Looking back on July

July 2007 will go down as my most pleasing month of running of all time. I hope I can say the same about each month through November. On top of logging personal bests in the mile and overall pace in the 5 miler, I logged just over 90 miles for the month - the most of any month so far this year. (Had February been a full month, I would've had more then.) My mileage for the year is now more than 500 miles and with the marathon training I'll easily surpass 1,000 for the year. By the time the end of August/early September gets here, my long runs will become my longest runs ever - perhaps my favorite statement to say about running.

I have been very pleased with the steady increase in my long runs this month - from just over 6 miles to 10 miles - and the comfort they have brought. I have been a bit cautious so I don't have repeats in my knee problems from last summer. I think the lessons I have learned over the past two years are paying off tremendously this summer. I've learned when to push it or when to have an easy run or when to just take a day off. While I'm worried about my move interfering with training, I already realize the potential to join new runners and other runner groups.

Week 2, with a double-digit long run

I had an odd week professionally that made keeping to my running schedule a bit harder. On Tuesday I spent a lot of time in the car going back and forth to a seminar at Virginia Tech. The next day was my voyage to and from Richmond. I realized that having a good workout in the morning, then sitting in a car for two hours isn't good. Despite the many travels and the all-of-a-sudden sprint to get my house ready to sell, I had a successful running week. Unlike last summer, I have no knee problems after upping my mileage. I also have quickly realized how much house work is equivalent to a good crossing training day, or a good addition to running.

Here's how Week 2 went of training for the Richmond Marathon:
Monday, 7/23: 1.1, weights
Tuesday: 4
Wednesday: 6.2 overall (3.2 tempo run at just under 8 minute mile pace)
Thursday: Dubbed a rest day for running, but ... 1.3 mi. walk, weights, mowed yard
Friday: 4.4
Saturday: Rest day, but housework was involved
Sunday: 10. This was my first double-digit run since my half marathon in March. Overall it went well, and I could really feel the difference in jumping from 7.3 miles last week. Plus I stuck to some major hills including Thomas Road. It was ambitious to go 10 miles, but in the end everything felt great. I kept a nice, controlled slow pace. I had enough left in me today to clean up some more and some minor painting. I'm headed off soon to reward myself with a Japanese meal.

Total running miles for the week: 25.7. My goal was 25 to 28, so I'm very pleased to fall within my goal range. My group run Wednesday was a tempo run in the rain, and I really enjoyed it.

This week, my group run has been moved a day and I won't be able to go, but my goal is to do some sort of track workout or tempo run mid-week on my own. My long run goal is 11 miles; overall mileage goal for the week is 27 to 30. The following week is a recovery week in which I'll cut my miles down in the low 20s, but maintain 11 or so miles for my long run. That week will be a bit odd as I head on a mini "vacation" to Ohio once again, but it's perfect time as I plan to cut back a bit. I'll be looking forward a very flat long run.

New gear, a new running experience

I'm the kind of runner who as soon as my feet don't quite right, I buy new shoes. I feel the same way about shoes that I do tires on a car -- if they're starting to wear down, you probably shouldn't put too many more miles on them. Yesterday, I bought a pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 7s. This is a pretty drastic change for me because since June 2006, my running shoes have been Asics. I've gone through a pair of 1120s, two 2110s and most recently a pair of 2120s - my most favorite to date. But after trying on the Brooks and the Asics 2120s at the same time, there was something about the Brooks shoe I really liked. They got a good test run today on my 10-mile run - everything felt great.

I also bought a fuel belt yesterday - the 2007 Helium Fuel Belt. I used it on my long run today and it worked great. It has two 8-ounce bottles and a little zipper pack for a small snack, keys or, like today, my Ipod shuffle. It fit nice and snug and it didn't shift around at all. It's the first time in a couple of years I've taken fluids with me and it was a world of difference from the cheap stuff I have used before. I really didn't want a belt with four bottles - that just seemed like too much to carry around - and this one was perfect when I saw it. It will definitely make my long runs more pleasant having fluid with me instead of trying to run somewhere that has water fountains along the way.

When life throws a curveball ...

In a quick turn of events, things for me personally have changed as I have accepted a job in Richmond. Kind of weird that I'm training for the biggest race of my life and I'll be moving to the host city in a few weeks. I won't have so far to drive now. I'll be blogging about this more on my myspace site once my self-imposed myspace ban ends in a few days.

My point on here is to address maintaining a training schedule once I start moving. My goal, obviously, is to stay on track, but I know it may be a bit hard. Moving furniture will provide some good cross-training days, but my biggest concern is putting aside time for my long runs and not having long breaks of not running mixed in. I will miss having my weekly morning group, but I am sure that I will find plenty of support in a considerably larger city. I'll start looking this weekend for help in that aspect. At the same time I have worries about my training, I'm excited to have somewhere different to run. It'll be a great way to get to know the city better.

Lastly, I will be changing my URL at some point soon, so I'm not locked into the city I'm living in now. I thought of that when I first started blogging and wish I would've chosen something different. I'll let you know when that happens.

Pass the salsa, please.

I used to hate Mexican food. Couldn't stand it. Now, I eat it just about once a week. I love it. I'm usually fairly good about it by ordering off the a la carte portion so I don't overeat. Two items (one with chicken) and some chips are enough. And salsa is one of the best health foods out there. Sometimes though, no matter how good Mexican food is going down, it isn't always the same later on. I once again learned this morning that a run longer than 3 miles 12 hours after a Mexican dinner isn't always a good thing, if you know what I mean. To say I won't eat Mexican food the night before any kind of run again is an understatement. I'll be saving it the day before a rest day. As Forrest Gump says, that's all I have to say about that.

Week 1

Here's a look at how Week 1 of my official training for the Richmond Marathon went. First part is my goal from last week's post, then the line with what I actually did:
Monday, 7/16: 3-4 miles
actual: 0.8 + weights (Click here for the post on being flexible with goals.)

Tuesday, 7/17: short run (less than a mile) + weights with upper body
actual: 3.3

Wednesday, 7/18: Group run (mileage likely about 6 miles)
actual: track workout, 5.3 total

Thursday, 7/19: 7-8 miles
actual: 7.3

Friday, 7/20: Rest
actual: rest

Saturday, 7/21: 5 miler
actual: 5 miler in 36:59, 6 miles total. Plus pulling carpet later in the day

Sunday, 7/22: 2-3 miles, hike or rest
actual: Pretty much rest, but I did do some cleaning up in my basement, along with moving some furniture around. I was pretty beat today after yesterday's race and carpet stuff.

Total: 22.7
I fell just short of my overall goal (23-26 miles), but I'd have to say that this was a good week overall. My workouts were solid and I felt great all week.

Measuring success

Every runner has a different thought on how to measure success. Whether it's having the longest run ever or setting a PR or doing a workout you've never done before or losing weight, there are endless ways to measure success in running. That could be why I've come to let running be the biggest part about who I am.

Yesterday I ran the Percival's Island 5 Miler in downtown Lynchburg (and Amherst County). It's a very flat course, out and back. As usual, I went in with the goal to beat my time of last year, which was 41:07. I figured that would be easy enough since I've gotten my overall race pace under 8 minutes a mile for a while now. Realistically, I wanted to finish in about 38 minutes. To my own surprise, my time was 36:59. So not only was this a PR for this distance, my race pace was a PR as well. With it being a flat course and wonderful weather for late July, the conditions were perfect for all this to happen. I felt comfortable and in control out there yesterday, and still had very little soreness in my legs today. After the race, my workout continued as I had to help my dad in pulling carpet out of my late grandmother's house.

So I have to say that for me yesterday was a success. The next "race" will be a half marathon in four weeks that I will be treating as a long run for the week. It'll be a good chance to have a long run with a lot of people around.

A mid-week journey

Every run involves some sort of challenge. It's one of the things that make running worthwhile. Today I challenged myself by moving my long run to the middle of the week and after a track workout the day before, all because I want to run a 5-mile race Saturday. I was told once that a long run after a track workout is a great thing to do, as long as the long run is done with ease. Last night I questioned whether or not to do a longer run today because I felt worn out, but when I woke up I knew it was the right thing to do.

On top of that, I challenged myself to not run up and down the same street in order to not cross the same point twice. I almost did that, but ended up crossing one point twice only briefly and then running just past where my ran began. (Click here to view the run.)

Overall, this was a good, solid, in-control run. I'm glad I did it. The route I took is so easy to add to as well. Only problem was it was already in the mid-70s and very humid when the ran began around 6:30 a.m. By the end, I was sweating so bad that sweat was dripping off my hat as if it were raining. It was like taking a shower, not rinsing off and putting clothes on.

Quality on the track

Today's group workout was once again on the track and I got a friendly reminder about quality vs. quantity. (And a friendly reminder that I hate the alarm clock at 5:45 a.m.) While overall mileage is important, a workout like today will go a long way in making me a better overall runner.

Today's workout was eight 400 meters, with a 200-meter recovery after each lap, except for an 800-meter recovery after the first four 400 meters. It included a warmup with a core workout and several laps around the track. Overall mileage was 5.3 miles.

This workout was designed to help learn pace a little better. To my surprise, the second set of the laps seemed easier, with the last lap being the fastest. Lap times were: 1:46, 1:47, 1:45, 1:41, 1:41, 1:40, 1:37, 1:33. Like I said, this focused on pace, not speed. I felt very comfortable out there and very happy that I've learned to not waste energy at the beginning of a workout. Due to vacations, our group was slimmed down today and we were all running within 5 seconds of each other.

The heat can't be beat

In thinking about this post, I realized that in nearly four years of running I've drastically changed my routine three times. At the time, it seemed like an easy thing to do, but in hindsight I made a lot of sacrifices along the way. (Thus the reasoning for filing this under lessons learned.)

When I started running again, I was working the evening shift. Going to bed at 2 a.m. and getting up at 10 a.m. was pretty common. Initially, everything was fine. It was winter and I lived in an apartment complex that had decent treadmills. If the weather was bad or it was too cold, I simply ran on the treadmill. Once the summer hit, it was the same thing. I often stayed outside despite the heat but if it got too hot, inside I went. At that time, I was just so focused on losing weight, that I didn't care how hot it was. When I moved to my house in 2005, my routine got a bit wack and that's when I cut back on running a bit and gained some weight back. Eventually I adjusted and had a similar routine to before ... only that my running had to be completely outdoors. My house is a bit older and just isn't treadmill friendly. In late 2005, my job changed and I got on the day shift. Problem was, it was nearly a half hour drive to work. (I know that's not too bad for most people...)

That's when I became an evening runner. Only problem was it was fall and was often dark by the time I got home. I managed though because at the time my runs were generally only 30 minutes. When last summer came and I trained for the 10 miler, I simply ran in the evenings. The humidity was horrendous, but I enjoyed running at that time so much more than the middle of the day. It made me realize how hot it really was the couple of summers before and it seemed I could manage the heat much easier. But then my job changed again in the fall. I continued my evening running up until about Christmas, when I began training for the Shamrock Half Marathon. That's when I became a morning runner because, simply enough, I was tired of trying to beat the sunset home in the middle of winter. It wasn't an easy transition, plus in the winter is was so freakin' cold. But with the right layers and increased mileage, I managed.

And that all leads me to now and the usual easiness of getting up in the morning, going to the bathroom, drinking a glass of water, having a quick snack and going out for a run. It is no doubt the best way to beat the heat. I often read blogs or articles about people in the southwest getting up at crazy times to run and beat the sunrise. I don't often beat the sunrise, but I do beat the upper 80s and low 90s that I used to encounter mid-day, and I don't have to dodge the typical evening thunderstorms. I have sacrificed staying up later and sometimes feel like I'm scrambling to get ready for work, but it's just so much better. It helps get the day started and it's nice to get off work and know that my workout for the day has already came and went.

At the same time I like running in the mornings, I wish I had a treadmill. In late spring and early fall, nothing beats running outside. But in mid-winter and occasionally in the summer, having the option of a treadmill would be great a couple of times a week. For those of you who can't get up in the morning to run, I'm sure you wish the same if you have access to one.

I wish I had more answers or advice to beat the heat - I stay very hydrated throughout the day and usually wake up feeling ready to roll. After a workout, I have found that frozen grapes help cool me down, as does a nice mix of a sports drink and water. But actually beating the heat, I don't think it can be done.

No. 1 rule: Be flexible

I read a good blog yesterday about setting goals and taking a look at them often. (Click here for that posting.) It sort of fits with what I said the other day about being flexible in my training schedule. Well, this week alone, I've already flipped what I had planned for Monday and Tuesday. After a weekend of being on my feet quite a bit, I simply didn't feel like running much yesterday. So after a short walk and jog with my wife and dog, I ran back to my house for a little less than a mile total and lifted weights. That led a much better quality run today just over 3 miles and makes me feel much better about getting up at 5:45 a.m. tomorrow for my group run (which is not flexible).

With that being said, I'm adding a label below called "lessons learned." I hope this is the first of many on my journey to the marathon.

Feeling free

Due to a family yard sale in Bedford, Va., I spent the night at my mother's house last night. My plan was to get up early this morning and just go out for a nice long run somewhere different. My goal was about 6 miles. Well, about a half mile into my run, my battery died on my Garmin Forerunner. I've become hooked on my GPS watch, so I immediately thought about just running Bedford's "loop" (click here for more details on the loop) and nothing more. What happened though was one of the most independent-feeling runs I've had a while and may be the start of something new. (You can click here for the route I took today.) In the end, the less-stressful run was surprisingly right at 6 miles.

I think runners often get too addicted to their watches and get too focused on their times and mileages, but it's soooo hard to break away from having a watch on. I'll be the first to admit to that. So maybe, just maybe, I'll start going out once a week without the watch and see where the path takes me. Like today, maybe I'll continue to be surprised at how great it feels.

A two-week plan

With 17 weeks until the day of the Richmond Marathon, it's time I start writing down my goals each week. For the past year, I've been keeping good track of how long I run or the miles I log, but I've been so-so about setting up goals. I've always had a little help with that, and am continuing to get help for the marathon. Basically, I'm taking three different training plans and coming up with my own. For the first few weeks, I plan to take it two weeks at a time and evaluate where I am.

So, here are my goals for the next two weeks, as the countdown hits 16 weeks on July 21. Of note for next week is a 5 mile race I'm doing, so I'm moving my long run to earlier in the week. Otherwise my long runs will be on Saturdays. And usually I'll have two rest days planned each week, along with a cross-training day that includes minimal running to warm up. Also, my running week begins Monday and ends Sunday.

Monday, 7/16: 3-4 miles
Tuesday, 7/17: short run (less than a mile) + weights with upper body
Wednesday, 7/18: Group run (mileage likely about 6 miles)
Thursday, 7/19: 7-8 miles
Friday, 7/20: Rest
Saturday, 7/21: 5 miler
Sunday, 7/22: 2-3 miles, hike or rest
Week goal: 23-26

Monday, 7/23: 1-2 very easy miles + weights
Tuesday, 7/24: 4-5 miles
Wednesday, 7/25: group run (about 6 miles)
Thursday, 7/26: 4-5 miles
Friday, 7/27: Rest
Saturday, 7/28: 10 miles
Sunday, 7/29: Rest
Week goal: 25-28

I don't want to get too hung up on exact miles. I have found it best to be as flexible as possible. Certain days I might only feel like 3 miles instead of 4, or I'll fall somewhere in between. My group run will likely vary in distance and intensity, so I need to be prepared to change up things because of that. Last summer when training for the Virginia Ten Miler, I got too focused on being exact and at times I just felt like I was forcing myself to run when I should've taken a day off or ran fewer miles. I've learned that lesson already. Then there's the weather, which in mid-summer can always throw things off. Life can also get in the way -- I already know that in a few weeks I'll be back in Ohio for a wedding, so I'll have to adjust accordingly.

A post setting up other posts

I often get asked how training is going for the Richmond Marathon. Well, honestly, ever since I signed up for it in March, I don't feel like I've done much for it. Basically, I've maintained decent mileage for a couple of months (16-22 miles a week) and just waited until this month to get here to really focus on it. My long runs will steadily increase between now and November, but I think I'll be comfortable upping my mileage until I get to a distance I've never done. Last year when I trained for the 10 miler, each long run always felt good mentally because, simply, I had never gone that far before. At the same time they were a bit uncomfortable physically because I had never logged that distance before. My longest runs since I started running again have been my half marathons. Including warming up for those events, I've never gone more than 14 miles in a day. When I hit that distance sometime in August, I know that mentally it'll be great. Physically? We'll see ...

I'd like to take a chance to layout some things I'd like to write about (it's sort of like what happens at work -- having a meeting to discuss other meetings). Next week will mark 16 weeks to the marathon. I plan to write about long runs specifically. My goal is to write about how I felt on the long runs and provide a link on mapmyrun.com or using google maps to show where I went. I believe that the key thing with the marathon training will be the long runs. Through September, I'll be in the speed and endurance training group. I plan to write about each of those workouts. Lastly, I plan to write about weight and nutrition. I've written about the journey from 220 pounds ago (click here for that post), but I'd like to detail a little more about my goals and look back in a little more detail of where I've been since the initial weight loss. If I somehow don't touch on these subjects in the next couple of minds, please kindly remind me to.

To end us this no-point post, I'd like to thank those who have become regular readers. I've enjoyed reading other blogs and I look forward to reading more - I hope that this blog has become somewhat helpful and/or entertaining. For those running the Richmond Marathon or the 8K that same day, maybe we can actually meet the night before or the day of the race.

Back to business

So after a 7 mile run in Ohio on the first half of my vacation, the rest of my time off was spent relaxing and not worrying about anything. I managed to run a mile on Tuesday morning while I was in the Poconos (more specially, at Pocono Palace), but my motivation to run just wasn't there. Simply put, it was hot, I was at a higher altitude and I just needed to relax, both physically and mentally. I managed to do that quite well.

Things returned a little bit more to normal this morning with a 3 mile run. By the time the week ends, I will log just about the same amount of miles as last week. I guess that's not too bad considering the odd timing of my days away from home.

The power of 7

Today is 07-07-07 ... so I went out and ran just over 7 miles ... just after 7 a.m. ... all while on vacation.

On the road again

A vacation from work can't come soon enough, but a vacation right as I am feeling great about where my training is isn't quite ideal. I've gotten in my head that 16 weeks of training for the Richmond Marathon is what I want to do, and that doesn't actually come until the week of July 16. Right now is all about mentally preparing while creeping my mileage up. These past two weeks have been a great bonus to unofficially begin the training. I want to feel like "officially" training for the marathon is nothing but a smooth transition from what I'm already doing.

People often think that when they're on vacation, they can't exercise at all. But I'm already trying to figure out when I'll get some good runs in, while still relaxing. Saturday and Sunday mornings will be the best, since I'll simply be visiting in-laws and my wife is off doing things women do when they're in weddings. And I'll be in Ohio where it's a bit cooler and considerably flatter. So I figure that Saturday would be a great day to run an easy 7 miles. It's been a while since I've hit that distance and it would be a great way to end a week that's been full of speed workouts. And I don't get a chance to have a run without any hills because quite simply, I hate the track when I'm by myself. Today I let my body rest after that speed workout Tuesday and yesterday's mile race. Tomorrow I might go for a jog before I hit the road, but I'll really wait and figure that out in the morning. I'll be venturing back to Virginia on Wednesday after a couple of days in the Poconos in Pennsylvania, where I hope to get a few miles in.

The hardest part about vacation is nutrition. In the past two weeks, I've gotten a lot better with eating the right things and voiding certain foods/drinks altogether. I think this mini-transition period will help tremendously when it's all-you-can-eat dessert night. When I return from my trip, I will be keeping tabs on my weight and letting you in on my goals. I've been through the story of losing weight, but it's time to hold me accountable again to get to where I want to be by the time the marathon rolls around.

Anyone can run a mile

And I believe my title even more after this morning. My wife, who had never ran more than three quarters of a mile without stopping, didn't finish last as she had feared, and ran the Academy Mile in 10:36. In the brief training for this race, she had been doing between a quarter and half mile in about a 12-minute pace. A fellow co-worker of mine who smokes and showed up his roommate by actually getting up and going to this race, finished with his girlfriend in 10:32. (His roommate, also a co-worker, didn't show up because, as he said yesterday, it was a rare chance to sleep in.) And another co-worker of mine, who runs quite often but often says she's so slow, finished in 8:18.

Like my title says, anyone can run a mile ... unless you choose not to.

I finished in a time of 6:26, 45 seconds faster than last year. If my abs weren't sore from yesterday's workout, I probably could've been a little faster. The weather was absolutely perfect. Temps in the low to mid-70s, cloudy skies and a light breeze -- I questioned whether today was actually July 4.

Happy Fourth everybody!

When I was on track ...

I found a file with a track workout from early March. This was two weeks before my half-marathon, so I was in prime shape, and I had done track workouts several weeks in a row. It's still interesting to compare it to this morning's workout. The weather was a bit cooler and the workout was about 2 hours later in the morning. I'll attribute much of the time differences to the different weather conditions, the fact I'm not quite where I want to be as far as being in shape is concerned, the fact the workout was quite different (but it's still the same distances) and my weekly mileage at the time was higher than where I am now. I'm still in that 10 second window though ... and basically 10 seconds within what I did this morning.

800: 3:15
400: 1:27
400: 1:27
800: 3:25
400: 1:25
400: 1:25
800: 3:24
(Each distance had a 400 recovery except for the second 800, which was followed by a mile recovery.)

Getting on track

I'm not sure when I'll get used to running at 6:15 a.m. It just doesn't seem normal to me.

Anyway, today's group workout was tough, but fortunately it was similar to workouts I did this past winter. And the weather was absolutely perfect. Upper 50s/low 60s, relatively low humidity - you couldn't ask for better weather in Virginia in early July.

So, here's the workout I did this morning on the track with a bunch of much faster and older moms that I now have much more respect for.
800: 3:24
800: 3:32
800: 3:26
400: 1:24
400: 1:31
800: 3:33
(each distance included a 400 recovery)

Including a warmup and cool down, I logged about 6 miles. We also did about 5 minutes of a "core" workout, something I plan to do much more of this summer. As far as effort is concerned, on a scale of 1 to 10, I'd say I gave a 7 on the 800s, a 10 on the first 400 and an 8 on the second 400.

I'm pleased that I can pace myself well enough to have my slowest and fastest times on the 800s be within 10 seconds. I can probably push myself a little harder, and that'll come with more experience. As far as the 400s are concerned, today I felt like I had the energy I usually do for a final kick. On the second 400, I was a bit tired and couldn't push it very hard down the last 100 meters, but I still had a good burst of energy.

So now comes a very quick recovery today (lots of water and a good night's sleep) for the Academy One Miler in downtown Lynchburg tomorrow. I have a goal of less than 7 minutes, but that will all depend on how this morning's workout affects me. It'll be my wife's first race, so I'm looking more forward to that than I am setting a PR.

Hitting that restart button

Since mid-March, I've been keeping in my head that July 1 is THE day to put all my focus on November's Richmond Marathon. Well, that day is here and now it's time to get serious. This weekend didn't quite go as planned, as I had hoped to run 6-7 miles on Saturday. I changed up my routine and did that today, which is a good start to this second half of the year. I had a very comfortable 6.5 miles today on the Blackwater Creek Trails. It had been a while since I went there, but it was a refreshing change to my usual neighborhood.

So, what now? The first quarter of the year was about my half marathon; the second quarter was about recovery and maintaining decent mileage. Now, the challenge begins. It's time for my long runs to get longer; my tempo runs (which will be my group runs through September) will get more intense; and the easy days will probably remain about the same. In the coming weeks, after a vacation this weekend, I plan to write about my workouts in a little more detail, with putting some goals down and then writing about what actually happened.

Part of the July 1 changes include absolutely no french fries, no soft drinks and yes, no ice cream. More on all that later.

This week I have a group run on Tuesday and a mile race on Wednesday (I'm shooting for less than 7 minutes) that will be the biggest things. I'll be in Ohio for a nice flat run this weekend.