Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What The Heck Is Going On Outside!

This morning brought some of the most bizarre weather I have ever seen.  The DC metro area is under a wind advisory, which usually just means that it will be a bit windy for a little while.  Ok, I can deal with that.  Rebecca and I decided to go to CVS this morning to pick up some minor things.  Between our trip to CVS and home, we witnessed the following:
  • While getting in the car we saw all the trash cans on the street knocked over, with trash flying around the whole street
  • Thousands of copies of the Express swirling around the Clarendon Metro Station, with about 6 people and a trash bag trying to pick up all the paper covering the street and sidewalk
  • A giant trash dumpster that had been blown across the street and into a metered parking space (lucky no car was parked at the time)
  • A heavy metal chair from a local restaurant that had been blown about 20 ft from the outside patio into the middle of the street
  • A large 4' x 4' sign blowing down the street
  • More garbage cans knocked over
When I finally got home, I observed even more weird behavior:
  • Rebecca calling me on her way to work to tell me that a giant stick came out of nowhere to smack the windshield of her car
  • A giant gust of wind followed by intense snow flurries for about 10 minutes
And now it's sunny.  But still windy.  What a way for Mother Nature to end the year!

Figuring Out The 2009 Race Schedule

I've gone back and forth a million times over my goals for this year.  I'd love to have some time to focus on running, but I also miss the variation of training for triathlons.  However, the triathlon training does take a significant amount of more time and my New Years Resolution/Personal Goal is to have more time to spend with friends.  Because the Patriots Half was canceled due to Hurricane Hanna, I have a credit for either 50% off this year's race or full entry to a shorter event.  So this has me thinking that I should just do a shorter race, so I can 1) Focus on my running and 2) Have more time to spend with friends.  So, without further ado - I give you an early preview of my race schedule for 2009:

October 4 - Army 10 Miler

First, a couple of notes about this schedule:
- I've only signed up for the first 2 events in this calendar
- There may be a few other races thrown in as I see fit
- The Ukrop Monument 10k will likely be run/walked, depending on how I am feeling after the National Marathon.  Rebecca and I are going down to visit with some friends who are also running this race, so there is no personal goal for this race
- Battle of the Boulevard is literally 2 blocks away from me.  Rebecca has run in it 2 years in a row, but I have never been able to run in it.  I'd like to do that this year.
- For the past few years, I have either raced or spectated at the Luray Triathlons.  This is a great local race.  To up the ante a little bit, I will be doing the Luray Double and competing in both races back to back.  I'd urge anyone local to do this race.
- I'd like to do a fall marathon this year and have my eyes on the Marine Corps Marathon, since it is another local race that I have trained with people for and spectated at.  We'll see, but its on the schedule for now.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Weekly Roundup

Another week, back at it with full on marathon training.  This week was finally a step forward, with my body fully rested from the down week last week.  Most of my runs felt sluggish till I did speed work on Thursday, which re-energized my body, just in time for my long run on Saturday.  The time leading up to Saturday was the toughest part of the week for me.  With holidays, parties, and family dinners going on, it was a challenge to stick to the plan.  But I did!  Friday night, some of Rebecca's friends were in town and going out in our neighborhood.  Naturally, we agreed to meet them out.  Rebecca had no reason not to, its just me any my training plan that is always in the back of head, reminding me that I can't go out too late, because I have a 14 mile run the next day.  And usually, 14 mile runs are not very fun hung over.  So, I had 1 beer and as 11 pm or so rolled around, I casually announced that I needed to leave.  Of course, this was after I had already pushed away a shot of Jager, so I already felt like a wuss.  I walked out of the bar and went home and was in bed by 11:30, so I more or less would get a decent nights sleep.  Its just always a constant battle between managing fun outside of endurance sports and the fun of endurance sports.  The battle will continue as it always does.

I made it to my running group on time and ready to go 14 the next morning.  The run this week was along the canal towpath and then up the Capital Crescent Trail toward Bethesda.  The problem with this run is that the first half is always uphill, so it is difficult to gauge my level of effort, since my heart rate is higher when climbing a hill.  In this case, more or less the first 7 miles were up hill and the last 7 miles were downhill.  In the end it all worked out, since my heart rate was right on target.  Overall, the run felt great and I managed to average 8:30/mile.

On tap for this week, my long run distance is still up in the air.  The plan called for 15, but the group I run with, which is also on a training schedule for the National Marathon, has a step back week of 12 miles.  Because I had to compress my schedule a bit, I am off a little, but will catch up in a week or so with theirs.  I guess I will play it by ear based on how my body responds from this past week's increase in volume.  15 or 12....we shall see.

Have a great week and Happy New Years!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Speedwork Begins

Now that I have laid a solid base of running in this first almost month of marathon training, it was time to begin incorporating some speedwork into my routines.  I have been feeling kind of sluggish lately, though I've still been hitting my paces.  I was hoping this workout would shake things up and remind me that I can still run fast.  On the plan was a short but sweet 4 x 800 set.  There is a general rule of running each 800 in a time that is the equivilent to the goal time of your marathon.  I took off on the first one at a comfortable fast pace that I felt I could do for all 4.  After I ran the first 800 in 2:59, I realized that I was probably going to run these 800s in a faster pace than my goal time in the marathon.  I am definately NOT going to run 2:59 in the marathon, though I wouldn't be sad if I did ;)  Thoughts of the workout took me back to the days of high school.  Only, in high school I ran these much faster.  My splits were:

1) 2:59
2) 3:08
3) 3:02
4)2:59

I tried to keep them somewhat consistent, but took the middle two a little easier because my gut said to hold back a little to see how my body felt at the half way point.  Turns out, I felt fine and ran the last one as hard as the first.  I still could have pushed much harder, but didn't want to blow my legs out too much, since I have my 14 miler coming up on Saturday.  I'm sure I'll be plenty sore from this workout, since I haven't run this fast in a while.  In all, I think the workout was a nice way of waking my system up.  I'll be rotating between these and increasing number of 800 and hill repeats every other week to build some extra speed and power.  I hope it translates into feeling much better on my future runs.  

Monday, December 22, 2008

Weekly Roundup

This week ended Week 3 of marathon training, my first recovery week.  These are the highlights of how my week went:

- My normal easy Monday/Wednesday runs were just fine.  
- Tuesday was a tempo day, where I pushed a little for 5.5 miles, ending up with an average pace right around 7:45/mile.  The most notable thing of this run was my lower than normal HR.  Two weeks ago I did the same run, with only 1 beat per minute harder this time, but the pace difference resulted in 14 seconds per mile faster.  This tells me 2 things.  1) My body is becoming more efficient now that I am consistently training.  2) The effects of some slight weight loss are also adding some benefit.  You see, the honeymoon from a month ago added a good chunk of weight (not that I am complaining about eating too much of the amazing food in Mexico!) onto my body.  Since I've come back, I've noticed that running the pace I wanted too was a little harder than I rememebered.  So this week, I finally started turning the corner in the quest to get back to the weight I'd like to be at for the marathon.  I've now dropped about 2 lbs in these first 3 weeks, most of it dropping off this week now that my body recognized all this extra work.  And if I remember correctly, there is a correlation to the reduction of a couple seconds per mile for every pound lost.  Free speed!
- I used the Christmas Lights Run as my easy run on Wednesday, which forced me to keep the effort slow with constant breaks to sing songs.   
- The usual recovery week feelings of "I should be working harder" entered my head by the time I got to my long run on Saturday.  It was only 8 miles, which was barely enough time for my body to warm up and get into my running groove.  I started the run with Rebecca for the first 1.5 miles and then began picking up the pace, till I was near marathon pace for the last mile or so.  The rest of my run felt great.  Unfortunately though for Rebecca, things went down hill after we split up; I think she missed me too much ;)  Final numbers for the run were an 8:46/mile pace, which was good for a recovery week.  I did what the plan asked: took it slow, keeping in my mind that next week jumps to 14 miles and back to harder workouts.  So with that, the recovery week is in the books, and my body is ready to get back to building.

Hope everyone has a Happy Holiday this week!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Lights Run DC

Wednesday night was the Christmas Lights Run in DC.  Rebecca and I signed up a week or two ago, after finding out about this run.  Sounded like a blast, so we figured why not.  The run is definitely NOT considered a race.  There are no timing chips, no closed off streets, and no watch using of any kind.  Although I had my watch on, I resisted temptation to use it.  The course was a nice scenic (especially at night) run around downtown DC, starting at Union Station, down past the Capitol and through the National Mall to the Washington Monument and up toward the White House, where we stopped to sing a few songs.  After that, it was down Pennsylvania Ave and eventually over through Penn Quarter to finally end up at our destination: Union Pub bar.  Below are some pictures I took along the way.  Unfortunately, my battery died a few miles into the run, so I didn't get to capture all the fun moments along the way, like freaking random people out along the streets of DC, when a hoard of 500+ people dressed in red and singing Christmas carols comes streaking down the streets.  For the most people, bystanders loved it.  We stopped at the DC Courthouse for another round of singing and a few workers who were still in the building huddled around the window while we serenaded them.  We also ran by a homeless shelter, where everyone passing through was wishing each other Merry Christmas.  That was one of my favorite moments, because you could see the joy in their faces as we ran by.  Anywho, below are some pictures.

Rebecca and I with our song lists ready to sing

Rebecca tying on her bells

Singing before starting the run


Running by the Capitol

Horse and buggy

Can't wait to do it again next year!


Important Update:  As pointed out by Rebecca, I forgot to mention the REAL highlight of the run.  While we were running in downtown DC on the sidewalks, there were quite a few obstacles along the way.  Trees, cement blockades, bicycles, people...and feared most of all: PARKING METERS.  You see, while we were running, Rebecca glanced back for a second and ran smack into a parking meter, chest first!  It was a classic move that I'm sure a lot of other people did last night.  Look for a future post from Rebecca with pictures on the bruising of her...ummm...chest (just kidding).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire

Well not exactly.  I don't have a fireplace to roast them, so we baked them.  But let me back up a bit for a second.  Every year around this time, Rebecca and I get the urge for some roasted chestnuts.  Something about the cold air and the hot shell that makes it all that much more appetizing.  Plus, you get a nice reward for peeling back chestnuts with a large amount of nut meat (saying the word "nut meat" is funny), whereas you don't get much reward with other
 nuts like peanuts or pistachios.  Chestnuts are worth the effort.

So on an unseasonably hot day (60 degrees), Rebecca placed a whole bag of chestnuts in the ove
n to bake.  Some minutes go by and we heard a popping sound to go check it out.  Everything looked fine, so we went back to watching tv.  Then a few minutes later, we heard it again.  Rebecca took the chestnuts out of the oven.  Within seconds, 3 chestnuts exploded all over the kitchen.  Rebecca ran and ducked for cover, while I watched in amazement of the fireworks going on in the kitchen.  Then another one blew up and nearly hit me, and I was standing a solid 8 feet away!  We both stood in defense for the next minute or so until we could be assured that the fireworks show was over.  Finally, we surveyed the damage: A whole lot of nut meat (there 
I used it again) was splattered all over the kitchen and a few chestnuts were lost in the
 explosions.  


In all, the loss of a few was worth the excitement of the whole ordeal.  
Once they cooled, we finally enjoyed cracking them open.  Can't wait to cook the next batch!  

Monday, December 15, 2008

Weekend Wrapup and Kona Viewing

This past week was the continuation of marathon training: Week 2.  I was a bit worried earlier last week as to how my long run was going to go.  I was sore from long run #1 and my legs just felt heavy all week.  I kept my effort steady to the plan, but I just felt tight.  Then, I finally had my rest day, which also happen to co-inside with my company's holiday party at the Udvar Hazy Air and Space Museum.  Per previous year's expectations, it did not disappoint.  Always good food, and tons of it.  My favorite food station of the night was the sushi bar, where they have 4 sushi chefs within a rectangular area constantly rolling sushi all night long.  They always have it and it is always the most popular area for guests.  So rather than one single sushi bar, this year they had 2, so the lines were not that bad.  
It was the first place we hit once they opened the doors and I stuffed my face with california, tuna, salmon, yellowfin, and eel rolls.  Mmmm.  The rest of the night was a battle between my stomach vs the bar.  To drink or to eat.  I think in the end, both won out and were satisfied.  Needless to say, I enjoyed my day off of training.

That brought me to my long run Saturday morning.  One more mile than last week - 13 miles.  It was cold, brisk (mid 20s), and a bit windy, since our run was mostly along the tidal basin and Potomac.  I knew I'd have to start this run off at a much slower pace than last week, because 1) It was pretty flipping cold, and 2) To shake the rust out of my legs from the soreness from the other previous runs.  The plan was to cut about 15s/mile off the pace every 3 miles.  In other words, I split the run into 4 quarters, each progressively faster, finishing at near marathon pace.  The plan sort of worked.  Except the last 4 or so miles of the run were on lonely Haines Point.  The group I was running with broke off to finish their 10 miles, when we split at the 8.5 mile mark, as I turned onto Haines Point.  It was colder, lonelier, and windier than any other part of the course.  I'd pass by a few people here and there, but not many.  Apparently at some point during the run, I passed Sarah, but we were both busy trying to stay warm and survive our runs to acknowledge each other.  I made it back to the Tidal Basin and cruised the last 3 miles at near marathon pace to finish my run averaging around 8:30 pace.  The best part was that I felt great.  I didn't push the pace much, and  I wore these for the first time on a long run.  My lower legs seriously felt like they hadn't even run.  Me thinks I need to get something for my upper legs if they are anywhere as effective.

After the run I washed up, and Rebecca and I headed to the DC Tri annual Kona Viewing Party at McFaddens bar.  We were a bit late, but were there in time to see blogger Jeanne win some sweet free training of something (not even she knew what she won).  Unfortunately, the tvs in the bar were not set on the HD channel and many of the people watching were talking so loud it was hard to hear.  But, being the smart person that I am, I DVR'd it in HD at home.  I just happened to watch it tonight in all its glorious visual magic.

So that was the weekend.  This week's training is a step back recovery week with a short 8 mile long run. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Structured Training

So I did some math while looking at potential spring marathons and realized something - Many of them are in March.  March is not that far away from a training plan perspective - only 14-16 weeks of training.  Depending on which marathon plan, that means that training needs to start ASAP.  So, in order to save money, Rebecca and I discussed keeping the chosen race local (within driveable distance).  Now that things are mostly settled at home, we have finally discussed our options.  There are basically 2 options that fit our requirements:

1) National Marathon - Washington, DC March 21
2) Shamrock Marathon - VA Beach, March 22

We haven't registered for either race yet (fees don't go up till the end of the month), but needless to say, I best be training now.  So that is what I started last week.  My first week of marathon training for the spring.  Because either race was only 15 weeks away, I had to do some schedule condensing.  The good news is that up until the honeymoon, I was consistently running, so I already have a good base.  Its just time to kick that up a notch and get into the formalized schedule.  Last year, I used Hal Higdon's Marathon Training Guide as my baseline and it seemed to give me the structure I needed.  I am planning on using that again.

Last week's long run went well.  I started off a little faster than planned, but settled into my goal long run pace and with about 3 miles to go, picked up my pace to marathon pace.  Surprisingly, I felt great.  I ended up doing 12 miles at an average of 8:20/pace.  I felt a bit of soreness in my upper and lower legs, but since Rebecca was nice enough to buy me this for my Hannukah present, my lower legs feel great!  And for the upper legs, I'm going the foam roller route to make them feel better.  So far so good.

This week's long run goes up to 13...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Back to Reality

After nearly a month off for the wedding and honeymoon, I am back.  Oh life is tough.  It was so hard to go back into work on Monday.  Worse than that, was actually getting dressed for work.  So many days in a row, not having to dress up in a suit.  I was getting used to it.  Nearly a month of not shaving.  A MONTH!  I was getting used to it (and so was Rebecca of my mountain man style).  But all that is gone (including the scruffy facial hair).  It is back to the reality of life and work.

But don't worry, there is still time to have fun.  Rebecca and I are trying to figure out race schedules for next year.  I am planning on taking a less schedule filled season next year, to both save some money and give myself a slight break from the full season long training for triathlons. This will allow me to focus more on running, since it has always been my true passion of the three sports.  The plan so far is for a spring marathon, a 1/2 IM, and possibly another fall marathon.  Stay tuned...

Since all is back to reality, I leave you with some of the many lasting images from our honeymoon.  There are way too many good pictures to choose from, so here are a few.


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