Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Up and Down South Mountain

I've been starting to work in more hills, so today I headed to South Mountain for some road hill climbing.  I started at Lehigh's Goodman campus, ran up the mountain, part way down the other side and then all the way back to Goodman.  This is the most I've ever done on the mountain.

The run is tough because it is about 500 feet of elevation gain.  That's about what the Run for the Diamonds is, so I want to be prepared.  It started gradually uphill and took until almost the two mile mark until reaching the top.  Back in July, I ran up to the top of the hill only and then walked back down.  This time, I not only went to the top, but headed back down the other side until I came to houses.  Eventually I'll keep running downhill there all the way until Bethlehem Steel.

It wasn't too hot even at 11 AM, but that doesn't really matter when you go straight uphill.  Luckily, there was a lot of shade as well.  I debated running with or without a shirt.  I opted to go bare chested and was glad I did.  I was sweating quite a bit even without a shirt.  The only problem was having nowhere to wipe the sweat.

It is kind of amazing how running a mountain is.  Going up is so brutal that you are wondering how you'll ever finish.  Luckily, getting to the top in July helped me keep going today.  Then when you do get to the downhill part it is so easy.  I coasted through the first downhill and flew down the final downhill.  The first uphill didn't tax me too much, but the second one was very tough.  The different in uphill and downhill pace was an amazing 7:06 final mile after a 9:56 fourth mile.  I dropped my overall pace from 9:40 down to 9:05 with the speedy final mile.

I guess I'm crazy, but I just love hill running.  I was thinking that it would be fun to have a marathon up that mountain.  Starting it at the Bethlehem Steel and calling it "Are you made of Steel Marathon?" would be perfect.  It is something I'd love to consider in the future.  There are plenty of easy marathons, but not enough hard ones.

I've conquered both sides of the mountain.  Now, the next goal is to actually start running it, instead of trotting up it.  I'd like to think I can get it under an 8 minute pace in about a month.  I'd love to run The Run for the Diamonds somewhere between 7 minute pace and 7:30 pace.  That would be great progress.

The other big thing today was the Lehigh Valley Roadrunners Group Run meeting.  We laid out some plans for 5 or 6 different group runs.  It looks like I'll be heading up the 6PM Thursday evening run.  Now I just have to figure out how to work that into my training schedule.  That'll be three group runs a week.  Eventually, perhaps I'll make the group runs my second runs of the day and easy ones at that.  Looks like even as slow as I am now, I'll be one of the fastest if not the fastest group leaders.  It should be fun.  I'm really enjoying meeting new runners too.

I'm surprised that I'm not really sore.  I'm not sure where I'm going to run tomorrow yet.  I have a 5 mile fartlek scheduled.  I might run somewhere flat around here, maybe Mt. Penn in Reading to keep up the mountain running week, or possibly the state park in Central PA that we are camping at.

5 miles - 45:24 (9:05 pace)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Finally Conquered Bear Creek

Granted it is only my 3rd or 4th time there, but today I completed the entire 5.1 trail loop at Bear Creek for the first time.  It's around 500 feet in elevation gain to the top of the ski slope and very technical with a lot of rocks and switchbacks.

The first time I ran there, I was able to go about 12 minutes before walking.  Two months later and I ran the whole loop in just over an hour.  That's some progress.  It is tough early on because it really climbs.  I took it easy and got through the first climb feeling relatively fresh.  It didn't wear me out like the last few times.

The second steep section around the two mile mark, really got to me again.  I wanted to walk at times, but I knew I was near the top, so I kept pushing through.  It is really encouraging when you get to the one part of the trail with snow making equipment next to you.  You can look down the ski slope and see how far you've come.  That section is still tough though because it is steep and rocky.  I made it through and could recover a little. 

I didn't look at my watch much and the first two miles just flew by.  I was really looking forward to hitting a new stretch though.  By the time I reached the final climb, I was pretty beat.  I'd never gone that far on the trail though and I was near the top so I just kept pushing.  I knew once I was at the top of the slope, I could relax because it would mostly be downhill at that point.  It was a huge relief when I hit the open ski slope at the top.  Someone was fixing equipment there.

The trail went by someone's house.  They had a fire going.  Then it dropped steeply before winding through the woods again.  The last two downhill miles just seemed to fly by.  The first three miles uphill seemed like 90% of the effort and time.  I was finished before I knew it.  I actually found where the trail came out too.  Last time, I got lost when I tried going the opposite direction.

I was surprised to find that there weren't more issues with the trails.  There were no big fallen trees.  Just a lot of leaves and small branches.  That did make it tough to see rocks and the trail at times.  It was muddy in spots, but not very often.  All the bridges over the small streams were fine.  Someone was walking the trail and cleaning it up too.  There wasn't much for him to clean up though.

It was a big relief to finish this loop.  Last time, I was nearly done before getting semi lost.  I also had chafing issues then.  This time, I did early on, but they went away.  The temperature was pretty nice and I didn't sweat too much, especially considering the climb.  I'm glad I'm not doing the 16K here in October.  I'm getting better, but two loops around the trail will be tough to do by then.  I can probably do it, but it would be tough in race conditions.

After looking at the Run for the Diamonds elevation profile, I decided I need to start working the hills in more.  Tomorrow, I'm going to run South Mountain over by Lehigh.  That is about as close to a climb as I'll find around here to compare with the Berwick course.  It'll be good practice and I plan to run it a lot between now and Thanksgiving.

5.11 miles - 1:01:29 (12:01 pace)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Wilson Bike Path Tempo Run

Originally, I was hoping to head to Riverview Park in Easton and do my 4 mile tempo run (3 miles at 10K pace).  With the hurricane having just come through, all the roads were closed.  Because that delayed my start, I then had to find a bathroom in addition to a new running location.  I decided to head to Wilson and run on the bike path.

I've run here before when I just started out and I ran north.  I wasn't sure how far I could get, so I started south this time behind the Taco Bell.  The first mile was a warmup.  That was good because there were some busy road crossing as well as a little hill.  Actually the hill was downhill though.

There was a lot of debris on the trail from the trees, so I was grateful I was running the trail and not biking on it.  The second mile was at tempo pace.  I cruised along and felt pretty good.  The plan was to go a quarter mile past the halfway point.  I didn't want to deal with the busy intersects at the end.  I got worried because I looked at my watch and thought I was running a 6 min pace.  It didn't feel like it and it turns out that was just my running time for that mile.  I ran a nice 7:44 pace for that mile and right about on target.

I sure couldn't have asked for cooler weather.  It felt like late fall rather than late summer.  There was a breeze which made it a little tough.  I haven't run with wind much to date.  It wasn't any better as I hit the turnaround either.  After the turnaround, my IT band started to bother me a little.  I kept a good solid pace though and worked on keeping my form.

That third mile was a fast 7:32.  I labored a little bit in the last mile.  The pace was getting to me a bit.  I focused again on my form though and being smooth.  I need to keep doing this.  There was a road crossing that I had to wait for a car at.  That slowed me and also broke my rhythm a bit.  In the final third to quarter mile, my kneecap starting acting up a bit.  Luckily, it was right before finishing and it hasn't really bothered me since.

All my minor tweaks seem to be on the right side.  Either I'm favoring a side or I have a leg length difference.  The only problem I had on my left side was my shin splint early on.  I really need to try working in some more strengthening exercises, especially my hips.

Since I see disc golf all around the trails that I run, I decided to buy a set today.  I might practice some this afternoon.  I have a meeting this evening at the LV Roadrunners Club house.  I volunteered to lead some group runs.  We'll see how that turns out.  Tomorrow is a scheduled easy run.  I'm going to go at an easy pace, but I might run at Trexler and challenge myself with the hills.

4 miles - 31:49 (7:58 pace)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

BCR at Nor-Bath Trail

Yesterday was my off day, but went for a challenging hike.  I headed to the Delaware Water Gap and hiked up Mt. Tammany.  It was quite rocky and hot.  The top provided an amazing view though and I got some spectacular photos.  I using trekking poles and they really helped reduce the stress on my legs.

Saturday, it was back to run.  I got up early to run again with the Breakfast Club Runners (second week in a row).  Early in the week, I suggested the Nor-Bath Rail Trail, which is close to me.  They liked the idea and we headed out there.

This time, my fast teammate just went flying ahead.  I again stuck with a group of two other guys (one the same one from last week).  The pace was much more manageable early on (around 8:15).  That was a big help.

We coasted along for a couple miles.  Two others then caught up with us before two and a half miles.  Two of the guys turned around then and one of the guys picked up the pace and flew ahead.  I ended up running with one of the women for half a mile before I was on my own.

I turned around after three and a half miles.  The seven miles total would equal my longest during this cycle.  Going back was tough.  The pace was easier early on when compared to last week, but it was very humid.  I was drenched in sweat and that made it hard to keep up.

I just kept focusing on making it to the next mile.  I knew once I got to the last mile, I could really will my way through it.  One of the fast guys passed me on the way back.  I almost caught another guy, who wasn't with my group.  He did help to pull me along though.  I ended up running further than most of the group, so I didn't catch much of anyone.  I did catch two runners in the last mile and just before I planned to catch them.

While I was tiring, I focused a lot on keeping good form and trying to stay smooth.  It is something I definitely need to keep working on.  The last mile was a solid 7:57 pace.  It was a great workout and I didn't overdo it like I might've last week.  This time I had enough energy left to go to breakfast with the group.  There were about 19 of us at the nearby diner and it was a good time.

My kneecap was a little sore this afternoon and I've been icing it.  Maybe some easier runs and some trails this upcoming week will help.  I also developed a small blood blister on my toe.

All in all, it was a great run.  These group runs are just what I need to progress.  They push me a little bit more than I could push myself during training.  Of course, meeting new people is great too.  The pace was only 6 second per mile slower than my 5K race pace from mid July.  That's nearly the same pace at over double the distance and during a training run.  This was my longest mileage week yet too.  I hit the 25 mile mark.  My running is definitely coming along and I'm having a blast.  Things are looking up.

7 - 57:21 (8:12 pace)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cementon Trail

I read in the paper the other day that they had completed a section of rail trail along the Lehigh for about 20 miles.  I decided to head to the nearest trail head for a run.  I started at Cementon (on the other side of Northampton).

I slept in a little because we had some rain pass through.  It was dry, but cloudy when I started the 5 mile fartlek.  I ran the first 1.25 miles slowly before starting into the faster segments.  I went 3 minutes fast, 3 easy, 4 fast, 4 easy, 5 fast and was going to do the remainder easy.  I didn't feel like having that long of a cooldown though, so I did 2 minutes easy and two more relatively hard.

This trail is nice and well groomed.  The gravel is so small that I probably could ride my bike on it.  It is cool that they left some of the old railroad ties along the route and it's nice with the scenic river alongside.  That said, I really don't care much for rail trails.  They are usually flat and feel too much the same.  That is why I chose it for speedwork though.

All the hard segments were pretty tough, but I really flew and pushed it on the 5 minute segment.  I ran that at what is now a blistering 7:12 pace for me.  It's good to teach myself to go that fast again.  Hopefully, I'll get back there in no time.

The cooldown is always very tough for these runs.  It is just so much slower after you've run fast and it seems to take forever.  That segment was only 0.9 miles, but it seemed to take forever.  I was relieved to be done.

I finished just in time as the rains were starting again.  I could probably use some running the rain though.  Afterward, I treated myself to a nice ice bath.  Those take some getting used to, but really seem to help the legs recover.

Last night, after my main run, I put on my Vibrams and did some drills in the grass.  I did strides, kick butts and high knees the length of half the soccer field.  The girl from the Finish Line was talking to me about keep form and being relaxed.  That is something I need to work on and drills can help with that.  I tried to concentrate on being smoother during my run today as well.

I also ran in my Vibrams for the first time.  They felt pretty good.  I only did two short loops around the parking lot in front of the school next to my house.  I definitely was heel striking to start, but it did seem like I used my midfoot more as the run went on.  I don't plan on ever going full time in those things, but I want to start using them more for light work.

5 miles - 42:35 (8:31 pace)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dancing Through Dirt

After the tough run yesterday, I headed to Jacobsburg for a moderate trail run.  Yesterday, I got some new trail shoes.  I was at the Crossings and saw some Adidas Kanadia TR 4 shoes for only 50 bucks.  They were nice and light weight, so I decided to try them.  I've been looking for a lighter weight trail shoe.

I started in the afternoon because there was a chat on nutrition on the Lehigh Valley Running Scene website.  It was pretty good and it's something I need to work more on.  I'm going to start tracking calories, carbs, fat and protein next week.  I really don't watch what I eat and I should.

I started off on the flat section of trail and then crossed the street through some of my favorite sections.  I didn't want to run too hard, so I was actually in between a moderate and easy pace.  I do find the slower pace hard though, especially going uphill.  It seems to take forever, going a lot more steps.

The hills aren't too bad, but just challenging enough.  I love the section that I started at because it's narrow and I rarely encounter anyone.  I was surprised that I the one section is dry.  It has rained a lot lately and that section was a stream last time I ran there after a rain.  This trail winds around and I can fly through it.  It is like dancing through dirt, with only some rocks around.

I was curious how this would hold up under rocks.  It held up, but there weren't too many rocks.  I'm still afraid these lightweight shoes might not hold up and cause me to twist an ankle.  The only problem I had though was getting stuck in the mud.

The usually muddy section was just that today.  One part even had standing water, so I went through the mud next to it.  My one shoe stuck in the mud and I was forced to hop back into the mud with the other foot.  I then got out of it, but the shoes felt like bricks with all the mud caked on it.  Eventually, the mud fell off and it was much better.  I ran through the mud lighter on my feet the next time.  That's a lesson learned.  It's important to be light on your feet anytime when running and obviously especially when going through mud.

The finish was fairly uneventful.  There's some mild hills, but it's not too bad.  It was pretty fast because some of it was run on roads before getting back on the trail.  Even though I passed the 4 mile mark, I decided to run until I got back to the parking lot.  That ended up being 4.5 miles.  As I finished, I passed the Muhlenberg Cross Country team.  I wish I was faster, because I would've asked if I could run with them.

I realized today that I have too many shoes.  I'm going to have to get rid of at least 2 old pairs of shoes.  I might keep my first pair of marathon shoes as a memento.  I'll have to get rid of them at next week's group run.

Tomorrow is a scheduled fartlek run.  It'll be 5 miles.  I'm thinking I might run on a rail train.  I saw a new section of the D&L train is now officially opened.  I might run the morning.  I'm still not sure if that's exactly where I want to run.  I'll decide in the morning.

4.50 miles - 42:06 (9:21 pace) 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Another Group Challenge

Tonight was yet another great group run.  I ran with the Finish Line Running Store group again.  This time one of the girls from the store that hadn't run before joined us.  She's competing now as a USA Triathlete after running in college.  I was excited when I heard that.  I need someone to pull me along.

We ran a loop through two parks over there.  I did that one a few weeks back.  It started off at a fast pace of around an 8 minute mile and got even faster.  There was another guy who I'd run with a few weeks back.  Him, the girl and I pulled away early.

The pace was just a little to fast for me though.  After just under two miles I backed off.  I stayed strong enough to keep them in my sites.  I still didn't really know the course either, so I need to keep in touch to make sure I didn't get lost.  The pace seemed to get faster and faster.

As we when around a community pool, I really had to battle.  One thing that is sure working for me know is my health.  Every time I think of quitting, I tell myself this hurt is nothing.  It's nowhere near as bad as what I've been through in the last year.  This time a year ago, I was in nonstop pain and popping Percocet.  Thinking of that really makes running seem much easier.

As we got to around the three mile mark, I couldn't believe the pace.  I was going about 7:45.  That's nearly as fast as my 5K race three weeks ago.  We ran up a long and gradual hill.  I could see that I was slowly reeling the two of them in.  That was big motivation and I really pushed hard.  We took a wrong turn for a brief moment and I then caught up to them. 

I'm too competitive so I ran hard at the finish and actually beat them back.  The girl could've clearly destroyed me if she wanted to though.  She was fresh and I was burnt out.  It was an amazing workout.

I just finished reading Born to Run again for the 3rd time.  In that book, they jokingly called some female ultrarunner "the witch."  The Tarahumara Indians didn't really mind losing to a female, but it was played up like they did.  I couldn't help but think of the same thing as I was chasing this girl down tonight.  Clearly, she's not a witch, but I hate losing to any females nonetheless.  I guess it's just a male ego thing.  Even knowing I'm nowhere near peak form, it still bothers me.

After the run, I still did 4X8 second hill sprints on South Mountain near Lehigh.  My hamstring is fairly sore, so I massaged it and will do so again later.  I must be crazy because my legs were beat on the drive home, but I was still jealous of someone I saw running at Northampton Community College.

I should take it easy tomorrow, but who knows if I will.  I'd like to work in some hills, especially since the weather has been cool.  I'm almost tempted to run twice tomorrow, for no other reason than I'm motivated.  I also am considering scrapping my training plan and going even hard.  Neither is really smart though.  Hopefully, I'll be wise and hold back, but it just isn't easy.  I'm so hungry to go further and faster.

4.37 miles - 33:56 (7:45 pace)

Monday, August 22, 2011

I Got It Figured Out

Like every other kid, I always dreamed about being a pro athlete.  Even long after I realized it wasn't realistic, I still didn't totally give up on those dreams, or at least dream I'd do something great.  I just always had the feeling I would.  Who knows how everything will play out, but I came up with my big idea this morning.

Last year, I wondered why I had to have Crohn's Disease and why I had to suffer.  I knew there must be a reason why I was put in this position.  Even while I was sick, I felt like I wanted to do something to help Crohn's suffers.  Naturally, the best place to do that would be through my running.

I sort of got the idea a week or so ago, but it all came together this morning.  I attend the Indy 500 every year.  My plan is to run 500 miles to Indy right before the race to try to raise money for Crohn's research.  I actually live over 600 miles away, so I'm not sure where I'd start or things like that.  I'm also not anywhere near in the condition to pull it off at this point.

We camp there every year anyways, so we could just start out a couple weeks early and my dad could be my crew.  The big thing would be getting it out there.  Hopefully, I could get the speedway, Indy Cars and some of the Indianapolis media involved.  I live in the Andretti's hometown and if I could get them to put some money into it, that would be a big help.  I also thought that I'd plan it the year before I actually run it.  That way, I could go around the campground and track the Saturday before the race and start making people aware of my goal for the following year.  It could end up big if I can get those key parties involved.

I got the idea from a ultrarunner who suffers from Crohn's and ran across the country last year to raise money.  I don't have any desire to run that far, but 500 miles is the race distance so that would be a perfect amount for me to run.  I'm also not looking to set any records, so the amount of running per day isn't too important, although I probably wouldn't be able to get too much time off.

Anyway, I did actually run today.  I went to Hickory Run State Park in the Poconos.  I saw they had a trail race there this year and decided to follow the route.  Early on, the course was a bit tricky.  There were a lot of roots on the trail and many of them were covered by fallen leaves.  It wasn't too rocky though, so that was a big plus.

The early part was downhill and I was supposed to be doing a tempo run today, so I opened it up after the first mile.  The roots were gone, the trail was wide and fast.  I blazed an 8:39 pace for that second mile.  I then changed direction and onto the Pine Tree Hill Trail.  I guess I should've been prepared for the correctly named trail, but I wasn't.  It was uphill for almost the next two miles.  At first, it wasn't too bad.  It was a grassy path and gradually uphill.  After the third mile of the run, it seemed to keep going up and up.  The faster pace earlier had destroyed me and eventually I had to walk.  I walked for about a quarter mile until the course leveled off some.

I was going to stop at 4 miles, but since I walked some, I decided to keep going.  I was trying to get to the next trail turn.  Finally, I gave up after 4.6 miles.  I still had to walk about .2 miles to the next turn.  I'm glad I didn't run the final mile of the trail.  It was narrow with brush all along.  Even walking it, I was hitting the bushes.  That wouldn't be a big deal, but I'm really worried about ticks and Lyme Disease.  It ended up being about a two mile hike back to the car (because I wasn't too close to the trail either).

I would've liked to swim after the run, but it was just too cold.  It actually felt like fall, especially with the breeze in the woods.  Definitely not the type of weather you'd expect at the end of August.  I did get a hoagie at the beach snack stand.

I then drove to see the Boulder Field.  This is a big wide open space with lots of huge rocks in it.  It is quite an odd area.  I took some pictures and almost fell at one point.  Maybe I shouldn't complain about rocky trails anymore.  Running there would be a good way to train for those trails, although it would be nearly impossible.

Even though the hill beat me up, it was a great run.  I'll definitely be back and I'll explore some more of the trails as well as that one.  We'll likely camp there someday too.  It was a productive day with my idea as well.

4.6 miles - 47:16 (10:17 pace)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Dangling the Carrot

This morning was my first group run with the Breakfast Club Runners.  It was a very productive long run.  I ran a total of 6 miles on the Plainfield Rail Trail.

I started off with my fast teammate for the marathon relay, along with two other runners.  The pace was pretty brisk early on in the nice and cool weather.  It was comfortably hard.  I wanted to hang with them for awhile, even though I knew they'd be faster.  I did so for about 2 miles before backing off the pace.

Actually it turns out that I picked up the pace in the third mile, but they were up ahead of me.  The other two guys turned around early, to do 5 miles.  My teammate and I kept going to do 6 (although I was far behind him).  I was able to catch some of the slower runners in the group that turned around early.

I started to tire and my fourth mile was fairly slow.  The last two miles I managed to get the pace back up.  I finished with a fast 7:46 mile.  Overall, the workout pace was 8:02.  That's not much slower than my 5K race pace from a few weeks ago.

These group runs are what I really need to get back on track faster.  You can only improve so much on your own.  The only time I'd run with groups in the past was when I led group runs at City Sports.  I was always the fastest then.

Eventually, this will be an easy run.  For now, it was a great workout.  My teammate is very fast and at the level I one day hope to be.  It might takes years to get there, but I want to be that fast.

I'm happy where I'm at now and I'm really improving.  The first time I ran this trail a few months ago, I only went a total of 2 miles and I even had to walk.  I also picked up my Blue Eagle 5K medal today.  Next year, when I run up front in that race, it'll mean a little more.

Even with the fast pace, my groin didn't act up at all.  The only problem I did have was that I nearly cramped up.  It's been a good week for me and I'm feeling strong and confident again.  I can't wait to get back out there on Monday.

6 miles - 48:12 (8:02 pace)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Neighborhood Fartlek

Today I ran a 5 mile fartlek in the neighborhood near my house.  I had no plan and ran just as I felt.  I wasn't sure how my body would respond after some fairly hard workouts this week.  I felt pretty good though.  My groin was a bit sore early on, but that was about it.

I've slept in the camper the last few nights and I had trouble sleeping last night.  Right as I was about to fall asleep, it started to rain and I was up the rest of the night.  I was going to get my run in at 6 AM, but realized I forgot to charge my Garmin.  Therefore, I had to wait a few hours to run.  I did get some sleep.

It was very hot by the time I started my run at 11 AM.  I went with a singlet and short shorts.  That was a big help.  To work my groin into the run slowly, I ran the first mile and a half easy.  I then went moderately hard for 3 minutes.  Part of this was uphill.  I tried to make the hard sections uphill when I could.

After the first faster segment, I took about a 5 minute rest.  I then ran 4 minutes uphill at a harder pace.  I finished up my third and final segment with a mile left in the run.  I did run pretty hard in the tough segments, but I didn't feel like it taxed me too much.  My groin wasn't too sore afterward either.  It seems to be getting better.

I'm always amazed at how time flies by during speedwork sessions.  You are so focused on the current segment that the whole workout is over before you know it.  That was certainly the case today.

I'll be running my long run with the Breakfast Runners Club at the Plainfield Rail Trail on Saturday.  It'll be my first time running with the group and hopefully I'll meet my teammates for the marathon relay next month.  I look forward to it.

5 miles - 44:37 (8:56 pace)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Easy Trexler

Today was an easy run at Trexler Nature Preserve, although there is really no such thing. I took the easier route south from the main building. It is still very hilly and there is no shade. I am better off than I was a few months ago, but I was still surprised at how much the hills bothered me on this 3 mile run.

Early on, I was startled on the trail by a dog. I'm not used to see people there on the trail, so at first I didn't even realize it was a dog. It was big and ugly and I was initially confused at what type of animal it was. It went back to its owner though and it was well behaved.

The hill up near Kids Peace is tough, but after that the path flattened out. A tractor was actually smoothing out the gravel road after the rain we've had the last few days. I was happy to see that the trail wasn't too washed out or muddy where I ran. After 1.75 I hit the turnaround. I love running here and the miles just seemed to click by. I struggled up the last hill a bit, but my pace was still solid. I ended up finishing before the road crossing, so I walked up the road to the main parking lot.

I finished up with 3 X 8 second hill sprints. They actually seemed rather easy. I forgot to do them yesterday, so I opted to tack them onto today's run. I need to do these more consistently to get stronger.

My groin was a little sore from last night's run. All in all, it wasn't too bad though. It got better as the run went on and I'm having only minor soreness now. Overall, it was a nice and productive run.

3 miles - 28:05 (9:22 pace)

Group Run

Last night was a fun group run at the Finish Line Running Store. This is the first time where we've had more than a few people. There were a total of 8 of us and we ran a new route. I had no idea where we were running so I just followed the crowd. The five of us guys headed north while the three girls took a separate route.

It was frustrating because I went out of the store a minute early to get my GPS to find a satelitte. For some reason, it couldn't pick one up though. It took about half a mile before I finally got a signal.

The weather was nice and the pace ended up being perfect. It was challenging, but not so much so that I couldn't handle it. I ran with Steve, who I've run with before, and we took off away from the rest of the pack. Although the route was all on roads, they were actually rather quiet and made it easy to run on.

The course itself wasn't too hilly, but the under 8:30 minute pace did make it challenging for me to get up even the slightest inclines. In the final two miles, there was one steep uphill. I managed to dig in and follow Steve though. He made for a great pacer. He started to drop me a bit at the end. He definitely could've gone faster. I did have my usual kick at the finish though.
The route ended up being 5 miles and a little over half a minute off my 5K pace. These group runs are definitely a big help. Hopefully they'll allow me to progress a bit faster. Eventually, I'll be the pace setter, but for now it is good to have someone pull me along.

4.59 miles - 38:20 (8.21 pace)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Back in the Game

It has been a long time since I last wrote about my running, so this will be quite the update. The last year plus has been a rollercoaster for me. After the high of running my second marathon, I was hit with illness. First, I had a fistula which was very painful and eventually needed surgery. That occurred in July of 2010. I hadn't been running for the previous two months, but I thought after surgery, I'd get back on track.

It turns out that was merely the beginning of my health problems. It didn't recover after surgery like I expected. I was very weak and seemed to be getting worse as time went on. I spent almost all day in bed, sleeping most of the time. No matter what I ate, I seemed to have an upset stomach. I had lost a significant amount of weight from running for a year, but now I lost even more. At my lowest point, I weighed a mere 115 pounds. Finally, I went to see a doctor again in the fall. I was eventually diagnosed with moderate to severe Crohn's disease. I was put on numerous pills, went to through a battery of tests and minor procedures.

It's now been a year since I first encountered these health problems. I am still not over them, but am much better off than I was in the fall. I have to inject myself with a shot of Humira every two weeks. If that doesn't completely fix me, I might need to have surgery again.

No matter how bad I felt, I always tried to stay positive and remain mentally strong. That's just my way of dealing with things. I thought I would miss running, but I was so weak that I couldn't even think about running. Just walking a mile was a real struggle. I had to wear a back brace because I was so weak at times.

I can happily say I am now back to running and actually have been since late April. I lost all of my previous fitness, so at first it was a real struggle. I sputtered along and couldn't even run for 10 minutes straight. I did a lot of run/walk workouts in the beginning and have slowly but surely build my way back up.

The first big accomplishment of my comeback was running my first 5K in late July. It took me just over 25 minutes and was my slowest ever, but I ran it how I wanted. It is amazing how you really learn to pace yourself pretty well with experience.

I ran my second race a little over a week ago (the Blue Eagle 5K). I cut over a minute off my time in less than a month and considering that I struggled just to run a mile a few months ago, it is a big accomplishment. It was also important to run this race because it is in my backyard and supports my high school's track and cross country programs. I talked briefly with my old coach afterward too. I even won an age group award, although mainly because there weren't many people in my age group. Next year, I'm shooting for a top ten place in the race and hopefully even a top five.

I enjoyed my time living in Philly, but I love running back home in Nazareth. There are just so many more running options. I've rarely even run on roads thanks to all the trails and paths. I'm really starting to get into trailing running and love going to Jacobsburg and Trexler Nature Preserve. The Nature Preserve is quite the drive, but it is the most difficult place I've ever run and I absolutely love it. It has rolling hills and some are so steep that you almost have to walk up or down them. I wish I could actually run there more.

I'm trying to get involved in the local running scene. I'm becoming a regular at the Finish Line Running Store's weekly group runs. That has definitely helped me get faster, especially when a former local runner who is now a professional showed up to run one week. I joined the Lehigh Valley Roadrunners and am going to run a marathon relay with four others from the Breakfast Club Runnners group. Hopefully, I'll volunteer in the future and work at a running store and even more involved in running in the Lehigh Valley.

I don't have time to cover all the runs I've done, so I'll just start with my two latest runs. While training for the Blue Eagle 5K, I hurt my groin. I decided to rest it by taking most of last week off. That definitely, helped although it is still a little sore after runs. I'll have to stretch well and just keep tabs on it.

On Saturday morning, I headed out to the Allentown Parkway. It is about 6 miles or so of gravel path which is closed to traffic. I went in the Roadrunners clubhouse for the first time. It is great because there is a kitchen and bathroom with shower available for use. The weather was perfect and there were a lot of runners, walkers and bikers on the path. I ran out towards the fish hatchery. After about a mile or two, I saw two cute girls running on the other side of the river. I decided to follow them, catch them and pass them. That is always good motivation. The only problem was I didn't actually know where I was going. After passing them, the trail ended and I had to head back. Most of the route is actually flat, but there are a couple hilly sections. With about 2 miles left in my 5 mile run, I came across one of those hilly sections. It really beat me up. I couldn't believe how weak I felt. I didn't feel all that well on Friday night, so I guess it wasn't really a huge surprise. I struggled a bit through the last two miles. I shouldn't say I struggled, but it wasn't as easy as I thought it would be, especially considering the nice weather. The longest I had run so far in this training cycle was 7 miles on a trail at Promised Land State Park in the Poconos.

After taking my usual Sunday off, I headed to nearby Louise Moore Park today. I ran a 3 mile progression run, with the last 10 minutes at moderate pace. This route is relatively easy as it is about a mile long and relatively flat. I got my run in just before the rains came. This gravel path was a great place for me to start when I couldn't run a mile, but I get bored when I have to run multiple loops around it. I forgot my shirt and socks, so I ran in a cotton tee with no socks. I'm not sure what it was, but I didn't feel all that great today either. I thought after nearly a week off, I'd feel strong these last few days, but I haven't. Hopefully, I'm just hitting a rough patch. Even without feeling great, I still had a decent run. The first mile was around 9:30, the second around 8:30 and the final mile at moderate pace was under 8 minutes. It was good to get the run over with. I never did care much for short runs and luckily this has now become one of my shorter runs.

I'm not going to be as aggressive in my comeback this time. The earliest I'll run a marathon is in the spring. More likely, I'll wait until next fall. I really want to be able to qualify for Boston next time I run one. I'd love to dip into ultras after that. For now, I'm training for the Run for the Diamonds 9 miler in Berwick. It is one Thanksgiving Day and is one of the oldest runs in the country. I ran this challenging race in 1999 and to this day, it is my favorite race I've run. Hopefully this year will provide the same.

I am being a bit aggressive with my training though. My peak week for the race will be 45 miles and I'll be doing quite a bit of speedweek. I'm definitely running the marathon relay before it and I'm looking into two other races in October. Both are trail races. One is a 6.5 miler in the dark in Reading and the other is a 15K at Bear Creek Ski Resort. I've run at Bear Creek a couple times and going up the mountain is certainly tough. I haven't even completed the full 5 mile loop yet.

Although it is frustrating to be so far behind where I was when I first got sick, I'm still enjoying running and making progress now. Eventually, I 'll get to the level I was at and beyond.

Hopefully, I can get 5 or more straight years of running in. That would be great. It is fun just to be out there on my feet again. Luckily, none of the health problems that I have throughout the rest of the day carry over to my running. That's one time where I usually feel normal again. I was even able to use my health as motivation at the last 5K. When I was struggling towards the end of the race, I said to myself that this is nothing compared to what I've been through in the last year. Hopefully I won't even have to go through it again and I'll be a strong runner for years to come.

3 miles - 25:46
8:36 pace