I Don’t Want To “Just Finish”

So maybe I am going to eat these words in a few months.  Sometimes ignorance really is bliss.

Imagine if you will.  You have just asked the girl of your dreams to marry you.  You have been dating for months.  You bought the ring.  You planned the proposal. And you worked up the nerve to ask her.  And SHE SAID YES!  Unbelievable.

Your future bride begins to talk about the wedding.  She imagines her dress. The flowers.  She sees the guests and the wedding party.  She imagines the reception.  The cake.  The first dance.  Throwing the bouquet.  And then the wedding night. The honeymoon.  She explains the details of an event that is still months away, but shares it as if it has already happened.

And then she asks you, “What do you think?”

And your response:  “I just want to get through it.”

Really? You are going to spend months getting prepared.  You are going to tell all of you family and friends.  You are going to pay for it.  Just to get through it?

Of course not, but this is the way that I feel when I read so many columns and posts for first-time marathoners.  Don’t set a time goal they say.  Just finish the race. 

But I can’t “just finish”.

I envision the marathon as being a beast to be tamed. A lover to be taken.  A prize. A choice jewel.  And I don’t want to just finish.  I don’t want another t-shirt and finisher’s medal.

I want to make it memorable.  I want to pour myself into it and trust that it will prove to be worth the investment.  I want to push myself to show her that I am worthy of the honor of pursuing her.

Am I setting myself up for failure? Will I be able to handle it? Will I be disappointed in my results?  Will I regret writing this post?

Perhaps.  But I have lived long enough to realize that I will not get more out of this experience than I put into it.

And I want to get ALOT out of this experience.

What about you? How did you train for your first marathon? What were your expectations? Did you meet them?

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Great Early Morning Track Workout and Refocused Readings

My work schedule (6am-4pm) makes it a little tough for me to get in my runs early in the day, but luckily, one day a week (usually Thursday), I get to go in a little later and I am able to get in a morning run.

I have been taking advantage of this to get in my track repeats.  I believe that these runs are critically important for my growth and I want to be able to run them with as much effort as I can.

I hit the track about 6:30 this morning to run a 2×1600, 800 (400 meter recovery in between each).  This was the first track workout that I have done where I was able to hit my goal pace on every run!  The 1600’s were are 7:09 and 7:16 (goal range is 7:09-7:18) and the 800 was at 6:52 (goal pace was actually 6:58-7:00).

It feels good to know that after 4 weeks, I actually hit my target paces for every run.

In other news, I am taking a cue from Matt Chandler and changing the way that I read the bible in the mornings.  In his message from last weekend, he encouraged us to stop reading the bible like the newspaper, and just take a small bit (a verse or even less) and meditate on it throughout the day.  I have been following a reading plan that I enjoy, but  it (or I) puts pressure on me to complete the day’s readings and not get behind.  I don’t feel like I have time to meditate…I just have to get it all in.

So I am adjusting my focus. I read through Psalm 37 yesterday and it really challenged me, even just in passing, so I headed back there today for my first focused, meditative, passage: 

Psalm 37:1  Don’t worry about the wicked or envy those who do wrong.

So God starts me out by telling me not to worry about what everybody else is doing and don’t be jealous of the success of those who do wrong. 

Worry and comparing myself to others.

Ouch.  God knows me so well….

Get Started.

Heat + Humidity > Tempo Run

I tried. I really tried. 

I had a planned 4 mile tempo run with a half mile warm up and cool down on the books for Monday night.  My wife, who has just started running in the last couple of weeks, was going to join me at the track, along with our two sons who had agreed to walk the dogs while we ran.  A family affair!

I took off for my half mile warm up at about 8pm, running a 9:15 pace.  The first couple of laps were great, but then the heat (low to mid 80s), the humidity, and the fact that the track sits in the middle of a field, all caught up with me.  Man was it hot!  And it seemed like the sun was shining on me from every direction!

I managed to get in two miles in the right pace range (7:57 and 7:51), but that was it.  I cried uncle and went home.  I feel great that I was able to crank out those miles in those conditions, but would like to have finished the workout. 

It looks my evening runs and going to have to get started a little later…

What is the hottest starting and ending temperature that you have ever run in? How far did you run?

Get Started.

Training Review and Forecast

This has been one of the most unusual weeks running that I have had in quite a while.  I only logged 3 runs (including a 5K race) and only about 8.6 miles for the week, but I checked off a couple of goals, set a new pr, and have improved my projected finish time for the Peachtree Road Race and the Atlanta Marathon.

Week In Review

Monday – track workout. 3.5 miles.  I ran my first ever mile under 7 minutes – 6:52.

Tuesday – track workout. 2 miles. Another sub 7 mile – 6:40.

Wednesday – rest

Thursday – rest

Friday – 5K race.  I ran my fastest mile (6:38), set a new PR of 22:27, and won my age group.

Saturday – rest

Sunday – 6 mile run planned.  Legs were still sore from the hills and pace on Friday. I decided to take an extra day off.

Looking back over this week, it is easy to get discouraged by the number of miles that I logged.  I have not had a week this low in months, however, I pushed hard early in the week to give myself the confidence that I could run a low 7 minute pace for a 5K, and then I rested to make sure that my legs were fresh for the race Friday night.  Could I have run a little more last week? Perhaps. But I developed a plan, followed it, and achieved the desired result.  I call that a win.

This Week’s Plan

I am now fully focused on the Peachtree Road Race 10K on July 4th.  This will be the first time that I have ever run this race.  I am familiar with the route and elevation changes, but I don’t know how the huge crowd size will affect my ability to run a solid race.  Based on this past weekend’s 5K, I am projected to run a 10K in 47:04.  Given the crowd, the elevation, and the potential for heat and humidity, my goals for this race are now:

Best:  46:59

Good:  48:29

OK:  49:59

 

My plan for this week:

Monday – tempo run (4 miles at 7:50 pace)

Tuesday – cycling

Wednesday – track workout  (2x1600m, 800m)

Thursday – hill repeats

Friday – rest

Saturday – long run (8 miles at 8:10 pace)

Sunday – rest

 

My wife and I are heading off on Saturday afternoon for an overnight stay at the Fitzpatrick Hotel in Washington. Georgia. 

After this week is over, I think that I will need it.

March Against Meth Race Report

image Friday night I ran in the 6th annual March Against Meth in Hiram.  The race proceeds benefitted the Meth Alliance of Paulding (http://methpaulding.org/), which is a local organization that is combating meth addiction in our area.  This is the third time that I have run this race.  This was the race that I initially started training for when I began running over two years ago.  It was held on my 40th birthday that year and has proven to be a very life-changing gift indeed.

Back to last night… This was the first time in the last 3 years that they have held this race in the evening (7pm) which definitely altered the mood of the race. It was pretty warm and humid (although a friend reminded me that we set a record high on this day last year, so the 82 degrees starting temp really wasn’t all that bad). This was also the second year in a row that the race organizers changed the course.  The race was initially an out and back on the Silver Comet Trail.  Last year they moved the 5K out onto the streets around Hiram and then allowed the 10K runners to finish up on the trail. This year they rerouted the street portion, seemingly to make sure that we ran up every hill in Hiram!  Seriously, this was a pretty hilly 5K, but luckily what goes up must come down on a loop course, so there were some great down hills as well.

There were about 75 runners in the race, with a few of them going on to complete the 10K.  The race was timed, but we did not have timing chips, so we were responsible for recording our own finishing times.

The first mile was mostly flat to down hill.  The starting pace was a little quicker than I had been planning to go out, but the flat terrain helped me stay close.  My first mile was in 6:38 (a new PR) and about 40 seconds faster than my plan.  The second mile brought the beginning of the hills.  The runners had definitely thinned out by this time, and I thought that there were only a dozen or so runners in front of me.  My second mile was in 7:23.  As I came down the hill towards old Hiram and the loop around the Olive Tree, I saw the lead runners coming back up the hill towards me.  As I completed my run around the block, I lost sight of the runners in front of me, so I really had no idea how I was holding up against the group, or how many of them there were up there, but the heat and the hills were definitely taking a toll on me.  I finished mile 3 in 7:48.

During mile 3, I could hear someone tracking pretty close behind me, but I never glanced around to see who or where they were.  As we were running down the hill towards the finish line, one of the lead runnerPhoto: Doug doing a PB. He came in 1st place in his age group, and 5th place overall. So proud!s had walked back up the course and was yelling “pass him” to whoever it was behind me.  I really tried to push my pace and extend my strides during the closing .1 and ran that portion in a 6:13 pace.  I ended up finishing in 22:27 (PR). It was great to see the the speedwork over the last month or so had paid off.  I improved my PR by almost a minute and dropped below 23 minutes for the first time.  I finished 5th overall and took first place in the 41-45 age group.  I found out later that the guy who was tracking me at the end was also in my age group and ended up finishing only about 5 seconds behind me.

Overall it was a great race!

Takeaways from this race:

1. I have got to run MY race in the 10K at Peachtree. I don’t want to go out so fast that I can’t maintain the 7:50 pace that I plan to run.

2.  I need more hills training over the next two and a half weeks.  Hills are still a weakness for me.

3.  I am capable of more that I ever thought.  I have now cut my 5K PR from 27:00 to 22:27 IN THE HEAT at the end of a workday.  I can definitely see myself running a sub-22 on a nice cool fall morning.  Hey, you gotta have goals, right?

Thanks to my family and friends for coming out to support me and cheer me on. My next race is the Peachtree Road Race on July 4th (with about 60,000 of my closest friends), and then marathon training begins.

Time to get started.

Run Less. Run Faster?

 

Run Less, Run Faster

2012 is the year that I am taking plunge and tackling my first marathon.  While it is still a few months away, I began to realize that my haphazard running schedule wasn’t going to get it done if I wanted to have any chance of running a solid first event.

Over the last two years, my primary focus has been on increasing my distance.  I really do enjoy the longer runs.  I can listen to some tunes and crank out some miles.  But I have never really focused on speed or leg strength.  I just assumed that if I ran enough times, or miles, or whatever, that I would just get faster and stronger.  To a certain extent, that is true. I am running a little faster than when I first started and my legs are more toned that they were, but I am not seeing the big improvements at races that I saw at first. 

I ran my first 5k in 27:00.  My second was at 25:30.  The third was under 24:00.  And then I PR’d at 23:25, which is where I remain.  I have run a couple of races since October, but I have not come close to beating that time.

As I said, I realized that if I hope to be able to run as fast as I want to, then my training methods have got to change.  About 6 weeks ago, I came across an article by Amby Burfoot (http://peakperformance.runnersworld.com/2012/05/new-workout-the-30-20-10-produces-impressive-results/) touting the results of a study that showed increased performance utilizing a 30/20/10 run pattern when training.  I tried this method for a couple of weeks and felt some improvement almost immediately.  My long run pace dropped from around 8:20 to just under 8 minutes.  Apparently, all that I needed was a little confidence.  Running these faster paces for a few seconds gave me the confidence to run them for a few minutes, or a few miles.

After seeing that I could improve my paces if I developed a plan and stuck with it, I took to the internet to find that perfect running plan for me.  I ended up selecting the Run Less, Run Faster book which uses the FIRST training program.

The fundamentals of the program are simple:

1.  Run only 3 times per week (great for a working husband and father).

2.  The 3 runs are:  track, tempo, and long (each run at a targeted pace which is faster than your typical run and based on a recent 5K finishing time).

3.  Cross train (bike, swim, or row) twice per week.

I started this program 3 weeks ago.  My plan as to utilize the 10K training plan for 5 weeks (leading up to my July 4th Peachtree Road Race 10K) and then reevaluate.  I need to begin my marathon training mid-July and this would allow time to drop back and punt if need be.

After only 3 weeks of training, all I can say is holy crap! These workouts are hard (not impossible, but they do press you) BUT they have already produced significant results.  The track workouts are hard.  This is something new for me.  I never ran in high school or college, so even the experience of running on a track was foreign to me. But these workouts produce great results.  And my wife and sons have joined me on a couple of the track runs.  It is great that the four of us can be on the track together at the same time but doing our own thing.  We love it!  The tempo runs are hard as well.  The long training runs are the only runs that I can actually accomplish the required distance and pace consistently. 

A goal that I have had was to be able to run a sub 7 minute mile.  I have gotten close before (as close as 7:03) but I could never drop below 7 minutes.

Until this week. 

I am running a local 5K tomorrow night and decided that I would skip the program runs this week and instead run back to back short, but intense, track workouts early this week, and then rest a couple of days before the race.  I ran a mile on Monday night in 6:52 and followed that up with a 6:40 mile on Tuesday night. 

I am really looking forward to seeing what happens on Friday night.  I have never run an evening race before and I am not sure how I will do, given the heat and humidity around Atlanta right now. Also, tomorrow is a work day for me the fact that I will put in a full day at work tomorrow prior to the event is a concern as well.

But we shall see. I am thrilled with my progress to this point by following the runs and paces set out in the Run Less Run Faster book.  The dread that I was feeling about running a marathon has turned back to anxiousness….I can’t wait to Get Started.

On a side note, I bought a new pair of running shoes this week.  I got the Brooks Ghost 5 from the Big Peach Running Company in Kennesaw.  While I don’t remember the name of the fellow who assisted me with their fit process and shoe selection, he made my day when he told me that, based on my limited running experience and age, that I could anticipate running some of my best races 4 or 5 years from now when I am in my mid to late 40’s.

Again, I can’t wait.

Wish me luck.

And Happy Flag Day!

RE-Label

As a man thinks in his heart, so he is. Proverbs 23:7

My older son Michael graduated from high school at the end of last month.  For the last four years, the most obvious label for him would have been “High School Student”, but in the length of time that it takes to move a tassel from one side of a mortar board to the other, all of that changed.  Suddenly he is a “Graduate”.  His actions and responsibilities changed immediately.  But unlike the previous label, this one was very short lived.

On Friday, my son  went to his college orientation.  He came home with a schedule, a parking pass, and i.d. card proudly proclaiming his new label:  College Student.  Again, immediately, his actions and responsibilities changed.

I have experienced this many times before in life.  I have been a baby, toddler, child, elementary student, middle school student, high school student, graduate, college student, boyfriend, fiancé, husband, father, and many other labels.  Many people don’t like labels, but I think that they give us the ability to sort and organize things into groups. More importantly, some labels help us to guide our actions.

When my son became a “college student”, it changed his priorities and planned actions for the next few months.  He knows that he will be going away in the fall, and needs to be prepared for that. He has many things to get ready for and he will spend much of the next few months preparing for the next chapter in his life.

As I think over my own labels, I realize that not much has changed in the last 18 years or so.  My last significant re-labeling was when I became a dad.  Suddenly everything changed.  I don’t want to give the impression that I am not satisfied. I love my kids and my wife and my life.  But I think that we need re-labeling from time to time.  

I have been running consistently for about two years (as I write this, I realize that this “recreational runner” is a new label for me).  I have increased my endurance and set a few goals for myself, but I have not really labeled myself a “competitive runner” or “athlete”.  I am almost 42 years old. Who am I kidding, right?  But I realized over the last couple of weeks, that a lot of my struggles with consistency in training and realizing goals, are due to this lack of a label (or having the wrong one).

If I am an “athlete”, then that label helps to give me accountability.  An athlete doesn’t just eat anything.  An athlete doesn’t skip a training session. An athlete does what is necessary to succeed.   

So this is my notice to the world (and more importantly to myself):  I am an athlete. I am training to run a sub-23 minute 5K and a sub-50 minute 10k this summer.  I am running my first marathon in October and I plan to train to run a 3:45 (or better) time.

But what other labels need to be changed?  I have been a husband to a beautiful wife for almost 20 years.  I am thinking that I need to add an adjective to “husband”.  Perhaps, “fully-devoted” or “world’s greatest”?  Seriously, with this seemingly minor change, lives can be altered forever.  When we take the label seriously and change our behaviors to match our new name.

When we realize that what we believe ourselves to be changes what we do, anything is possible.

What about you? What labels are you going to RE-label today?

You better Get Started.