June is in the bag

At the beginning of the month, my goals were to get between 60-65 running miles and about 25 miles of biking. Well, last night I headed out on my long run for the week, but ran into a few issues -- there was a storm on the way, I was tired from the night before from being at my 17th Dave Matthews Band show (19th if you count two Dave & Tim shows), it was a different time of the day for me and I'm battling some sort of weird chest cold. So when I heard a rumble of thunder, I headed home cutting my run to 5.3 miles. My goal this week was just 6, so I figured that was good enough considering how I felt. I don't want to run myself sick again.

When I added up my miles though, I was just shy of 60 miles for the month. With a trip to the Outer Banks throwing everything off, I didn't even realize how close I was to 60 miles. I knew I was short ... but not less than a quarter mile short! So, with my dog this morning I finished what I started last night and got in 0.7 miles.

After recalculating a math error at the end of May, which sort of threw off the first part of June, my totals for June were: 60.5 miles running, 42.5 miles biking - much of that in the Outer Banks - and walking 19.5 miles. I lifted weights in some form seven times during the month and I totaled nearly 10 minutes of plank work on my abs. While May was a get-back-on-my-feet month, June was about getting back into shape and feeling good about it.

With two months to go to the next big race, I couldn't ask to be in a better place right now. This year has been so up and down, so it's nice to put together two months like this without being hurt. My yearly totals halfway through 2008 are: 310.9 running miles, 127 walking miles, and 87.6 biking miles. Having notched 525.5 miles running, walking and biking, I'm well on pace to hit more than 1,000 miles combined. While it would be awesome to run 1,000 miles in a year, you're not going to see me run nearly 700 miles from July to December. Thanks injuries.

Looking ahead to July, my biggest running goals come with the long run. My goals right now are to do 7 this week, 8 on July 12 or 13, 9 on July 19 or 20 and 10 on July 26 or 27. I'll be doing my mile test this week, so it'll be interesting to see what my time is compared to June. For the month, I'll be shooting for about 75 miles. With biking, I'll again aim for 25 miles. With my weight lifting, I'm planning to cut back on the weight a bit and do more reps. I built up pretty good in June, but I think it's time to scale back just a tad.

Workouts since last post

June 28: Doesn't a DMB concert count as cross training?
June 29: Walk - 0.3; Run - 5.3
June 30: Walk - 0.9; Run - 0.7; Weights; Plank - 2:30 total (:53 max)
Week totals, plus June 30: Walk - 8.5; Run - 17.6; Bike - 8.2

The enjoyment of NOT running

Coming off two injuries, I've completely revamped my training this summer. And so far, I'm feeling much better because of it. Simply put, I've taken the pressure off myself to run. My rules are simple -- run four times a week with only one set of back-to-back running days a week. There is absolutely no running three days in a row either. Lastly, cross training finally means something.

The set up is pretty much this: Monday is for cross training; easy run on Tuesday; speed work on Wednesday; Thursday is for cross training (or rest); moderately paced run on Fridays; rest/very easy workout on Saturday; and Sunday is for my long run. Throughout this summer I will vary things, but this thought process pretty much works for me. I hate running three days in a row. When I have in the past, I always feel pretty worthless by that third day.

Adding in biking and weight lifting in this first month puts my mind at ease. Today I went out for a walk with my dog and it felt nice to know I wasn't going to run at all. In the past I would've been itching to get in an extra mile or so on an "off" day, but that mind frame is gone. And it's very liberating ...

Workouts since last post
June 27: Walk - 1.2; Run - 4.5
June 28: Walk - 2; Ab workout - 1:30 total plank; 75 set ups on Bosu ball; 25 crunches with home gym

First the fries, now the Coke?!?

Ignoring what might have happened on my birthday, my quest with giving up ice cream and french fries has gone well. This week comes something completely different -- it's all about the drink. No, I'm not giving up beer just yet -- although that'll come eventually for a short duration. Instead, I'm opting to give up soft drinks -- diet and regular.

I'm not really a big soft drink drinker. I'll have a Coke Zero or Diet Pepsi every once in a while. By no means am I addicted. In fact, I'm always shocked at how caffeine gets me going -- I drink coffee only once or twice a year. The challenge with this comes when visiting family or heading out to a summer party. I'm not really tempted by it -- it's just convenient to grab a glass and pour. Mix in some Captain Morgan rum and it's even better.

Living in the south, I won't give up sweet tea -- a man has to have some kind of pick-me-up every so often. There's just something about soft drinks, though, that disgust me sometimes and this is one of those weeks in which I'm ready to say "no more" for quite a while.

Workout since last post
June 26: Walk - 1.3; Bike - 5.1

The B52's? WTF?

I want to throw up. This year's headliner for the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon in Virginia Beach is The B52's. Really? Is that how bad things have gotten in America? After running my tail off for 13.1 miles, my reward will be hearing The B52's that night? Please forgive me if "Love Shack" is one of your favorite songs of all time. In hindsight 20 years later, is it really that good of a song?

This is a sentence of the RnR Web site: "Past performers include the Goo Goo Dolls, Counting Crows, LIVE, Sugar Ray, Collective Soul, The Commodores, Hootie & The Blowfish, Journey, 3 Doors Down, INXS and many more!" Please note that this race starts with the word "Rock" ... not "Crap," but that's what I have this year. I really want my $25 back that I paid to get my wife into the post-race festivities. Can you tell that I'm a little bitter? At least there will be beer to drink.

Workout since last post
June 25: Walk - 0.4; Run - 4.1 (15:57 two-mile tempo; 0.25 - 1:47)

The big 3-Oh my gosh I'm in a new age bracket

Just like that, I'm in a new age bracket. Unfortunately for me, it seems that runners in the 30-34 or 30-39 brackets are even faster than the 25-29 or 20-29 brackets. Maybe that's a good thing though. A fellow Lynchburg College alumnus, who is more than 20 years older than me, told me a couple of months ago that the best running years are ahead of me if I stick with it, and then it trickles off. I hope he's right.

But now that I'm 30, I have a new way of looking at various things. Whatever my times are in my next races are PRs in my 30s. Everything up until now has been a PR in my 20s. So even if I'm slower next time out, it's still a record, sort of.

Anyway, in honor of turning 30, I wanted to do a little bit of everything today, with totals reflecting my age. So, I ran 3.0 miles, biked 3.1 miles, lifted weights that I didn't do yesterday to total 30 reps per exercise, did 30 crunches on the home gym, 30 set ups on the Bosu ball and 30 seconds on the plank. I think it's more than I've ever done on my birthday.

Workouts since last post
June 23: Walk - 2; Weights; Plank - 2:20 total (1:10 max)
June 24: Details above, plus 0.4 walk

A 7.5-mile wake-up call

I know I have a decent amount of time to get into better race shape (10 weeks to be exact), but today was a good kick in the ass. A former co-worker of mine invited me to an 8-mile run with a current co-worker of his. At first I was a bit hesitant -- it's as if I wasn't ready to run with someone else. I didn't want to slow people down. And I had really only planned for between 6 and 7 miles today. I went anyway, and I'm glad a did -- it showed me I have some work to do on longer distances.

Everything was pretty much OK until I got about 6 miles in. It was at that point in which I just didn't want to keep going, but there's something about running with other people that just keeps the legs moving. Toward the end, though, we hit a pretty grueling hill that I just had to walk part of. It's these kinds of runs that make me better down the road. I know I'm better than this ... I just have to go out and find that part of me again.

All in all, this long run capped a great week even though it didn't feel like it. Coming off a week of vacation that saw very little running, I'm glad to be back on track. Now, if only I could get a job ...

Workouts since last post
June 20: Walk - 0.8; Run - 4
June 21: Rest
June 22: Run - 7.5
Week totals: Walk - 5.7; Run - 19; Bike - 7.7
Training totals (since June 1): Walk - 11; Run - 42.9; Bike - 34.3

I won't have fries with that

One of my favorite foods has to be french fries. Better yet, pour some cheese and bacon over them and I'm set. Well, last week's lifestyle change was going to be no french fries until after my half marathon, but without even thinking I dug into some when a group of people ordered from Five Guys. Then the next day I had some with my barbecue sandwich.

So now that the vacation has come and gone, it's time to eliminate french fries once and for all until after Aug. 31. It'll be harder that the ice cream commitment I gave two weeks ago, but I'll survive. I've done it before.

To make it a little easier, here's a look at the calories in some french fries according to calorieking.com. I won't even get into the fat that's in these things:
* McDonald's medium (4 oz.): 382
* Wendy's medium (5 oz.): 424
* Burger King medium (4.1 oz.): 359

Workout since last post
June 19: Walk - 1.8; Bike - 4.1; Weights; 60 setups on Bosu ball

At least I'm consistent

After a vacation threw me off last week, this week is about making sure I stay on track with my training. Today for my speedwork, I opted to do intervals again. A tempo run will likely be coming soon. Last week on vacation I did intervals of a quarter (1:44), half (3:53) and two more quarters (2:00, 1:54), going a quarter mile more than week one. This week I bumped up the total by another quarter mile, this time doing two half miles and two quarter miles. My times were 3:52, 3:56, 1:51 and 1:51 -- the important thing is I'm consistent and I'm staying under 8-minute mile paces. I'm also feeling great during these workouts. Now that I have no vacation plans standing in the way, I'm really looking forward to seeing my times improve over the next couple of months.

And on a side note, how about them Celtics? I've been waiting my teenage years and all of my adult life for this to happen and the fact that it was against the Lakers makes it even more special!

Workouts since last post
June 16: Walk - 1 (p.m.)
June 17: Walk - 1.7; Bike - 3.6; Weights; Plank - 2:00 total (1:00 max)
June 18: Walk - 0.3; Run - 4 (intervals explained above)

The Outer Banks: An Experience

There are vacations and then there are experiences. Visiting the Outer Banks is an experience. While my trip last week was for a friend's wedding, and I didn't even really do that many tourism-type things, the visit was an experience.

If you've never had a chance to visit the Outer Banks, it's a must-see. If you live on the East Coast, it's reasonably easy to get to. And if you want to do a family trip that's affordable, the Outer Banks is the place to go. It's been 16 years since I visited that area, so I appreciated this trip this time around. Our group stayed in the northern section in Southern Shores, which is about four or five miles north of the Wright Brothers Museum. My trip consisted of a visit to the museum, a ride-by of the dunes and trip to Currituck Beach Lighthouse. Two days or so of my time was geared toward wedding-related stuff, which included rehearsal dinner in the awesome little town of Duck. My next trip there -- which I hope isn't in another 16 years -- I vow to be more of a tourist.

Workout wise, things didn't really go as planned, although I never really had a definite plan. I did have a couple of things going against me -- the heat was oppressive early in the week and then the North Carolina wildfire smoke settled in for three evenings and the last morning. I did rent a bike, so my friends, my wife and I got some decent rides in. It certainly was much easier to get out and ride in the heat rather than run in it. All told, I biked about 20 miles last week. Also going against me last week was having a blast with my friend and drinking too much, and meeting lots of new people and drinking with them. It's not easy staying up until 2 or 3 a.m. and then trying to get up and run. I was so tired yesterday that I just took the day off to catch up on my sleep. The important thing is I had a ton of fun on this trip and I can't wait to go back.

Workouts since last post
June 9: Walk - 0.4; Run - 3.2 (plus a visit to the Wright Bros. Museum)
June 10: Bike - 6
June 11: Run - 1.1; Bike - 6.4
June 12: Bike - 7
June 13: Walk - 0.2; Run - 3.1 (Intervals: 0.25 - 1:44; 0.5 - 3:53; 0.25 - 2:00; 0.25 - 1:54) (plus a visit to the Currituck Beach Lighthouse)
June 16: Walk - 1.1; Run - 3.5
- Of note is Saturday, June 14. I had planned to get up for a bike ride, but it was smoky from the wildfire.

(Photos: Above is a picture on the beach that my wife took; the inset photo is at Currituck Beach Lighthouse; and below is the gorgeous house we got to stay in.)

Where there's smoke, there are runners

I read a comment in the local media this week complaining about people complaining about the weather. Well, I have some news for you - it's NOT supposed to be this hot this early in June. The normal high for today in Richmond is 82 ... not 101, which is the forecast high. It's not supposed to be 82 degrees with 75 percent humidity at 8:15 a.m. -- which was the temperature and time when I finished my run today.

Fortunately, I've learned my lessons about not getting enough fluids (and learned by watching other people as well), so for my 6-mile run this morning I took an 8-ounce bottle of water with me. It was so miserably humid that I topped off my bottle twice in the nearby park. I probably consumed about 20 ounces of water on a relatively short long run. That's just not normal right now -- perhaps in another month or so, but not June 7. I think this is the shortest long run in which I've actually taken water with me.

Seasons are supposed to gradually change, and usually weather like this wouldn't be so bad ... if it were late July. Like I mentioned the other day, it was cool enough to run in a long-sleeve shirt at the beginning of last week. Mother Nature must be charged with cruel and unusual punishment!

Adding to this crazy weather was some bizarre smoke filling the air yesterday from a North Carolina wildfire. (Click here to read a related story.) Working out outside yesterday was virtually impossible. Today, though, is much better in my part of Chesterfield County, at least as far as the smoke is concerned.

So, on the positive side of things, today's run went pretty well. It was the longest run I've had in two months, capping off the highest mileage for a week that I've had in almost three months. For brief times during the week I've gotten paranoid with the increase in mileage for the first week of training, but all in all this has been a great start. I've met and beaten all my goals, which seemed impossible for me for a long time. I've also dropped 0.8 pounds - not much, but it's a good start. I'll detail all that when I'm ready to talk about it. For next week, I'm headed to the Outer Banks, so my goal is to run a few times while I'm there and get my long run in on Sunday when I'm back home. It's a much-needed trip to get my mind off things, so any kind of running while on vacation will be good. If I have Internet access, maybe I'll have a post or two.

Workouts since last post
June 6: Walk - 1.1; Run - 0.3; Bike - 2; weights (included ab workout)
June 7: Walk - 0.4; Run - 6
Week totals: Walk - 4.7; Bike - 7.2; Run - 16.5

Hot intervals

I woke up yesterday and realized I was in a circle of hell not yet discovered. It was strangely hot for early June. Just the night before, a small tornado missed my neighborhood by about 10 miles. Today, Richmond is under a heat advisory, with temperatures expected to hit 94. The 10-day forecast is for temperatures to hit 97 tomorrow, then 100 for the few days after that, then cooling off to 91 by June 14. The normal high for this time of the year is the low 80s, so with temperatures almost 20 degrees above average, it's not exactly comfortable out there. Just last week, it was so cool in the morning that I ran in a long-sleeve shirt.

I'm not really complaining - I like running when it's hot vs. running in the middle of winter. It's just that it's been kind of cool all spring and we went from April to mid-July temperatures in a few days. Fortunately I'll be headed to the Outer Banks in a few days where temperatures are forecast to be about 10 degrees cooler.

So all this leads me to one of the sweatiest runs I've had in quite some time. Today I had the simple goal of four quarter-mile intervals with quarter-mile breaks in between. My goal was similar to the other day -- probably about 80 percent of the effort that I would put into a race with a goal time of less than 2 minutes per interval. I've realized that it's good to start simple with my goals, then beat them and then set the bar higher.

I was very happy when I hit my first quarter mile in 1:49. I didn't wear myself out and I was feeling great. My next quarter mile was also in 1:49. Consistency ... it's what all runners want. The next quarter mile was a bit slower in 1:55. I'm not really sure what happened, but it just felt sluggish. I think my recovery quarter was probably a bit too fast. I was a little worried about my last quarter, but I hit it in ... wait for it ... 1:49.

I'm very happy that be that consistent. I'm also happy to be under 1:50 at my first attempt at quarter mile intervals. My interval distances will vary all summer, but this is a good first test. I'll certainly revisit the same workout at some point in the next couple of months.

Workout since last post
June 5: Walk - 1; Run - 3 total (explanation above); Plank - 1:00; 50 set ups with Bosu ball

An Oreo Blizzard would hit the spot

No ice cream for three months? No problem. For the first week of lifestyle changes, I've decided to give up ice cream until Aug. 31, among other things that see my lips for a while. While ice cream doesn't seem like too big of a deal, it's kind of tough thinking about giving up cold treats in the heat of the summer. What also makes it tough is having both a Bruster's and a Cold Stone within a couple of miles of my house.

There are several alternatives though, such as frozen fruit bars. Plus, the off brands of those are much cheaper than ice cream. I'll survive not having ice cream easily, but others will likely find it odd when they're around me. Oh well ...

Workouts since last post

June 3: Walk - 1.3; Bike - 5.2; Weights - 3 sets with bench press; Plank - 1:12
June 4: Walk - 0.5; Run - 4

A post about other posts ... and my first training workout

So ... welcome to the first post of my training for the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon that'll take place Aug. 31. Yesterday was supposed to be the first day of training, but instead it actually turned into a rest day for various reasons. Anyway, let me go through some things that'll likely be different in my posting for the next few months.

First off, the end of each blog post will highlight my workouts for each day since the previous post. I hope this will help hold me accountable for my training efforts. It's also something I've never really done. I often have discussed specific workouts and never really mentioned what I did in between posts.

Generally, my workouts will consist of four running days a week -- two "easy" runs, one consisting of some kind of speed work and the long run on Saturday or Sunday. I'll then have two cross training days that'll consist of biking and/or lifting weights. Then I'll have one day in which I do absolutely nothing.

As I mentioned before, I'll have weekly posts detailing lifestyle changes. This will generally consist of foods that I'm giving up that week through the end of August, or may have already given up since June 1. Since I plan to discuss my weight and plans to lose a little bit in the next few months, discussing my diet is more important to me now than it was a year ago when marathon training.

So that leads me to today... "test" day. As part of my workout today, I did a mile test to see how fast I could run a mile at probably about 80 percent effort. The idea behind this test is do to the exact same thing at the beginning of July and August to check on my progress for a close to all-out mile. The run will take place in the same spot each time to assure that hills don't factor into my time. (Generally, my other speed workouts will take place in my slightly hilly neighborhood.)

Today's goal was to shoot for about an 8-minute mile, with the thinking that I can and should improve 30 seconds or so each month. So after about a mile warm-up to the park this took place in, I notched a 7:55 mile. Considering that I've really laid off my miles and any kind of speed in the past couple of months, I feel great about beating 8 minutes.

When I returned home, I gave myself another test by doing the plank. I got into doing this as an ab workout a few months ago, but didn't stick with it. My plan for training this summer is to do ab workouts by using my Bosu ball, the plank and my home gym. My goal is to do a plank max once a week -- seeing how long I can just hold it. Today my max was only 49 seconds -- probably half the time of what I was doing back in March. It'll be very interesting to track my progress with this.

Whew! Am I done? Almost. My plans for the rest of this week are: Tuesday - cross train; Wednesday - 4 "easy" miles; Thursday - 3 miles doing intervals; Friday - cross train or rest; Saturday - long run of 5-6 miles; Sunday - head to the Outer Banks.

Workouts since last post

June 1: Rest
June 2: Walk - 0.4; Run - 3.2 total (1 in 7:55); Plank - 1:25 total (49 max)