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.

It's the final countdown

One month from today is the marathon -- ONE MONTH!! Instead of reflecting on where I've been over the past few months, today is a day about looking ahead, staying focused on the big goal. I'll have plenty of time to reflect in another month. I emphasize again that there is no "freaking out" or getting nervous going on right now -- I'm focused and determined.

In honor of the one month to go mark, I went out and ran a solid 7.5 miles this morning, including 4 of it in a slightly more than 8-minute mile pace, at least according to my Garmin. I swear it seemed like I was running faster, and maybe I was. Much of that run was on the flat trails of nearby Huguenot Park, where the tree cover in mid-October is still very heavy. Either way, I was very happy with my run as my warmup and final 1.5 miles were under a 9-minute pace.

Last week, I brought up weight for the first time in a while, as well as 40 foods I won't touch in the 40 days leading up to the marathon. It's amazing what writing about it will do. This morning my weight was at 178.8, down 2 pounds from last week and actually slightly less than my weight for the Shamrock Half Marathon in March.

So, what's left this month? I hope to have a couple of more long runs in nice weather before the tapering begins. While I'm not overly concerned about my time for the marathon, I will continue to work on speed and tempo runs. There may be a 5K or two included solely for that reason. When my taper begins, I will take advantage of the fewer miles by continuing to run hard. (I think too many people think taper means cutting back mileage, as well as slowing down - I disagree.) And I'll continue to try losing a few more pounds.

Heat concerns

Don't like my whining? I realized yesterday after hearing that someone died in Chicago during the marathon and another person died at the Army 10 Miler that my complaining about the heat is legitimate. It's unfortunate that it takes bad news for people to react, but I sure hope that race organizers everywhere in the U.S. take a lesson in yesterday's awful day in running. (Click here for some good reading from the Chicago Tribune about what happened yesterday.)

After my long post yesterday, I found out about these horrible events and it immediately made me think of what could have been different about my event. There were many of us out there that clearly were struggling. Fortunately, there was plenty of water and lots of shade, but no one who was organizing the event provided a word of caution about the heat, but instead were too worried about whether runners had headphones on. I don't mind having the obvious overstated when it comes to health... but not a word of it yesterday. Even though I was hot and was very smart to just stop and walk, I might have just opted out of the last 10k had someone said, "You don't need to kill yourself out there today." Running and dying don't make sense - you run to get healthy, not to die. Unless it's hot.

I've read some very stupid comments on other people's blogs about hydrating and practicing in heat, etc., etc. I say none of that matters when the heat and humidity are up. Sure, you can better prepare yourself for weather like that, but no one is safe when the mercury rises.

"Challenging, but rewarding"

The closer I get to the marathon, the more I realize how happy I will be to say I finished. It's more than many people can say in their lives. This being my first marathon, I keep telling myself to not get carried away with time - just go out and finish it.

Today was the 30k I've been writing about coming up. Little did I know, this was an all-out cross country style race. The course description on the Richmond Road Runners' Web site was as follows: "These races will be run on the roads and trails of Pocahontas State Park in Chesterfield. ... This event is an ideal training run for the Richmond Marathon. The course is challenging but rewarding." Sounds to me like this would be 50/50 or 60/40 trail and roads. Uh, no. I would say MAYBE three miles of this race was on roads, which included a hill much worse than the one in Riverside Park in the Virginia Ten Miler. And we had to run that hill three times (well, actually, six if you count three times down, three times up).

So, let me cut to the chase. My time was an abysmal 3:27:57. It was hot. It's October and Richmond's highs today were forecast to hit the low 90s -- and it looks like this will continue for two more days. (According to Weather Underground, Richmond was 2 degrees short of a record high today.) I saw people out there clearly in much better shape than me reduced to looking like they've never ran before. The course was three of the exact same laps through Pocahontas State Park, the largest state park in Virginia. On top of being a very inexperienced trail runner, I completely dislike repetition. Out-and-back courses are fine. More than two loops? Boring. This reminded me of running a 5k on a track back in June -- no matter what you do, it feels like you're going nowhere.

On to the race ... since I knew it was going to be hot, I threw out any ideas of trying to go faster than usual or setting a goal time. I initially used this race to be a practice of what I'd do in the marathon. I wanted the first lap to be slow -- everyone who has ran a marathon has told me to go out slow. It seemed everyone else had the exact same idea. Plus I had NO IDEA what this course was going to be like, so I wanted to take it all in the first loop. Then I practiced what most everybody else has said -- walk through the water stops. I did this at every water stop. I did the first lap in just over an hour. For the second lap, I decided to pick up the pace a little bit, but about halfway through is when the heat started letting loose. Second lap was about the same as the first. Third lap ... I was reduced to walking. Initially, I just said the hell with it and walked for about two minutes. My knees were hurting, my back was aching and, like I've already said, it was freakin' hot. Then I got into a pretty good routine of running for four minutes, walking for one. After a little bit of that, the downhills became unbearable, so I actually ran the uphills fairly hard, then walked the downhills. Opposite of what some people do, but the downhills were too much for my body to deal with. When I walked, I was pretty much speed walking, probably actually burning more calories than I would have had I sluggishly ran. Walking also prevented me from possibly injuring myself -- something that I don't need right now.

Today was a test of endurance, and I realized that if I wanted to be good at a race like this, I have to move to the trails. Today was either a gradual up/down hill or a steep up/down hill -- there was nothing flat. There was running on regular gravel, sandy soil, grass, fallen pine needles, narrow passages, over the same exact bridge six times, and, like I said, a very little bit of pavement. Back in June with the Xterra James River Scramble, I realized I don't like trail races. Some people love running on trails and doing cross country races, but it's not for me. Will I do this race again? Actually, for reasons other than the trail, I probably won't. I'd rather not get into too much, but I don't appreciate one person yelling at a few hundred people about not wearing headphones (can't that be put on a Web site, an entry form and signs - not a five minute speech), and then another person treating us like a bunch of chatty fifth-graders ("I'm a teacher so I'll wait until you're all done talking."). I'll leave it at that.

So back to the race description. This was certainly challenging ... it's by far the hardest thing I've ever done (No. 1, this race; No. 2, the scramble; No. 3, my first cross country race with the Apple Valley 5K in Bedford). Twenty degrees cooler certainly would have made a huge difference. Rewarding? While my body is still screaming at me for today's abuse, like someone else said on the course today: this is going to make the marathon seem easy. I don't care about my time - I'm happy with finishing such a grueling course. Like a marathon, not many people can say they finished a 30k. So, not only being rewarding from a physical standpoint, this event also was rewarding from a mental standpoint.

Running on clouds

If there's a company out there than can promise me that their shoes will last 300 or more miles, I will be more than happy to provide a logo on my car; I'd wear their gear all the time; I'd never use a different brand, ever; and I'd write testimonials. Everybody is different - I know that. My slight over pronating likely causes my shoes to wear out quicker. But I've had people in running stores and many internet searches tell me that running shoes will last anywhere between 300 and 500 miles - I rarely have had shoes last more than 200 miles when it comes to comfort. Many of my shoes continue to live on for walking purposes, or everyday use, or for mowing shoes, but for running I have a cutoff point -- when my feet start hurting.

My most recent pair, the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 7s, were a big change from me after a year-plus of Asiscs. Then came this week when my feet starting hurting. When I looked at the tread wear, I was shocked to see that these shoes had worn out more than my older Asics 2120s. However, I had logged about 250 miles in those shoes. For yesterday's run, I actually ran in my older shoes, and things felt a little better. After work yesterday, I went back to the old school and purchased my second pair of Asics 2120s. And today, it was like I was running on clouds. It was like a reunion with a longtime college friend - we went out for pizza, grabbed a few beers and caught up on old times. Actually, I ran through the neighborhood slowly as I look at people's yard sales -- nothing too hard as a I gear up for tomorrow's 30K. But still, it felt so much better. No weird feet pain at all.

Will they last past 300 miles? Probably not, but I doubt I'll abandon my old friend again.

Apology NOT accepted

Every four years, there's nothing better than watching the summer Olympics on TV. There's nothing better than feeling proud of our USA athletes. And the more I run, the more interested I am in who runs what, who holds world records, etc. But all too often now the athletes we come to love have done nothing but disappoint us months or years later when they admit to using "performance-enhancing" drugs.

This week, the running world has been disappointed by the news of Marion Jones admitting to using steroids. She says she's sorry ... but guess what? That apology does nothing for me. She's facing prison time for lying about an association she had with a check-fraud scheme. Jones faces up to six months behind bars, and I hope she gets the max. I'm sorry for being so cruel, but I am sick and tired of athletes ruining what the rest of us are doing. Entries for races across this country are up because of people like Jones -- she made being a track and field star look like fun, and many young athletes aspire to follow in her footsteps. Now it's all for nothing. I really hope people who support her do a Google search for "Marion Jones" and somehow come across my blog. If you're reading this, please try to tell me why she should be immediately forgiven.

Do I wish there was something legal to make recovery easier rather than rest, ice and Advil? Sure. But would I take something from someone who says "this will help, but don't tell anyone"? Hell no. I guess my mom (a regular reader of this blog) raised me better. Like my post yesterday on rude people, it's stories like this that will only make me a better person.

Rude people

While the marathon enters the final stretch there's a lot of excitement going on, yet at the same time I have to continue to find things to motivate me. This week I think I have found it in other people's excuses. From other blogs to hearing Average Joe at the store, people complaining about why they don't do certain things has kept me going. This sort of leads me to the post on Observations I promised last week: rude people.

When on a trail or sidewalk or on the street, most runners, walkers and bikers say hello, tip a cap, wave a hello finger, give a half-ass smile ... something to acknowledge that you're out there doing the same thing -- exercising. Whether it's training for a marathon or to get a breath of fresh air or just because they like it, we're all out there for the benefit of ourselves. But it's the select few that often make me bitter. There is a small percentage of people out there who can't even make eye contact. Perhaps it's the fear of being attacked or they're just flat-out rude - whatever it is, it baffles me every time. Fellow blogger, Jason, has written about this before in a trail behavior entry. Believe me, this isn't a Richmond-only thing. If anything, it was worse in Lynchburg. And the few times I've been in middle-of-nowhere Ohio, it's been worse. And Jason shows it happens in West Virginia. I think maybe it's these people I overhear talking about being lazy or something - that's why I'm trying to make that connection.

Each time someone doesn't have some sort of reply back, I seem to run only harder, so maybe it's not a bad thing I encounter rude people. And the more excuses I hear and read about (mostly not from people on my list), the more effort I put into my run. So, please, keep it up. Your negativity is helping me out.

French fries anyone?

I’m a little past the 40 days to go mark, but October and the first 10 days of November are crucial weeks for me to get in tip-top shape for the marathon. So I thought I’d make a list of 40 things I don’t plan on eating until after Nov. 10 … or really ever again. Many of these things are things I don’t eat or drink anyway, but it makes me feel better to write it down. Like my blog’s subtitle says, it’ll help keep me held accountable.

So here goes: french fries, cupcakes, (most) ice cream, candy corn, McDonald’s quarter pounders, Burger King’s Whoppers, Wendy’s double cheeseburgers, fried shrimp, Papa John’s pizza (although I’m not ruling out pizza), Coke, Pepsi, Miller Lite, Bud Light (although I may have a dark beer or two), hot dogs, fudge, potato chips, doughnuts, chicken from Kentucky Fried Chicken, twinkies (ahh, it’s been years), M&Ms, egg rolls, Snickers bars, hash browns from any fast-food place, milkshakes, fried chicken fingers, fried fish, Arby’s roast beef, chocolate pie, birthday cake, gravy, pepperoni, Long John Silver’s fish, IHOP’s stuffed french toast, gum with sugar, brownies, Combos, Cracker Jacks, Miller High Life, pork rinds (never actually had them), elephant ears.

When I first started this blog, I had hoped to discuss things about my weight, but never really have. Honestly, I haven’t worried about it too much this summer. However, this month I am focusing on my weight as I’d like to get to 175 or less by the time the marathon gets here. My 5-foot, 10-inch medium-build frame was at 180.8 this morning – 5 pounds lighter than when this training first began, and 5 away from where I want to be. When I first lost weight in 2004, 175 was my lowest ever, but that didn't last. I've basically maintained 180-185 since then. It seems for these big races I can get to 180 or slightly less, but then gain back a few pounds very quickly. It’s actually very tough losing weight when training for a marathon when you have to eat a lot to be able to maintain the energy. What I’ve lost has basically been from extra miles, but with less than six weeks to go, focusing on my diet is one of my top priorities.