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)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Fast Paced Group Run

The Lights in the Parkway will be starting soon.  Since our LVRR Group Run attendance has been low and there were trees down the Parkway last week, we decided we would move the run.  We figured a better lit area would work.  We decided to move the run to SteelStacks near in the old Bethlehem Steel complex.

Akshay was planning to come, but I still figured that we wouldn’t have anyone else show up.  Not surprisingly, only one person, Jerry showed up.  He has never run with the group before.  He said he runs with a group on Wednesday nights and they do trivia at the BrewWorks afterward.  That sounds like fun.  He lives in nearby Hellertown.  I'm hoping that we can get more Bethlehem people out to run now that we have moved it.

I’d like to think that the unseasonable cold weather was the reason for the low turnout, but I’m sure it will just be that way all winter regardless.  This does look like it will be a great area to run around.
I scouted it out earlier in the day.  I originally thought that we could run to the Fahy Bridge then head right on Market Street and wind up going over the Minsi Trail Bridge for a nice loop.  It turned out that that route was only about 3 miles.  I decided we would add to it by heading left at the Fahy Bridge, then coming up through Main Street and run through downtown Bethlehem to Broad Street.  Then we would go to the Minsi Trail Bridge and back to the start.  This worked out well.

It was cold in the steel area.  I was probably overdressed with my fleece vest on, but I wasn’t sure of the pace.  We took off and it was a good start because they began adding some Christmas lights in the area.  I’m sure it will be very festive when they all are turned on in a few weeks.

I’m used to starting off slow when I run alone.  Today, we started off quick.  It took me a little time to get used to the pace.  Jerry pulled ahead, but I caught up and started chatting with him.  Although, I ran a significantly faster half marathon that he did, our 5K times seem pretty similar right now.  He actually ran the hat trick at the Runner’s World event.  Akshay was right with us too.  In fact, he pulled ahead through a lot of the early part of the run.

Getting to the Fahy Bridge was great.  It was well lit, the sidewalks were paved instead of concrete and there was little traffic.  The bridge was nice and peaceful.  Things got a little hairy as we tried to cross the road on the other side of the Fahy Bridge though.  It was hard to see the cars coming off the bridge.  Eventually we got through it and headed toward the Musikfest area.  That slowed us down.  It is one reason why I don't like running in the city.  It throws things off.

It was nice to run by the old historic part of town.  Running up Main Street was great too.  It was too cold for most people to be out.  We only had to avoid a few of them.  I pushed it a bit up the hill like I usually do.  At some points early on, Akshay was leading the way.  We traded off for a while.

Crossing some of the streets was a minor nuisance.  It took a little time to get across Broad Street.  Although it seemed like we were running fast, we were slowed by waiting to these roads.
Going up Broad Street, we had to dodge a few people on the sidewalk.  One woman just froze until we passed.  A teenager running as well and we blew by him.  We saw two guys and later a girl running the other direction.

The pace was already brisk, but around this time I really pushed it.  If the run is slow, I’m usually good at keeping a decent pace and running with others.  Once the pace gets fast, like it did today, I get too competitive and keep running hard.  I didn’t want to drop Jerry, but as he hung on, I pushed him more and more.  I just worked on staying in front of him.

Broad Street was tricky.  As we got out of town, it wasn’t all that well lit.  It was quite dim.  The sidewalks were uneven.  Luckily, I run a lot up on my toes these days, so I was less likely to trip.
The beginning of Broad Street is uphill, but after that is a great downhill segment.  I really flew at this part.  I couldn’t quite see him, but I could sense Jerry right behind me.  I also saw his shadow every now and then.

With the cold air, running this hard was a little tough.  I didn’t want to take it easy though.  My legs could’ve probably used some more recovery from the half marathon, but I wouldn’t allow it.  I wanted to take advantage of having someone fast to go with.

I sort of figured that Jerry probably wouldn’t stay with me going up the Minsi Trail Bridge.  I knew the pace was fast and we already lost Akshay on Broad Street.  On the bridge, Jerry did fall back, but not completely off.  As I was climbing, I finished mile 3 and saw that I had just run that mile at 6:56.  Since I couldn’t see my watch in the darkness, I didn’t realize we were going quite that fast.  No wonder the other two fell back a bit.  

I cruised a little bit more after that.  I wasn’t looking to run quite that hard.  Jerry caught up to me on the downhill of the bridge.  He followed me in as well looped around the steel.  We followed the Runner’s World finishing area.  I like to finish strong, so I picked it up once again near the end.  Jerry dropped back a little, but he finished just a few steps behind me.  It was a little over 4 miles.  Normally, I would’ve done a short out and back to get to 5 miles.  At this hard pace, that was enough running for today.

The run was small in numbers, but it was a great run.  That’s a nice area to run around.  I enjoyed it during the Runner’s World events and I enjoyed it tonight.  Maybe word will get around and we’ll pick up interest.  If not, I’ll still enjoy running there over the winter.  It will be especially cool during Christmas.  I hope Jerry will at least show up, so I have someone fast to run with.

The insole has helped my foot.  I am no longer sore there.  My quads, however, are still a pain.  I’m going to try some strengthening exercises.  The problem just doesn’t seem to be going away.  I think it might be due to me running more on my forefoot lately.  Walking up steps at home after the run, my left Achilles started to bother me.  I iced it and it feels okay now, but I’ll have to keep an eye on it.

Tomorrow will be another easy day.  I’m thinking only a 4 mile run.  I would like to run up a hill, so I might go to South Mountain.  That probably depends on how my Achilles feels and whether I can handle a climb.  I’ll just have to wait and see.

4.15 miles -32:17 (7:47 pace)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Winter Already?

It is barely November, but winter is raring its ugly head already.  A winter storm is on the way today.  It was freezing when I went out for my run.  Originally, I was going to run in the morning, but it looked like the storm was going to hit within the hour.  I figured that I'd wait until the evening, when it was really snowing.  At least that might be fun.  By mid afternoon, it still wasn't snowing yet.  I figured I might as well just get out there.

The plan was for an 8 miler.  I haven't been to the Ironton Rail Trail for awhile, so I decided to head there.  I couldn't decide what to wear as it was quite cold when I was standing in the parking lot.  At first, I went with a lighter weight orange long sleeve shirt.  I was quite chilly with that though, so I switched to a ColdGear shirt.  I left my gloves in my fleece vest yesterday, so all I could use was a headband to cover my ears.  I still had on shorts too.  It was in the upper 30s.  Not cold enough for long pants yet.

In the parking lot, another runner commented on my Mizuno shoes.  He had the same pair on.  He said he got his at the Finish Line.  If he was still around when I was done, I would've chatted with him about the store, since I know quite a few people there.  However, he had left.

The start was great because it was downhill.  My legs were awkward as usual.  After a third of a mile, they warmed up.  I can't believe that my quads didn't recover at all with all of the rest in the last two weeks.

I went off the main trail and onto the spur trail.  I thought I'd get about 2 miles on there and then do the main loop once.  Instead, I turned around early on.  It was just too windy.  I went the other direction and it was much better.

Without my gloves, my hands were quite cold.  My left hand was the worst and I often had to put my hand in my pocket.  After awhile, it warmed up.

I was actually quite warm in the beginning otherwise.  I cruised downhill.  I didn't feel all that great though.  My legs continued to be sore.  My miles were almost the same pace as yesterday.  I started off around 9 minutes and continued to drop the pace into the low 8s.

I haven't run this trail in the fall before.  With most of the leaves gone, I could see a lot more.  At one point, there was busy road next to the trail.  I think it was Route 145.  I'm not sure.  There was also a lot of work next to the trail.  I think part of it was a nature trail.  In the first mile, I saw a Sheetz and Dunkin Donuts.  Not exactly a good thing that early on when it is freezing.

Most of the run was uneventful.  I saw a walker here and there.  As I was a couple miles in, it got very cold.  It was windy when I was running near the Lehigh River.  It was more brutal than the race on Sunday.  It also began to snow.  I'm glad that didn't last long.  Earlier, I thought I might be wearing too much.  Now, I was glad that I had on what I did.

Even though I knew the end of the loop was uphill, I was looking forward to it.  I also knew I'd be out of the wind at that point.  I didn't feel great and the first half of the run seemed like it dragged on forever.  The second half of the run was much faster.  The one good thing is that I didn't look at my watch too often throughout the run.

I pushed on during the climb.  I was happy when I got back to the start.  I knew I'd at least go to mile 6.  That was only half a mile away.  I was still determined to get 2 more miles in.  At this point, it was back downhill.  It was also much warmer than down near the river.  I continued on out until I hit mile 6.8.

I then turned around and headed back.  I knew this would be somewhat tough because it was back uphill.  When I got to the final mile, I just decided to push fairly hard.  It wasn't all out, but much faster than before.  Even going uphill, the pace was brisk.  The overall pace dropped and dropped.  After most of the miles being run around 8:15, I ran this final one at 7:30.  It was good to do that because I want to finish runs better.  I struggled to finish the half marathon strong.  Some of that was the wind, but regardless, I probably would've slipped some.

I was so glad to be done with this run.  It was such a raw day.  I don't mind running in the winter, but that is when I am acclimated to it.  Now, the temperatures have dropped dramatically in a short period of time.  It is closer to mid winter weather than it is early November.  In the end, I was glad I battled through it.  Runs like this throughout the harsh winter will make me even stronger come spring.

I think all my running this week will be at an easy pace.  Tomorrow will be the LVRR Thursday night group run.  Since the trail was blocked with trees last week and Lights in the Parkway will be kicking us out soon anyway, I decided to move the run.  We'll now run in the Bethlehem Steel complex.  That is more well lit.  We can run around the complex, on the South Side of Bethlehem and even through downtown Bethlehem.  It is better than the dark and lonely Parkway.  Almost no one is showing up for runs there anyway.  Maybe a change of scenery would help.  I look forward to seeing what happens.  I have some ideas for loops, but I'm not completely sure.

8 miles - 1:06:17 (8:17 pace)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Half Marathon Recovery Run

I was quite sore on Sunday after the half marathon.  I didn't stretch afterward, so that probably didn't help.  I was still sore yesterday, so I took off.  I felt go today, so I wanted to get back to work.

The plan was for 6 easy miles.  Now that I figured out that I can run with an insole in my shoe, I'm going to start building back up.  This week my mileage should be somewhere in the 40s. 

After my half marathon was over, I signed up for the Run for the Diamonds race on Thanksgiving Day in Berwick.  I held off on signing up for it because my foot was bothering me.  I signed up last year too and missed it because of health problems.  I didn't want to do that again.

Run for the Diamonds is still my favorite race of all time.  The only time I ran it was back in 1999.  I struggled so bad going up the big hill.  I had side stickers.  However, I battled through it and flew downhill.  Amazingly, I ran the 9 miles in a 61 something.  Since I haven't trained much on hills, I don't have a real goal for the race.  I'd like to break 63 minutes, but we'll just have to see how it plays out.

Anyway, back to today's run.  I haven't run on the Saucon Rail Trail in awhile, so I decided to do that.  This time though, I thought I would run from the other end of the trail.  I was at DeSales University for a cross country meet a couple weeks ago and the trail ends right next to there.  I've run most of the trail, but never this end of it.

There is a nice park there.  It has a football fields, baseball fields and most importantly a heated bathroom.  That was excellent since the temperature wasn't quite into the 40s yet when I started.  Of course, I also didn't want to leave the warmth of the bathroom either.

I wasn't sure what to wear.  I wore a long sleeve tech shirt from the Philadelphia Marathon.  Since I wasn't running hard, I figured I could wear more.  I decided to put on the fleece vest that I bought last year too.  I haven't worn it to run yet and wanted to test it out.  It is made by Columbia.  Some guy started just before me in just a T-shirt and shorts.  I wasn't that crazy, although I still stuck with the shorts.

Another reason that I didn't want to wear too little was that I didn't actually know where the trail started out.  Turns out that it was just a short walk from the park.  It leaves the park with a paved uphill.  I didn't want to start uphill, so I walked until it flattened out.  That didn't take too long.

 As usual, I started out a bit sluggish.  That's especially not surprising after the hard half marathon a two days ago.  My quads were sore again.  I guess that's just going to be a regular thing for awhile.  The zippers on the pockets of my vest rattled.  That was annoying and I guess I'll have to tape them in the future.

The first mile was sure tough.  It took at least a half mile before my legs came in at all.  The quads felt better after that, but my right hamstring was definitely still quite sore.  I plugged along though.  I decided at that point that I would be cutting this run short.  I figured I would go to 4 miles (2 miles out and 2 miles back).

The first mile was tough.  I was on the Upper Saucon Township part of the trail.  This whole trail is beautiful.  There are lots of amazing houses, a wonderful golf course and a creek too.  It is definitely more scenic than a lot of the trails through cornfields.  There was a huge pile of trees near the golf course.  I assume it was all the trees knocked down during the storm throughout the township.

Speaking of trees down, there were two of them down in the Upper Saucon portion of the trail.  The second one nearly blocked the whole trail, but there was just enough room for one person to get under/around it.  I guess they cleared some of it away.  I assume this part of the trail isn't maintained that much.  There are some "No Winter Maintenance" signs.  I'll have to keep that in mind when it snows and I am looking for somewhere to run.

I looked at my overall pace as I approached the 2nd mile and I noticed that it was dropping fast.  It was around an 8:37 and my 1st mile was 8:53.  That meant this mile was quite fast.  It ended up being an 8:20.  Fairly good speed and I wasn't working hard at all either.

Since I was feeling much better, I decided to run another half mile.  That would get me to 5 miles for the run.  Not quite the original plan, but good enough.  This last half mile before turning around felt easy.  Oddly, going this direction, I didn't recognize a thing.  I knew that I must've run this far down from the other direction.  Then I saw a parking area that I was familiar.  Shortly after that, I turned around.  Things looked much more recognizable in this direction.

I quickly found out why going out seemed easy.  Coming back started off very tough.  It wasn't a steep uphill, but I was definitely climbing slightly.  You can sure feel the difference.  Suddenly I had to work a little hard.  The 3rd mile slowed back down to 8:29.

I got distracted for a bit by two deer.  They came from the golf course and jumped over a fence that was probably around 7 foot high with barbed wire over the top.  I didn't see them jump it clearly, but I caught it out of the corner of my eye.  It was impressive.  The one deer was definitely a buck with some nice antlers.  I didn't get a chance to count the points as it ran off along the trail.  It was probably the biggest deer I've seen while running.

After that encounter, it was back to running.  I think the trail flattened out more.  I definitely felt better and I flew through these final 2 miles.  I wasn't putting out any more effort either.  I'm sure closing quickly on the guy that started before me was a factor too.  I was really catching him, but couldn't quite do it before the 5 mile point.  In another minute, I would've blown right by him.  I wasn't actually trying to get by him or I could've just sprinted right past him.  I wanted to reel him in though.

I was finally at the 5 mile point and the finish.  I finished much faster than I started.  I ran the last 2 miles in 8:10 and then 8:05.  I felt good and didn't work too hard.  It was a perfect recovery run.  The vest worked out fairly well.  It definitely kept my core warm.  It wasn't necessary today, but it will be a big help over the winter.  I might not have to wear my ColdGear as often.

As I was stretching in the parking lot, a cute girl ran by.  I was a little disappointed that I didn't see any more of them running on the trail.  It was right next to a college.  That's one thing I sure do miss about Philly.  So many attractive woman on the trail.  It can be quite motivating and cause you to run faster too.

Today was a solid run and good to get back into things.  I'm sort of glad that I just missed my half marathon goal.  That just makes me hungrier and hungrier.  I'm chomping at the bit to get faster and faster.  I set another lofty goal of running a spring marathon under 3 hours.  I am definitely going to need help from my fast friends to do that.  I think it is realistic though.  Right now, I project as a 3:18 marathon.  That's a full 6 months to drop around 20 minutes off.  Even if I fail at that, I should be able to get a 3:05, which would put me into Boston.

5 miles - 41:59 (8:24 pace)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

D&L Half Marathon

Today was the big day.  Ever since I ran the Quadzilla Trail Race in midsummer, I started focusing on the D&L Half Marathon.  When I made my first comeback in 2009, I ran a marathon within the 6 or 7 month time frame.  That was just too quickly.  This year, I decided I would just focus on a fall half marathon.  This was close and much cheaper than the Runner’s World Half Marathon, so I chose this race.

I spend a lot of time training on the course, often running mile repeats from Cementon north and back.  I was shooting for a 7 minute pace.  Sometimes, I hit that goal on my repeats, other times I didn’t.  I felt like I could be fairly close to that or at least my half PR time of 1:33:11.

My parents were driving along the course.  Because of that, I had them park in the town of Northampton.  I didn’t want them to get caught in the start area.  I didn’t realize how far it was to the starting line though.  I had quite a little jog to do to get there.  It did make for a nice warmup.  I had to check in at the start, but then needed to run back to the car to get all my clothes on.  By then, it was getting close to start time.

I was struggling with what to wear.  I was originally planning on just the LVRR singlet and arm sleeves.  The temperature was in the upper 30s though, so I was unsure.  I also knew it would be quite windy along the river.  When I warmed up with a long sleeve tech shirt, it just seemed like too much.  I went with my original gear.  That worked out well.

This is a small race.  I knew that last year 15th place overall was right around my PR.  Therefore, I elected to line up in the front row at the start.  Few people seemed to really want to line up there.  It was a good spot for me.

We took off and I was somewhere in the Top 15 or 20.  When I was warming up, I had trouble with my compression shorts.  They kept falling down my behind.  Not completely down or anything, but just a little.  I’ve run in these shorts a lot and that never happened before.  I would pull them up and tried tightening them, but I had to do that several times.  Eventually I somehow fixed the problem.  It took over a mile into the race to do that though.

The beginning of the race felt easy, but I looked at my watch and the pace was just too fast.  It was 6:27 at a third of a mile into the race.  I knew I had to slow down and I did just that.  One of my calf sleeves fell down around this point as well.  I came through the first mile at a solid 6:53.  A little fast, but the first mile is always too fast.

A few people passed me around this point.  One of them was the 2nd place woman.  I was so far in the front that I had a pretty good idea of where I was at.  I could see the 1st place woman up ahead and even the overall leader for a while.  I ended up passing one of the guys that passed me.  Not sure why he was going so fast so soon.

Before the 2nd mile, we were running on the street, but along the east side of the Lehigh River.  The wind was already brutal and I could tell that it would be in our faces for most of the run.  It definitely slowed me down as I came through that mile at 7:21.

We ran over the bridge and I saw my parents by the Cementon Trailhead.  I was so glad they made it over the bridge before we came through.  Otherwise, they would’ve been stuck in traffic, waiting for both us and the full marathoners.  That race started 10 minutes later.

Getting onto the main trail was great.  I’m so used to running on that surface.  It is better than the roads.  It was also familiar territory.  After a slow 2nd mile, I knew I had to pick it up.  I was still passed by a runner here or there.  One of them was an older guy without a shirt on.  That was a little crazy.  A lot of people were overdressed, but I think this guy was definitely underdressed. 

In the 3rd mile, I started getting into a groove.  At this point, I was just over my secondary goal pace of 7:06 pace.  Early on, I pretty much scrapped my hopes of breaking my top goal of a 7 minute pace.  Running into the headwind was just too much.  It was so brutal.

We got to the first water stop.  I decided to take some Gatorade.  It was terrible.  I don’t know if they didn’t mix it right or not.  It tasted way too strong, almost like it was spiked.  From there on out, I just took water.

I just continued to cruise along.  One of my biggest fears was that I would be running most of the race alone.  While I was never right near anyone, there were always a few people just up ahead.  I could see the 2nd place woman for almost the whole race and John Page from the Lehigh Valley Road Runners.  I don’t actually know John, but he is so tall that he is hard to miss.

Within the next 5K or so, I passed a couple runners.  As a whole in the race I probably passed more people than passed me.  It’s tough to say.  The guys I had passed in this section were breathing hard.  I was thinking, how are they going to run for another 10K plus.

I figured that my family would be at the Cove Road Trailhead.  They were there and I got a gel from my mom.  It was good to see them, especially since there weren’t many people along the course.  I am grateful for everyone that came out to cheer.  Being on a rail trail, it was mostly just us runners.  There was a guy with a bunch of sponsorship signs by his property.  I think he had a couple beers too.

Cove Road is right around the halfway point.  At this point, my overall pace was about a 7:09 or so.  I figured that I could pick it up at the end and set a PR.  After the trailhead, the path hits the only true hill of the course.  The whole course is gradually uphill though.

I do love hills.  Most people stay the same at hills or back off.  I do the opposite.  I push a little more.  This was one of my better miles.  I came through it at 7:05.  My overall pace dropped a little.
Between Cove Rove and Slatington, there wasn’t much but mile after mile of trail.  There is an occasional house.  They are sure interesting places in the middle of the woods.  Somehow I don’t even remember running by the one weird house that I usually go past.  Obviously I did.

My time through 10K was within a mile of my 10K PR from October.  I didn’t push too hard in that race, so I didn’t think I was going too fast.  I didn’t feel great at this point, but I kept plugging along.  The brutal headwind just seemed neverending.

It was strange whenever we hit a part of the river that was calm.  All of a sudden, I wasn’t working so hard and I felt so much faster.  That never lasted long though.  I’d have to think that the wind was causing me to run somewhere between 5-10 seconds per mile slower than I would have otherwise.  I wasn’t cold even with the wind.  I did feel some chafing around my armpit though.  That started bothering me with about 5 miles to go.

When my mom handed me my gel, it was around mile 6.  That was too early to take the gel, so I held onto it for a while.  At mile 8, I finally took it.  It was a Strawberry Banana GU.  That wasn’t the greatest tasting thing.  I had to keep it in my mouth for some time before swallowing it.  A mile later, I took my final drink of water to wash it down.

Originally the plan was to run hard for the final 4 or 5 miles.  With how much the wind was bothering me, I readjusted it to 2 miles.  I knew I had to be smarter and make an adjustment on the fly.

The shirtless guy and another guy were running together through this stretch.  The other guy eventually took off.  I could tell that the shirtless guy was falling off a little.  I was creeping up on him as we approached Slantington.

We went through the last water stop and the shirtless guy stopped and I didn’t.  I passed him right there.  I figured that would be a great spot to make my move.  With how much he was slipping, I knew he couldn’t respond.  We had to run through the parking lot at this spot and that was tough because the stones were bigger.  It really threw off the rhythm.  

After going over the road and back onto the trail, I sort of glanced back.  I could tell that the shirtless guy was still there.  I was so dead at this point, but I knew I had to try to shake him.  I decided that I would make a short surge just to break him.  It worked as I opened up more of a gap.  A classic running move and great practice for the future.

Even though I hoped to pick it up in the final 2 miles, I just didn’t have it in me.  I didn’t feel like I ran too hard, but I had to work so much against the wind.  I guess it finally took its toll.  I was falling apart.  I made sure to really just keep pushing myself.

The whole run was windy, but it got even worse as we approached the Lehigh Gap.  It was like I was running in place.  At this point, I was just looking forward to finishing.  I was around a 7:10 and knew I now had no chance at setting a PR.  Every tenth of a mile seemed like it took forever.

Within the final half mile or more, I could actually see the finish way up ahead.  I could see woman’s 2nd place and some others up ahead of me.  I could also see the crowd watching the race.  It looked so far away and I felt like I might never get there.

I knew I had to keep giving a lot because I could sense some people coming from behind.  I knew they weren’t close enough unless I really fell apart.  I think it was the 3rd place woman approaching me.  I think she might’ve got by the shirtless guy.  I’m not sure because I didn't completely turn around.

Right near the finish, I saw Jennie from the BCR and also high school.  It was good to have her volunteering and cheering me on.  She's had some injury problems and is working her way back now.
I kept going and pushed hard through the finish.  It wasn’t my usual sprint finish.  I just didn’t have anything left.  I came through with a 1:34:29.  Considering the conditions, I was happy with my time.  Sometimes you just have to accept that it isn’t your day.

I was proud of myself because I didn’t completely quit or back off.  My times slipped, but it wasn’t because I ran any easier.  I would’ve liked to have really tested myself and just pushed even harder at the end.  I’ve never really done that.  I haven’t tried to go beyond my limit.  Without the wind, I might have tried to give a little more.  I thought about my health problems when I thought about relaxing and backing off.  I couldn’t get myself to do that.  It didn’t help me push ahead, but at least I didn’t go easy either.

My dad forgot my sweatshirt in the car, so I was cold for a bit after the finish.  He did give me his shirt at least.  Then he went back to the car.  I waited around at the finish.  I wanted to get some pictures of my friends finishing.  I missed Shayne until was right next to me.  By then, it was too late for a picture.  I got plenty of pictures of Tom and Angie pacing.  I also got some photos of April too.  I was hoping to wait around until Mel came through with the marathon runners, but it was just too cold.  I wanted to get some soup after that, but it was too crowded in the tent.  I guess I should’ve grabbed some when I was initially in there right after I finished.

I would’ve liked to have run a better clock time, but all in all, I’m happy with my race.  I don’t really see anywhere where I could’ve run much better given the conditions.  I knew I could run hard for about 8 or 9 miles and that’s what I did.  I probably need to work on some faster longer runs because I did slip in the final 5 miles.  I need to be pushing on at that point, not fading away.  

Six and a half months ago, I was running my first mile after surgery.  That was a 10:09 mile.  Now, just a short time later, I’m up to running a half marathon at 1:34:29.  In my first comeback in 2009, I started about the same time of year.  That year, I ran a half in early October at a 1:41.  It took me until March of the following year to run my 1:33:11 PR.  Now, it is early November and I’m already on the heels of that.  I’m making amazing progress.

This wasn't a bad race, but with the wind, I'm not sure I'll run it again.  It would be so much better if we ran in the other direction.  We'd have the wind at our back and it would be downhill.  Of course we wouldn't have the cool finish area between the gap, but oh well.

Perhaps the greatest thing about today was my foot.  I have only run once this week and little the week before.  My foot was bothering me every time I landed.  I put an insole in today and ran with it and had no problems.  It worked great for keeping the pressure off the ball of my foot.  When I tried it earlier in the week, it got all wrinkled and was uncomfortable.  Today, that wasn’t a problem.  I accidentally wore it upside down.  That worked out.  Now, I can run with it.  I won’t have to take time off and bike.  As long as the foot isn’t sore, I’ll keep going.  I’m also going to sign up for the Run for the Diamonds Race now.  It is a tough 9 miler in Berwick on Thanksgiving Day.  It is my favorite race ever.  I can’t wait!

13.1 miles – 1:34:29 (7:13 pace)