Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Starting to Build Up

Life plods along much like ... well much like the way I run. I've been pretty steadily running 9 miles a week for the last few weeks. I had planned on running another 5K race on 11/12, but have since come to find out that the race is sold out, so the only organized run on my schedule is the 5K on Castaway Cay during our upcoming Disney cruise. I had a vague notion of trying to increase my mileage but I wasn't entirely sure how to do it. Well, I mean obviously you do it by running more distance, but I wanted a way to do it without risking injury and with the best chance of being successful. I happened upon a program in a thread on the Runners World Forums that had a link to a "Novice Spring Training" program by Hal Higdon that is designed to increase from 9 miles a week to 15 miles a week in 12 weeks.  Hey, I'm running 9 miles a week now, so maybe this will work. And it calls for 4 days a week of running, which is exactly what I wanted to do. So I've started that program this week. It gradually builds, starting with 2 1.5 mile runs and 2 3 mile runs until you finish with 3 3mile runs and 1 6 mile run each week. I think that will be great because once I run 6 miles, I can then start thinking about running 10K, which just so happens to be the distance of the Peachtree Road Race.

Its been pretty cold in the mornings while I'm running, mostly in the low to mid 40's, but its not too terrible. I'm still struggling at the end of my 3 mile runs, but I do feel a lot stronger than I was a month or two ago. I just have to keep in mind that this is the long haul, that every run is building something and that someday I'll look at these types of runs as easy ones.

I've been struggling with my eating since I hit a low of 268 at the end of last week.  I pigged out at the fair and have hovered around 271 since then.  I think I'm getting back into the groove now, though eating a McRib sandwich tonight probably wasn't the best idea. I had hoped to get down to 250 before Thansgiving/Cruise time, but I'm probably not going to get there without some serious starving. I just need to refocus myself and I can hope to get below 260 by then and try to limit the damage on the cruise as best I can by making sure I work out on-board. I'm actually looking forward to running on the ship, as there's a track on board that is three laps to a mile.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Slow and Steady

I think slow and steady is a pretty appropriate description of many things in my life. Certainly it describes my running, though only for short periods of time. I did 8.5 miles in three runs last week. I'm struggling to get 3 miles in each time I run. Without a steady program, I'm finding it a little hard to get into a rhythm. I don't like running the loop at the park because its too short and I'm tempted to stop rather than go out on another lap. I tried to run on the greenway path, which I think will be better for me because the real decision on how far I run will be made when I turn around. However, its really really really dark out there in the morning. I'm not really afraid of anything, but its somewhat uncomfortable not being able to see while i'm running. I might have to go out and buy one of those headlights if I want to continue that. So I've been mixing it up. Last night I stayed up later than I wanted, so I ended up running at the gym after work. I did a full 5K on the treadmill in a little more than 38 minutes.

So for now I'm thinking that I'd like to start to increase my mileage, but I think I'll do that by adding a day of running at first. This week I'll run 3 miles 3 days, then next week I'll add a day, maybe one a little less or 4 full 3 mile runs. I'll try to keep that steady through the end of the year and then build up some more mileage through the spring until I can run at least one 6 mile run a week with a target of running a 10K next summer.  Hopefully that will be the Peachtree, but if I can't run that one, I'll find another.

I know its going to be a tough go through the winter.  Hopefully this winter will be mild and I'll be able to get some good runs in outside. And I need to continue losing weight. The only way that I'm really going to be able to increase my speed will be to drop more weight. This past saturday I tipped the scales at 268lbs, which is 49 from where I started and probably the least I've weighed in 8 years. I celebrated that with a semi pig out at the fair, so 50 lbs may be a week away, but I'll get there.

I don't know if its because I'm more aware of it, but I'm finding that there are a lot of people that I know who are runners. I'm still too slow to enjoyably run with them, but I look forward to being able to run socially as well as just pushing myself. I can't wait for the day that someone who comes along with me to a race doesn't have to hold themselves back to stay with me.

One more cool thing. I got a ChromeBook today at work.  Its a nifty little machine. I like the interface, because I use the chrome browser all the time anyway. The Citrix Receiver works great on it though I don't think that we have a site set up for external access, so I can only run my apps at work. The battery life seems to be really good too. Well, too bad I can't keep this one, but it may be a good cheap alternative for something portable at home.  I think it comes with 3G built in too, though I don't have it set up.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Race 2!

Today was the second 5K of my infant running career. It was a race on the other side of town that was benefiting some families of children with cancer. The stories of these children are at once heartbreaking and full of hope and it did make me feel good to participate. I brought my wife and the girls to the race as they had a lot of activities set up for kids, like bounce houses, balloons and such. We got to the festival about an hour before the Noon start time and met up with a friend of mine who I conned into running with me. He's a good runner but he held back and stuck with me the whole way.

There were a couple hundred people running, lots of families and kids. We started directly up hill and then turned left into a nice steep downhill. I definitely went off a lot more quickly than I did last week and paid for it later on. The course directions were well marked, but there were no distances. I'm guessing that it was during the second mile that I really started to suffer. There was a long drag up hill and it took a lot out of me. We were leapfrogging with a couple of people and I tried to remain steady.  I did walk two short sections after uphills to recover. My HR must have been through the roof and my breathing was more labored than it's been in a while. We had a good time though and as we finally reached the finish area there was a nice crowd cheering us on. I found my family and gave them a wave as I went by into the finish straight. The clock read 36:30 at I crossed the line, which surprised me a bit. It makes sense looking back that I struggled so much, because I was running at a pace about a minute per mile faster than I had the week before, and definitely faster than I'd ever run in training.

While I was a little disappointed that I couldn't hold my pace, I'm happy that I did try to push myself and I keep trying to remind myself that I'm still racing carrying 270lbs.

Some moments I remember from the day -

  • A team of youth football players was running behind us most of the way, but several of the kids were shooting ahead and then being called back by their coach. I think some of those kids could have beaten me by 10 minutes or so.
  • Near the end we caught up with a few women, one of whom was pushing a kid in a stroller. The woman, kid and stroller all together probably weighed less than me.
  • This was the first race where I ran into people I know or at least who I recognize. I saw the trainer at the gym who runs the boot camp out there in front of me, and I passed the lady who runs the pottery place my girls like.  I passed her because she was with 4 kids at the time.  That was a theme for me, I only passed people who had to start walking because of their kids.  
  • When I was struggling at my worst, a  woman passed us who, shall we say, chose very wisely when she picked her compression tights for today. We nicknamed her "motivation" and tried to keep her in sight for the rest of the way. After the race I never saw her again, so I'm convinced now that she was just a hallucination.

I felt a lot worse physically after the end of this one. Not sure if it was the time of day (it started at noon) or the fact that I hadn't eaten in hours or just the heavier effort, but I was physically down until we ate some lunch some time later. I'm going to try to increase my mileage in training for the next couple of weeks. My next race will probably be in the middle of November, when I'll try a local race through a holiday light display for toys for tots, and then one on our Disney cruise.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


I got back into town yesterday afternoon/evening on one of those flights where lots of little annoying things went wrong. I tried to keep a mellow attitude through it all, but the 2 hours it took me to drive home from the airport was almost too much for me to bear. And then to top it all off, the baseball game broke my heart. About a month ago I thought that I had a serious shot for both my favorite football team and baseball team to play for championships this year, but alas it isn't to be. In years past I'd be much more heartbroken about it than I am today, but its still very disappointing.

One bright spot, I did go pick up my race packet for Sunday's 5K last night. I'm really looking forward to getting out there and running again. I ran a couple of miles on the treadmill at the hotel on Thursday. The treadmill is placed right in front of a mirror, so you are forced to stare at yourself while you're running. I enjoy the trails and the rabbits run away when I'm running outside, not so much watching my shirt get wetter in the mirror.  Oh well, at least I got a workout in.

It looks like I'll be running by myself (well alone in the crowd you could say) tomorrow. My goal is to beat my time from last week, but it really isn't that important.  I don't think there is chip timing for this, so I'll just try to go hard the whole way and see how it pans out. Now that I feel pretty settled in with my running schedule, I'm going to go back to doing some weights to help increase my strength. Yesterday I was showering at the hotel which has one of those bathtub showers. When I put my foot up on the bathtub to wash my legs, I was surprised by how well defined the muscles in my calves have gotten!  Now I just have to do some of that with the rest of my body.  I used to joke when I was younger that I have a 6pack stomach, its just hidden under a layer of fat.  I'd like to be able to make that joke again next summer.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Aftermath

I learned a valuable lesson after the race on Sunday. Don't forget to stretch!! Being caught up in the atmosphere of the race and not in my regular routine, I didn't stretch at all, and didn't do much of a cool down other than walking around slowly. Monday I was sore, quite sore. I'm sure some of it had to do with the effort of the hills, but I know there was some tightness in my hip flexors that could have used some serious stretching. 

Monday was a rest day, and was actually my daughters' birthday. My wife and I went to school and read to both of their classes, then took them out to Cheesecake Factory for their birthday dinner. They love that place and because we were there early for dinner, the server had the entire staff come out to the table to sing them Happy Birthday. It was really cute. The girls are cute in that they know I can't eat any cheesecake and they almost feel bad about it, but in their eyes I think they realize it just means more for them.

This morning was time to get right back onto the horse. I was a little worried that I'd be fatigued or too sore, but once I got moving I felt pretty good. I did just over 3 miles in 39 minutes, so right on the same pace that I ran on Sunday. Today I did a full cool down walk and my full stretching routine.  That and a little Advil seemed to have kept the soreness to a minimum. My legs still feel pretty good considering. Tomorrow I'm headed out of town for a couple of days on business, but I'm bringing my shoes and I'll get my run in Thursday morning on the treadmill at the hotel. Then Sunday I'll be doing my next 5K. 

I'd like to be able to increase my mileage per week over the rest of the year until i'm doing 15-20 miles a week.  Right now I'm at just about 9. I could add another day running each week and slowly build the miles of each run until i'm doing 4-6 per day. I think that will carry me well through the winter and put me in good shape to tackle a 10K in the spring as well as have a launching pad for an attack on a HM next year. I just have to be careful not to do too much too soon, listen to my body and make sure I enjoy myself.  

I started out running as a way to keep accountable, to tie my exercise to specific fitness goals and help with my weight loss. That has worked but I've also discovered another unforeseen benefit. I know realize that I'll be able to run better and faster as I lose weight, so I'm being more careful about my nutrition to help drive my success at running. It really is wonderful to use the perpetual cycle on the positive side rather than the negative.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

The First Race

I didn't get to post at all this week, but it was a very full week. I got my two runs in on Tuesday and Thursday, though I didn't get to go the full 3 miles because I was tight with available time, I did 2.5 on Tuesday and 2.8 on Thursday. Felt good on both days, stretched and the legs were feeling fine.

This was another busy weekend with a soccer game and the girls' sixth birthday party on Saturday and of course my first 5K on Sunday. Since this blog is my selfish attempt to focus on me, I'll just say that the soccer game was great, we tied and the team is getting better. The girls party was a lot of fun too. I took a lot of pictures and video with the camera and thanks to my wife's great friends there wasn't even a lot of clean up to do. After the party we went over to the neighbors for some football and to let the girls burn off some energy. We came home at 9pm and all of us were off to bed.  Why to bed so early, you ask... well because the race started at 7am and was bout 25 miles away, so I was picking up my buddy at 5:30 for the ride.

We got off to a good start and made it down to the race location at about 6:15. The "main" race for the day was the Atlanta 13.1 series half-marathon and we were running the 5K that goes along with it. It was really well organized, so parking was a breeze and the start/finish area was well signed. Being my first time, I was feeling a little out of place, but I decided to just plaster a smile on my face and have a good time. There were about 2500 runners for the half marathon and it was just really cool seeing all these people gathered in one spot for such a neat thing. Did I mention is was about 45 degrees?  Brrrrr.  I'm ok with the cold, but you could tell a lot of people hadn't yet gotten used to the season change around here. We walked around the start area for a while, just soaking in the atmosphere and people watching. With about 5 minutes before the start, we headed towards the back of the crowd so I didn't block anybody's path through the start.

We started at the sun started brightening the sky to the east. Walked up to the line with the crowd and started my trot as we crossed the line. As we turned left onto the main road it was awesome to look ahead and see all those bobbing heads filling the road. There was a pretty good downhill in the first half mile and then a rise. I was having some trouble with my pants sliding down and stopped once to retie them. Then my shoe came untied, which has never happened on any of my runs, so once again I was off to the side to stop and retie. My buddy was running with me and he just laughed at my "first race disasters." We turned into this nice neighborhood and passed the first mile marker at 18 minutes clock time. We weren't sure how far after the start we crossed the line, so we figured we were about 13 minutes.  We heard one woman start getting worried as she saw the clock. "Wow, that's a really slow mile," she said to her friend, who then had to explain to her about chip time and clock time. (For those of you who don't know ... they start the clock when they yell go and the first runners start, but each runner has a chip in their race bib and a mat at the start and finish record your "actual" time).

There were some pretty significant ups and downs in the second mile. We were still moving along at a pretty good pace, but we hit this bitch of a hill and I took it at my regular pace.  I was passing a lot of people on the hill and when I got to the top I was struggling. I was able to keep going though my breathing was labored.  Around this time we got to the water station which was cool, having all those cheering people. Shortly after the water station there was another tough up hill. I was hurting through this one, thought about walking to for a few moments, but kept focused on the top and pushed it through. Just after the top they split off the 5K runners to head back to the finish while the "real" runners kept going. I was able to catch my breath on a nice down hill section that led through to the last 1/2 mile.

This last part was brutal. We had driven in on this road and I saw that it was uphill almost all the way to the turn where you go about 150 yards to the finish. We started up the hill and I saw the finish but it was not close enough. There was a roundabout at the turn and I saw they put us on the outside, going around the left before making the right hand turn. I thought that was mean but I knew we were almost there so I kept going up the hill. A cop at the roundabout was going all "drill sergeant" on the group in front of us who were walking the hill. "You can't walk up my hill!" he was barking. We got up there and we smiled and waved as he said something about personally designing the course. IT was then that I realize the reason we went left around the roundabout . We didn't turn right down the drive to the finish, but had to go another 50 yard or so up the steepest part of the hill before we turned around to come down.  After commenting on the cruelty of it, the volunteer at the turn around cheered us on and said "its all downhill from here."

We had seen the clock said 44 minutes when we passed the roundabout, and it was about 44:30 now. I really wanted to beat 40 minutes, but as I said, I didn't know how much cushion we had from the start. We turned the corner together and I told my buddy the Giants fan (the guy from last week) that since they had won he could finish first. He said no its cool, and I jumped him and took off, laughing as I did. They called out our names on the PA and I came across the line, feeling really darn tired but proud and smiling. Trying to figure out what each volunteer was trying to hand me, between water and powerade and bananas and cookies and towels and who knows what else, got our pictures taken and then we were out. My legs felt great, buy my lungs were hurting on this one. It was a great feeling to finish and walk back through the fairly empty start/finish area.  We walked through to the other side to grab our bags and stood to watch the half marathoners go around on their second loop, then went back to the finish to watch the winners come through in 1:03, amazing times.

Some moments that stick out from the day...

  • Running past a man pushing his handicapped son in a stroller up one hill and having him fly past me on the downhill.
  • Seeing a cop pull up and get out if his car at the bottom of the last hill.  I asked him "Do you have your radar gun?  How fast was I going?"  He says "I got you at 1.2!"  I laughed, "All right, my fastest yet!!"
  • Drill Sergeant cop telling us we were doing a great job.
  • Turning to my left to spit and noticing at the last minute that a woman was passing me on that side.  I lowered my head and spit in front of me and she said "Bless you" as she ran past, because she thought I'd sneezed.
  • Walking past the results table after the finish, I asked the girl there "Did I win?" She says, "Did you beat the bear?"  "There was really a bear?? I thought I was hallucinating" was the funniest thing I could come up with.  Apparently the sponsor's mascot is a bear and they had some guy in a bear suit run the 5K. He came in second.
Thanks for reading if you're still there. It was an awesome experience. I had a great time though I was hurting through the end. I can't imagine running 13.1 miles on all of those hills, but I definitely want to give that a try.  Next week, race number two.

Oh yea, almost forgot ... my buddy checked our times on his Iphone on the ride home. My chip time was 39:48, which means I beat my goal even with my early race disasters.