Septemeber in Review

September was a very interesting month when it comes to everything in my life. With moving and being busy at work and getting sick all in the same week, I experienced one of my worst weeks of 2007. The 8 miles I logged between Sept. 3-9 was the lowest since March following the week of the Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach. But in the end, I stuck to a plan, didn't force any extra miles and finished with 119.6 miles for the month - exactly 10 more than August, but probably about 15 short of what I wanted to do. It's sort of a good news/bad news thing, but more good than bad really. My year total is 744.9 miles.

September included three "longest run ever" distances of 15, 16 and 18. Next month - the last full month of training before the Richmond Marathon - will likely see long runs of 20, 14, 20 and 14. The week before the marathon I'm shooting for 8 or more. My weekly goals hover in the mid- to upper 30s range, with a taper sort of beginning on Oct. 22. Recent Runner's World articles have me questioning how much to cut back and what exactly to do. (Click here to go to the site, then do a search for "Taper.") My plan is to be in the upper 20s to near 30 miles between Oct. 22-28, mid-20s Oct. 29-Nov. 4 and about 10 miles the week of the marathon.
I appreciate any advice more experienced runners may have. I'm basically following a plan I created from three other plans.


Long runs leave me speechless and what usually comes out of my mind through the keyboard on the days I do long runs is a bunch of gibberish that somehow makes sense. Anyway, my 18 miles this morning went very well. I'd have to say this is the best I have felt on my long runs so far. I basically paid no attention to my time because I didn't want to run fast today. It's as simple as that. I couldn't sleep this morning, so I got up and was out the door while the stars were still out. It was cool to see the moon setting and the sun rising around the same time, and it was totally awesome that is was 50 degrees when my run started. Now I feel like I actually have time to do other stuff this afternoon.

Yard watering: WHY?

Do you ever wonder why runners find dead people? It’s because we wander through places we’re not used to, and we actually pay attention to things despite the weird looks on our faces. This is the first of what I hope will many posts under the label “Observations.” I get so focused on what I’m doing while running that I have neglected to write about the weird things I’ve seen out and about. Today’s subject: yard watering.

In my old Lynchburg neighborhood, not many people cared about their lawns. Sure there were some people who did, but there didn’t seem to be any “My yard is prettier than your yard” competitions. My new neighborhood, though, is quite different. While it’s a great place to run with many connecting streets and a nearby park, I’m beginning to wonder if people have any clue to how dry it’s been lately. We’re under “voluntary” water restrictions in Chesterfield County, but that doesn’t stop the sprinklers from going at full speed.

Every morning I dodge at least a half dozen sprinklers - often more - wasting water away on the streets. On otherwise warm days, it’s not so bad, but lately the temperatures have been fairly nice at 7 a.m. before the sun comes up and I’d rather not have any extra water on me. For people who have grass that can’t get any greener, I don’t understand what would be so wrong with cutting back just a bit. Watering every day and every night baffles me. Perhaps it’s my distaste for mowing. Don’t get me wrong, I love having a green yard and mine looks great, but it’s almost October and I really don’t want to mow too many more times this season. In a few weeks, I’ll have to worry about the leaves and I’d rather not have six-inch high grass to deal with.

Next time: Rude people.

A free 5K

As part of my six-plus mile run yesterday, I did a 5K tempo run. Time: 24:03. That's faster than all but three 5Ks I've ever done in a race. I'm not quite sure what to make of that, but I'm happy with it. It took me so long to break 8 minutes a mile in a race, and now I can do it in a training run and not feel wiped out the rest of the day or sore. It's an awesome feeling to have. Only 44 days and 40 minutes to go ...

Reflections on last year's "big" race

This weekend is the annual Virginia Ten Miler in Lynchburg. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that there's a part of me wishing I was running it. It would do me no harm in doing it, unless I hurt myself, but I'd be missing miles I need to build for the marathon. It would give me a chance to work on speed for a longer distance, but I already have that planned in a 30K next week.

Anyway, I realized on this morning's run that it had been more than a year since my big race of 2006. Here's what I wrote on my MySpace page that day after:

"After nearly three months of intense training, it all came down to one day. I don't really have too much to say about the race right now. It's tough to put into words. I easily beat my 1:30 goal and finished the 10 miler in 1:23 finishing 150th out of 500-plus runners. To put it simply, I left it all on the course. There will be no marathon for me this year, but I don't really care about that right now. My goal at the beginning of this year was to do the 10 miler and I did it. Depending on the condition of my knee, a marathon may never happen. I'm not giving up hope, but I'm not going to be stupid and hurt myself for the rest of my life either. For now, I'm enjoying some off time from running, eating whatever I want for a couple of days and being thrilled at the accomplishment of running 10 miles in the time that I did."

Oddly enough, I didn't write about running again until early November when I finally broke 8 minutes a mile in a race. A lot has changed since September 2006, and a lot will continue to change in the coming weeks. Just wait until I tell you about my tempo run I had this morning ...


My 16 miles went well today, except for the weather. I didn't get up as early as I wanted to, so I didn't beat the heat. And to think, I was praising the new cooler temperatures just the other day. But summer is definitely in control this first day of fall. I'm still not where I want to be with speed, but I really feel that 10 degrees would make a world of difference. The comfort level I had all week vs. today was amazingly different.

Overall, this week was pretty good. I'm still a few miles off what I had planned way back in June, but I did hit the most miles ever in a week this week with 33.2. Now that I'm settled, I should be close to or above 40 miles these next few weeks.

On a side note, I did sign up for the Scholarship 30K, the race I mentioned the other day. I really think this race will give me a good taste of the marathon from a racing standpoint. I won't run it as hard as I possibly can, but I know running with others will lead me to picking up the pace a bit. And with a proper warmup/cool down, I'll have 20 or more miles that day.

50, uh, 49 ... well, really 48 days to go

I usually play close attention to the countdown on my blog page, as well as on my myspace page, AND my iGoogle page. I don't know what happened this week, but I missed the big "50 days to go" moment. Feels like only yesterday I was writing about 100 days to go and 80 days to go. I need to write a song called "Feels like only yesterday" since I write that statement so much. Anyway, as I look at the countdown this morning, I realize that my widget is an hour off and there is 48 days and 23-plus hours to go until the 26.2.

I've read many blogs and comments from others doing the Richmond Marathon as well who talk about "freaking out" or getting nervous or not feeling ready. Right now, that's not me. Why freak out about it? I knew what I was getting myself into. I'm not jumping from being a non-runner to doing a marathon. I'm not going from just 5Ks to the marathon. When I started running three-plus years ago, a marathon wasn't on my mind at all. For the longest time, 4 miles seemed like plenty enough. It took me to run my second half marathon in March to know I was ready to do 26.2. We're all different, and building up to this big event by doing a lot of different race distances for a few years is just my way of going about it. I don't doubt I'll be nervous the day before, but if I'm nervous now, it does me no good. As far as being ready, I still have seven weeks to prepare.

And as I finish this post, my widget has been fixed (even though I had to set it to be an hour off) and all seems right with the world.

The Garmin, my best friend

A friend of mine, former co-worker and one of the few people who read this who knew me before my running days, Emily, asked me on this morning's post about timing my splits while in a park. It made me realize I haven't gone into detail about keeping track of my runs.

I use the Garmin Forerunner 205. It is, quite simply, the best thing to have while running. While I don't utilize all the functions, it's great to have when running anywhere. I actually bought the Forerunner 201 last winter, but quickly discovered this spring that trees easily cut off the GPS. I've never had any major problems with the 205. The biggest thing is making sure you're connected to a satellite before you start off, or it takes it a while to get rolling. And make sure the watch is properly charged because the low battery alert means it's going to die in a half mile or less. It's a bit bulky, but after a few runs you get used to it.

Don't be alarmed by the price. I have bought both of these watches off eBay and gotten a pretty good deal. I actually sold my 201 for more than I purchased it. I got the 205 for at least half of what it retails for. As with anything on eBay, it's hit or miss and you just have to get lucky. I put bids on at least a dozen 201 watches before I "won" one. It went a little better with the 205.

I hope this helps, and it probably helps explain my timings better, too. I can't believe I've actually gone this long without giving high praise to the Garmin. There are other products out there that I am sure work fine. But for me, it'll be Garmin for the rest of my running life.

Get mad, run faster

One thing missing from my workouts since moving to Richmond has been speed/tempo runs. Much of that is due to the move - I went from group workouts once a week that took care of that to running solo all the time. I know Richmond has many group runs, and I look forward to that, but I haven't had the time to join one yet. Evenings have been spent trying to get settled in and I just haven't had the energy to get up earlier in the mornings. Today, though, I decided I'd do a 6-mile run with the two middle miles under an 8 minute pace.

The first two warmup miles felt good. I hit those two miles in 18:22. I headed over to Huguenot Park for the two-mile tempo run. Everything seemed to start OK, but it had been a while since I've pushed myself. I did the two miles in 16:04, just over 8 minutes a mile. Had this been a year ago, I would have been pleased. But instead I was pissed that I didn't do better. I know these past few weeks have been rough, but I know I can do much better. So instead of a final "easy" two miles, I did a very easy half-mile jog, then ran an all-out mad-at-myself mile in 7:23. That's probably the fastest mile I've ever done by myself. It felt great and it helped me realize that I don't need to pay to run with a group to run that hard. The next seven Wednesdays I am planning some sort of tempo run to get ready for Nov. 10. I'm determined to not let this lack of daylight in the morning get in my way.

Thank you (finally) Mother Nature

It's been nearly a month since my open letter to Mother Nature. She just wouldn't listen to me or other runners, no matter how much we begged and pleaded to get a break. Well, I think the curse of "the summer I decided to train for a marathon" has ended. On days after a long run, I usually head out for a short jog/walk routine to get the soreness out. Today, I did just that (much more walk than jog), and I was forced into a long-sleeve running shirt. I have some cutoff temperatures with my gear, and below 50 is when the long sleeve shirt comes out. When it gets below 40, out come the gloves, usually the pants and often a second layer up top. I absolutely love this weather and while I know it'll warm up a bit soon, I think we can say farewell to high humidity and unbearable temperatures until next summer. Of course there is ideal marathon weather I want, but this is a fair trade off for now.

Back on track, but feeling behind

This week was all about just getting back out there after having a week full of being sick, working a lot and moving. All in all, things went pretty well, but having a week like I did last week just set things back just a bit. However, I think that this week set me up for having a great week next week.

I finished the week off today with a 13 mile run. When I first wrote down goals for my long runs about a month ago, today was set up to be 16 miles. I was hoping to have my first 20-mile run in two weeks. I think what I'll do is go 16 next week, 18 on Sept. 28 or 29, then 20 on Oct. 7 (see below for details of that day). I finished just shy of 26 miles for the week. I'll get back to 30-plus next week. I feel like I could have done more this week, but after having the figure 8 last week, I didn't want to overdo it.

There's a 30K on Oct. 7 that's "organized for those that want a long training run for the Richmond Marathon," according to the Richmond Road Runners Club Web site. I think it'll give me a good chance a little more than a month before the marathon to have a long run with other people and to push myself just a bit. It's so hard on these long runs to push myself harder.

As I get more settled in and less busy at home, I'm looking forward to what these last seven weeks are going to bring me. I'll have at least three more "longest runs ever" before the 26.2.

Evening runner

I do not want to become an evening runner again, but with being worn out from my move and trying to get unpacked, getting up this week has been tough. So yesterday after work I headed out for about 6 miles along Richmond's Monument Avenue and its nearby streets. Talk about a different experience - while the time was different, there was also the city traffic to deal with. Today I will run in the evening, but wait until I get home. My neighborhood is much more peaceful, although I did enjoy something completely out of my realm yesterday. I'll probably do it again.

Another problem I'm starting to have is the daylight missing in the morning. It's going to get tougher and tougher to push myself out of bed when it's dark, but I really don't want to transition to evenings full time with less than two months before the marathon.

On another note, it seems the intense summer heat is finally gone. I couldn't be happier!

Back on the Internet

Running wise, last week was horrible. In what was already a planned recovery week in which I was not going to do a long run because of the big move, turned into a bad week. I ran twice, totaling 8 miles for the week. The biggest problem was not trying to move, but instead coming down with a cold or suffering from allergies or whatever. One day it was my throat, another day my chest felt tight and by the end of the week I had no running in me. On top of all that, I spent two days covering the Richmond NASCAR races (which was a blast), so there was a lot of walking around in jeans in 90-degree heat. On Sunday came the big move. During the move I was actually really glad I hadn't run much, because it was basically a solid six-hour workout. Yesterday I felt like I usually do after a long run. Now comes the fun of unpacking, which probably will still feel like a workout.

So, I've got the my worst running week out of the way and there's now just less than two months to go before the marathon. This week is sort of an ease back into running. I did three miles this morning and felt pretty good. I wanted to make sure my sickness was out of me before pushing past three. Tomorrow I'm planning on 6 or 7 so I can sort of pick up where I left off. Before the end of this week, I'm going to plan out the rest of my long runs between now and November.

Just another obstacle

On top of starting a new job and preparing for the all-out move to Richmond, I've actually gotten a bit sick this week. Nothing like an end of summer cold to make life miserable.

I'm happy that this is a built-in rest/recovery week or else I'd be really worried about the lack of mileage this week. It feels like a bit of a set back, but I'll still be in the teens for my mileage overall this week as long as I feel OK in the morning. I'm certainly not pushing anything, because Sunday is the big unloading day. I'm having to "work" the NASCAR race this weekend for my new job, so I have a few very busy days ahead of me.

For this week only in my marathon training, running isn't priority No. 1. And being sick makes it even less of a priority. After Sunday, though, the next two months of my life will be focused on the big goal of '07.


Yesterday's 15-mile run went very well overall, but I still have some learning to do with long runs. Saturday's weather was perfect for a long run - low humidity and temperatures in the 60s. Thank you Mother Nature! I learned my lessons from the week before and incorporated a water stop about 5 miles in to refill my half empty bottles and to take in a few more ounces. I also took some Powerbar gel that actually was pretty good. But about 6 miles later I was really in the need for some more gel. Fluid wise, I was OK, but I once again struggled near the end. It was much better, though, than last week's 14-mile debacle.

I'm not really too worried about time yet, but my overall pace was just over 9 minutes a mile. I'm very pleased with that considering I still have two-plus months of training to go. It makes my four-hour "reasonable" goal extremely realistic. I still have some worked to do to achieve 3 hours, 30 minutes, which is what I really want.

My legs handled yesterday's run very well. They were a bit sluggish by the end of the day, but that was partly because I had to continue packing in the afternoon, so there wasn't much resting going on after the run.

As for the week ahead, life is going to be hectic. It's a built-in recovery week anyway, so I'm not overly concerned about missing my long run. My main goal is to run more than 20 miles - anything over will be bonus. Moving day next weekend will provide some excellent cross training in place of a long run.

Lastly, here's an update on my 2007 mileage:
August - 109.6
Year to date - 625.3

New tunes

Having an iPod shuffle is great ... until the shuffling seems to start going through the same things over and over again. I guess that's what happens when the workouts get a little longer. So before my long run tomorrow I'm reshuffling the shuffle and this time I'm adding a little more variety. I'll still have my favorites -- like O.A.R., but instead have the new live at MSG, and Dave Matthews, but now with the new live with Tim Reynolds at Radio City -- but I'm adding more of a mix. I'll be adding Jon McLaughlin's "Indian" CD -- it has a pretty good rhythm to it. I'll mix it up with some of Garth Brooks' older stuff as well. As space allows, I'll be adding Mat Kearney's "Nothing Left to Lose" and Third Eye Blind's "Greatest Hits" CD.

A quick note about this week ... I'll be just a few miles short of my goal of 30 miles for the week, but if all goes as planned my long run will be 15 miles tomorrow. I have substituted a run this week for tons of packing today. I've sat done long enough to eat and run a few errands. It's been a very constant day of doing stuff, so I didn't want to add a run to the list of things to do today. I am still very pleased that despite so much going on that I'm even close to 30 this week after tomorrow's run, and I'm really happy that I had 100-plus miles in August.