Monday, April 25, 2011

25 Days in Review

I am not a big "week in review" guy. I don't have a problem with it, it just isn't my style. But, knock on wood, April has treated pretty me pretty comparison with January, February and March who are all jerks. So, I thought I'd break it down for those who are without Athleticore, and for some odd reason, care.

I set April 1st as the beginning of a base-building period (just running -- no workouts), with May 1st being the target for starting a new training plan. Prior to April 1, I had spent roughly three weeks of March working my way up to being able to run every day, starting with three walk-runs a week on the treadmill, easing into outdoor running on pavement, and eventually running 6-7 days a week. As I write today, I am feeling fit and fresh. I've put together a tentative race schedule, and I'm excited to finally get 2011 underway.

April 1-3 -- 26.9 miles. 1hour, 10 minutes of corrective exercises/strength training.
Key Run: April 2nd on the McMullen greenway. I met up with Aaron, Caleb and Yusef. I hadn't run at McMullen since before the marathon in November.

April 4-10 -- 57.3 miles. 1hour of spinning. 1 hour, 16 minutes of corrective exercises/strength training.
Key Run: April 8th I did 8 solo miles around the Dilworth/Myers Park area. It was just an awesome Charlotte spring morning. Crisp, but not cold. The sun was just coming up. I came back feeling sappy about my sport of choice.
Interesting note: I have not biked since this week.

April 11-17: 69.3 miles. 57 minutes of strength/corrective exercises.
Key Run: April 17th I met Jesse in Arlington for my long run. It was good catching up with him because we hadn't run together in years. After he split off, I got to see some nice scenery (Roosevelt Island). I got lost and ended up running an extra three miles, but it was really nice out and I felt great. By far longest run since the marathon and 100% pain free.

April 18-April 24: 64.8 miles. 1hour, 30 minutes of strength/corrective exercises (including one appointment with Mark Kane.)
Key Runs: This was just a solid week. I ran with three different groups Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and got a chance to run with 11 different people (Jordan, Thomas, Michelle, David, Paul, Justin, Kevin, Jason A, Jason M, Aaron, Kahn). We did the Museum Mile course on each run. Saturday the 24th, I was in Lexington, Virginia visiting Lauren's dad for Easter. I hated the idea of getting up before the sun to do my long run, but ended up glad that I did. I logged 16 miles on the scenic and forgiving (soft-surface) Chessie Trail and felt as good as I have felt since early fall. I was effortlessly clicking off 6:45s. At the end of the run, I randomly ran into Jenna W who was out for a run before coaching at the Big South conference meet going on at VMI.

One more week of this "easy" stuff, then it's time to focus on some competitions. I've registered for the Boilermaker, and this year I am actually going to run it. I am looking forward to a little bit of speed work with Cailtin, Meagan and, Alice tomorrow morning. But, the challenge going forward is just as much about being smart and sustainable as it is about being fast and competitive.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Of Jelly Beans and 26th Presidents

I can tell I am ramping up my mileage by the amount of food I am consuming. Once I pass that 60 mile-a-week mark, the only time I am not eating is when I am actually running. Although last week on my long run, I ate a CarbBoom gel in the midst of a 17-miler (more on that in a bit), but anyone who’s ever popped an energy gel would likely agree that it’s not really food.

Because of the amount of running I do, I can’t really remember an extended period of time when I was not hungry. In fact, sometimes I worry that I have a condition. Perhaps the sensors in my brain that alert my body that I have taken in enough don’t work. Do such sensors even exist? Of course, I’m not complaining. I love to eat and I don't really worry about faining weight. Right now, I am eating honey graham crackers. It’s just one item in the bottomless bag of snacks that accompanies me to work every day.

Now, I try to make sure my snacking…err…grazing…is healthy. But, is there anything better than Starburst Jelly Beans? By the way, this blog will go off on tangents. I rarely buy candy. Ice cream is my junk food of choice. But, I make a yearly exception for Starburst Jelly Beans. When the fine folks at Starburst unveiled this product some years ago (It couldn’t have been that long ago because I remember world where it was either chalky generic jelly beans or the grossly overpriced Jelly Belly), they rendered all other jelly beans irrelevant. End of story. Over the years, Starburst Jelly Beans have become available year round. I don’t recognize this fact. To me, they are a treat to be reserved for the Easter season. That keeps them special. I also don't recognize all these new flavors they have come out with. Tangy, sour, spicy. I'll stick to the original thank you very much.

One of the more humbling moments I’ve experienced in the past month has to do with Starburst Jelly Beans. I was in Target running some household errands when the mood struck me. After picking up light bulbs and vitamins, I headed for the candy section where I was stymied by the absence of the magic beans. A person with more pride would have given up an gone home. Not me. I looked for an associate it and had her point me in the direction of the jelly beans. There are few things more embarrassing than a 27-year-old man asking a Target associate where to find the jelly beans.

It’s one of two times I had to ask for directions as of late. Back to the 17 mile run now. Lauren and I were in Virginia last weekend visiting my sister and her fiancĂ© Brian slash introducing our parents to each other. Sunday morning, I had made plans to drive from Centreville to Arlington and run with Jesse. My plan was to do 14 and Jesse would do the first seven or so with me. That’s how it unfolded. After Jesse peeled off, I made my way toward Theodore Roosevelt Island which sits in the middle of the Potomac just past the finish of the Marine Corp Marathon. I did a loop around the island and started to head back down the asphalt greenway into the residential section of Arlington. I don’t hear directions well. So, everything Jesse told me to do went in one ear and right out the other and I soon found myself approaching 14 miles and in some random neighborhood I had never seen before. Thankfully, I found a gentleman in an Iron Man cap, assumed he must know the area and asked him for directions. Three extra miles later, I was back where I belonged. Was this story interesting? No.

I’m happy to have been back at it for nearly a month now. I’m just logging miles and having fun. May 1st…the hammer comes down.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Oh, what a beautiful morning!

I woke up one day to realize I was a morning person. Maybe it's my recent "find the beauty in everything, just fortunate to be running" attitude that's making me sappy and nostalgic, but I have decided that the morning hours are the best part of the day.

To understand how drastic of a transformation this is, some history is needed. Mom and dad are polar opposites when it comes to day parts. Mom hates the morning like Beaver hated brussel sprouts. 7am is sleeping in for dad. Mom is a night owl. Dad falls asleep in the recliner. For the bulk of my life, I have been mom.

Little kids are supposed to love the morning right? They wake up before the sun and go bounding into their parents room to energetically announce the start of a new day. Not this little kid. I remember being a groggy third grader when Mom woke me up for school, stumbling downstairs to eat my toast, then falling asleep on the couch to Garfield cartoons until the last possible second.

In college, I'd stay up until two or three in the morning, sometimes not even going for a run until midnight or later. In fact, I remember the one time over summer break when I told my dad I would go to the gym with him and meet up with his 5:45am running crew. The only way I could make it happen was to just stay up through the night. One semester, I signed up for a 9am astronomy class. It entailed going into the pitch black SUNY Oswego planetarium, first thing in the morning. Ask me a question about stars.

But, there are two big reasons to run early in Charlotte. One is the heat. Two is because that is when everyone else runs. I started by joining a group that ran on Thursdays from the Dowd YMCA. I could live with once a week. At first, I thought it was crazy. Then, I started to like the feeling of accomplishing something of that magnitude before the work day even started. Over the course of three years here, I have become a morning runner. One day a week became two or three days a week. That became five, six or even seven days a week. I used to be groggy, stiff and slow. Now, my body feels most comfortable logging the miles at 6am. If I try to run in the afternoon, I feel out of whack. I've done runs as early as 4:30am, just so I didn't have to do them at 4:30pm.

Sometimes I say I am going to sleep in, but my internal alarm goes off around six, and there's no going back to sleep. If I don't get out of bed, I feel like my day is wasting away. The mornings are so quiet, peaceful and crisp. Sleeping through it is like skipping the first chapter of a book or the opening scene of a movie. That must be how dad feels.

Running has become my coffee. If I don't start my day with it, the rest of the day is hard to get through. Don't get me wrong. I still need coffee.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Beauty in the Basics

I had the chance to run in the Palo Duro Canyon on Monday. It’s the second largest canyon in the United States, appropriately located in Canyon, Texas. And, it is breathtakingly beautiful. Winding my way through the hard pack trails, past stunning rock formations and up and down steep hills, I found myself feeling thankful. There was a chill in the air, not another human being in sight and dead silence. If you think that sounds like the perfect setting for a catharsis, you’re right.

Somewhere during that run, I learned something new about running. Scratch that. Perhaps, I remembered something old. Running, the same sport that gets your heart rate soaring, your sweat glands pumping and your legs aching, can be very relaxing. For the past three years, I have been sort of a running snob – when it comes to my own running, not others. If I’m not doing a week filled with fartleks, tempos and track workouts, I’m not working hard. I can't afford to have that attitude anymore. For the time being all I can and should do is run. 40-60 minutes a day, no special instructions. Just put on my shoes (and my shorts) and go out the door. I don't wear the Garmin. I just run on feel. At first, I was anxious, and now I find it very freeing.

And that is how I felt as I made my way through the Palo Duro Canyon. Free. Running and thinking about how much fun it is. No Garmin. No mile markers. Just one foot in front of the other. It’s the best way to explore a new landscape. When there was something that caught my eye, I stopped and stared. A couple of times nothing in particular caught my eye, I would find myself amazed by my surroundings and I would take a few seconds to stand there on the trail and take in a panoramic view.

The day before, although I had done my own run in the morning, I was excited for the opportunity to join Lauren on her three mile afternoon run. We were running from her grandparent's farm and the entirety of the run was along a cattle pasture. I spent the run coaxing the cows to race us and believe it or not, they did. I kept yelling "moo" at them, and since they responded, I can only assume I am fluent in the language of the bovine.

The point of all this; neither of these were my fastest runs. Neither run was my longest run. But, both are runs I won't soon forget. How many 7, 8 or even 15 milers have I been on during a marathon cycle that I can't remember a darn thing about?

Don't worry, I am not going all soft. I want to run fast. I itch to be back on the track. I want to race and secretly, I am planning races to target. But when you are in a situation that you can't change, you do yourself a much better service when you see the positives of it. Sure, these runs I just gushed about weren't the capstone runs of Boston training by any means, but no run is unimportant. Each one is a step to getting to where we want to be. We all have a goal in mind. Maybe it's to lose weight. Maybe it's to PR in a new distance. Maybe it's to cut down on gas. For me, it's to get back into shape and strenghthen some injured muscles. Sure, there is a big difference between running marathons and running errands. But, we all start at the same place...with an easy run.