Friday, January 25, 2013

Thank God for Running

Snow from the train window somewhere between Utica (home of the Tomato Pie) and Rome (home of the Woodstock where people threw mud at Green Day and set things on fire because of overpriced water)

We are on a train passing through the Hudson and Mohawk Valleys en route to upstate New York (the real upstate New York, not the Bronx) and everything is covered in snow.  All I can think about is bundling up in layers and trudging through it in running shoes for hours on end.  Running in the snow used to be common. In fact, I grew tired of it. In college, I owned one pair of green running tights that made me look like Santa's lanky helper.  I wore them so often, they wore out. Now, it's a rare treat to be in anything other than shorts thanks to more than three years in North Carolina where a light dusting closes schools and empties grocery store shelves (see any Charlotte-area news website today) and two more in New York City where I can count the number of snowfalls I've seen on three fingers. 

When I first put pen to paper and laid out my 18 week plan for the Boston Marathon, I was scared.  I guess there is an element of fear anytime you commit to going "all in" on a marathon, but this was the first time doubt crept into my mind.  For the first time, I was embarking on this challenge on my own without the aid of a coach and without someone else to hold me accountable.  I had doubts about my mental toughness and abilility to grind out 90 miles a week again.  Doubts that I could survive countless workouts that took my body to the well and then kept digging to some sort of exhaustion sub-basement.  Doubt that I could clear the high bar I had set for myself this go round, all while walking the balance beam that is work and family (wife and dog...for now).  In my head, the knowledge that the only person I'd be letting down would be myself if I chose not to put in the work, would make it easier to let off the gas.  Could I resist that urge?  It's freeing not to have another person invested in your goal, but it's dangerous and it requires a new kind of self-discipline. 

Six weeks into the plan and the doubt has given way to a sense of stability and control. At a point in life where so many things are up in the air and my fate is determined by so many others and often on their schedule, I know exactly what is on my training plan for tomorrow and the day after that, and the day after that. No one can change it but me (and an injury, but I'm working harder than ever to prevent the preventable ones).  I can't explain how or why, but knowing that there is something like that in my life makes me a better husband, a better employee and a better friend.  That, as much as my goal of running 2:32 on April 15th is why I am getting up to run 20 miles tomorrow.  Alone.  In the snow and savoring every step.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sabattical is Over

I was reminscing about the past few months in daydream form recently and it dawned on me that I actually have a blog for that very reason.  There are so many events or topics that would lend themselves to their own separate blog entry, but that ship has sailed and in the interest of getting back up to speed, I will condense them all into Readers' Digest versions.

Life when I am not in my running costume (I totally stole "running costume" from Jordan) is a little complicated right now (specifically work)...maybe not complicated, but complex and to be quite honest, not all that interesting.  So, I am going to keep this entry focused on training and racing, both mine and Lauren's.

Major event # 1 -- The New York City Marathon is Cancelled.  I am too late to the "should they have cancelled it" debate.  Plus, I'd rather not share my thoughts on that on a public forum.  It happened.  A lot of hearts were broken.  A lot of race plans went out the window.  A lot of work done by one unnamed journalist was all for naught.  But the hurricane that caused the cancellation did damage that was far worse.  People lost lives, homes and worldly possessions.  We lost a marathon.  I hope the race can bounce back and be an inspiring event that brings all five boroughs together next year.

Despite the race being cancelled, we still got to have breakfast with Ryan Hall. 

Major event # 2 -- Lauren Runs the Thunder Road Marathon.  Event #2 is a direct result of event #1.  Lauren was registered for the New York City Marathon and after months of training was ready to hit one out of the park.  As the marathon neared and the public sentiment worsened, our excitement and enthusiasm for participating in the event began to shrink.  When it was cancelled, it was a relief, but it did present a new problem.  Neither of us wanted all of Lauren's hard work to go to waste. Fearing a rush on nearby races, just minutes before the marathon was officially called off, I registered her for a marathon in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania that was set to take place the same day.  It was an insurance policy if nothing else worked out.  Over dinner that night, Lauren decided she would instead enter the Thunder Road Marathon in Charlotte where we knew there would be supportive friends lining the course and familiar streets to navigate for 26.2 miles. The only downside was that with it being so far away and on a weekend, I would not be able to attend.  At the last minute, our friend Tara agreed to work for me and I took a pre-dawn flight to Charlotte on the morning of the race where I met Lauren on the course at mile 10.  She ran fantastically on the hilly course with a fierce head wind, finishing her first marathon in 3:51:50.

Perhaps having to go to the "back up plan" race was a blessing in disguise.  Look who was at the finish line!

Major Event # 3 -- Urban Athletics Defeats the Central Park Track Club.  Our small, grassroots team sponsored by a local running store went into the final race of the 2012 NYRR season tied for third place in the team standings with the much bigger, much deeper Central Park Track Club.  (West Side Track Club made up of Ethiopians and Kenyans and the New York Athletic Club made up of former collegiate standouts were one and two respectively).  We knew we had to go all out if we wanted to beat CPTC in the Join the Voices 5 Miler.  Long story short, we put our top 4 guys in front of their first guy that day and beat them handily.  I was 4th on the team with a new 5 mile PR of 26:06.  I know I can run faster, but since this was first real race back from injury, I was pleased.

Me, followed by Jeff Poindexter and Jerry Faulkner climbing a hill early in the Join the Voices 5 Miler

Major Event # 4 -- Training for the 2013 Boston Marathon.  For better or worse, I am making another attempt to capture my white whale.  December 10th marked 18 weeks until the race and the beginning of a new and ambitious training plan.  For all intents and purposes, I am coaching myself.  I am following a plan from Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger with some of my own workouts sprinkled in.  Instead of topping out at 100 miles, I will top out at 90 miles.  Instead of doing lots of speed, I will do lots of tempos.  I will resist the urge to run races that will not benefit my marathon fitness.  I will do core and strength building 2-3 times a week to avoid injury.  Key workouts so far have been 4-5 mile tempos at no slower than 5:25 pace and marathon pace runs at 5:45-5:50 pace.  I have set a goal of 2:32 which is 5:50 pace.
With the UA team following what will be a rare track appearance for me during this training cycle

Major Event # 5 -- Caitlin and Garrett get married.  Ok, so this isn't exactly a running event, but in a way it was.  I met Caitlin through running and she quickly became one of my best friends.  Lauren and I were honored to be at her wedding in Winston-Salem, NC at the end of December.   In the days surrounding the wedding, I was lucky enough to get in rave runs on the trails at Wake Forest University, at Salem Lake and on the streets of Charlotte with a new look Charlotte Running Club.  The enthusiasm of the community rubbed off on me, and I am hoping it stays with me through the cold, dark winter months leading to April 15th.

yeah.  it was a good night