hopefully, I can treat it better this time around.

4.32 miles - 35:39 (8:15 pace)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Varying Speed Paces

This morning was another interval session.  I headed to the D&L Trail in Cementon for the 6 miler.  It was the same setup as last week (one mile warmup and cool down with 3 minutes at goal pace +30 seconds and 3 minutes active recovery), just a mile further.  This added one more interval to last week.

I was surprised at how well my legs felt early on.  They were kind of dead last week, but fresh at the start of this one.  I had to push a bit on the first interval, but it was good.  The second interval was very tough though.  I went harder than I wanted to in order to stay under the 7:30 pace.

Things seemed to start getting a little out of whack on the third interval.  I managed to get well under pace, but it took awhile.  At one point, my watch went from over a 7:30 pace to under a 7:15 almost instantly.  I guess maybe it was missing signals.

After the third interval, I recovered for a couple minutes and then turned around.  The problems with the GPS were more of the same on the 4th and 5th intervals.  I felt like I was running with about the same effort for both, but after 45 seconds, interval 4 was barely under a 9 minute pace and interval 5 was under a 6 minute pace.  There is no way I was running that fast or that slow in either.  Obviously, the paces get more accurate as you run farther, but this was messing me up.  Even with the crazy slow start to the 4th interval, I finished with a 7:34 pace.  The 5th and 6th intervals were both under 7 minute pace.

I was really tiring by that final interval (the 6th).  I was really battling the heat and humidity.  It was rough.  There wasn't much shaded either.  Time seemed to slow down, although it seemed to do this during the active recovery segments as well, so that was nice.

Overall, I'm very happy with the effort.  I think from now on, I have to be less concerned about the interval pace.  I just need to run steady and hard.  I don't want to keep changing my paces as much as I did today.  I'll use the watch as a guide, but not the be all end all.

My legs aren't too sore, but my back did bother me a bit while sitting down.  I'll likely run with the Finish Line Group tomorrow evening.  Hopefully that will be an easy run.  Even if it isn't, I have quite a bit of time to recover from today's run.

6 miles - 50:47 (8:28 pace)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Berwick Distance

I ran my long run this morning with the Breakfast Club Runners.  We ran at the Plainfield Rail Trail.  Most people were only doing about six miles, but I ran 9 miles.  That's the furthest I've done so far since I've come back to running.  Since I missed my 8 miler last week, 7 miles had actually been my previous long.  It is also the same distance as my Thanksgiving Day race in Berwick.

It was good because two of the girls from my relay team were there.  I ran with them for 3 miles until they turned around.  They were running 12 miles and had already run 6 of them.  There were also a few more people in that pack as well.  I think we had 7 people total.

The pace was perfect.  At first, it didn't actually seem fast enough and I considering going ahead.  I looked at my watch and thought it was slow, but realized I just read my watch wrong.  We were running under 8:30 pace.  That's ideal for where I'm at now.

The trail was wet and full of leaves, but thankfully the weather was good.  It was very comfortable.  There were a lot of black walnuts on the path and avoiding them became a bit of a pain.  Overall, it was a good day though.

My legs were definitely a bit dead from all the miles and consecutive days that I ran this week.  When the girls left me, I slowed my pace.  I did still stay under a 9 minute pace throughout the run though.  I tried to concentrate on form and that really helped.  Running tall sure does make things easier.

I was actually struggling and relieved when I hit the turnaround.  Just before that, I passed a group that looked like middle schoolers.  I was hoping to catch them, but they stopped right away.  Most of the run was uneventful.  With less than three miles to go, I hit somewhat of an uphill portion.  That became a little tough.  With two miles left, my IT band acted up a bit.  It never got too bad though.

The trail is basically flat, but there is definitely a slight incline at spots.  It is very noticeable on a long run like this when you are tired.  Even slight uphills can be tough, while downhill parts seem cake.  Most of the change in slope is so minor that it isn't even visually noticeable.

I just kept focusing on each mile at a time as I got toward the end.  I knew the last two would be pretty tough and they were.  With about a mile and a half to go, they was a noticeable hill and I struggled some through that.  I never fell off the wagon though.  My last mile was actually among my fastest of the run.  I was happy that I wasn't too sore afterward.  It was better than I expected.  I did still take an ice bath at home though.  I was wearing grey shorts and my crotch area and behind were noticeably sweaty.  I'll have to make a note not to wear those again for a group run.

After the run, I went over to the middle school and watched a 5K.  A few of the Breakfast Club Runners were in it, so I took some pictures too.  I debated running in it, but just wanted to run my long run.  Too bad too, because it wasn't very fast.  The winner was just over 18 minutes and only 7 people broke 20 minutes.  I'm sure I could've placed, but I'm not looking to collect more hardware.  I just like running races in my hometown, so that really would've been the reason to run it.

Watching the race was a good recovery.  Better than sitting there stiff at breakfast would've been.  Tomorrow is a much needed off day after running 6 days this week (7 runs).  Monday is back into the groove with some speedwork.  Not sure where I'll run that at yet.

9 miles - 1:17:11 (8:35 pace)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Easy Rain

I went out and got my easy 3 mile run done in the rain today.  I decided to start at Riverview Park and do an out and back.  When I started, it was a light drizzle so wearing just a shirt was a no brainer.  I did want to stay dry, so a jacket would've been nice, but it was just too humid as well.

Within the first mile, I came upon some deer right along the trail.  I really didn't even notice them until they were in the woods just a few feet from me.  I guess I was concentrating too much on running.

Most of the run was quite uneventful.  It has some decent scenery, but is really just flat and straight.  I was surprised that I nearly made it to the Route 33 boat launch after a mile and a half.  I didn't think it was that close.  The rain picked up quite a bit and it was steady.  My clothes eventually were soaked.

Again, I worked on form and trying to run tall.  That really seemed to help when I put in a fast final mile.  I certainly didn't put in any effort, but my time picked up.  I've become really good at starting off slow and upping the pace significantly without any effort.

When I biked this area a couple months ago, I remember coming across a steep hill near Riverview.  I found it and it was perfect for short hill sprints.  I haven't done those enough and need to get into a habit of incorporating them more.  My hill running has definitely strengthened me and made these sprints much easier.  I didn't feel it at all until the last two.  The seventh (and final one) did bother my right hamstring after I finished up.  I was glad I didn't have to do anymore.  I made sure to stretch the hamstring good too after the run.

Tomorrow is my long 9 miler.  I'm planning on running it with the Breakfast Club Runners on the Plainfield Rail Trail.  I'm also hoping to get over to the NMS and watch a 5K which some of the group is running in as well.

3 miles - 26:30 (8:50 pace) 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Running and Socializing

One of the nice things about running the LV, is that I'm starting to socialize more.  I'm making important connections down the road, especially since I want my life and career to be centered around running.  In addition to tonight's LVRR group run, we had a meet and greet social afterward.  It was good to meet a bunch of people with the same interests.  I was looking forward to meeting the women who runs the Lehigh Valley Running Scene website.  She's very involved in running around here and that's what I want to be too.  I don't normally socialize well, but with running as a common link it is much easier.

I also am pretty excited as I got one of the girls from the Finish Line running store to commit to running a nighttime trail run with me at Bear Creek.  I know some people that would be crazy enough to do it, but I'm not sure if any of them would be fast enough.  She's cute too, so that's a nice bonus.

On to the actual running.  Since the group run easy last week, I decided to run a fartlek in the morning.  My legs have been taking a pounding on the roads lately, so I decided to hit the trail.  Since I was planning on running hard, I opted for Jacobsburg.  That was a good decision.

I ran the typical loop starting at Henry's Woods and then added an out and back portion.  I actually did turn left instead of right on the uphill portion of the loop.  That made the loop a bit longer, but it came out at the same place.  It could just be me, but that uphill part seemed more challenging than the normal route.

The first fast segment was for four minutes.  I felt good and cruised along.  I recovered for four minutes as well.  The thing that was tough was the humidity.  The hills aren't the most difficult that I've run on, but the pace was faster than I usually run on hills, so it presented a challenge as well.

The second four minute segment was at a blazing 6:57 pace.  I didn't even realize I ran that fast.  Some of it was downhill if I recall correctly.  I wanted to do a minute shorter second recovery segment, but I didn't look at my watch close enough, so I ended up doing four minutes.  That segment might've been too fast as the third four minute segment just killed me.  I really slowed down.

After just a three minutes recovery, I closed it out this time with two minutes of fast running.  That was challenging, but felt good.  My legs felt great once I really starting going.  The break from the roads was a huge advantage to them as well.  I finished up with an easy half mile and felt good.

My biggest concern was the chafing problems that I had a day earlier.  Before I started the run, I was so sore from chafing that I wondered how I could even run.  The cream I put on definitely helped.  I actually felt good after a mile and had no more problems.  I had no issues with going to the bathroom in the morning, so that was great too.

Before the meet and greet, I ran with the run group.  A few of the women came from last week and we added another guy as well.  Our other run leader couldn't make it in time.  We ran the same route as last time, except in reverse.  I paced the guy and it was about a minute faster than last week.  It was good chatting with him and I clearly gave him a good workout.  We had to stop and take walk breaks several times throughout the workout.  I was a little disappointed because I could've just slowed down the pace and we could've finished better.  Hopefully next time I'll have a better feel for his pace.  I want to be a good pacer on these runs.

This heavy week of running is almost complete.  I have two more days left.  Tomorrow is a very easy three miler.  I think I'll like head to the Route 33 boat launch or Riverview Park and do a simple out and back.  I do need to do some hill sprints and/or drills as well.  I didn't concentrate on form as much today.  Saturday will be a nine mile run (hopefully with the BCR).  That will be my longest run to date during this comeback.  Things are going pretty well.

5 miles - 45.22 (9:05 pace)

4.1 miles - 42:02 (10:16 pace)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Schoeneck Progression

Today was a solid 4 mile progression run around Nazareth.  I ended with the last ten minutes at a moderate pace and most of it was up the wonderful hill that is Schoeneck.  The weather was good, but my body didn't feel great.

The start was easy (effort wise) as I cruised around town.  I started off with some hills, so the beginning was a little slow.  I ran from the high school basically to the circle, to the pool and back to the high school.  That put me at around 2.6 miles.

My legs still didn't really come in at that point, but I pressed on anyway.  The hill was tough for a change because I was pushing the pace.  I kept going though and it became very rewarding.  This is the first time I've run any hills at speed since I did some hill repeats there a few months back.

I didn't quite get to the very top before turning around and heading back down, but I was close.  I had run 3.8 miles at that point and wanted a brief downhill portion.  I cruised for the last .2 miles.  It was a good workout.

I just haven't felt that great in the last week or two.  I had too many trips to the bathroom before this run.  My legs are feeling a little sluggish.  Hopefully, it is just a rut in the middle of training.  I'm at that point in this training cycle where I'm far from the start, but still not close enough to the finish line yet.

The rest of this week worries me too.  I have a double session tomorrow with a fartlek run in the AM and the LVRR group run in the PM.  Friday is a short run and Saturday is a 9 mile long run.  This will be my first 6 straight day running week since before I got sick.  If I don't feel good next week, I might have to back off a bit.

In addition to the group run tomorrow, I'm looking forward to the meet and greet at the clubhouse.  I've met a few of the leaders of the LVRR, but I'd like to get to know more of them.  Maybe we'll get a good turnout for the group run too.

4 miles - 34:41 (8:41 pace)