Monday, October 31, 2011

Watching Others Succeed

It goes without saying, but sometimes it seems like the most rewarding activities are enjoying the success of others after seeing them work so hard for something.  Marathon training is one of those things, although training for anything takes hard work and dedication.  Most endurance sports are individual sports in that you alone are responsible for the success on race day.  While this is true, since I can't run a race for you (we might call that cheating), there are many more aspects to a successful day that one's ability to making it across the finish line.  Certainly, in a group training program like the Distance Training Program, the success lies in the effectiveness of group dynamics and the impact of getting a large group of people to run every week, week in and week out for the duration of the program.  So while running is an individual sport, many people certainly play a part in each person's success on race day.  And to be able to watch an individual go from A to Z over the course of a training program and to be able to see them realize their goals - there isn't a much better reward than I can think of than that!

I love the feeling of having a great race and the glow of success you feel afterwords.  That is what we all strive for.  But having gone through another season of coaching and connecting with the runners, I can't think of a much better feeling than I have right now.  This weekend was the Marine Corps Marathon (surely, you knew that) and the majority of our runners were training for it.  After being there the morning of the race and seeing how excited they were to run, it gives me great satisfaction to see that excitement pay off.  Lots of PRs were set, some of which included 20+ minutes in time improvements, while others simply reached their goal of finishing their first marathon (hopefully the first of many more to come).  In every case though, it brings a sense of fulfillment in simply being able to play a role in their enjoyment.

So even though the program is over and today is Monday, which means going back to my "normal" work routine, it is a pretty good day if I may say so myself.  And hey, the next training program starts up again in about a month....hopefully, this feeling carries over till then!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

See You At The Expo

Running Marine Corps Marathon this weekend?  If so, I'll be at the expo like in year's past working for Clif.  See you there...Oorah!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Why It Took So Long To Sign Up For My First Race Back

Given that I have been back running now for more than 3 months, you would have thought I would have wanted to sign up for a race at the first chance I had in order to see where I am fitness-wise.  Well, I may be different than a lot of folks are when it comes to racing and I firmly believe that I won't enter a race unless I am prepared to RACE it.  Now obviously, there are some exceptions to the rule, like helping to pace someone or getting a comp'd entry or some really sweet swag.  But as a whole, I have a pretty firm self policy on not signing up for races for the sake of signing up for races.

More specifically, my policy is this: It is a waste of money.  Many may disagree.  However, I have plenty of race shirts, so I certainly don't need more of those.  If I need to run "x" miles hard, I'll just go out and do it.  I don't need the excitement of race to be able to simulate that.  Although, that race day excitement when I do race just gives me free speed when I do in fact race.  Otherwise, the body begins to lose that magic race day sensation and races become just another day at the office...ho hum.  Either way though, I see no point in spending my money when I can't find a specific reason for it.  So that's my policy and I'm sticking to it.

Of course, there is also another side of things: psychological.  When most people come back to something from an unplanned break, whether it be running or something else, they probably aren't as good at it as they were before they took the break.  I have a hard time signing up for a race, when I can pretty much predict what I'm capable of or at least know approximately how it will turn out.  I've been running long enough now to know my body pretty good.  I know what a given easy pace might equate to or what an interval set at "x" pace might put me in a given distance race.  After a while, you tend to notice trends in key workouts and how they result in specific race performances.  So I also chose not to race, because of the potential psychological result of running slower times than I know I can run.  In other words, I wanted to be in good enough shape so I can be proud (internally) with the result.  It sounds kind of stupid though, because one can't always expect to be in top form all the time.  I don't want to run a race and end up with an excuse of, "Well, considering I've only been running for 1 month...".  So does that mean I won't let myself race unless I know I can hit a PR?  Absolutely not!  But in this case, it is more to me about proving a successful comeback from being down and out.  I want to RACE and finish knowing that I prepared adequately and give it my all.  I want to declare - "I'm back" with conviction.

This latest journey to me is more about a personal chase to be what I know I can be.  So in a few weeks when I return to racing, I'll have no excuses.  I've been working hard for a couple of months and know what I am capable of.  Let's just hope my body is willing to show it!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Getting Back to Racing

Well, its finally about time to start racing again.  I've been back running now for the better part of 3 months, so I have a pretty solid foundation to work with.  I finally settled on a 10k to serve as my comeback race.  For some reason, I had it in my head that a 10k would be better to see where I am versus a 5k.  Probably more about the unknown I guess.  I can pretty much pinpoint where my 5k fitness is at any time, given that it is what I use as the baseline for my training paces.  So needless to say, it isn't so important for me to come out and race one.  I want to do something more, but just enough to get a solid effort in to see where I am.  Enter the 10k.

So the date is set - November 6.  My return starts then....

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Tucker Running Update

Been a little while since I mentioned any runs with the pup, so I figured I'd give an update.  With the cooler weather, he's also had a similar fitness boost to what most people experience after training in the hot summer temperatures.  Seems like every time we head out for a run, he's pulling me along for the ride the whole time, instead of just sprinting out the first mile and then pooping out.  He's building up some endurance! 

For right now, I've been taking him along on all of my shake out runs and/or easy paced runs.  Nothing crazy like tempos...yet, since those tend to be in the 7-8 mile range and we aren't quite there.  Though, he has been working on his hills lately, as his owner (me) has been doing quite a few hill repeats.  Yesterday, while doing such a hill workout, we set a new distance/pace record.  We ended up running a total of 4.5 miles at an average pace of around 7:40.  I could tell he was getting pooped on this one though, because he kept trying to take "breaks" when we'd be stopped for a car or a light by rolling around in the grass.  But before long, we'd be back on our way clicking off the miles. 

And since my training has really kicked back up into solid form, my weekly mileage with Tucker has also increased progressively over these last few months.  Just last week, we logged 16 miles together.  Not bad for a dog!

Today was a rough run though.  We did a an easy shake out run this evening, which turned out to be a hair over 3 miles, but after we were out the door for a bit, the rain started to come down.  Normally, he has a raincoat which works pretty well at keeping him dry and preventing him from having to stop every 2 seconds to shake his fur out.  But since we were already in the middle of the run when it started to rain, we had to tough it out.  By the time we finished, we were both soaking wet and I spent a good 5 minutes drying him off before letting him inside.

Oh, the things we do....but such a small price to pay for a great running partner.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Army 10 Miler Spectator Report

Sunday was a beautiful day - clear skies, cool weather and oh yea, the Army 10 Miler.  Though I wasn't running it myself, I knew a lot of people that were, including one special person.  So we were up and out there nice and early so I could drop Rebecca off and still manage to find a decent parking spot in the vicinity of the Pentagon, where the race starts and finishes.

After dropping Rebecca off and wishing her well, I got parked and set out on my own little running adventure for the day, where I'd eventually be meeting up with a friend in DC to watch some of the race.  So with that, I took off from Crystal City along the Mount Vernon Trail

DC awaits 20,000+ runners
It was still before sunrise, but I managed to snap a shot of the view of the Pentagon from a few miles away on the trail as I made my way north on the trail.

Pentagon as seen from the trail - Big white building in the middle

Pretty soon, I found my way along the Potomac for what I consider the most iconic part of the trail, with endless views of DC.  About 2 miles into the run, the sun was just starting to come up over the town.  And soon, I approached the Memorial Bridge, where runners would be crossing after only 1.5 miles into the race.  The view to the east of DC is a great one.

After climbing a short hill to get from the trail to the bridge in order to cross it, I noticed that the famous Army paratroopers were slowly making their way down to their landing spots right at the startling line of the race.  This is always my favorite pre-race event that goes on at the Army 10 Miler.  Not the greatest photo, but if you click to zoom, you can see 2 of them just over the top of the tree by the car with its lights on.

Then, I quickly turned around and headed over the bridge just as the sun was rising up.

Since I still had a bunch of time to kill, I decided to extend my run a bit and headed out onto Hains Point, which is one of the key parts of the Marine Corps Marathon, only a few more weeks away.  While halfway out, I could still hear the music coming from the Pentagon and caught a small glimpse of it from where I was.

Pentagon - right in the middle between the trees and where I had been running only a few miles before
 A quick lap around the remainder of the park and I made my way back around the Tidal Basin just in time to catch up with the leaders of the race as they were about to come through.  I was surprised to see that the leader already had a solid 20s lead 5 miles into the race, so I took 2 clips: one as he came through and one of the chase packs. 

After they passed, I made my way a mile further up the course to stand with a friend and spot Rebecca and others who were out on the course.  As is expected for a race of this size, spotting people can become difficult.  And since I told Rebecca exactly where we'd be, she was able to spot us!  I guess when you figured that there were 20,000+ runners and probably a lot less spectators, it might be easier for the runners to spot spectators than vice versa.  Unfortunately, I couldn't grab a picture of her though, so I took a field shot to give perspective on the crowding of the course, as it is pretty much a steady stream of people the whole time.

Despite our best attempts to cheer for runners along the 14th St Bridge for the last few miles of the race, we were ordered back by the police and forced to metro to the Pentagon and the finish area.  But not before, I got to see the leader come through Mile 7.5 with an even bigger lead.

If you zoom in, you can see how far back the next runner is
 So we got to Pentagon and found the steady stream of runners still making there way through the course.  This year was the first year with a new course, so the finish area was pushed a bit further than years in the past and added what I consider an unfortunate hill for the last half mile or so, before the downhill finish. 

Nothing like the sight of thousands of runners climbing a hill in the last mile of a race!
 Lastly, we found Rebecca and learned that she rocked the course and set a personal best time on the course by more than 10 minutes!  Does she look proud of her awesome race or what?

Not a bad way to spend a Sunday morning, huh?


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