Monday, December 31, 2007

A Breakthrough of a Weekend

I haven't posted about much of my training recently because...well...I've been busy...training. Since I started marathon training 5 weeks ago, I have come pretty far. Around Thanksgiving, I ran what seemed like a challenging 5 mile Turkey Trot race. Of course, I started the race at a pace I thought I could be running, rather than the pace I should be for my fitness level at the time. I finished with an ok time, but not by my standards. I knew the race would be useful though, because it was the kick in the arse that I needed to get going with my training. Knowing that Thanksgiving (eating/napping/eating again) would ruin any training I was doing, I waited till the end of the holiday to start. Since then, its been non stop. It had been a few months of R&R from the official end of the triathlon season and I was just starting to run again and feeling good doing it. My marathon training plan is pretty straightforward. 1 easy day, 1 medium distance hard day, 1 speed day, 1 long run, and 1 cross training day. Since it is the winter, I have been using the cross training day to hit the pool. Swimming is and always will be my weakness, so it needs the most work now.

This weekend proved to me that all the training so far is working. My long run plan called for a 13 miler on Saturday, but the course I decided to map out came closer to 14. I wanted to make sure I start running parts of the National Marathon in my training so I am familiar with the course as much as possible. It also provided that extra motivation to me, since I've gone 13 miles many times, but never 14. Running that far would be a breakthrough for me. The true test of my conditioning would also be how I felt after the run. Well let me tell you...it was awesome! My course consisted of a scenic run along the Potomac, up Rock Creek Parkway, down through downtown DC, around the Mall, past Arlington Cemetery and the IwoJima Memorial and back home. I'm also a "natural" runner, and go WITHOUT headphones. If I'm outside running, I find no need for music. I just focus on my running and THATS IT. The way I see it, if you don't wear them on race day, no reason to wear them in training. At about the 10 mile point, I decided to push the pace a bit, since I was feeling good. I finished the run strong with an average pace of 8:33. Definitely a lot of room to run faster, since I took the first 10 miles easy. Bottom line is that I felt really good after the run and was able to move around pretty good for the rest of the day.

Since I was still feeling pretty good by Sunday, I decided to hit the pool. I wanted to stay off my feet and give my legs some time to recover, so I figured the pool would be great. Best part was that Rebecca came too, now that she is starting to get moving in her training as well. Its always nice to have someone with you, especially when you are used to working out alone. Even better was that we were also able to share a lane to ourselves for most of the workout. I decided to focus on easy long distance swimming, since endurance seems to be my biggest limiter right now and I didn't want to strain anything trying to push to hard doing speed work. 30 minutes later, I had covered a mile by starring at that little black line at the bottom of the pool. The last few laps were a bit tough, but I kept moving through. For the 2nd day in a row, I hit another breakthrough in my workout.

Now that its New Year's Eve, I'm taking the day off to rest and enjoy the satisfaction of some solid workouts, knowing that I'll enter 2008 in great shape with an excellent start to the season.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

When Duty Calls

One of the benefits of morning workouts is that you get endorphins nice and early in the morning, leaving you full of energy as you stroll into work. Nice, right. But the REAL benefit of morning workouts is the sudden jolt to your "metabolism". Sometimes that jolt comes at unexpected times. Like say...in the middle of your run. Yea, not good. This definitely wasn't the first time its happened either. I'm just saying that some situations leave easier options than others.

Option number one is when you just tough it out. If its a nice short run, you can just tough it out and all will be good. However, there are many risks. What happens if you don't quite make it. Dangerous. If you are confident or a risk taker, then that's not a bad option.

Option number two is to just find a place along the way to go. For some, this may be a challenge. Various problems exist: stage fright, fear of unknown places, lack of options, no tp, sub-standard conditions., etc. You get the idea. The clear benefit is that you take care of business is a facility and don't have to worry about anything after its all done.

Of course, there is a third option. But I don't recommend this option. You guessed it. Option three is to find a quiet spot in the woods. With it being winter and all, I think there may be a lack of items to use as "clean up duty", seeing as how all leaves are crunchy. Now that would hurt. Last. Resort. Only.

So what option did I take this morning? Fortunately, I was only about 2 miles into my run, so I hadn't gone too far from home. I knew what stores were around me, what would be open, and where may be the best place to go. I went for option #2. My choices within reasonable distance on my run course were Eckerd and Starbucks. Eckerd was closer, but Starbucks likely had better conditions. Tough decision indeed. Nature got the best of me and I was forced into Eckerd. I knew where to go, as I've crossed paths with the facilities there before. What was nice was that it is big, so I can inconspicuously walk through the isles and find my way into the restrooms. What was not nice was that there was no tp. However, someone was nice enough to leave behind a fair amount of napkins. A bit rough, but better than winter leaves. I took care of business, meandered around for a minute to look like I was shopping and was on my way to continue my run.

The rest of my run was great. 6.2 miles covered in 47:45 for a solid tempo run.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Welcoming the cold

There are certain things you begin to appreciate about each season. When I think about the spring, I appreciate that there is more daylight to actually spend outside, rather than leaving for work in the dark and coming home in the dark. I obviously also appreciate the return of warmer weather. But with the return of colder temperatures to the area, I began thinking about what I appreciate about the colder temperatures. I mean, I HATE the fact that it is dark all the time. This means I have to get all my workouts in early during the week, since I prefer not to do them in the dark at night.

So what is it that I actually like about the cold weather? Well...thanks for asking. While I was on my first long run of my training yesterday, I reached into my pocket for the fuel I had been storing for the half way point. A Chocolate Clif Shot. I ripped it open and began to suck it down. And you know what? It actually tasted...dare I say...good. A nice thick consistency too. Almost like a spoonful of fudge. And of all flavors, it was chocolate. I never wrote about the experience, but when I was volunteering at the Mile 14 fuel station for the Marine Corps Marathon in October, Chocolate was one of the flavors that people were throwing back at you. As I handed them out, runners would respond with things like "Chocolate?!?! nasty...I'll try the next person" or "Have YOU tried Chocolate? Its awful". (And thus ended my attempts at handing out any more chocolate flavored Clif Shots for the day.) I've tried pretty much all flavors, but usually when its warm outside. I don't dislike any flavors, but I would never admit they tasted good. However for some reason, this time...in the cold...in the middle of my long run...it tasted good. I'll have to keep you posted in future runs to see if I actually come to the same conclusion, but for now, I'm looking forward to my next long run so I can throw down some more Clif Shots. Is there something wrong with me?
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