Wednesday, December 12, 2012

One Year Later

Today was an important run for me.  It wasn't so much the run, but the date of the run.  A year ago today, I had major surgery that led to the most depressing period of my life.  I had bowel resection surgery and bladder repair related to Crohn's Disease. 

I knew there would be a little down time after the surgery, but I had no clue how bad things would be. I thought that I would be back in a couple weeks.  I ended up bed ridden 24/7 for around 4 months.  I grew weak and was extremely depressed.  It was so bad that I often said that I wanted to die.  Of course I wouldn't have taken my own life or anything like that, but I didn't have any idea when the horror would end.  Days seemed like weeks, weeks seemed like months and so on.  Thankfully it finally ended in March and I was back to running in April.  I am so grateful for that.

I will never forget that time period.  It made me stronger and even more motivated than ever before.  Any time I'm going through a tough patch in training or a race, I can look back to that time and think that things aren't so bad in the present.

I just went out today for an easy 7 mile run.  I originally thought about heading to a trail, but since I had some shopping to do in Bethlehem, I went to the Saucon Rail Trail. 

It was in the 40s and a little chilly when I started.  Not too bad for December actually.  Still warm enough that I could wear shorts and a lightweight long sleeve top.

Usually I just start at Water Street and head out and back.  It is possible to go the other direction for a short bit before the trail ends.  I decided to do that this time.  It worked out great because I got in a mile that way.

As usual, the first mile was a slow go.  I'm very pleased though because my quads were only very mildly sore.  My foot bothered me a bit early, but that got better early in the run.  I ran by a couple cats and a guy with two dogs on a leash.  Otherwise, mile 1 was uneventful.

I was now out onto my normal route.  Since it was getting close to supper time, the road crossings were a little busy.  It didn't slow me too much though.  I continued to cruise along, enjoying that my body felt pretty good.

I startled a guy as I came up from behind and passed him.  For a bit, it seemed like he might try to stay with me.  I knew he was going too slow to do that though.  I hoped that maybe I would see him again after I turned around and maybe I could pass him again.  He was walking when I encountered him later on.  He did pull me into a faster pace when I initially saw him up ahead.

I passed a young girl going the other direction.  I thought at first that it might be Elizabeth Chikotas from Saucon Valley, who was 2nd in the State Cross Country meet this year.  It wasn't though.  I am surprised that I never come across her or her teammates on this trail.

My times continued to drop as they often do when I run.  It was a slight uphill most of the way out, but I guess I just end up pushing more.  I don't feel like I am.  Finally after a few more road crossings, I was turned around.  I was now feeling good after 4 miles.  

It was a little cold though.  I felt chilly in both directions.  So much for having the wind at my back at any point.  To keep from being too bored, I just continued to focus short term, on the next mile.  Before I knew it, I was at mile 5.  Now that I was going slightly downhill, I was feeling even better.  I was cruising.  That 5th mile was at 7:36.  I was getting closer to an 8 minute pace overall.

Since almost all of my running is easy now, I decided that I would make this a progression run.  I'd run the last mile and a half at a moderate pace.  I did just that at mile 5.5.  Shortly after I crossed a road, but didn't have to stop.

I flew by a bunch of people in the final mile and a half.  That 6th mile ended up being a 7:05.  Not bad since only the second half of that mile was at moderate pace.  The final mile was obviously faster still.  I passed several people.  I made sure to yell to two women that I was passing so that I didn't scare them.  I went by them in a flash.  I had to slow right before the finish for a final road crossing.  A car stopped for me and I finished up quite exhausted.

That last mile was a 6:51.  I can tell that I haven't run fast too often lately because that took a lot out of me.  It wasn't an all out effort either.  I actually would've thought that it was a little faster than it was.  My overall pace really dipped at the end.  It kind of hard to imagine that that final mile is my goal marathon pace for either the spring or fall.  A 6:51 pace is what I would need to break 3 hours.

I went over to South Mountain to run some hill sprints.  After the fast finish, my legs were feeling it and I figured that hill sprints would be better off saved for an easy day.  Hopefully I can do them tomorrow.  I may try to do run in the same area tomorrow and run on Lehigh's Cross Country course.  Maybe that can save my legs, although running on grass has always bothered me.  We'll see how it goes.  I'm heading to the Eagles game tomorrow night, so I don't have a lot of time.  I'm missing my group run, but I don't mind it since hardly anyone is showing up anyway.

I was stretching after this run and my shin bothered me some when I did that.  Hopefully I won't have problems there.  I'm definitely feeling better lately with only running 4 days a week, but I still can't quite shake some of the soreness.  I might have to back of my spring marathon plans or my goals for that race.  I'll just take it a week at a time and see how things go.  There are still over 5 months until that race.

7 miles - 54:11 (7:45 pace)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Dreary Day at Jacobsburg

After a day off, it was time to get back at it again.  I am trying to save my legs from a regular pounding, so I decided that I would head to Jacobsburg to run on trails.  I haven't been there since the end of October.  Today, it was cloudy and rainy, nothing like the beautiful colored leaves that greeted me there about a month ago.

When I arrived there was only 1 car in the parking lot.  That's sure a lot different than the summer time when it was always crowded.  A couple young guys showed up and started running right before me.  They went up the tough part of the trail.  They were wearing basketball shorts and standard attire, not running clothes.  I figured they were amateurs and I guess they were since I saw them a short time later.  They were probably finishing up a mile loop.  At least they were out there running though.  No one else was running today.

Although there was some light rain and it was foggy and cloudy, the temperature was great.  It was warm enough to wear shorts and short sleeves.  Since I think it is still hunting season, I decided to put on an orange vest.  I'd rather be safe than sorry.

I started off on my usual path along the creek.  It is relatively flat and makes for an easy beginning.  My legs felt amazing on this softer surface.  They were barely sore at all as I started out.  I tested my new insoles.  The results were so so.  My feet still had some soreness.

After passing the young guys heading the other direction, I went over the bridge over the creek.  After that, things got difficult.  I went to the left and headed uphill.  I didn't think this would be challenging, but it was much harder than I anticipated.  I haven't been on hills or trails much lately.  I figured that just being in pretty good shape would help me overcome the hills.  That was far from the case.  I was breathing heavily and struggling to climb.

Even when I was around 1.25 miles into the run, I was still climbing.  It leveled off some, but was still uphill.  I couldn't wait to get to the flat section.  Finally I did.  All throughout this section, I saw relatively fresh horseshoe prints.  I had to make sure to watch for meadow muffins.  That is a new favorite word that I learned recently.

With all the rain we have had lately and were having, some sections were quite muddy.  The dirt part of the trail is rather narrow in this meadow section though.  Sometimes I ran on the dirt.  Other times, I stuck to the grass.  I enjoyed myself much more once the trail flattened out.

The end of this loop got even better.  I was now going downhill.  This part of the run was longer than I thought.  As I got to the turn off the trail, I was around 3 miles into the run.  I used to loop back into the parking area from here, but they've now closed the trail there because they are putting up a new building.

Instead, I headed over the road and to some of the other sections of the park.  I thought about going into the Sober's Run area, but I was so far into this planned 6 miler, that I figured I should just head up the road and little and work my way back.  I was only on the pavement for less than half of a mile, but it was still difficult for my legs.  That was particularly true because the road went uphill.

I finally was back on the trail and very happy.  With all the climbing I had done, I opted for the flattest routes back.  I could've added some distance as I was heading back, but that would've required ascending, so I took the shorter route.  Even with this route, there was still some climbing involved.

I figured that I would at least get to 5 miles by the time I got back to the parking lot.  Before 4.5 miles, I went straight, but saw that that led across the road (where I didn't want to go).  I headed the other way on the trail that I usually take back to the parking lot.  When I got back to the lot, I was somewhere under 5 miles into the run.

Normally when I have to add a little to the run, I'll go along the creek where I started this run.  That makes for some easy mileage.  Even though the hills had worn me out, I was inspired by the young guys earlier and decided to take the tough route above the creek.

This isn't the best way to go when it is raining.  The trail is narrow and it is sort of a cliff.  It wouldn't be too difficult to fall here, especially in wet conditions.  I just made sure to lean away from the cliff.  I climbed the stairs and continued along the path.

After going up for awhile, the trail heads down and back up again.  This section was made even more difficult by fallen trees.  They were all over the trail.  I assume that they fell during the hurricane.  It wasn't impassable, but I had to leap over trees in the rain on this narrow cliff.  Not exactly fun.

When I hit mile 5, I looked down a my watch and it said that mile was run in 9:11.  I though that that was an ironic number, since I was in a dangerous situation.  After running along the top of the ridge, it was back downhill.  That didn't get any easier.  I had to make sure I controlled myself and didn't trip and fall off the cliff.  Complicating the trail is that there are exposed roots from a few trees that are still standing.  Those can be very slippery in the rain too.

I survived the cliff and was looking forward to finishing up.  The up and down of that section did a number on my legs and feet.  They were quite sore.  It wasn't like the pounding of a road though.  My left foot bothers me quite a bit and my right foot was sore going uphill.  I'm a mess.  I've been massaging my left foot a few times lately.

I finished up in the flat section along the bottom of the creek, near where I started.  My pace was under 9 minutes, so that was good.  I don't worry much about times on trails though, since they are so uneven.

I was relieved to be done.  It was a tougher run than I thought.  I definitely need to hit more hills this winter and spring.  I'm just glad I didn't run at Trexler the other day.  That probably would've killed me.  I'm going to try to get on trails more to build strength and reduce the pounding on my legs.  We'll see how that goes.

I didn't get a chance to run hill sprints today, so I might do those tomorrow.  Otherwise, I will be off from running and will get back at it on Wednesday.  Tomorrow, I'll likely get out and ride my bike if the weather isn't too bad.  That should give me some more strength without any pounding.  I have no idea where I will run on Wednesday, maybe Trexler.

 6 miles - 53:33 (8:56 pace)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Afternoon Long Run

The BCR ran on a hard surface, so I passed on that run today.  I was considering getting up and running at Trexler with a group there.  However, it just rained too much beforehand for my liking.  I wasn't crazy about 10 tough miles through slop.  Instead, I just waited until the afternoon to get my run in.

I was on Facebook around lunch time and it seemed like everyone I knew was posting photos of their Christmas themed runs.  That did help me get out the door.  I wasn't crazy about running alone, but 10 miles isn't too bad.

The temperature rose to a nice 45 degrees when I started.  The rained ended in the morning, but it never did clear up.  It was still a cloudy and dreary day.  I could wear my shorts and a short sleeve shirt though, so I was happy. 

I thought about running at some new places, but I didn't want to go too far.  I opted to run on the D&L Trail.  Instead of starting at Cementon, I decided to head to the Cove Road Trailhead.  I've run through there, but I haven't started from there too often.

I went back and forth trying to decide which direction to start out with.  Eventually I would head each way.  It was just a matter of whether I wanted to begin with the easier southern section or immediately climb the hill going north.

I opted to head south.  That would allow me a good warmup mile which would be slightly downhill.  I run this section the most, so the plan was to do 2 miles out and 2 miles back and then head north for the final 6 miles.

As usual, the first mile was on the slow side.  I was happy that it came in just under 8:40.  I ran yesterday, so the quads were slightly sore.  My left foot was too.  I got some new insoles, but I was afraid to try them out on such a long run.  I figured that I could just deal with any discomfort.

Early on, I passed a house and a dog barked at me and moved towards me.  I was thankful that it didn't leave the property and chase me.  I love this slight downhill section that I was running.  It made my legs feel so much better and the run was a joy early on.  I just cruised along comfortably.

I felt so good that when I hit mile 2, I just decided to keep going.  I figured that I could get to 2.5 miles and be halfway done when I got back to my car or I could go out even further and complete a full 6 miles before I hit the Cove Road Trailhead again.

My pace steadily dropped.  About fourth tenths of a mile from the 3 mile marker, I passed a guy running the other way.  I was hoping that I could catch him eventually.  I knew he had a good jump on me though.  I never did find him.

I got to mile 3 and turned around.  It was immediately difficult running the other direction.  All of a sudden, I was running a slight uphill.  I knew this would be the case until about mile 8 or so.  I just had to dig in and enjoy the run as much as I could.  I saw a bike with an annoying flashing light up ahead.  I didn't want it in my eyes, so I kept my head down.  When the bike passed, the guy said "hi" and seemed overly enthusiastic.  I thought that was odd.  Then I realized that it was Peter that used to come to the LVRR Group runs in the summer and fall.  So few people were out today and I happened to see someone that I know.

Even though this section was a slight uphill, the pace continued to drop.  The 4th mile was a solid 8:12.  The 5th mile even dropped under 8 minutes.  It was uphill and a bit of a struggle, but I just tried to focus on getting to mile 6.

Sometime around the 5th mile, I came to a guy riding one of those bikes where you are almost laying on your back.  He turned around just before he go to me.  I knew following him would make for a good pacemaker.  He was going faster than me, but not by too much.  I was worried that he would get to the house with the dog before I did.  He did and the dog barked at both of us.  It didn't chase this time either.  With my pacemaker, this 6th mile was 7:43.

I was now back to my car and it was time to work.  I just focused on the next two miles and getting up the hill.  It's not a steep hill, but it is definitely noticeable early on.  As I naturally do, I worked a little harder and my pace dropped.  I kept battling and battling.  I did feel like I was working more.

That 7th mile did seem long.  I looked at my watch a lot going to the 8th mile.  I definitely worked harder during this one.  I knew I'd have a lot of downhill to the finish.  That mile before the turnaround was a nice 7:30.

My pace was just a few seconds over 8 minutes as I headed into the final 2 miles.  It had gone down and down throughout the run.  By now, my legs weren't sore at all and I felt good.  I did feel lightheaded when I woke up today and I felt the same way as I turned around.  It almost felt like I might fall to the left.  The trail was leaning that way a little, but I felt odd.  This mile seemed to be a struggle.  Maybe I wasn't really going downhill.

As I got into the last mile, I checked my watch frequently.  I was struggling some by this point.  I guess I was finally getting tired.  With seven tenths of a mile left, I picked up the pace.  My GPS watch wasn't working right as I looked down and my pace went up.  Going downhill, my overall pace finally went under 8 minutes.  I continued to push through the finish and I was winded when I was done.  The 7:19 last mile was definitely tough.

Since I didn't run on Thursday and I wasn't around any hills on Friday, I ran my 5 hill repeats after this run.  Those were so difficult on my tired and beat up legs.  It was good to get them done though.  This was a great workout.

I'm not sure when I'll run next.  I need tomorrow off, so I'll just likely run on Monday.  My legs seem a little better than they have been.  I need to stay on the soft surfaces and continue stretching, massaging and strengthening my legs.

10 miles - 1:19:26 (7:57 pace)

Friday, December 7, 2012

December Rain

Yesterday was supposed to be my regular LVRR Group Run.  It was cold and no one showed up, so I just skipped it.  I thought that maybe Noah, who was there last week, might show.  Otherwise, I figured I'd be alone.  Karl will come from time to time too, but he said he'd rather run in daylight and I sure don't blame him.

Originally, I thought about running alone on the D&L Trail from Sand Island.  That would reduce the pounding on my legs.  My parents were at my sister's house watching her cat while she is on vacation, so I just decided to go visit and run today instead.

A few days ago, the weatherman said that Thursday would be cold, but the rest of the 7 day forecast would be warm (for this time of year anyway).  That was Philly weather, but I still expected some decent weather here.  I guess I was wrong and as usual, the forecast was wrong.  It isn't quite cold enough to snow, so instead it is a lovely December rain.

There aren't many things I hate more than running in rain this late in the year.  It was 40 degrees, but being wet and cold isn't fun, so I knew I would overdress.  I went with a ColdGear top and jacket and tights on the bottom.  I probably should've just used a lighter shirt under the jacket.  I was hot by the end.

I decided that I would run on the Nor-Bath Trail since this was an easy 5 miler.  Instead of running at my usual locations of Jacksonville Park or Bicentennial Park, I decided to head farther out and go to the parking lot at Howertown Road.  I wanted a different perspective.

I thought the trail would provide a softer surface to protect my sore quads.  I figured the rain would make things softer as well.  I was right.  However, I didn't anticipate how much of a mess the trail would be.  It didn't think it had rained that much.

When I started off, it was a steady rain.  I wore a hat that I brought, along with gloves.  I only had very mild soreness in the beginning.  I had to spend a lot of time dancing through puddles.  Not too far into the run, I went right through one and got my foot soaked.  That was cold.  Thankfully, I avoided puddles the rest of the run.

Until the first road crossing, it was slow and I felt like I was running through mud.  To an extent I was.  I do sort of enjoy running in tough conditions like this just because of the mental challenge.  I would've probably been a good cross country runner.

Getting over the first road was a big relief.  For whatever reason, the trail was in much better shape here with much less standing water.  I still had to avoid a lot of puddles though.  At least I could run in the middle and didn't have to go onto the grass.

It was nice seeing familiar sights, while running the route a different way than usual.  I was running nice and easy and I was actually surprised with how fast my pace was.  The second mile was at 8:32 and every mile after that was even faster.

It wasn't too long before I was at Bicentennial Park.  I was getting quite hot at this time.  I took off my gloves and thought about taking off the jacket too.  Instead, I just opened it up.  I turned around not too far after the main path to Bicentennial Park.  It was great to be going down the home stretch.

I took my jacket off for awhile, but put it back on soon.  Coming back is a slight downhill and I felt great at this point and thought I was really moving.  My pace indicated that too.  I was enjoying the run even more.  I just focused on moving forward.  I concentrated on getting to mile 4.  I like to avoid looking at my watch in the first half of the run, but I look at it more frequently as I get closer to the finish.

I crossed back over the road.  I almost slipped going around the gate.  I opted to just jump over the next gate.  Now I was back to running through the slop.  Even with that, I still put in a fast final mile under 8 minutes. 

I passed a couple walking together.  They were the only people I saw throughout the run.  It is days like this where you find out who is out there and thus dedicated.  That is always me.  If there ever was a time that I'd run inside, it would be a rainy winter day.  That still will never happen though.

Tomorrow is supposed to be a 10 mile run.  The BCR group is running on the hard Plainfield Recreation Trail.  Flo won't be there and I wanted a softer surface, so I'm likely going to join a group running at Trexler Nature Preserve.  They are doing a loop or two.  One loop is 8.4 miles, so I'd probably add a short out and back to that.  I haven't run there much since Quadzilla and haven't run with this group since before Quadzilla.  I am curious as to whether I can handle the hills better now that I'm more fit.  My arch has bothered me on uphill trails the few times that I've run on them in the last few months, so I'm not sure how it will hold up.  Luckily, most of the hills are pretty short.  I'll still probably give it a try.  The weather could throw a curveball there too.  I'm not sure I want to run through sloppy conditions for 10 miles on a tough trail.

5 miles - 41:55 (8:23 pace)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Brick Training

I wanted to get up and bike this morning and then run in the afternoon.  That didn't happen, so I decided to combine the two and create a brick workout.  That is something common in Triathlon Training, where you need to get used to going from one type of workout to another.  Typically, it starts with a run and then transitions to the bike.  I have never done that before, but I've read that it is tough to get used to running after biking.  I'd believe that because my legs always feel weird after biking.  Therefore, I opted to do the reverse today.  I started with a run and finished with a bike ride.

Yesterday I was off from running, but had some fun anyway.  I went up to the McDade Trail in the Delaware Water Gap.  That is about 40 minutes away.  It is a trail that goes on for about 30 miles.  I was there briefly last year, but never ran there.  I want to run it in the future, so I figured I might as well explore it on my bike.  I started off on the Southern end and rode over 5 miles out and then back.  It is mostly a stone trail, but unlike the typical rail trails that I'm used to, it has a lot of elevation change.  It also curves in and out.

The McDade Trail was a great setting for the ride.  The hills were challenging.  I actually had to walk up one in each direction, they were that steep.  Most of them were short.  After the Smithfield Beach area, the trail flattened out a lot.  It ran along the Delaware River and went through the woods and alongside of fields.  The weather was great, so it was an outstanding ride.  It was on muddy, but that can obviously be fun.  I'll definitely be back there to run, especially when I'm looking to do a long run with some hills mixed in.

Back to today's workout.  I didn't want to run and bike on the same trail, so I opted to park at the D&L Trail at Cementon.  I could then run out on the D&L Trail and bike a mile over to the Ironton Rail Trail and do that loop to complete the workout.

I'm trying to ease back into this running thing, but I might have to be more cautious and back off.  Even though this was only my second run of the week, my quads were quite sore in the beginning.  They really slowed me up.  It is amazing what a difference it can make when your legs feel good.  The first couple miles were a real struggle.  I did complete the initial one at 8:38.

The other thing that sucked was the weather.  It was actually a nice day out for this time of year, but it was windy.  I only had shorts and a short sleeve shirt on.  Just like when I did the half marathon there, I was running into a headwind at the beginning.  I thought to myself that if I could complete 12 miles or so into the wind during the race, I could do a couple miles today.  To compound the problem, there is a cliff alongside the trail and it was blocking the sun.  Of course when I got into the clear, the sun went behind the clouds.

Not only were my quads sore, but my foot still bothered me.  I keep having minor ongoing problems.  I hoped this soft surface would help, but it didn't.  I wasn't beat up enough that I couldn't run, so I just soldiered on.  I knew things would get better on the way back.  I just had to make it 3.5 miles out.

I kept counting down every half mile, looking forward to the turn around.  There wasn't much going on.  The trail was rather empty.  I thought I saw a guy up ahead and I wondered where he went as I approached.  Maybe he was farther down the trail than I thought.  I saw a huge group of turkeys in the adjacent field.  Oddly, they were gone by the time I came back through there 5 minutes later.

I knew I'd come to the turnaround point close to the Cove Road Trailhead.  I've run there so much now that I'm used to the route.  I turned around shortly before the trailhead. I passed the guy again.  Amazingly, he was the only person I saw on the whole 7 mile run.

Before the turnaround, my legs were already beginning to come around.  It is amazing how much faster my speed gets when the legs start feeling better.  All of the final 4 miles were under 7:50.  There was still some wind going this direction, but it felt better than going the other way.

I cruised along and started to really enjoy the run, now that I was feeling better.  I watched my pace drop.  I also enjoyed some of the scenery.  It wasn't the most beautiful day, but it was still great for December.  I didn't think it would be possible for my overall pace to drop under 8 minutes, but it did.  With a final two miles of 7:39 and 7:38, I was moving fairly well.  I wasn't upping my effort either.  It was nice and easy.  I'm curious to see how fast I could actually run now if I was pushing myself and my legs would feel good.

I don't know what I'm going to do with regards to my running.  I might have to back off even more and bike more frequently.  For now, I'm going to stick with my training plan though.  Hopefully my quads will improve at some point.

I got back to the car, put on my cycling gear and a jacket.  I took a couple Sportbeans and off I went.  Crossing the main road took a little time, but I was onto the unmaintained section of the D&L before I knew it.  I knew this section was a rough dirt trail, but I didn't know how bad it was.  It was quite rocky, with some ups and down.  It is right next to a cement plant and it looked like they washed out samples on to the trail.  There were small hard sections of concrete.

I couldn't wait to get on to the paved Ironton Rail Trail.  I thought that would be a big relief.  To an extent it was, except that it was uphill at the start.  I went into a low gear and slowly pedaled up the gradual hill.  I knew that it would be fun going downhill.  I couldn't wait for that.

Finally, I was descending.  It was fast and then the trail goes around a curve.  I almost went off the path there.  I got back under control and cruised along.  It was certainly colder on the bike than it was running, but being away from the river wasn't too bad.  I took a Clif Shot to make sure I was well fueled too.

It was nice going around this trail at a faster speed than when I run there.  Before I knew it, I was on the stretch near the river.  I thought this would be colder, but actually it wasn't too bad.

When I was in Philly, I used to hate biking because real riders would just blow by me like I wasn't moving at all.  On trails like this, I don't encounter many real cyclists, so my slow pace isn't a big deal.  If I wanted to go faster, I'd bring out the better bike.  For now, the old mountain bike does just fine.  It is also less likely to get a flat and can handle some tougher terrain.

I guess I don't go too slow.  There was a couple on their bikes.  I flew by them at my easy effort.  There were riding like they were out for a very leisurely Sunday stroll.  What was odd is that I saw very few people on this trail.  It goes through a residential area and is usually crowded.  It wasn't that cold either.  I guess when the calendar hits December, a lot of people go into hibernation.

I was about to finish up when I encountered a problem.  As I got to the dirt trail, I could hear some dirt bikes flying up it.  I saw these guys there last time that I ran at this location.  Rather than mess with some potentially out of control kids, I decided to take the road back to my car.

I dreaded this because it was a steep uphill climb before descending.  The dirt path along the river is flat.  I struggled getting up the hill.  I was exhausted.  Finally, I thought I was at the top.  Then I realized that I was only about halfway there.  To make things worse, the road went downhill slightly before heading back uphill.

I struggled and struggled to get up the hill.  It is definitely not something that I wanted to do at the end of a ride after running earlier.  My legs were beat.  I thought that I could at least look forward to flying downhill.  It turns out that that wasn't much better.  It was easy, but going close probably close to 30 MPH just meant a huge rush of wind.  I was freezing and my eyes started watering.  Luckily, that was over fast and I was done with my workout.

In total, I ran for 7 miles in 55 minutes.  I then biked close to 8 more miles in about 40 minutes.  I really enjoyed doing the back to back workout.  I'll have to try that more often.  Running first was definitely the way to go too.  It gave my legs a decent cooldown on the bike.  I'm actually really tired right now and might end up falling asleep early.  It looks like I wore myself out.  That doesn't happen too often at this point.

I want to bike and run again tomorrow.  The difference is that I'll ride early in the day and run with the LVRR group run in the evening.  While I don't enjoy cycling as much as running, I think I'm going to start doing it more.  That does fill my craving for more endurance exercising without the added pounding of more running.  Hopefully it will make me stronger in my running too.  I guess the colder weather is one thing that might keep me off the bike in the coming weeks.  I'll just try to layer up and see how well that works.  It will be worth a try.  Maybe one day I will be a triathlete or dualathlete.  It is hard to picture that though.

7 miles - 55:44 (7:58 pace)

Monday, December 3, 2012

D&L Trail Bowanstown

I get so tired of running at the same places over and over again, especially when they are flat rail trails.  When I was thinking about where to run, I remembered that I haven't run the D&L Trail north of the Lehigh Gap before.  I thought this could be a good option to get my easy 5 miler in.

After some chilly days over the weekend, the weather was great today.  It was so warm that I could wear short sleeves and shorts.  It did get a little chilly as the sun set behind the mountain, but overall it was still great. Definitely not typical December weather.

I was tempted to try running up the Winter Trail on the east side of Lehigh Gap.  Then I realized that after eating a few hot dogs a couple hours earlier, it probably wasn't a good idea.  I opted instead to go to the D&L Trail at Bowmanstown and head north.  I knew about this section because we got stone from there when I was helping repair the course for the D&L Marathon.

The insole that I have been putting in my shoe has been curling up, so I tried duct taping it down.  That sort of worked.  It took pressure off the sore part of my foot, but it started bothering another part of my foot at the edge of the insole.  I could feel that early on.  It went away, but it definitely bothered me after I stopped running.

The quads weren't too bad, but there was some minor soreness in the left one.  Hopefully stretching, strengthening and massaging them will continue to help.  The surface of today's run was a blessing for them too.  It is small stones that is very soft, just like my old high school track.  It certainly reduced the pounding.  It recently rained too and I think that made the surface even softer.

The first mile felt nice and smooth.  I wasn't pushing and still laid down an 8:33 mile.  This part of the trail is lightly traveled and kind of desolate.  There is the river on one side and then a rock wall on the other side of the trail.  Even though it wasn't that interesting, I found it quite relaxing.  Maybe it was just because the scenery was all new to me.

Within the first mile, I did come across a guy walking his dog.  I only saw three people and three dogs in this 5 mile run though.  It was mostly just me alone with my thoughts.

A little after the first mile, I came to the turnpike bridge.  It is quite high overhead as it crosses the Lehigh River.  It has some big piers and looks spectacular.  They told me that when the workers put the bridge up, they agreed to build this section of trail too. 

The rest of the way out was kind of bland.  I felt good though, so I was still able to enjoy it.  I came by what looked like a water treatment plant.  There was no smell, so I guess it wasn't sewage.  That was around the 2 mile mark.  After that, the path turned into a lightly traveled road.  The second mile came in under an 8 minute pace.

I didn't like that I was now running on a hard, paved surface.  I didn't want to turn around until 2.5 miles though.  Then I saw a cute woman up ahead walking her dogs, so of course I couldn't turn around until I passed her.  I ended up going out to 2.75 miles before turning around.  I wasn't far from the town of Lehighton.

Coming back, I was happy to be back on the stone path.  It took awhile for my legs to readjust after running on the pavement, but they eventually came back around.  They were tiring a little as I approached mile 4.

These middle miles were easy and typically around an 8 minute pace.  When I got to the last mile, I decided to pick it up a little and finish strong.  I would say that I was probably running at a moderate effort.  After the turnpike bridge, it seemed like the trail was a gradual downhill.  I was moving now and the run was over before I knew it.  I put in a fairly quick 7:16 last mile.  It was a good way to finish.

After I was done, I was trying to figure out where to run my 5 hill sprints.  There was a sloped concrete drainage system and I almost considered running up it.  I decided that I would go over to Blue Mountain Drive and possibly run up that.  However, when I got there it was quite dark.  I decided it wasn't safe enough, so I passed on the hill sprints there.  The ski slope didn't look open yet, but there was snow on it.

I decided to just go home and eat supper.  After supper, I went to the Nazareth Boro Park to run the hill sprints.  It is perfect for that, with the steep hill and grass surface.  It is a good thing I brought my headlamp because I ended up having to dodge a couple branches that I guess must still be left over from the hurricane.  There were some tree trucks parked in the parking lot.  It looks like they are doing a lot of work there.

I want to run a 5k around February to see if I can get back under 20 minutes.  I thought that would be tough to find a race because there aren't very many winter 5ks.  As luck would have it, I found a 5k in Nazareth in February.  Even though the course probably won't be easy, it sounds perfect.

I'm still a little beat up, but all in all it was a great run today.  I do think that the extra rest is helping some.  Hopefully I'll feel better and better and can hit the marathon training head on in a month or so.  Tomorrow will be another off day before an easy 7 miler on Wednesday.  I might hike tomorrow since the weather will be nice again.  

5 miles - 39:48 (7:58 pace)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Dave Decker's Loopy Run

I'm trying to heal up, so I should be running easy right now.  However, I was pushed pretty hard and ran fast on Thursday evening.  That made for little recovery before Saturday's run.  I was hoping I wouldn't be sore, but I figured that I would be.  Unfortunately, I was correct.

Today was another one of Dave Decker's crazy runs.  It was a 4.4 mile figure eight loop at Riverview Park in Easton.  You have to finish one loop in an hour and then if you do, you can run another loop the next hour.  This continues until everyone gives up or can't finish a loop in under an hour.  We had a huge group of almost 50 people.

Since I'm trying to take it easy, I wanted to just run one loop and then continue to get in 8 miles.  We had a whole tailgate/picnic type setup going.  I brought a bunch of stuff, but I only arrived a few minutes before the 7 AM start, so I had to get my things out later.

I began by taking pictures of the start and then I put my shoes on to run.  Since I was kind of rushing, I didn't get any good pictures of the start in the dark.  Because I was taking photos, I began running alone.

I have run at Riverview a number of times as well as the paths around there.  I was very puzzled by the course and quite interested how it went.  I knew of an uphill by the Route 33 Boat Launch, but I had no idea how the path would come back.  Dave mentioned a tunnel, but I was still confused.

It was a bit cold at the start and in fact throughout the whole day for that matter.  The temperature was in the 30s.  On the way out it wasn't too bad because the breeze was the other direction.  Coming back was quite cold and I regretted dropping off my gloves and headband after the loop was complete.

Jennie and female Gayle were out earlier in the week, cutting all the trees that had fallen after the hurricane.  They did a good job, but we still had to go around some of the bigger trees.  My quads were already very sore within the first mile of this run.  It wasn't as bad as a couple weeks ago, but things weren't good either.  At one point, I had to get off the path to go around a tree.  Running on dirt was great.  I might have to stick to trails a lot more in the near future.  This was all pavement as was my run on Thursday.

Within the first mile, I noticed the path below and the tunnel underneath.  I somehow never saw that before.  I guess part of the reason for that was that the leaves on the trees always hid it.  I was still intrigued though as I didn't understand how our path would get to that one.  At least I sort of understood the route at that point.

As I approached the Route 33 Boat Launch, I was surprised that I had not passed any of the slower runners yet.  Although it took me a couple minutes to get started, I figured I would catch them by this point.  My first mile was a little slow, but I began to get faster.  Sometime around that part, I could see some of the people running on the path above me.  I knew I was closing in.

At around 1.6 miles, the path split off and went uphill.  There was a cone there and the rest of the course was well marked too.  Jennie went out on her bike and made sure we didn't miss the turn.  Shortly after the turn, I finally caught some runners.

People were already walking up the hill.  I was very surprised to see Kelley was one of them.  I knew she wasn't running much, but I thought she would be farther up than that.  Later she explained why she was going slower and it made more sense.

The first hill was a little tough, but that wasn't the end of it.  There was a brief downhill.  This section was nice as there were some houses on the hill.  I actually remember riding my bike in this area years ago (probably while I was in high school).  I passed a few more people including April, Melissa, Frank and handful of others.  Dave took a bathroom break and I went by him as well.

After a little downhill and rolling hills, there was more uphill.  The climb wasn't too bad, but after a few loops, it would've been brutal.  My time definitely slowed down at this point.

The good thing is that what goes up must come down, unless it is a point to point course.  There was quite a downhill.  I had to make sure that I didn't fly too hard and fall down due to all the debris on the trail.  Going both up and down the hill, there were logs to hop over.  It was almost like a trail run.

After flying downhill, I went under the tunnel and saw more people up ahead.  I picked off a few of them including female Gayle and Christina.  I went by so quickly that Gayle asked who it was passing them.  Having people in front of me helped pull me along.  I would estimate that I passed about half the people within the loop.  My fifth mile, which included the big downhill, was a nice 8:07 pace.  I was definitely taking it easier today and was much happier with my pace when compared to some of my other recent fast runs.

While everyone else rested after the first loop, I continued on.  I wanted to do 8 straight miles and not stop.  With all of the trees on the hill section, I decided that I would turn around before the hill.  One loop was enough climbing too.  I went out and again I was lonely.  My legs just felt so beat.  I had begun the run with an insole, but it was uncomfortable, so I took it out.  That meant that my foot was sore.  I was trying not to run up on my toes so much, but I couldn't help it.  Often I'd catch myself doing it and would change my form.  I think my form is a big reason for the sore quads.

Miles 6 and 7 seemed to take forever.  I turned around right before the Boat Launch at mile 6.25.  Somewhere around mile 7, I passed the second loop going the other way.  Flo was running with another guy.  I was disappointed to see that Mertz had quit already.  I later saw him on a bike.

My last few flat miles were pretty slow.  They were around an 8:50 pace.  I actually don't mind that pace if I was running it healthy, rather than beat up.  I made it back to the starting point and was happy to be finished with my 8 miles.  It wasn't easy.  Staying on my feet the rest of the day sure didn't help either.  I am sore now.

After I was done running, it was all about hanging out the rest of the day.  First, I watched the second loop come in and took pictures.  Flo said she didn't even recognize me at first and thought I was some creepy guy.  That's not the first time that has happened.  Photographing this event was fun.

We had a fire going at the pavilion and a lot of food too.  It was fun sitting around and chatting.  There were quite a few people that only did one loop and more than only did two loops.  The fire crowd got bigger and the running crowd shrunk with every hour.

The fire was great, but at least I was smart enough to have several layers on.  I was laughing at Flo because she weighs nothing and wasn't wearing much.  Therefore, she was huddled over the fire the whole time.  We even had marshmallows to roast too.  A few people carried wood for the fire at the end of their loop.

Some people had impressive runs.  Karl had a good day.  After several loops, there were still 11 people or so.  Angie and Mel went pretty long.  I knew female Gayle would last awhile.  Most people left the fire by late morning.

It didn't take too long until the group was down to four runners.  I figured the end might not be so far away, so I stayed around.  If I thought we would be there all night, I might've left early.

Gayle was hurting and she finished up at 2 PM.  That was still an impressive 7 loops and over marathon distance.  It was down to three runners at that point.  One woman from New York, Mary, was running consistent times.  She was impressive.

After 8 loops, the final three runners had enough and they quit.  That's a lot of running.  To be honest, I thought it would go a lot longer.  It probably could've if the three of them would've been very competitive.  They weren't thrilled about the cold.  I'm glad I didn't try to run this because I don't really know when to quit and likely would've hurt myself.  I'm sure these three would've killed me.

After they finished up, we hungout for another hour.  There was less than 10 of us at that point.  It was still fun.  It would've been an even better day if things ever got warmer.  Maybe next year, I'll really try to do well in this event.

I have too look at my schedule and see when I'm going to run next week.  I'm thinking I need a trail, perhaps Trexler.  I was hoping to run four days next week, but we will have to see since my legs are sore.  I am disappointed that they aren't getting a lot better.  I'm going to continue to stretch and strengthen them.  If I have to, I guess I'll hop on the bike some more.  I need to build my mileage back up, but not wear my body down.

8 miles - 1:08:30 (8:34 pace)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Speedy and Scenic Group Run

After a few days off, it was back to running today.  Since it is Thursday, it was time for the weekly group run.  We are now meeting at SteelStacks in Bethlehem.  I was hoping this location would bring out a few people in the winter.  It is lit and a beautiful setting.

As I was waiting to run, a young guy showed up on a bike.  Apparently he rode over and was planning to join me for the run.  His name was Noah.  We got to chatting and he said he doesn't run, but wants to start.  He also said he shouldn't have any problem running an 8 minute pace.  I was a little skeptical, at least until he said that he rode across the entire country.  Then I figured that he could probably do alright.

Karl also showed up.  He was there a few weeks ago for the last group run in the Parkway.  That time, he ran with his girlfriend.  This time he came alone.  Flo actually ran into the two of them at the Philadelphia Marathon pasta dinner a couple weeks ago.  It's a small world for sure.

Starting at SteelStacks proved to be an excellent idea.  It is all decorated for Christmas.  There are lights over the street and they project festive images onto the blast furnace.  There aren't much better places to run at night during the Christmas season than Bethlehem.  It will make for some excellent December runs.  The area was a little crowded with Christkindlmarkt going on, but parking wasn't too bad.

It was actually rather nice out (for this time of year anyway).  The temperature was in the 30s, but there was no wind.  I struggled with what to wear only because I knew I'd be waiting around outside in the cold for a few minutes before we started running.  It was either be cold standing there or sweat while running.  I chose to be a little cold.  By the time we got into the meat of the run, I was actually hot with my ColdGear on.  I had removed my gloves long before that too.

It took awhile for my GPS watch to get a signal.  It finally came in when we got to the parking lot where my car was at.  If it took any longer, I would've just started without it.

Karl set the pace early as we started out under the Christmas lights.  Since the last run here was only four miles, I decided to add the part of the Runner's World course that went through Lehigh.  This would give us closer to another mile.  We crossed 3rd Street and had a short climb to Lehigh's campus.  We then came back down and ran over the Fahy Bridge and took the same route as a few weeks ago.

The pace was solid early, but nothing fast.  We did have to stop briefly at a light.  As we went over the bridge, I struggled some with my breathing.  I haven't run much lately and have to get used to the cold air.

We then ran down near the Musikfest/Celticfest area and back up to Main Street.  That provided us with a short, but steep climb up to Main Street and then the long, gradual climb that is Main Street.  We stayed on the west side of the street, which was a good move since there are more shops on the east side of the street.

Karl began to fall back a little, but Noah was still right behind me.  We slowed a bit at this point.  It didn't feel like the pace was too hard, but it was definitely more of a moderate pace than an easy pace.  Probably a little faster than I would've preferred to run, but it worked out well.

Going up Broad Street was a bit busy.  That part of the run is still uphill.  Everyone was hanging tough at this point.  A car let us cross at one of the lights.  The first mile was 8:47, but the second mile was a solid 7:51.

I'm not too crazy about the Broad Street portion of this run once we get out of downtown.  It is much darker and it is hard to see the sidewalk.  It is very easy to trip there.  On the other hand, it is downhill and fast.  We cruised along.  It was brisk pace and I was impressed that Noah could keep up.  He was right on my heels.  Karl wasn't too far behind.  I figured he was close to his limit though.

Noah and I managed to get onto the Minsi Trail Bridge and luckily a car let Karl go through as well.  I still slowed slightly, or at least I thought.  I guess I just can't help it, I always have to push fairly hard going uphill.  I thought this hill might be too much for Noah, but he kept right with me.  Karl slid back a little, but he still was in sight.

When we hit the four mile point, I was amazed to see my watch show a 7:14 mile.  I didn't think we were going that fast.  No wonder Karl lost contact a little.  As we came down the hill, I could see him still on the bridge.  I slowed a little more, but not too much.  At this point, we were almost done, so I didn't mind losing him.

Noah had commented that I was setting a good pace.  We were half a mile from finishing up when we got to the Shoppes at the Sands.  I figured we would be very close to the blast furnace when we hit the five mile marker.

As we got into the home stretch, I decided that I would pick it up a little.  Noah stuck with me so well and I was curious what he was capable of.  I turned it up another gear.  He was able to hang right with me for another tenth or two.  That was actually longer than I expected.  He eventually dropped back, but I was impressed.  For someone that doesn't run, he did very well.  He said that that was the farthest that he's ever run.  He could post some great times if he did start training for running.

I even went too hard myself at the end.  I started to die with about a tenth of a mile to go.  I hung on though and finished up just past the blast furnace.  Noah and Karl were done shortly after that.  The last mile was a blazing 7:04.  Quite impressive because I still could go faster than that too.  I think the rest has really helped my pace.

I do have to be cautious.  My quads had a slight soreness throughout the run.  I might've been up on my toes too much since the pace was fairly quick.  It probably wouldn't hurt to put the additional insole back into my shoe.  I keep landing on that part of my foot.  Hopefully, massaging, stretching and strengthening will help my quads.  I have been working hard on that as well as doing some Pilates for my core.  I want to get more serious about all aspects of my training.  I need any little edge I can get.

It was a great run.  It was small in numbers, but the setting was good.  Same can be said for the pace.  It was nice and fast.  I had hoped to make my run the fast group run and perhaps it will become that.  We'll see.  I just hope it survives the winter.  It sounds like Noah will be there a lot and Karl will join us some.  That's a good start.  If only I could get some others to show up as well.

After the run, I drove up the mountain and found a great place to do short hill sprints.  It was an incredibly steep incline not far from the Steel Complex.  Even better, there is no outlet, so few cars use the road.  I guess I'll be there every week after this run.  I did 4X8 second hill sprints tonight.  Hopefully it will help strengthen my legs, but honestly it actually seemed too easy.  Maybe it will be tougher after more reps in the future.

I'm off from running tomorrow, but I would like to do some physical activity.  I was thinking of perhaps joining Dave and his crew as they mark the course for Saturday's run.  I would ride my bike tomorrow though.  If I don't do that, I might hike at Lehigh Gap.  I'm hoping there is still snow up there on the mountain. 

Dave's run is on Saturday.  I'm just going to be smart and run 8 miles.  I don't want to stop running though.  The run consists of running a 4.4 mile loop.  A new loop starts every hour and the run goes until everyone gives up or can't complete the loop in an hour.  Mostly, I am going to be there to take pictures of the craziness and hangout.  If I tried to run loop after loop, I'd end up injured.  It should be a fun day.

5 miles - 39:19 (7:52 pace)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Easing My Way Back

After taking some time off, I'm working on easing my way back into running.  If I jump right back into 6 days of running a week, my body will get beat up again.  After a good run on Friday, I came back on Monday for a 5 mile run.

I wanted some nice scenery so I headed out to the Saucon Rail Trail.  It was just an easy run.  I'm going to keep all my runs like that for a couple weeks.  I didn't feel quite as great as I did on Friday when I began.  There was some slight soreness in my quads, especially early.  Overall, it wasn't too bad though.

My first mile was definitely faster than it had been before my rest.  Without working hard, I cruised to an 8:29 opening mile.  I felt fast, even when running into the wind.  It was comfortable when the wind was at my back, but a bit chilly otherwise.  I went with a long sleeve tech shirt.  At times, it was too much and other times, it seemed like it wasn't enough.  Wind is the one thing that I really hate about winter running.

I passed a bunch of women coming the other way early on.  It was weird because I only saw two guys running the whole time.  One was with a woman and the other was alone.  The trail was alive with people as it usually is.

I continued to just cruise along.  Again, I wasn't running too hard, but my breathing was a little uncomfortable.  I have to adjust a little because I haven't run as much lately.  The second mile was under 8 minutes and the whole run continued to get faster and faster. 

The final mile and a half before the turnaround was difficult because it was mostly into a headwind.  I battled through knowing that it would be better coming back.  The turnaround came in no time.

I was correct in my assessment.  Coming back was great.  I went much faster.  I was almost too hot as well.  I was very impressed when I saw my fourth mile time of 7:27.  That was close to some of my slow miles in the half marathon and I was running easy today.  Again, maybe it was a little harder than I thought it was.  I definitely didn't run any faster than a moderate pace though.

I really nailed the final mile.  I did run a little harder in the last quarter mile or so, but before that I was still going at a comfortable pace.  My time for that mile was 7:18.  That is certainly moving.  I'm amazed at how much of a difference the rest has made when it comes to my times.  I'm kind of curious how fast I can run on fresh legs now if I were to push myself.

To try to strengthen my quads and just my legs in general, I am going to start doing hill sprints.  I have been slacking with those.  Since I was close to South Mountain near Lehigh, I decided to go over there.  When the road was clear, I ran 4 X 8 second hill sprints.  I hope those help.  I'm planning on doing them twice a week.  I just wish I had some hills closer to my house that were that steep.

I am happy with my last two runs.  My quads are definitely coming back around.  I'm not over the hump yet though.  I continue to have to stretch and strengthen them.  I'm working on doing both a couple times a week or more.  The hill sprints should help.  Gradually adding mileage will be a big plus as well.

The plan for now is to take off until the group run on Thursday.  That would allow me plenty more recovery.  I'd also have the chance to do some more light weightlifting.  It is supposed to snow tomorrow though, so I might be tempted to go out for a little bit of a fun run.  We'll see what happens.  If I do, it will be very easy.

5 miles - 38:51 (7:46 pace)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Back After a Short Break

Last Monday was the last time that I ran at all.  My body was just too beat up and I really needed a rest.  I wanted to be fresh for the Run for the Diamonds race.  I biked a few times, but I don't enjoy that and couldn't get out there as much as I would've liked.  I did lift weights a couple times and did some Pilates.

I'm not sure what I ate, but I had stomach problems the night before the Run for the Diamonds.  I was up most of the night and I threw up three times.  After the first one, I thought okay maybe that is it.  After the second, I started to question doing the race and after the third time, I decided to give up on the race.  I felt fine by the time the race rolled around, but I was just afraid of how throwing up might've comprised my body.  The Run for the Diamonds is a tough 9 mile race after all.  It isn't some easy flat 5k.

If it was a goal race or an expensive race, I might've tried to give it a go.  It was frustrating because this is my favorite race ever and I've only been able to run it once.  Last year I signed up too, but my health problems were bothering me too much.  It dawned on me that the Blue Eagle 5k is the only race I've ever even run more than once (3X).  That just shows how on and off my running career has been thus far.  Maybe sometime I'll develop some consistency and stay healthy.

I was planning to take at least a week off to recover after the race and make sure my quads were 100% before working my way towards a spring marathon.  The good news about missing the race is that I could now ease back into running earlier.  I slacked off a bit throughout today, but right before supper, I decided to give it a go.

I wasn't sure whether I wanted to run 3 or 4 miles.  I just opted for 3.  I figured anything would be good.  I was still kind of dreading the run.  Maybe because it was just going to be a boring and flat run on the Nor-Bath Trail.  My opinion would change shortly though.

Starting off was so exhilarating.  It has been so long since I've felt great at the beginning of a run.  Every run for a couple months has started off with sore quads.  I guess the only exception would be my half marathon a couple weeks back.  I didn't rest or recover enough after that though.

Because of my sore quads, my first mile has always been slow lately.  Typically it is over 9 minutes or just under that.  Today, I just felt like I was flying.  I didn't think I was pushing it either.  That first mile came in at 8:26.  That's been my easy pace for the entire run on most days.

In addition to my quads, my other concern is my left foot.  It has been sore and I've been using an insole.  It curls up though, so I took it out of my shoe and ran without it.  At times, particularly early on, it bothered me a bit.  I'll have to take a wait and see approach on whether or not I want to use it in the future.

I thought about going out and back in each direction, but as I got farther west, I just decided to go to 1.5 miles and turn around.  It was a little windy and I figured I was running into a head wind on the way out.  I might have been, but I still felt the air on the way back too.  For some reason the trail was wet.  That was good since it was nice and soft.  Not sure why it was wet though as I don't think it rained.  Otherwise, the weather was actually great.  It was in the mid 50s.

Coming back was excellent.  I continued really fly.  My legs were great, but actually I didn't feel all that good otherwise.  I struggled some with my breathing.  Maybe I was pushing a little harder than I thought because I was feeling good.  I'm not sure. 

The second mile came in a 8:04.  I continued to fly in the final mile too.  I saw my overall pace drop and drop.  I wasn't pushing too much either.  It was great to be running so well.  I was done before I knew it.  That final mile was a nice 7:40 without too much effort.

I was very pleased with the effort.  I still have to be cautious now.  I can't just jump right back into 6 days of running a week.  I need to gradually work my way back.  If things start bothering me, I need to back off.  I have plenty of time before the marathon.  For now, I plan on spending December building back up.  Then in January, I will get into my marathon training.

My next run won't be until Monday.  I'm only planning on running three times next week.  I will begin adding some hill sprints though to get stronger.  Tomorrow, I'm going to the Footlocker Regional Cross Country Championships in New York.  I'm pretty excited because the best high school runner in the country will be there.  He has run a 14:18 5k this year.  There are also a lot of great runners from PA, including the male and female Morning Call Runners of the Year.  The best from New York, New Jersey and New England are there as well.  I'm going with Mertz and he is running the open race too.  It is at historic Van Cortlandt Park in New York City.  It should be a fun day.

3 miles - 24:10 (8:04 pace)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Self Evaluation Time

If there is one good thing about running yourself into the ground and forcing yourself to take time off, it is that you are free to evaluate your past training and see where you can improve upon it.  That is what I really began doing yesterday.  I knew my training wasn't great in the fall.  I'm at a point where almost anything I do will improve my times, until that point where I go over the edge anyway.

I have been improving and improving, but I've really been running with no set plan.  I tried to put one together in the summer, but it just didn't work out.  I found myself just running with whatever I felt like doing.  In the end, I ended up peaking at 60 miles a week, which is what my initial plan had called for anyway.  I did some harder running, but it was mostly just in the form of weekly 1/2 mile repeats and then on to mile repeats.  Even with no true path to improvement, I was able to run a 1:34:29 half marathon and miss my PR by about 1 minute and 20 seconds.

For weeks, I had been running with sore quads.  A hard week last week and it finally began to catch up to me.  The sorenss no longer went away after a mile and my speeds began to drop.  Suddenly, the running was just hard work and it was too much.  It was time to rest.

It is easy to point at going from no mileage to 60 miles in a week in just over 6 months as the culprit.  That is only part of it though.  A big issue was combining those high miles with too much hard running.  Early on in my half marathon cycle, I was running hard twice a week.  That was just too much too soon.

The runs that really started killing me were some Monday Fartlek runs.  The problem is that I made them too long  and too fast, too soon.  I was doing about 8 total miles in these runs.  While it is good to vary pace and distance within the fast segments of these runs, I was varying them too much.  One interval would be a 7 minute pace for half a mile.  The next would be almost an all out sprint at a 5:20 pace for a tenth of a mile or so.  That was too much on the extremes of the speed and endurance ends of the spectrum.  It is fine to work on both ends, but it has to be done in separate workouts.

These runs didn't seem to bother me while I was running them, but after I stopped I could really feel it.  I couldn't believe I had run that hard.  They took a big toll and I couldn't recover enough for my Wednesday repeat segments.  I need more than one day of rest in between hard sessions, especially when I run as hard as I did during these.  I plan to have at least two days of easy running between hard days in the spring.

I cut fartleks out when I realized that they were causing problems, but by then it was too late.  A lot damage had already been done.  The intervals that I ran weren't done properly either.  When I began, I was doing 1/2 mile repeats at my goal pace of 7 minutes per mile with 1/4 mile of active recovery.  Then, I jumped to mile repeats at the same pace with the same amount of recovery.  If I was going to make the leap in distance, I needed to add to my recovery time or back off the pace to like 7:10 or 7:15 per mile initially and then bring it down to goal pace.  I actually knew this, but I had so little trouble with the 1/2 mile repeats that I thought I could kind of cheat and just jump up.

The other problem with my hard workouts is that I didn't do enough variety.  I did almost no hill sprints or hill repeats.  I only did a tempo run late in the training process.  That should be a weekly staple in the middle of my training block.  I know I should do some weekly hill sprints after easy runs to build up strength and help prevent injuries.  I got lazy though and I did have trouble finding a hill to my liking that is close enough to my house to do these.  I also did no strides or drills to improve form.  All that will be added to the program.

Another thing that was a real eye opener was my longest long run of the fall.  I ran 18 miles a few weeks before my half marathon.  I ran the first 10K with Flo and it wasn't overly difficult, but it was definitely too fast for an 18 mile run.  After that, I ran the rest with Sarah.  My easy run days have been around 8:20 pace and Sarah and I ran nice and slow at around 8:40 per mile or so.  That made the run feel so much easier and more comfortable.  I wasn't beat up at all afterward.

My problem is that I want to get faster partly by running with faster people.  The best chance to run with others is during the BCR outings on Saturdays, which also happens to be my long run days.  A lot of highly competitive runners run their long run with a hard segment at the end.  That's what I was trying to do, by going with Flo or Mertz.  That is fine and dandy if you already have the endurance base of the long runs to work with.  I was still building up those long runs though.  I was trying to both increase my endurance and run hard at the same time.  I have to do one or the other.  If I want to run harder segments at the end of a long run, then I need to back off my total distance.  Say my longest run was 18 miles and then I want to add a hard segment of 6 miles, then I need to drop the total mileage of that run down to something like 14 miles.  I need to be smarter with these long runs.

I need to do a better job with my training in the spring, that is for sure.  I'm looking to try to break 3 hours for the marathon.  That is going to require a good plan.  I have read a lot of different books on training.  One of my favorite has always been "Run Faster" by elite coach Brad Hudson.  Even though I've read it a few times, I felt like I really needed to go back and reread it.  That is what I began doing yesterday.  It was a big help.  I absorbed a lot more and I took a ton of notes that will be helpful in putting together my spring marathon training plan.

I have a much clearer picture of where to start off now and what to add into the mix or reduce as I go along.  I was telling people that I have a fairly good idea of all the different types of workouts and what they do.  I just don't really know how to put it all together (in what quantities and doses).  That's what I've been trying to learn.  It is kind of like having all the ingredients necessary to make dinner, but not having the recipe to see how they mix together to make a finished meal.

At the moment, I am going to take off from running until next Thursday's 9 mile race.  I will stick to cycling for an hour or so a day to keep some of my fitness.  The big thing is that I will also take time off after the race too.  I didn't do that after the half marathon and I wasn't able to recover adequately.  I will not run until the beginning of December.  When I come back, I'm also not going to jump right into 6 days of running a week.  I'm going to start with just 3 days a week and add a day every week for the next couple weeks.  I won't be too far removed from 50 mile weeks, so if all goes well, I'll jump back into that range in a little over a month. 

Regardless, I am just going to listen to my body.  If that is too fast, I'll back off and readjust.  I'd like to peak at an 80 week in April, but if that doesn't happen, it is no big deal.  I need to get to the marathon healthy.  I'm trying to strengthened my quads and my core during this down time and I hope that will help.  Hopefully when I add hill sprints, my legs will get stronger too.  When I begin coming back, I won't do anything fast and I gradually work those type of workouts back into the mix.  I'll also try to get on some softer surfaces.  I've ignored trails too much lately.  I'd like to get at least 1 trail run in per week in the spring.

I still want to run with faster people.  Flo was telling me that she does tempo runs on Fridays and then follows that up with her Saturday long runs.  I was just reading "The Hansons Marathon Method" by the elite coaches, the Hanson Brothers.  They subscribe to the same principal.  Their theory is to run your easy long run after a hard run to get your body used to the fatigue of a marathon.  The only problem I have with that is that they only recommend the long runs to max out at 16 miles.  I'm just not comfortable with that. 

I'm going to try running hard with Flo on Fridays and then doing my long runs on Saturdays.  To do that though, I'll need my Saturday long runs to be at a super slow and easy pace, like Sarah and I did a few weeks back.  I can't run with Flo on Saturdays too, at least not until my fitness gets closer to her level.  If this back to back proves too difficult, then I'll change it up.  Maybe I'll move my long runs to Sundays.  I don't the know.  The problem with that is that I really like running long runs with a group.  It makes them seem to fly by so much quicker.  I want to do both long runs and hard workouts with a group.  Such a dilemma. 

Another issue that I'm still not sure about is whether I'm better from an endurance or a speed standpoint.  My times seem to project out pretty equally among all the distances.  I always considered myself to have better endurance, but now I'm not so sure.  I fell apart at the end of the half marathon and I've always done that at the marathon distance.  I also had a much, much easier time with 1/2 mile repeats than I did with mile repeats.  Of course there is a difference there, but there was also a big difference in my performance in both workouts.  I almost never missed my goal for the 1/2 mile repeats, but I was lucky to hit those goals 50% of the time for the mile repeats.  My legs certainly went away before my lungs did in the half marathon.  That could just be because they were too beat up.  I'm not sure, but I'm starting to think I'm better at the speed aspect than the endurance one.

I get as excited or more excited figuring out these training concepts as I do actually running.  I guess that probably means that I should work on getting into coaching at some point.  I really enjoy putting together training plans too.  It is a fun process that I'm still working on getting better and better at.  Now, I just have to figure out how to stop being so stubborn and begin making changes on the fly and really listen to my body.

I can't wait to get back to running, but I can also say this time off has been a real eye opener.  I look forward to fully putting my spring training plan together over the next week and I hope I can execute it well to reach my goals in May.  I feel like I have a much clearer picture now of where I'm going.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Time for a Break

Today was a tough run.  It just confirmed what I've known for awhile.  I need a break.  From now until my race next Thursday, I will do no running other than maybe the weekly group run.  I want to keep my fitness going, so I'll still do some biking.  I need to stay off my legs and my banged up quads.

I wasn't too motivated to run this morning or afternoon.  Since it quite warm today (in the 60s), I elected to try a nighttime run.  I went out for dinner, so I waited over 2 hours after that to get going.  Around 8 PM, I started off on the Nor-Bath Trail.  Originally, I was going to go to a parking lot around the middle of the trail and go out and back in each direction.  Then I saw a sign that read, "parking lot and trail closed from dusk until dawn."  I headed to my usual spot at Jacksonville Park and started from there.  I don't really care that the trail is supposed to be closed, but I don't want to park where I shouldn't be.

I had on a headlamp and reflective vest and was on my way.  I hoped to get an easy 7 miler done.  I thought it would be a good way to start the week.  As usual, my quads were sore in the beginning.  I figured they would be fine after they warmed up, but that never happened.

I haven't run through here since the hurricane came around.  There were a couple trees down, including one early on.  I was able to get around them.  The path was in good shape otherwise. 

The run was nice and peaceful.  There was a cool breeze.  I really liked the idea of a night run today because I could avoid looking at my watch too often.  I didn't take a peek until I crossed over Airport Road.  Then I was .65 miles into the run.

Usually by that point, my legs have come around.  I took it nice and slow at that point.  I was well over a 9 minute mile pace.  I was running relatively flatfooted.  My legs were still very sore and just felt dead.  I kept on sputtering along.

At this point, I was already trying to figure out where to cut the run short.  I thought about trying to get 5 miles in.  At least that would be an okay day.  I tried running up on my toes more and that was a little better.  My right foot didn't feel great.  I think it was because I tried to wear an insole.  I won't do that with that foot again.  I will only wear one in my left foot.

I ran by Bicentennial Park and continued to feel like crap.  My 2nd mile dropped under a 9 minute pace, but it was still far from fast.  My easy miles when I felt okay were around 8:20.  This one was only 8:50.

I got out 2.25 miles.  I then just decided that this run was a waste of time.  I wasn't accomplishing anything.  I needed to just cut it off.  Since I was so far out, I had to run back a little.  I decided to just go to 3 miles and then walk the final mile and a half or so.

I was done before I knew it.  It was a long walk back, especially with the breeze.  It was also weird walking through the dark.  I don't feel uncomfortable running there, but going much slower at a walking pace was a little unsettling.

I used to be able to justify running with sore quads because it only bothered me until I got warmed up.  I didn't feel it after a mile of running.  It wasn't slowing me down any either.  That is no longer the case.  It bothered me throughout this 3 mile run and definitely slowed me down.  Now, there is no point in pushing any more.  It is finally time to back off.

I took time off before the half marathon and that helped a little, but clearly not enough.  More rest after the half marathon would've probably helped some more too.  Instead, I took 1 day off and then ran for 5 straight days.  Now, I really have to force myself to rest.

Not only do I need to take time off before the Run for the Diamonds, but after it as well.  I keep saying that I'll have no trouble achieving a lot of my goals if I just stay healthy for a couple years.  I always assume that means if my Crohn's Disease doesn't come back.  If that happens, then oh well, I can only control that to an extent.  What I can't afford to do is miss time because I run myself into the ground.

I'm so hungry, but also have to be patient.  I took my training to the edge in 2009/2010 and now this time around, I've upped it even more.  It is time to back off before I fall off.  Even when I do come back in early December or so, I need to ease into it.  Maybe 3 days a week of running at first and build slowly back into it.  I want to get up to a peak week of 80 miles in a week this spring, but if that doesn't happen, that is fine.  It is more important that I'm healthy enough to run a good solid spring marathon.  That won't happen at this rate.

I've been thinking that I need to do some other stuff too.  I'm going to put creating a training plan on hold for now.  I do need to get a plan to involve some core work and also some strengthening.  I want to work on developing my quads some more, so that they can handle the heavy workload.

For now, it will just be biking to keep up my fitness.  That doesn't work quite as well as running.  I don't tire out as much.  At least it is something to do.  I'm not all the crazy about doing so in the cold.  I will probably just bike in the neighborhood around my house.  That will get boring, but oh well.  It is hopefully just a few weeks.  If anything interesting happens while riding, I will write about it.  Otherwise, I'll just stick to writing about running.

3 miles - 27:02 (9:01 pace)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Another Crappy Day

After yesterday's struggle, I knew today's run wouldn't be pretty.  I didn't think it would be this bad though.  Originally, I was hoping to have Mertz pull me along with a few miles under 7 minute pace.  I knew after yesterday, that wouldn't be happening.  I'd just have make due with whatever my body gave me today.

It was Saturday morning, so I met up with the BCR at Eddyside, north of Easton.  I wanted to do 10 miles and was planning on about 4 on my own about a half hour early.  When I got up and saw how low the temperature was, I just decided that I would wait around and start with the group.

I wasn't even paying attention and didn't have my signal on my watch when Mertz took off.  He caught us all by surprise.  I ran about a tenth of a mile before it kicked in.  Then it lost the signal anyway.  I'm not sure if that first mile was accurate, because it said 7:14.  It may have been since we were moving fairly fast.

I ran along with Mertz and Flo.  My legs were already sore.  I'm not used to starting out quite that fast either without some warmup.  My body was already screaming "no," but I ignored it.  I kept on pushing.

Erin joined the three of us pretty early on.  I was surprised to see someone else with us.  I haven't run with her yet, so I didn't really know how fast she is.  She is just coming back from having a baby, so that was pretty impressive.

Between the first and second mile, Erin dropped off.  I was hanging on.  I was already breathing quite hard.  I was kind of surprised because we weren't going that fast.  Not fast enough that I should be struggling with breathing anyway.  I think I struggled a lot with taking in the cold air.

I chatted with Mertz and Flo when I could.  That became less and less though.  Finally at about 2.5 miles, I slipped back and told them to go on.  I could've probably held that pace for about 5 miles max.  It wasn't even all that fast either.  It was a 7:35 second mile and then 7:31 third mile.  That's still around 20 seconds slower than my average pace for the half.  It shouldn't be something I can't handle.

Mertz was only doing 6 miles, so he turned around at the 3 mile point.  By now, I resigned myself to realizing that I was going to do 8 miles like Flo.  Running 10 miles would've been too much.

Flo circled back around after Mertz left.  We ran together.  I couldn't wait to get to the turn around and at least be on the second half of the run.  All the little hills on the path along the Lehigh were killing me.  I sure wasn't enjoying this run.

Flo was telling me how she struggled with a recent fitness test.  I can't imagine how I would do on that.  All I can do is run.  I'm so weak otherwise.  She is so much more fit that me.  I wish I could devote myself in other areas, like at least working on my core and eating better.  That probably won't happen until I plateau in training and have no other way to improve.

We turned around and headed back  I sputtered along and felt bad because I knew I was holding Flo back.  She's on her taper for the Philadelphia Marathon next week, so this isn't too much of a key workout for her, but I was definitely slowing her down.

Finally somewhere around the 5 mile point, I backed off some more and she pulled ahead.  I couldn't wait until I went under the bridge that crosses the Lehigh.  I knew that when I got there, I'd almost be off the path.

As I hit the 6 mile point, I was really struggling and fading bad.  This where I always mentally give up and relax.  Instead, this was the only good moment of the run.  I was hurting, but I decided, what the heck let's try to push anyway.

This only lasted for about a quarter of a mile.  I gained a little on Flo in that stretch, but I wasn't closing in enough to keep pushing through the hurt.  At one point, I burped and felt like I was going to throw up.  I've never done that before and this might have been the closest I have pushed to that point.  After an 8:02 sixth mile, I bumped back down to a 7:47 seventh mile.

Unfortunately, that was all I had.  Flo pulled farther and farther away.  I was on my own.  Earlier, I saw Sarah ahead of me and I hoped that maybe I could catch her.  I never came close.  The last mile was a pedestrian 8:17

I really shut it down in the that mile.  It was a struggle and I tried to cruise home as much as I could.  Most of the group was doing less mileage, so they were already back when I arrived.  I ran through the parking lot a little to finish up at 8 miles.  That at least put me at 40 miles for the week.

I was so grateful to Flo and Mertz for pulling me along, but so upset with myself afterward.  If I had anything in my hands to throw after the run, I probably would have done it.  I can't remember the last time I was that mad after a run.  In high school track, I won my first race, but my time wasn't fast enough to make the league meet, so I threw my shoes on the ground in disgust.  My coach was trying to congratulate me on the win, but I was too pissed.  My goal was to get into leagues.  It turns on that I later did anyway.  That's the only time I can recall being mad after a run, until today anyway.

I'm sure the biggest contributing factor to my poor performance was not resting enough this week.  That left me with some sore legs.  I think the air bothered my breathing.  Also, although it was a little cold, I definitely overdressed.  I wore ColdGear, thinking that it would be freezing.  Instead, it was more appropriate weather for a light, long sleeve tech shirt.  The fast beginning likely hurt me a lot too.  I don't run at a pace like this very often either.  It's either about 45 seconds slower, or short segments faster.  Races are the only long runs that usually ever approach this pace.

I don't want to get too worked up over this run, but I have lofty goals for the spring.  I'd certainly like to be right around where Flo is in 6 months.  I don't expect to hang with her yet in her fast workouts, but I'd like to think I could keep up with her on days like today that are semi easy for her.  Even though my teammates were faster when I ran track, I didn't have any problems hanging with them on normal runs.  It was the speedwork where I fell back slightly.  I guess I'm not 18 anymore, but I still have that same mentality.

I definitely don't want to cut back on mileage, but if I have to back off from an effort standpoint, I will.  I was hoping to run this whole week easy.  Instead, I put in 2 hard days.  My legs will be getting a lot more massaging and attention as I keep going.  If runs continue on this path of being terrible, then I definitely will back off mileage too.  I also need to put together a game plan for the marathon.  Right now, I'm just running.  There isn't any focus on getting from Point A (now) to Point B (3:00 marathon in May).  I have to go back and look at some of what I did for my last marathon and compare it to my recent training.  Then I'll mix it up and put together a good plan.

Tomorrow, I will be taking the day off.  I'm going to shoot some photos for the South Mountain 10 miler.  I love that race because it is a straight climb up South Mountain from Lehigh's Goodman Campus.  I train on there every now and then.  I might even make it up there this week.  I'm going to take some photos of the start and then bike part way up the mountain for more photos.  Monday, I'll get back to running.  I don't have a plan (big surprise).  I'll probably do 6-8 easy miles.  I did run mostly on paved surfaces this week and would like to get on some softer trails next week.

8 miles - 1:02:00 (7:45 pace)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Waste of a Run

Today was my usual Friday run.  I've said it a million times already, but I really hate these short easy runs at the end of the week.  I dread Fridays so much.  Today, the plan was just an easy 4 miler.

To try to make these runs better, I often look to go to more enjoyable locations.  That's what I tried today, but it failed.  I decided to head to Merrill Creek, just north of Phillipsburg.  It is basically a trail around the lake.  I figured I'd do an easy out and back there.  The whole loop is around 5.5 miles.  I didn't want to go that far.

Today was much better weather than we've had lately.  I didn't need multiple layers.  I was debating going without arm sleeves, but then I could feel the breeze off the lake as I changed.  I decided that arm sleeves, a short sleeve shirt and shorts would be enough.

My quads were awful in the beginning as usual.  Compounding the problem was the fact that the big stones on the trail make running uneven.  I started off very slow.  I had to try running in the tire tracks from the park vehicles for better traction.

There is a short clear section.  Then it is into the woods for a bit.  I could already feel a breeze in the woods, even with all the trees blocking me.  My pace picked up, but I was still slow and not feeling good.  I think the hard running last night took its toll.

After coming out of the woods, it is the best part of this run.  You run on top of a dam overlooking the lake.  That is great in the summer, today it was horrible.  The wind was whipping right off the lake, making running very uncomfortable and tough.  I couldn't wait to be done with this section.  There are some bigger rocks there too.  I saw the trail also went down below the dam.  Even though that would be a climb back up, it at least looked like a good wind blocker.

Things didn't get much better when I got back into another set of woods after the dam.  This was windier than the last section of woods and there were leaves, twigs and other debris everywhere.  That made for slow and uneven running.  Something I wasn't looking to do today.  At least they cleared the fallen trees off the path. 

I decided that when hit the first mile, I'd just turn around and head back.  I thought I'd head down the trail below the dam and see where it takes me.  I figured that if I was lucky, I could add another mile there.  Maybe I could run around the roads into the parking area too.

When I got back to the dam, I went down the grass to the trail.  It turned into a woods dirt trail with plenty of roots and rocks.  The bigger problem was that it kept descending.  I didn't want to have to climb all the way back up there.  After a short while, I decided to head back.  I think a downed tree was blocking the trail up ahead anyway.

Going back uphill was tough.  I have my insole in my left foot, but haven't tried one in the right foot.  The problem with my right foot is that my arch gets sore when I go uphill.  It doesn't seem to be a problem on flat or downhill sections.  It really started to bother me as I made the climb.  There was quite a bit of wind too.

I hit the 2 mile point before getting back to the parking area.  I just decided to cut my losses and end this terrible run there.  There was no point in battling hard on an easy day, just to say that I did 2 more miles.  In hindsight, taking a second day off this week probably would've been a good idea after the half marathon.

I was glad I didn't try running on the road out of the parking area.  It was quite a little climb there too.  I guess I need to start massaging my foot as well as my quads.  The Run for the Diamonds race has a huge hill in it and my foot can't be acting up for that race.

I wish I could be patient.  I did try backing off the last few weeks and that helped my quads for the race, but they are back to bothering me now that I ramped up my mileage again.  I think I have to be more aggressive with my massaging and strengthening.  I had problems with my leg early in the summer and that went away after my body adapted.  I'm hoping the quad issue will too, but I'm not sure.  It is tough because it only bothering me when a begin a run.  Otherwise, I'm fine.  It's more like I'm stiff than I am sore.

Over the summer, I wrote an article for the Lehigh Valley Running Scene about being patient when you come back.  I wish I could be that way.  I know what my comebacks have been in the past and I'm trying to push this one even more.  Hopefully, I don't go over the edge.  There's really no reason for me to trying to PR in everything in less than a year, trying to get up to 80 miles in my peak week and trying to break 3 hours in the marathon.  It's kind of tough for me to not push though because with my health situation, I just don't know if I'll ever have problems again.  Whenever I'm feeling healthy and not having Crohn's related issues, I have to take advantage.

Tomorrow, I am going to run 10 miles.  The first 4 will be alone, unless someone else shows up at 7.  I told Mertz that I'd like to run some fast miles with him.  He suggested some splits for the 6 miles that we would do together.  The final 3 miles would be 20:30.  That would be a great challenge, since that's about my 5K ability right now.  That is what I'm looking for.  I'll just have to see what my body feels like after today's run though.  Maybe that will be too much.  Tomorrow morning, I'll decide what I can handle.

2 miles - 19:55 (9:58 pace)