A look back at '07

While December has been frustrating with being sick and then an injury, I'm not about to let that take away from an awesome 2007. The obvious accomplishment comes from finishing my first marathon in November, which is the whole reason for actually having a blog.

Before my blogging days began in April, I set a PR in a half marathon at the Shamrock Half Marathon in March. My chip time was 1:44:23, just under my goal of 1:45. That race made me really like half marathons a lot. With my foot issues now, it's tough to set a goal for the 2008 race, but I'd really like to beat that time. I set the bar high for myself with that race last year, but I know I can be faster.

This year has also been a great year with my 5ks. Coming into the year, my fastest 5k was 23:49, which was also my only time under 24 minutes. I broke that time twice -- in June I did a 5k in 23:03 and in July I broke the 23-minute barrier with a 5k in 22:42, "winning" my age group. (I was the only one in my age group that race.)

I saw set a PR in the mile (6:26) and 5 miler (36:59), although those two distances are very hard to find in races. I struggled though the extremely cross-country style James River Xterra 10k in May, and then had serious doubts about long distances by running a 30k in October.

I finished the year with 960 miles, well short of 1,000 miles, but much farther than I've ever gone before. I didn't start logging miles until the end of last year -- it was always time ran before that, but I know I haven't ran this much in a year. Despite a bad December, I'll take an average of 80 miles a month.

I've accomplished more this year in running since I started running again in 2004. It'll be a year I'll never forget, mostly thanks to the marathon.

As for 2008, I'm starting the year by giving my heel some rest. After I de-Christmas my house and get the boxes out of my way, I'll be doing some weight-training beginning this week. I'll probably hold off on running for just a few more days so I can heal my heel. The end of this year has become a lot like last year -- I think I want to get through the winter/early spring before making decisions on another "big" race. I definitely have the urge to do another marathon, but I don't want to stay hurt either.

Happy New Year everybody!!


My new shoes felt great today. My right heel, however, didn't want me to go more than 2 miles. It's frustrating that I took my body where it had never been before with the marathon and now I'm having this issue. It's not as bad as last week and it hasn't bothered me during the day too much, so I know things are slowly getting better ... I just have to be patient. With a half marathon less than 80 days away, it's tough to do. I have to keep reminding myself that I'm starting off 2008 in better shape than I did 2007 ... but that'll go away quickly if I can't get back in a regular routine soon.

New shoes for a nearly new year

I was all prepared last night to buy another pair of Asics 2120 shoes when to my surprise saw that the Asics 2130 were available. I had been misled by the Asics Web site earlier in the day that said the shoe wouldn't be out until January.

It wasn't that my old shoes were completely done, but it just seemed like they weren't supporting my feet as much. Following the marathon, I wore them more as everyday shoes and not solely running shoes, so that probably factored into it a bit. Plus they were becoming the smelliest shoes I had ever owned and washing them didn't help too much. And besides, who would resist the next version of their favorite shoes? It reminds me of my video game-playing days when the newest version of Madden would come out -- nothing was really that different about it, but damn, you have to have it!

So now that I have the 2130 pair, those will be used for running and running only until they wear out. My marathon shoes will probably get another wash and be for everyday use. Then my even older pair of 2120 shoes will be retired for yard work.

Running ... for a cause

I've never been a person to donate anything besides worn out clothes, and I've never been one to take part in a fundraiser. That's all about to change.

Today I signed up for the Ukrop's Monument Avenue 10k that's in early April. It's one of the largest 10k races in America. I also signed up for a 10-week training program that will hopefully help me train for the Shamrock Half Marathon. It'll give me a chance to meet a few more runners as well, plus give me an opportunity to run with a group once a week. The timing of the 10k works well this year with it being three weeks after the half marathon. I wanted to do it last year, but the two races were too close together. I also signed up for it because I still hate the thought of running a 10k, even after doing a marathon. It's a challenge I hope to overcome in 2008. Plus I wanted to do it just to do it -- everyone tells me it's an awesome experience.

But this race will bring on much more meaning to mean as I have signed up to do fundraising for Virginia Commonwealth University's Massey Cancer Center. As I have talked about before, my life has been touched by cancer in the past few years with an uncle, my dad and grandfather all having cancer. To me, this is finally a chance to fight the disease. To contribute to my effort, click here. (Please let me know if that link doesn't work!) I have set a goal of raising $1,000. Every dollar counts, so if you'd like to make a donation, please check it out. If I can give a few dollars ($50 to be exact), anyone can. I plan to give a little more as the race draws closer.

So there you have a second "big" race for me in 2008. My main focus will still be on doing well in the half marathon in March though. I hate 10ks, so here's to hoping the Monument Avenue 10k will be the beginning of positive comments on that distance. I'm still hoping to do a 10k on Jan. 1, but don't expect me to be happy about it. ;-)

A Merry Christmas to all

Merry Christmas to everybody out there celebrating Christmas ... and to those not, just enjoy the day off!

My running has been a bit off this past week with my heel issue (now on both feet), plus a trip to Ohio, where I did get a 3.1 mile run in. My feet are feeling better, but I'm going to wait a day to run again and hopefully get some new shoes. I bought some heel supports that help tremendously. My marathon pair of shoes seem to be losing their support despite still having good tread left on them. They'll be a good pair of everyday shoes, while an even older pair will get some good use this spring in the yard.

As for 2008 ... as promised, I'll get to it soon, as in before Jan. 1. If things go well these next couple of days, I'll be kicking off the year with a 10k. Nothing like a race that I'll probably be slow in to get me motivated for the half marathon in March!


In 8 months of blogging, I've been fortunate to not have any injuries. Since fall 2006, I've basically stayed injury free. I had some nagging heel pain back in March, but nothing major. My main goal as I trained for the marathon was to stay injury free.

So imagine my disappointment this week when my right heel started bothering me. It's similar to what I felt back in March -- it's more of a major discomfort than a real pain. Since the marathon, I've had some discomforts here and there, but this is the first issue I've had in a while that actually made me not run for a day. This morning it was just too much. I opted to just walk my dog and by the end of the walk it wasn't too bad. It's been a day of where I can feel it, but it doesn't feel major.

I guess it's good that I have an upcoming trip to Ohio and that Christmas is right around the corner. I don't want to ruin my chances of running in the Shamrock Half Marathon, so I'll be doing a lot of not pushing it too hard for the next several days. That seems to be the story of my running life these last two months of the year. Some downtime is good, but I feel like I'm falling behind. But the way I look at it, I'm still in much better shape than a year ago when I was getting ready to start training for Shamrock. Rest did me some good with my knee issues then, so I'm counting on rest doing its thing this time.

So this will end all talk of hitting 1,000 miles this calendar year. Fellow blogger Danny suggested that I could still do 1,000 miles ... just do it in a 12-month span. No need for the calendar. It's a great idea and something I'll consider.

As for my 2008 plans, let me get through this issue first to make sure I'm OK ...

Good news, bad news

After completing the Richmond Marathon, running wasn't high on my priority list. All I felt like doing was getting some rest. When I did run, I felt unmotivated despite having one more goal this year. Then I got sick. Talk about being unmotivated.

Then came this week. I have finally felt healthy and rested, so this week was about getting back on my feet and feeling normal again. At week's end, I find myself just shy of 20 miles (19.6 to be exact), including a "long" run today of 6.1 miles that made me like running again. Today was the first time since the marathon that I can say I felt like running for a reason. I felt comfortable and once again I felt focused. I think all I needed was downtime to get back to this feeling, but in the past month I have been frustrated instead of being patient.

Today is a relief. With 90 days to go until the Shamrock Half Marathon, it felt like a kickoff training run. Finally, I can run with confidence again.

Now, about that 1,000-mile goal. I should have done this a while ago, but today I went back and recalculated my mileage from the year. Since hitting 1,000 miles was never a goal until I realized how close I was to it, my mileage-keeping wasn't the best. While my weekly mileage was accurate, I had a few miscalculations for monthly totals including being off a few miles in January, June and 10 miles in September. All total I have 13 fewer miles as of today for the year than I thought I had. I'm at 944.7. While hitting 1,000 miles is still a possibility, it's a little more out of reach than I first thought, especially with a trip coming up. I blame my usually good math skills on this one, but getting sick and having two weeks with just 7 miles certainly didn't help.

I'm a little mad at myself, but like I've already said, hitting quadruple digits just wasn't something I thought about until recently. With time running out in 2007, I need two 28-mile weeks. While I want to be in the 25-30 mile range for my half marathon training, I don't want to overdo it just to hit 1,000 miles. Coming off a rest period and an illness, I don't think it's the smart thing to do. Between now and the end of the year, I want to run smart before I get heavy into training again and higher mileage.

This all being said, I'll lay out my 2008 goals sometime soon. And you better believe running 1,000 miles will be on the list.

Normal running coupled with wacky weather

A sense of normalcy has returned this week, at least in my running world. Following a short 1-mile run on Monday with my dog, I put in 3 miles yesterday and 4 today. Everything is feeling OK, although my legs are a bit sluggish. It's just nice not to be sick. Everything will eventually come around to feeling completely right again. I'm just being very patient right now.

Today's weather was very surreal. At 7 a.m. on Dec. 12 it shouldn't be in the upper 50s and low 60s. All the leaves should be off the trees by now. The only things that made it even seem two weeks shy of Christmas were the decorations and the fact that I mistakenly wore a long-sleeve shirt. Sandwiched in between a very little bit of ice last week and temperatures in the 40s this coming weekend, it's early summer here in Virginia. It's not completely bad, but when the temperatures fall again, it's going to feel drastic. I'm sure those iced over right now would love to trade weather patterns. Sorry. I'll hang on to Florida for at least another day.

A month later

After two useless weeks, I finally feel normal this weekend. It's tough to say I'm at 100 percent (I'll say 91 percent today), but I didn't lay around and do nothing. I got in 3 miles yesterday -- the longest since 4 miles two Saturdays ago. I had hoped to do a 5k today, but picking up pesky leaves called my name today. Doesn't a couple of hours or so of picking up leaves count as a mile? I won't add it, but it was definitely a good workout.

So now that I've had two poor running weeks, I'm setting my sights on returning to normal this week. The extremely cold weather seems to be staying away this week from this part of the country, so it'll be a good transition to get back out there and then have a solid long run next week. I'm avoiding any week goals just yet since I've had so much downtime in the past month. Hitting 1,000 miles is still within reach, but I'm not going to focus on it too much until the end of the week. I know what I have to do to get there and if I stay healthy, don't get hurt and don't run into an Ohio blizzard near Christmas, I should hit it.

Once Christmas gets here I'll get focused on more specific mileage as I begin training for the Shamrock Half Marathon in March. I'm in much better shape now than I was a year ago when I started getting ready for this race, so I'm going to be very focused on beating this year's 1:44:23.

So a month after the marathon, I feel that my body has hit the Reset button. Getting sick has made me realize how important my health is. Staying healthy is much more crucial than any goal I have right now. Unlike previous down times, I don't feel like I've gotten out of shape. I have marathon training to thank for that. Now I'm just ready to move on and let this sickness be a story I tell years down the road.

75 percent

Did running cause me to get sick? That's a serious question I've been thinking about these past two days. Did the high of the marathon cause my body to just shut down? I've done lots of reading on post-race depression and what people go through following big races. It's not that I really feel sad or anything, but everything changed following race day. There wasn't as much reason to get out of bed. So that leads me to wondering if because I slowed down, everything else in my body slowed down with it.

I guess you could say I'm at about 75 percent now. I ran 2 miles this morning, but certainly would have like to have gone at least 3, if not 4. I know not to push it, and I didn't really feel like pushing it. The end of this illness is in sight; it's just taking much longer than I ever thought possible. I've only been sick like this a couple of times in my life, so it's hard to take it easy.

Just like the marathon, this past week and a half is difficult to describe. It's like it has given me too much time to think about things, but no time to sort anything out -- that's one reason I like to run. I don't have that "out" that I'm used to having. I hope by this weekend, I can break out of this funk.

I won't be doing the 8 on the 8th (a quick shout out to Non-Running Nancy), but I hope to run more than 2 miles at one time. There's a 5k nearby on Sunday that I might do. As long as I continue this slowly steadiness of feeling better, I should be up for it.

The end is slowly getting here

Between about 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. I feel pretty good. But now I have an annoying dry cough at night (that has slowly gotten better since it started at the end of last week) and I wake up feeling like I have a hangover. There's a slow improvement every day, but it's enough to not have much energy to run in the mornings. Just a walk/jog routine with my dog is all I have in me. It's better than nothing I guess. In between the a.m. woes and p.m. annoyingness, I'm doing pretty good. My voice my say otherwise, but unlike last week, I feel I can think more clearly and I get through the day without many problems. I guess this is what it really means to be sick.

Missing out on a tradition

For the past three years on the first Saturday of December, I have ran in the Bedford Christmas Classic in Bedford, Va. Even though I moved to Richmond a few months ago, I had every intention of making this race my first post-marathon event. I think it would have been a perfect chance to return to the 5k distance that I first fell in love with.

But as you've probably already read, the snot in my head had other plans for me this week. Two days after getting on a prescription, I'm finally feeling worthwhile today. There's not as much cloudiness in my head. I was sluggish this morning, but by noon and a quarter box of tissues later, I took my sad-looking dog out for a walk. Poor thing hasn't had his usual walk/runs this week. We even ran for 0.7 miles, which felt pretty good. It had been a week since I last ran -- my longest running drought since September 2006. Even though it wasn't even a mile, it does a lot for my confidence. My legs still work and they felt great! And I think the full week off helped me fully recover from the marathon. On Thanksgiving and on Saturday, I had some discomfort in my right heel and my left knee, but nothing major. I stress discomfort over the word pain. Perhaps completely taking time off is the medicine my lower half of my body needed to get back to running again.

So, on a day that I lost a 3-year-old holiday tradition, I feel like I've actually gained a lot when it comes to running. Now, about those 1,000 miles I want to hit ...

Gasp! I went to the doctor

I've taken pride in not having to see a doctor because I'm sick. When I have fallen ill, I've always managed to have it go away with a day or two. But this week has been different. I just wasn't getting better, despite never having a fever. So yesterday after I work, I dragged myself to the doctor's office. With my head clogged worse than a stopped up drain and my chest actually being fairly clear, it seemed I had the doctor perplexed as to what to give me.

So he gave me an antibiotic and a decongestant that he described as three times as strong as Sudafed. And sure enough, a few hours later my nose was clearing itself out like Niagara Falls. So instead of getting a medicated sleep like the previous few nights, I was up every hour blowing my nose. But today I have felt better despite being tired. I sure don't feel like getting out there and running for at least another day, but the end of this mess is in sight. I think this is my first time since my freshman year in college 11 years ago that I've been on a prescription.

It's been an interesting way of ending November. This was the month that my ultimate running goal came true with the marathon. My post-marathon mileage hasn't been as much as I was hoping and this week's big ZERO certainly doesn't help my pursuit of 1,000 miles. At the same time, I know this week has made sure I'm fully recovered from my 26.2 mile journey. My monthly mileage was 56.3, my lowest since April when I had just over 50 miles. April, oddly enough, was the last time being sick really impacted my running. April was when I started this blog and a few days later woke up with a fever of 101 and missed a 5k I had signed up for. I was sick in September too, but I think life got in the way more than a sickness for a few days.
My yearly total is stuck at 935.1. I'm probably about 15 miles or so short of where I'd like to be to make hitting 1,000 miles easier. Running 65 miles in December is achievable, but staying healthy is goal No. 1. I also have a voyage to Ohio planned shortly before Christmas. If I can avoid staying/getting sick and avoid a major snowstorm, 65 miles shouldn't be an issue. It's only an average of a little more than 16 miles a week, and I was hoping in December I'd be at close to 25 miles a week anyway.

At this point, common sense will be the best thing to see me through the end of the year.

Not the way I wanted to hit 0 miles

So, what I thought would be one day off from worked turned into two and now on Wednesday afternoon I've nearly lost my voice, but actually feel much better. Better now than a few weeks ago, right? All plans of running the 5k on Saturday have been put on hold unless I somehow get rid of this chest congestion by then. I'm not giving up hope, yet, but I'm not going to worry about it either. If it happens that's great, if it doesn't, then oh well. My No. 1 running goal this year has been met.

This sickness has brought an unexpected running void into my life this week, but I certainly realize that my overall health is much more important than any other goals I have at this time. While 1,000 miles is certainly in reach, having a successful half marathon in March is more important than running myself into a hospital.

I want to run, but my body has other plans

The body has a unique way of telling you to stop. On Saturday morning, I woke up with a sore throat, but didn't feel bad. I quickly took some medicine, including a powerful throat drop, and felt fine. So in the nice cold morning, I went out for a nice, steady 4 miles. Later that afternoon, I started feeling bad.

So Saturday night, I didn't feel that great, yet I didn't have a fever. Yesterday I did nothing. I slept for a couple of hours in the early afternoon and watched a lot of football. I didn't feel all that bad, but some minor sore throat lingered. Then today, it's the same. There's very little fever, but I don't feel like doing anything but sleeping. I was already planning to take a half day off work for something else, but I've turned it into a full day off. My brain wants to go, but the rest of my body is saying no.

It seems my quest for 1,000 miles has slowed, but the end really is in sight. I'm just not going to run while not feeling well and then ruin my chances. I'm also eager to set some goals for 2008, but like I've said before I'm waiting until I hit 1,000 miles. Also, this weekend I'm hoping to run in the Bedford Christmas Classic 5k. There's also a 10k that day, but it feels too soon after the marathon to run hard for 6-plus miles. Meanwhile, it's time to get some more rest...

If you ran on Thanksgiving, then ate twice as much as usual, this blog's for you.

Am I the only one who is tired of hearing/saying/reading about running so you can eat whatever you want during the holidays? With yesterday being Thanksgiving, and the Festival of All-You-Can-Eat Turkey continuing through the weekend, all I can think about is getting up tomorrow morning and going for my longest run since the marathon. While it'll probably only be four miles or so, it'll help my mind, and it'll help my body get into calorie-burning mode. But I'm getting tired of eating whatever I want to during the holidays and then thinking running makes it OK. I feel fat and bloated and sick just thinking about it.

For those who ran a turkey trot yesterday, that 5k or 10k or whatever distance doesn't give you free reign on a 500-plus calorie piece of pecan pie (please, click on the link) or six slices of ham. But we do it anyway, don't we? Sure, running helps and we're certainly entitled to dive in a little more than some people should, but why do we go so crazy? (If anyone can figure out how to make pecan pie still taste the same at half the calories, please post a link to the recipe.)

I've heard that a local YMCA is doing a campaign of "Maintain, Don't Gain" this holiday season. What a great idea -- instead of packing on a few winter pounds, maybe we should focus on being happy with what we have and focus on not over-indulging. A few extra cookies along the way won't hurt, but an extra piece of pie probably will. Make tomorrow your weigh-in day and challenge yourself to not gain weight between now and Jan. 2. It's likely from all this eating since yesterday that you'll have a few pounds that haven't worked their way out of your body, so that'll make the challenge even easier.

I feel like maybe I should apologize for this mini-rant, but after losing 40 pounds a few years ago, I am tired of gaining a few pounds during the holiday season. Each year it gets harder and harder to shed it off. It's time for me to stop it, and it's time for many others out there to stop it too.

Thankful I can run

Fellow blogger, Jason, posted a list today of running-related things he's thankful for. I'd suggest checking it out. I pretty much agree with everything on there, as most runners probably do. (Only difference is I'm thankful for Advil.)

Each Thanksgiving seems more and more like an early Christmas. The decorations are out, people are already checking their lists twice ... and we still have more than a month to go. But before I get to Christmas, I wanted to express how thankful I am that I can run. While every runner talks about getting faster, losing weight, setting PRs or discussing gear, we need to set a day aside - like Thanksgiving - where we give thanks for being able to have those discussions in the first place.

So Happy Thanksgiving everybody. Don't eat too much turkey.

By the numbers

Since finishing the marathon became such a high priority, I never did look at the actual statistics with where I finished. According to the marathon's Web site there were 3,783 starters. You have to do a little digging to find that there were 3,684 finishers.

I placed 1,852nd overall, so I was barely in the second half. A mid-packer. Out of 230 in my age group (25-29), I was 131st. And out of 2,215 male finishers, I was 1,272nd. Crazy, crazy numbers since I'm so used to runners with 200 or fewer people. These are all numbers that generally I don't care too much about, but they're out there for me to possibly challenge one day.

I'm tired

I'm tired. After months of what felt like non-stop thinking about running and spending 4-5 days a week getting up and running, I'm just flat-out tired.

I know this feeling will subside, I'll get re-energized and will enjoy running. Besides, I have a 1,000 mile goal to hit. I have a half marathon in less than four months to run. I have 2008 to plan. But I'm tired. I know there's no rush or no pressure to run hard for a little while, and I don't feel bad about it. On the days I have run, I can feel my body still getting over the abuse of 26.2 miles.

Some people can just get right back out there and keep racing. But did I mention that I'm tired!?!? I'm not one of those people. Not yet.

Hope you all have a very Happy Thanksgiving. For those turkey trotting that day, have a great run. I'll be running my own, very slow trot that day, but I'll be out there no matter how tired I feel. There's no reason to stop now.

Not running ... because I can

So this is how the 99.9 percent of you live. (Did you know that just one-tenth of one percent of Americans actually finish a marathon in a year?) For the first time in months, I didn't feel pressured on a Saturday morning to get up and run. So, I didn't. I went on a nice 2-mile walk with my wife and dog. We came back and cleaned the house. I finally got the blower out and cleaned off my driveway. Damn acorns.

Tomorrow I'll mow my yard for the last time in 2007. It's been so dry since I moved into this house in September that I've only had to mow twice. Mowing this late in November seems weird, but the grass has gotten taller and it's easier to pick up leaves this way. Maybe I'll go for a run, maybe I won't.

While I am focused on hitting 1,000 miles this year, I have also missed out on the joys of being a homeowner. My house is actually clean for at least a day and I don't have leaves on my deck for at least a few hours -- right now, that is more important than going out for a run.

1.1 of 925.4

Since it was raining this morning, I promised by best running buddy, Duke, that I'd take him on a walk when I got home from work, and maybe a short run if the rain had let up.

Well, it's about 20 degrees colder this evening than it was earlier today, but the rain had cleared up. We headed out for the walk and quickly we were jogging. It wasn't much, but I had my first post-marathon run today of 1.1 miles. It probably came a day or two earlier than I expected, but it felt great. Aside from still being winded, my legs, my knees, my ankles and my arms all felt great. Apparently, it just takes my lungs a while to feel good again -- I was like this back in March after the Shamrock Half. I was doing some group track runs on Saturdays, and a week later when I tried to run hard I had to take it easy about half way through the workout. I rarely read about this problem, but I know I'm not alone in this feeling.

So that run puts me at 925.4 miles for the year with 46 days to go this year. That's an average of just over 1.6 miles a day to hit quadruple digits -- sounds easy, right?

Decisions ... but not before 1,000 miles

I have a lot to think about while on my journey to 1,000 miles. I don't want to rush into decisions about 2008, and that's why I am committed to hitting 1,000 miles this year before I fully plan out next year. That doesn't mean I can't start asking myself questions on what I want to do.

Four days after becoming a marathoner, my legs are only sore when going up or down stairs, and nothing else hurts. I've gone on a few short walks this week and have felt great. I'm obviously still winded from running 26.2 miles, but I never expected to feel this great in such a short time. I'm not jumping back into anything though. I'll have a couple of short runs this week and three short runs next week. I seriously contemplated a turkey trot on Thanksgiving, but I don't want to risk injury by running hard within two weeks of the marathon. I am about 95 percent sure of doing the Bedford Christmas Classic on Dec. 1 -- whether it's the 5k or 10k is something I'll decide later.

My plan between now and Dec. 31 is to have a reverse taper to get back to 8-10 miles as my standard long run. I'll smartly do what I have to do to get to 1,000 miles. I should have no problem hitting that mark as long as I stay healthy. As far as training goes for the Shamrock Half, I'll lay out those plans later. But beyond that?

You should've heard me after the 30k in October. I said I'm never training for a marathon again! My wife properly ignored the crazy talk. In my head I was preparing a blog entry on how much I hated anything past a half marathon. Those long training runs were boring; it was hot; I was running alone after moving; it was eating too much into my weekend. But after Nov. 10, I have that itch. I've seriously thought about the Charlottesville Marathon in April. That would make Shamrock a perfect warmup, and instead of laying off the mileage too much before summer, I could increase the long runs, then get some rest in late April/early May ... which would then be perfect to train again for Richmond. Basically it would be: good rest between now and late December, train January-April, rest in May and early June, then build back in July. I think I could get in the 40-50 miles a week range rather than 30-40. Or I could focus on getting better and stronger in shorter races. I haven't done a 5k in a while and I've missed that distance. 10ks continue to be a big challenge for me. And half marathons seem just the right distance. I feel I have it in me to make my current 5k pace be my half marathon pace. I'm in competition with myself, and these shorter races are so much fun to go out and try to beat my previous times. There are plenty of half marathons out there -- including Richmond next November. They're less time consuming and not so hard on the body. But then there's the endurance challenge of the marathon, and I have that one 4:13 time sitting there.

The good thing is, I don't have to make any decisions right now on any of that. I'm still enjoying my marathon experience for at least a few more days. I'll enjoy some french fries a couple of more times before signing up for something else in 2008. Tonight, I think I'll have some Oreo cookies for the first time since ... well, I don't really know when. You can bet, though, that as soon as I hit mile 1,000.1, I'll have something figured out.

Post #101

This blog started as something to hold me accountable for the Richmond Marathon. What started as a journey to just another race turned into a story of so much more. Just two days after running 26.2 miles, I feel like I can really do anything I set my mind to ... except walking down stairs!

This is my 101st post. I couldn't have timed it better by having 100 posts ending with the marathon report. Number 101 is like a starting over number ... a what's next type of thing. Back in April when I started this blog, I thought I knew so much about running and was treating the marathon the same way I had approached all other races. But a marathon the first time around is about pushing your limits and taking your body to the edge. It tests you just as much mentally as it does physically. It makes you think about everything you've ever done in your life -- if you're a person who has regretted things along the way, it turns you into a no regrets type of person. It puts the "life's too short" cliche into reality. Life is too short to waste time on a lot of things. Life is too short to have regrets.

Who knows why it takes training and running a marathon for the first time to realize these things, but it just does. Life is like a marathon -- there are ups and downs, fast times and slow times, times where you feel the best you've ever felt and times you question your own sanity. And it all works out in the end.

By sitting at home today and getting rest, and unable to do much since I can't walk normal, I keep asking myself, "What's next?" I don't like the term "off season" -- once you're hooked, there's downtime, where training continues in a lesser way. My approach to 2007 was: run the Shamrock Half Marathon and see how I feel. Well, I ran it, then was marathon bound. All races in between were for training. And that's the biggest thing that's changed about me this year -- focus on the big event, but keep running races for speed training and running with large groups of people.

Before I worry about 2008 besides the Shamrock again, I have a goal to meet before Dec. 31 this year -- hitting 1,000 miles for the year. It wasn't a goal I had until recently, but it'll be a great way to close out the year. I'm at 924.3 now and will resume that journey (slowly) on Saturday or Sunday. After I hit 1,000 miles, I'll fill you in on the rest of 2008.

I am a marathoner

I can now say what many people never say in their lives - I am a marathoner. Even if I never do one again, I am a marathoner. Yesterday was truly an unbelievable experience. From the start to the numbness near the end, I took it all in.

The weather before the race was nice and cool. It wasn't as cold as I thought it would be, but cold enough to start with gloves and a thin long-sleeve shirt underneath my Livestrong shirt. I planned to toss those aside when I would see my wife and family and my friend Jon at the party zones creatively set up by the Richmond Sports Backers. After I walked around a bit with everybody, I said my goodbyes and then did a little more walking around, just amazed at the thousands of people getting ready to do this. Then, fortunately, I saw a familiar face -- I knew my old friend Travis (in the photo below), who I used to play basketball with, was running, but I hadn't gotten in touch with him. But among the sea of people, there he was along with a guy he had been training with. Their goal times were between 4-4:30, so it was perfect to run this race with them.

The start of the race was odd -- it just started. The speakers weren't loud enough where we were to hear the national anthem or the gun to start the race. We were suddenly walking forward. No one was pushing or in a rush, but as soon as we hit the start line, the running began. It was nice having someone to run with -- we were basically chatting about old times in Bedford and catching up on other things in life. We hit the first mile in 9:15. Everything felt great -- the weather was still good and no one around us was running too hard or too slow it seemed. We hit the next two miles just under 9 minutes and kept getting that strong urge to pee. I knew I would have to at some point, but I was hoping to wait until closer to half way. But this couldn't wait.

About half way between mile 3 and 4 I sped up to get to the port-a-potties and hope that I'd time it out where Travis and his friend would go by as I finished. It was perfect, although I ended up peeing next to the port-a-potty along with about half a dozen other guys. After a quick mile of 8:33 thanks to having to pee, we maintained a good pace by hitting the next miles at 9:16 and 9 minutes. Between miles 6 and 7 were downhill and clocked in at 8:42. I managed to take off my gloves, stuff them in my pocket, then take off the long-sleeved shirt without missing a beat. I then held onto my gloves and shirt until I spotted my group at the party zone. I had an easy hand-off of my clothes to Jon. And to my surprise, my group had made some signs -- I should have never mentioned running like a gazelle last week.

The next mile made its way up a small hill to the Huguenot Bridge -- the first uphill of the race and everyone stopped talking until we were crossing the bridge. It was the first chance to see the James River, and on an overcast, slightly foggy morning, it was a very awesome view. After crossing the bridge, the course went down Riverside Drive to run alongside the mighty James. It was like running on a back country road -- so nice and peaceful, and the miles were just going by so quickly it seemed. Miles 8, 9 and 10 were: 9:15, 8:58, 9:20. It was a comfortable pace -- basically about the same as my training pace on normal runs.

After we hit the double digits and strolled through a neighborhood and got to Forest Hill Avenue, I was wishing I had my gloves back. My hands were cold. The sun came out oh so briefly somewhere along there, but the weather, overall, was still good. When we hit the double digits, I was hoping my family made it to the next party zone at mile 12.9 so I could exchange hats. Even though I wasn't sweating all that much, getting something drier on my head was going to be welcome. Miles 11 and 12 were in 9:04 and 9:15.

In previous races I've done, I rarely pay attention to the crowds, but not for this race. Everyone seemed more genuine in their support for this event. This wasn't a race -- it was an experience, and I think for many spectators it was an experience, too, rather than usual clapping and shouting "Go runners!" So, as I was in awe of the spectators, I saw my group at the next party zone from at least 50 yards away. I stopped briefly to make sure the exchange went easily. To my surprise my sister, brother-in-law and dad had made it to this stop as well. I hit mile 13 in 9:22, and hit the half-way point just under 2 hours chip time.

This whole time I had not gotten caught up in my time or trying to figure everything out with finishing at a certain time. My #1 goal was to finish and somewhere in the 4 hour range would be all the better. But it was the half-way point when I started hitting distances in a race that I hadn't done before (that 30k just doesn't count in my books), I realized what an experience this was turning into. This wasn't like a 5k or the half marathon where I was worried about goal times -- this was becoming a life-changing day, on top of the already life-changing training. That all being said, at halfway, I briefly thought that if I kept that pace I'd be under 4 hours, but I pushed those thoughts aside knowing that this wasn't a race against time.

After a 9:14 mile to mile 14, I began to pull away from Travis. Conversations had pretty much stopped anyway, as the mental part of the marathon started to take over. At mile 14, I grabbed two Clif gels that were being handed out. I chewed one (I really don't like Clif gels, but they seem to work the best) and put the other in my pocket that I took a few miles later. Up to this point I had taken two PowerBar gels at mile 2, and somewhere around mile 8 or 9. Plus I had taken an Advil at the same time of the second gel.

I did mile 15 in 9:30 when the weather started to change. Coming across the bridge back into the city, the wind was in my face. Wind? That wasn't in the forecast, but sure enough that wind kept going and going and wasn't in our backs for the rest of the race. It was always coming from the side or directly in our face. Between miles 15 and 16 seemed so long. Was this bridge ever going to end!! It was a great view -- the James to the left, the city skyline to the right. The sun was trying to poke through again, making for some cool rays of sunshine. But along the never-ending bridge, there were no spectators, just cars whizzing by, with a few occasionally honking their horns. Surprisingly when I hit mile 16, I was just under 9:30 for the mile. That was the longest 9-plus minutes of running I had ever done.

The next few miles were nice because I was in familiar territory running by VCU and my office. As I hit mile 19, I could tell I was slowing, but everything seemed to be in check. (Mile 17-19 were 9:37, 9:46, 9:49.) My feet were hurting just a bit, but nothing major. And just before mile 20 was a hill -- I dreaded that hill. It was at this point I began to see people stopping to stretch, or just flat out walk up the hill. I had come that far that I was not going to walk until the next water stop. I hit mile 20 in 10:30, then slowly walked through the water stop. Even though I had gotten lots of water or Powerade at every stop, and I was feeling great as far as thirst went, I took this water stop for all it was worth. Two cups of water and a cup of Powerade to go, please. I walked about another 100 yards taking every drop of fluid in those cups. About 10 other people were doing the same thing. And this is the point that everybody talks about -- after mile 20.

Every block or so, at least one person was stretching or rubbing their legs. It was at this point, the numbness started in my legs. Nothing hurt really, except my feet just a bit. It was at this point when I started thinking about everything in my life, looking for things to push me the final few miles. My feet were hurting -- my grandmother who passed away earlier this year always complained about her feet. Was this her way to keep me going? That's what I thought.

With the walk break for the water, I hit mile 21 in 11:14. I thought it would be 15 minutes. I wasn't looking at my watch except at the mile markers. I didn't want to know my pace at this point. I felt like I was pushing myself, except I hit mile 22 in 10:18. I hadn't ran a training run that slow since I was running the hills in Lynchburg. But I kept running, not looking too hard at the people stretching. I didn't want my mind to force my legs into a cramp. I don't remember if it was mile 22 or 23, but I walked through another water stop, grabbing two cups of water and a Powerade. I also kept cursing the wind. Miles 23 and 24 were in 10:19 and 10:17.

Less than a 5k to go, I was telling myself. I've ran plenty of 5ks, I can push myself through this. I had all kinds of thoughts running through my head. I thought a lot about my late Uncle John and wondered what he would've thought of this. It was kind of eerie, but a single ray of sunshine was poking through the clouds when I was thinking about him. It was proving the point to me that running a marathon for the first time wasn't about what the final time was, but about this experience of putting your body through something amazing. It's just so hard to describe.

I was trying to go faster, but I hit mile 25 in 10:40. What!?!? I was pushing myself, but I just wasn't going faster. By this time, the numbing had spread to my arms and hands and I was freezing. Between miles 23 and 25, I was running with arms to the side, moving them up and down and squeezing my hands trying to get rid of this numbing feeling. It was like someone else was inside me doing the running, but it was my mind carrying the body along. You hear how much running is a mental thing -- the final 6 miles of a marathon is 90 percent mental.

When I hit mile 25, I knew it was a little more than a mile, with much of it downhill. "It's all downhill from here," is what the spectators were saying. It's easy for them to say. But as I rounded the final turn, I started seeing people who had already finished and they were showing their support for us who were finishing an hour after them. So truly the marathon does end! The final mile they kept saying ... I can run faster for the final mile can't I? Sure, I was flying, or so I thought, going down that hill. Mile 26 was 11:04. At this point, I knew I had less than a lap around a track and I wasn't going to stop now. The last .2 miles, I managed an 8:13 pace, so yes, finally, my body was doing what my mind asked it to do.

At mile 25, I knew I wanted to beat 4:15. Finishing within 15 minutes of my ideal time would be great after 26.2 miles. I managed to have a chip time of just under 4:13. As I cross the finish line, there was no standard arms-in-the-air celebration. I think I tried, but seriously, my arms were numb from the race and the coldness. After I crossed, I just stopped for about 30 seconds and thought, I did it. I really did it. I thought maybe I'd cry, but I just didn't have the energy to. On my first step after stopping, I was like, I can walk! I got a Mylar blanket, which immediately helped the cold feeling. I got the chip snapped off my foot -- I couldn't even lift my right leg to help out the guy cutting them off.

I grabbed my finisher's medal, and looked back for a second -- I really did it, I kept thinking. After getting the medal, I opted to skip the photo op with the SunTrust logos all over the place. I wanted to talk ... or at least see a familiar face. It had been a couple of hours of silence, except for a few comments with other runners along the way. I quickly saw my wife and my dad and they asked how it was. I didn't have an answer. I was hungry ... and cold.

The unfriendliest part of America's Friendliest Marathon is after the race. You have to walk downhill to get some food. I got a slice of pizza, a banana and a Powerade, then walked back up the hill. I warmed up briefly in the host hotel lobby, and I was ready to go home. I still didn't know what to say about my experience. I briefly looked for Travis afterward, and for fellow blogger Jason, but it was just too cold and windy to stick around. I think most people around there felt the same way.

So, while I could still walk reasonably well, I took a shower while my wife ordered pizza for my mom and stepdad and Jon (and me). I came downstairs and rolled The Stick over my legs. I began telling a few stories about my experience, but it was still hard to put into words. More than 24 hours later, it's still hard to come up with the proper words as to what it meant to me and what it was like. The physical parts are easy -- I can barely walk. I slept downstairs just because I didn't want to walk down them early this morning. My elbows are actually sore -- after running for 4 hours, I guess it makes sense. I actually am less sore than I thought I would be, but it's still not pleasant. Last night I would sleep for a couple hours, wake up, physically pick my legs up and put them in a different position and repeat 2 hours later.

But as far as what this does to me mentally ... it'll take a while to put into words. I want to again thank everyone for their support these past few months, and for coming out yesterday. It means so much to me.

So, now what? At one point this summer, I swore off training for a marathon again. But that was when it was 90 degrees and had a horrible long run. Training is the hard part -- the experience of the marathon is priceless. It's a time commitment that I don't have right now or next summer. I miss my weekends, and I have a house that I'd like to spend time on next summer. I really like half marathons from a racing standpoint, and that's what I'm focusing on next in March. Like I said last year at this time, any decision on a marathon is going to have to wait.

I'll take this PR and this experience for all its worth. If I never do another one, I have absolutely no regrets on what has happened in the past few months and yesterday. If I could do yesterday all over again, I wouldn't change a thing (except for keeping my gloves). I can't ask for anything better than this feeling I have right now. I am a marathoner.

26.2 (not a race report)

4:12:51. What an experience. I'll give a full race report soon, but I wanted to get my time on here. And after 26.2 miles, it's definitely not about the time. Those who have done this probably know what I'm talking about. For now there is pizza to be eaten, beer to drink and ... more beer to drink. Maybe I'll catch a nap in between the beers. It's time to enjoy myself and to celebrate.

Final pre-race post

So this is what the day before a marathon feels like? I can't get back to sleep, so I decided to get up and stop rolling in the bed. I'm not really nervous -- I'm just ready for it to be race day. It feels like the few theatrical productions I've been a part of -- I know my lines, but I just haven't performed in front of an audience yet. The cast: 5,000 other people, and we're probably all thinking the same thing this morning.

Anyway, I went to the race expo yesterday and quickly dashed away $100. I finally bought "The Stick." I've been wanting one for a while, but it's hard to track down in stores and it's generally more expensive online. When I got home I immediately rolled out all the knots in my body. I was surprised at how tight my legs actually were. I also bought a Christmas ornament with "26.2" written on it, and I finally bought a couple of racing stickers -- one with "13.1" and other other with "26.2" on it. I purchased a funny running shirt related to running with my dog, and I bought a yellow hat that reads "Running is cheaper than therapy." It'll match my yellow shirt well. I'm still trying to figure out if I actually like yellow ...

I must say I was a bit disappointed in the crammed feeling of the layout at the expo. If I wasn't quickly moving along, I was in somebody's way. I can only image what today or tomorrow morning will be like. If organizers want to continue to grow the numbers, they'll have to find a bigger place for the expo, or utilize the Omni's space better. Think about it -- 5,000 marathoners, 6,000 8k runners, 1,000 children running the kids race and dozens of expo workers/volunteers alongside hotel workers. Many of those people bring at least one other person, so you're talking about at least 25,000 people filtering through small spaces in a short time, except for there being no one at the Times-Dispatch booth. :-)

The weather is still looking nice and cool for tomorrow. I'll probably be starting with gloves I nearly wore out last year and likely tossing them to the side a few miles in. So there's another $20 or so I'll have to shell out again soon for running. The few miles I've ran this week have certainly helped me adjust to the drastic weather change and it'll make running this winter seem a little better than last year.

Before I leave, I just wanted to say a quick thanks to everyone for their support since I started this blog in April. From the comments to the emails to those I know personally who talk to me about running, I greatly appreciate you being there for me. After tomorrow, I'm not sure what'll happen with my postings. With this post, I've started bolding key words. Not sure why... just trying something new. Who knows if it'll last. My subtitle will have to change and I'm sure for a few weeks I won't be 100 percent focused on running. I'm hoping for a few short races before March's half marathon, but I'll discuss all that later. If you feel compelled to say "good luck," I won't yell at you. I'll know that you really mean "have a great race."

Pre-race Paranoia

For the first time since one of my first races, I am experiencing being paranoid. If I've had a slight pain anywhere, I get worried. Then it'll go away. I woke up earlier than usual this morning thinking about race day. While I'm sure I'll have no problem waking up on time, there's part of me that thinks I'll somehow sleep in too long. My usual race week diet -- heavy on the fiber the first couple of days -- has me thinking I have stomach issues, when I know I don't. I've gotten ready for a big race before, just not a marathon.

Anyway, a quick check on the weather. The forecast for Saturday has gotten colder every day this week, which is fine with me. Lows are forecast in the mid-30s and highs now in the low to mid-50s. Accuweather has a forecast high of 53 Saturday. Weather.com says 56. No matter what you look at, it'll be nice and cool -- perfect for running.

Wear yellow, make a difference

It's the biggest decision after signing up for a big race. Every runner thinks long and hard about it. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to run the big race the first time ... so we ask ourselves, what will we wear?!?!?

For my first ever race, I wore a cotton yellow shirt. I bought nothing new. For the Virginia Ten Miler, I wore all black. Not sure why ... it just make me feel faster. Again, it was nothing new or special for the race. For the Shamrock Half in March I did what was appropriate - I wore green. But it wasn't all green since it was cold - my long-sleeve shirt was green and white, and I wore green shorts. For that race, I did shop around to find something green to wear. For the marathon, I wanted to buy something new as well, but what? Most of my running gear has come the cheaper route through Target, but no offense to Target, that store lacks cool racing gear except if you want to dress in one solid color. The store does have more options than it used to, but it's nothing that stands out enough for my first-ever marathon.

Then the other day, I got an email from Dick's Sporting Goods about the new Livestrong gear. "Wear what Lance wore in the New York City Marathon" is the hook, but to me, that's not really the hook. It's not an association to Lance Armstrong that I want to have -- haven't you heard the latest in his personal life? -- it's helping cancer research. Giving some sort of money to cancer research should be the hook, so why not wear yellow?

So I went out and bought the expensive yellow shirt -- I could have bought three new shirts at Target for that price, but for the Richmond Marathon I wanted to do something different. What little bit of money goes to fighting cancer is different enough for me. And wearing the yellow Livestrong shirt helps spread that word a very little bit. (Actually, I preferred the black shirt, but Dick's didn't have matching yellow shorts for the men.) Since the forecast for the start of the race is the low 30s right now , I'll probably start the race with a thin black shirt underneath. Black shorts will accompany the yellow shirt. The shirt is so new, I couldn't find the exact image online, so the one to the right isn't the exact shirt, but it's close.

So, if you're out there still thinking about what to wear for the Richmond Marathon, don't be afraid to wear yellow. If you're watching the race from the streets and don't know how to show your support, think a little about wearing yellow. Together we can all make a difference.

"Only" 8

After seven straight weeks of having double-digit long runs, and four weeks of double-digit long runs before a bad week in September, it was weird running only 8 miles today. While it felt great, I got that itch for the first time while tapering to do more. My body is well rested and ready for a marathon. Mentally, I'm there too.

Next week I'll have a couple of very short 2-3 mile runs and one 4 mile run, basically taking it easy all week. I'm taking off work on Friday to #1 get my mind off work and to #2 get some extra rest. I'll be taking off Monday as well.

On another note, I wanted to address wishing people luck before a race. Everybody does it. But in the past month or so, I've realized how much I don't like hearing or saying "good luck." It's not luck that gets runners to the start line and it's not luck that carries us to the finish line. I didn't get lucky to lose weight by running and I didn't get lucky to train for a marathon. While most people are being nice to say "good luck," I think saying "Have a good race/run" or "Happy running" or "Run like a gazelle" is more appropriate. It's fine if "good luck" is your thing ... I'm sure I'll hear it a lot this week and I'll probably accidentally say it a time or two, but just know that's it's really not about luck.

My prediction: the predictions will change

Many, many moons ago, I wanted to be a meteorologist. But I was destined for a lower paying job as a journalist. That being said, I'm still a weather freak, but I HATE long-range forecasts. Predicting the weather 10 days out is ridiculous, but you know I can't help but look. Right now the forecast for Richmond on Nov. 10 is a high of 66 and a low of 44 with a 20 percent chance of rain. Not bad -- I'd prefer it to stay below 70 for the race, and it looks as if the weather will be very consistent for the next week. What little running I'll be doing will help my lungs continue to get used to the cooler weather.

Anyway, I'll be keeping an eye on that extended forecast, and I can guarantee you that it'll change a lot over the next few days. No need to be a certified meteorologist to predict that. ;)

Creeping toward 1,000 miles

Every month that I have officially been training for the Richmond Marathon has had something weird happen, but at the end of every month I've been able to say that I logged more miles than the previous month. At the same time, I have fallen just a little short of my overall goals, but it's hard to be disappointed when every month has seen mileage that I've never seen before. It's like being disappointed and very happy with myself all at the same time. It's a feeling I've never really had before.

In October, I logged 133 miles, marking yet another month of steady increases the second half of this year. June had 65 miles; July had 90.7; sweaty August saw 109.6; and September was at 119.6. For the year, I'm at 877.9, much closer to 1,000 miles than I ever thought possible. Hitting 1,000 would be awesome this year and very unexpected. We'll see how I feel come Nov. 11.

Now that the countdown for the Richmond Marathon is at single digits, it's time to address that question of having a goal for the race. Quite honestly, 4 hours or better is what I want to do. But this is new to me and I'm not going to go out and start fast and hit every mile at a certain time. I've been given more than enough advice about starting slow, and that's what I really want to do. In the end, the marathon is more about finishing it and not hurting myself for the rest of my running career.

I will not make any decisions about future marathons until well after I cross that finish line, despite personal conversations I've had after a few long runs. I'm not swearing I'll never do another one, but I just know that I'm not ready to do another one right away. Those discussions will come later in November. I'm eager to get to that starting line on Nov. 10 and then take it a mile at a time all the way through. It's like the cliche "taking it one day at a time" ... I seriously take my races -- even the 5ks -- one mile at a time. If I look too far ahead, I run too hard. I don't look at least a little bit ahead, I slow down. At the end of the day, if I'm slower than 4 hours, I'm certainly not going to beat myself up. At this point, I've done what I can do.

AND PLEASE!!!! -- do not wish me luck. As nice as it sounds, it's not what I want to hear anymore. After these past few months, it's not luck that'll carry me through to the finish line.


Was that really me this morning putting on pants to run in and busting out the early season gloves? Yup. Sure was. Was that me questioning why I would train in the winter again for a race in March? Yup. Was that me forgetting what cold felt like?

All of a sudden, Mother Nature decided to skip a month and bust out the 30s for overnight lows. I'm not complaining -- this is much, much better than 80s in October. It's just a shock to my system. There was very little transition from 50s to having frost on my windshield. It doesn't look like it'll last long, which I think is a good thing. I don't want my body getting used to this and then turn around and have something warm happen on race day. If it's this cold on race day, then that's fine. It would be warmer than the day I ran the Shamrock Half Marathon back in March.

Speaking of race day, it's now very fun to say that the Richmond Marathon is NEXT WEEK. While Nov. 10 seems like a while away, it really is next week. I'm first looking forward to having a day off work on the 9th and getting much more sleep in the next 10 days ... but it's next week!

A solid week of cutting back

It seems all too often I read about people who are in their taper weeks and they just want to run more. It's something missing in their lives by cutting several miles from their weeks after running so much in the few months before.

After one week of cutting back, I am more than pleased with running less and giving my body a much needed rest. By the end of this week, I have felt stronger and my pace has actually gotten faster with me feeling as if I was putting less effort into it. Perhaps it's because there's less pressure to actually get the miles in. It's time to rest and take it easy if something hurts, not to log miles just for the sake of logging miles. I also ran without my iPod all week, which led me to wondering if my music was dictating my pace too much. I think I'll continue to run without music in these last two weeks to better prepare myself for race day. I'm a believer that iPods shouldn't be allowed in races (that's another post for some other time down the road), so I want to make sure I'm not addicted to the tunes. If you're hooked and think you can't run without music, I'd suggest taking off the earphones -- the sounds at this time of the year deserve to be heard ... as well as listening to yourself breathe.

Today I had my last double-digit run before the marathon and my knee hurt a very little bit toward the end, so I cut it short. No need to go another two miles just because that's what I wrote down to do this week. Why risk hurting myself now when the marathon is less than two weeks away? That's the point of this taper.

All week long I've gotten 8-9 hours of sleep every night instead of the usual 7-8. Last night was close to 10. It's been solid sleep, too. Pretty soon I'll start proclaiming that marathon training can cure insomnia and other sleeping disorders. Ambien? Don't waste your money. Several miles a day is the natural way to go.

This week will be about the same through the week as this week, with a long run back in the single digits. Eight miles is going to seem like nothing next week, and I'm really looking forward to it.

Rain, rain, don't go away!

It's so easy to complain. I've done it a lot this past summer and early fall about the weather. We all complain too much. So enough with it. I'm here to praise this rain and cooler weather. How awesome would it be to get up on race day and have temperatures in the low 60s or cooler and have a very light drizzle? Perfect I say.

The past two days have been great. For the first time in two months, it has been raining the past few days -- a lot -- but in the mornings the heavy rain has been holding off and it's been very misty. And cool. And I even felt a breeze yesterday. It seems like forever since the wind picked up around here.

It's odd to think that in the three years I've been running, I've only run in the rain a handful of times. I've never had it rain during a race. In 2004, a hurricane rolled through the day before the four miler and the forecast was for heavy rain, but it turned out to be fairly nice, but windy. In 2005 I ran in some very heavy snow during a Turkey Trot in Warren, Ohio. That was actually pretty cool to do. It rained fairly hard during one of my last group training runs in 2006, and earlier this summer our group ran in some light rain one morning. I've had to dodge a few afternoon storms when I was an evening runner, but all in all, it just doesn't seem to rain when I run. Not that I'm complaining! I'd rather not, but I like the dampness that this week has offered. It finally feels like October.

Marathon training = lots of progress

I've been too hard on myself lately. In my last post, I think I left the impression that I haven't accomplished anything until I cross the finish line of the Richmond Marathon. On my run this morning, though, I realized that I have accomplished a lot in the past few months in my running life. Instead of using the word "accomplished," I'd like to think of it as making progress. Much of it is in thanks to training for a marathon, but I still want to avoid reflecting too much. I'm afraid of giving myself high praise for what's happened these few months in fear of jinxing myself, slipping on a freakin' acorn and busting my ass and not being able to reach the start line in two-plus weeks.

So, without talking about the marathon anymore, here are a few things that have happened in my running career this summer. Reflecting on what I've learned while training for the marathon will come sometime after Nov. 10:

* Some of my training runs have beaten race times since I started doing races in 2004. Just this morning in the heavy humidity of August ... I mean late October ... I included a 2-mile tempo run of 15:54. That's nearly 30 seconds faster than a 2-mile race I did in November 2005 in the Thanksgiving snow in Ohio. And believe me, it's much easier to run while it's snowing than 80 percent humidity in August ... I mean October.

* In addition to beating a 2-mile race time, I've had a few tempo runs while training better than several 5k races, and a 13.1-mile run was the same time as my very first half marathon. To me, no matter what I'm training for, that is my best sign of progress in the past few months.

* My 5k race times have dramatically improved since training for the Virginia Ten Miler last summer. From 24:37 at a cross-country style race in Bedford in November (which was nearly 3 minutes faster than my previous PR at that race) to a 22:42 this summer with a ton of hills, I have figured out how to push myself in a 3.1 mile event. Now that I've gotten below 23 minutes in a 5k comes the challenge of continuing to be able to do that, if 5ks are what I want to keep doing. Train faster, race faster. It's actually a simple technique that works really well!

* I now have a new standard for a "short run." It used to be three miles. Now it's four. And I really like five.

The power of 10 ... hours of sleep that is

I think in yesterday's post I was blaming myself for things beyond my control. I was mad for yesterday's run not feeling like the majority of my runs have in the past few months. Plus I was tired ... and I think that was my biggest issue of all. Yesterday evening, I took a nap for about an hour. Then last night I slept for about 10 hours. Mark this down as a lesson learned without having to hurt myself -- had I kept going yesterday, who knows what would have happened.

So today around 5 p.m., my wife and I headed to a nearby park with our dog (that's him in the photo!). Instead of the short walk before my run, I took a longer walk to get warmed up -- probably a little more than a mile. Then, the run. I started slow just to make sure my knees weren't turning old on me. Two miles in, things were fine. I kept the first four miles or so off road on the relatively flat trails. Half way through I was feeling great. No pains, no issues with the late-day still-too-hot-for-October weather ... my only complaint would be that my iPod was enjoying playing Bush songs I've already heard this week. I ended up running 10 miles in 10 seconds less than 1:30. Compare that to yesterday's first 10 that I did in 1:37, plus another 9:30 pace mile. For the weekend, I did 21 miles. Although my 20 miler didn't come in one attempt, I did accomplish a first in my running career -- two double digit runs in consecutive days. Also this weekend, I passed 100 miles for the month, which is about 20 more than where I was at this point last month. While I was feeling down yesterday, I'm feeling much better tonight. It's funny what a good night's sleep can do for the body.

So, now what? It's time for the taper. A lot of people have a lot to say about tapering -- when doing a Google search for tapering and running, 2 million items come up. Nobody is right; nobody is wrong, either. For people like me, running in that 30-40 miles per week range, it seems there's not much of a need to drastically cut back until the week of, but some cutting back needs to happen. Then there's the ton of people who run 40-60 miles a week ... then you have the 100-plus miles a week runner.

There are too many different types of runners out there to develop a perfect plan and not enough research for so-called experts to really know what is right. I have now had five consecutive 30-plus mile weeks since my mid-September move. Based on what I've read, what I've been told and what I've done with the two shorter races I've trained for, next week's plan is 29 miles with a long run of 14. I may alter some things during the week and shorten the long run just a bit, but I still plan to be in the double digits. The following week, my target mileage is 24 miles, with my long run being 8 miles. And the week of the marathon? I'll wait and see how I feel, but basically I'm planning 10 miles or less.

I'm excited that taper time is here and I can use some reasonable excuses now to rest up. There have been some mornings that I just don't feel like dragging myself out of bed, but I do it anyway. Now I won't feel so bad if I sleep just a tad longer and run a mile less. There's a lot of reflecting I'd love to do, but now is still not the time. It is not time too look at how far I've come since the spring. There's a marathon to focus on -- I haven't accomplished anything until I cross the finish line.

20 more foods...

There's 20 days to go until the Richmond Marathon. The 20 miles didn't go as planned, so dammit, I'm adding 20 more foods and drinks I won't eat until after the marathon ... or never again. I must stress that many of these things are items I don't eat anyway, it just feels good to write them down. In case you missed it, earlier this month around the 40 days to go mark, I put a list of 40 foods and drinks I'm not eating until after Nov. 10. Since Halloween is near, there are lots of candy references here...

Pizza Hut pizza, any food from a Mexican restaurant, white bread, potato bread, bacon, Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, 3 Musketeers, fireballs, jawbreakers, Reese's peanut butter cups, Resse's pieces, funnel cakes, Domino's pizza, Italian sausage, Tootsie Rolls, marshmallows, restaurant cheeseburgers, onion rings, lollipops.

The 20 that didn't happen

When I have found success in things, I have always found it hard to put into words. The same can be said when things don't go my way.

Today's planned 20-mile run simply didn't go like it should have. Things started off pretty well and by mile 5 things were going very smoothly. It was nice and cool and my pace was very, very comfortable. I stopped around mile 8 to refill my water and when I restarted things just didn't feel right. My knees (yes, that's plural) started hurting a bit. I figured I'd get to mile 10, then walk a little bit and see how things were going. So I walked for about 5 minutes at mile 10, then started running again. Things felt OK for about half a mile, then my knees started hurting again. I finished off a mile, all the while thinking of a game plan to attempt to get mileage in this weekend. The pain wasn't very intense -- just kind of annoying. But annoying enough to make me not push myself. With three weeks to go, now is not the weekend to hurt myself and not be able to run at all. It didn't feel anything like my pain from last summer -- that was killer. This was like "I'm tired don't screw with me today." I came home and iced both knees and now a few hours later things feel OK.

So what now? First off, my No. 1 goal coming into marathon training was to not hurt myself. I have three weeks to get rested up, put in some quality miles and go out and finish my first ever 26.2 mile event. As for this weekend, I'm giving myself a 36-hour break and will head out tomorrow evening for an attempt at 10 miles or so. That may be a test as to whether this is fatigue or whether something else is going on. I feel OK and feel like going out and running right now. But I'm not stupid (well...) and I don't want to ruin the rest of my running career. I've said before that I wasn't making marathon plans until after this one was over, but you may take a hint from my future plans with me signing up for the Shamrock Half Marathon in March. Much more on that after Nov. 10.

It's tough to hold my head up after a morning like this, but I think maybe my body was ready for the taper before my mind was. There's still a lot of weekend left and a lot of running to do -- it's just the 20 miler isn't happening all at once.

A conversation with my body

After dealing with a move in September, it really seems hard to believe that this is the last "big" week with training for the Richmond Marathon. Tapering can't come soon enough. This week while running my body is having a conversation with me.

Right foot: "Really, another mile to go? But I need a break."
Me: "So what pal, you're sticking with me."

Left knee: "OK buddy, I'm hurting, I know you feel me. But if you insist, I have a good 20 mile run in me on Saturday."
Me: "Thanks! Yes, I feel your pain, but talk to the right knee about that. Now '06 was pain. This my friend, is nothing. Thanks for sticking it out with me."

Lungs: "Can't breathe. Too much. It's October and it's still hot air coming in. What happened to temperatures in the 40s like the other day."
Me: "I can't agree more. I'm thinking Mother Nature is waiting until we cut back the miles to get super nice, and then we won't be going very far."

My ears: "C'mon you SOB. How many times do I have to hear Garth Brooks' 'Callin' Baton Rouge?'"
Me: "Look, this song gets me going just ask much as any O.A.R. or Dave Matthews Band song, so shut up. And don't call me an SOB."

Back: "You're almost 30 and I've never hurt before ... don't let me start now."
Me: "Remember that 30k? You were hurting then. Just hang with me through this week and we'll survive the marathon."

After all these miles, my legs, lungs and brain are ready to cut back after Saturday. While next week will still be "long" by my standards from just a few months ago, I'm looking forward to easing up on the distance. Many people talk about feeling like tapering isn't working or that they don't want to ease up. After all these long runs with distances I've never hit until now, I'm more than happy to cut back. I'm listening to my body, and it's telling me that after Saturday it wants to prepare itself for Nov. 10.

NASCAR's finest every morning

I'm proud of you Chesterfield County - you're listening to the mandatory water restrictions. Your yard will survive, unless it doesn't rain ever again or if this winter is snow free.

Anyway, I've been wondering lately what the hell is wrong with drivers in the morning. Richmond has relatively good drivers, except between the hours of 7-9 a.m. When running in the mornings, I feel like I'm inconveniencing everyone in my little neighborhood. I think many of them aren't paying attention, then all of a sudden they see me and dramatically swerve to the left. I'm usually running on the edge of the pavement and get over to the right off the paved part (if it's there) quick enough. Or if I'm near a parked car, I stay very close to it. But from Monday to Friday in the morning, Richmonders take to the streets like they're Tony Stewart. I'm sorry you have to get to work so early, but don't forget to share the road. It's truly a different story at night and the weekends.

Why I keeping going

I've been reading several blogs this summer that basically pertain to running. But several of the blogs often get off subject, oh-so briefly getting into their personal lives. One of my favorite blogs has been the Runners Lounge, which has offered encouragement to every runner out there. At the same time, they've offered insight to other runners' blogs and what we're doing with our lives. Then there's also the newly created Runners Lounge Web site, that could very well be one of the best running sites in the near future. Jason's Running Diary has also become a blog I enjoy reading -- there's a unique bond I think all first-time marathoners share. But his blog has slipped into personal things I can relate to. Then this weekend, I read a blog from "Runner Girl", whose blog Web site begins with "13point1milejourney" - something that'll probably be a big part of my running future. Anyway, her recent post focused on bloggers who let their personal lives slip into running blogs. It got me to thinking... what do I reveal on here? When does it actually get boring to read about another long run? When does it get old for me to write about another run?

Well, call this a coming out party, because I'm ready to write more about why I run ... even though I still can't quite get into a direct blog that doesn't have to do without running, I find it important to give some background into why I run. 2004 was the year of change for me. What was originally a quest to lose weight for my wedding turned into a quest of running for life. Early on in the year, I had an uncle diagnosed with cancer. He was given no time to live basically. But he ended up making it to my wedding later that summer, and lived to see Christmas that year. It's an amazing story of beating the doctor's odds, although the cancer became too much. In November 2004, my dad was then diagnosed with cancer -- a very odd and rare form of cancer in the throat. What transpired was several months of chemo and radiation, the inability to eat and then fighting back from that. He has since returned to relatively good health and his old fatherly habits. Then in 2005, my grandfather was diagnosed with lymphoma. While struggling with memory-related problems, this came along. However, here at the end of 2007, my grandfather continues. While he's not the same person he used to be, he still has a sense of humor and an appreciation for life, even if it is SSDD as he says.

So, in the course of a year, I had some of the greatest things happen to me in getting married and losing 40 pounds, while having the worst things happen to me. Three relatives -- all non-blood related to each other -- get cancer. I find myself thinking about this a lot when I'm running. When I'm struggling out there, I find myself finding the will to keep going all for my health, and in honor and memory of others. Seeing others close to me find that will to live deep within themselves only makes me stronger.

Loving the half marathon

If you asked me right now my favorite race distance, I'd have to say the half marathon. Even though I've only done three -- and really only focused on running one of them hard -- it's a fun distance to do. It's challenging, yet very rewarding. I'll discuss various race distances later, but for now I want to focus on today's long run -- my very own version of a half marathon.

After last week's debacle of a 30k, I have been feeling all week that I have something to prove to myself. Bad runs only motivate me to do better next time. On Wednesday I had a great run with a 4-mile tempo run -- my time in those 4 miles were faster than my two 4-mile races I've done. Today I wanted to go out and run a half marathon in less than 2 hours -- I wanted to do something to help me realize that 4 hours in a marathon is achievable for me. I ended up running it in 1:55, which was my time in my first half marathon a little more than a year ago. It's such a great feeling to have training runs now that are equal to or beat previous race times -- especially race times from last summer. It's an even better feeling to have a long run like today's and feel like I can do something with the rest of my day and weekend. I remember my first 13.1 experience -- I was on the couch icing my knee afterward and was pretty much worthless through the weekend.

Next week will be my last high mileage week before tapering begins. I'll have my second attempt at 20 miles. If the weather continues to cooperate (it was fabulous today), I think everything will be just fine. I'm looking forward to tapering to give my legs a break, but I'm still sort of questioning how much to reduce the miles. I can feel it in my legs and the rest of my body that I need a break from the miles -- but how much? I'll figure that out after next week.

So, this all being said about the half marathon, I am sending my application today to do the Dolphin Challenge as park of the Shamrock event in Virginia Beach in March. The Dolphin Challenge is an 8k on Saturday, March 15 and a half marathon on Sunday, March 16. Why not do the marathon? I'll address that after Nov. 10. I had such a fun time last year doing the half that I want to do it again and add the extra challenge of the 8k, although I probably won't run that very hard. Plus the price goes up $15 after Oct. 31 ... and no matter what event I did, nothing beats "free" Yuengling after running your ass off (see photo). So before training for one race ends, the countdown begins for something else. Off season? There's no such thing. My focus, though, is on the Richmond Marathon -- that won't change until Nov. 11.