It’s nothing unusual to think about what’s next after a big race, especially one as satisfying as this one. But I already know what’s next — the Richmond Marathon. At least that’s what I signed up for four months ago. After setting a PR in a half marathon, I’m still on Cloud 9 with my speed at a long distance.
While I’m celebrating my success, there’s part of me that knows I can go faster. I know that getting in the 1:30s is very much reality — shaving just three minutes off my time puts me at 1:39. Is it worth it training for a marathon? In 2007 when I had some of my best running going on, I was training for the marathon … after that though, I was filled with a whole lot of disappointment.
For now, I’m not making any decisions. I just know that right now I can capitalize on what three great months of training has already done for me. Waiting until November for the next “big” event just seems weird. Community races in between will be nice and I have some times I’d love to beat … but I love the half marathon.
Anyway, here some more thoughts following this past weekend’s Shamrock Half Marathon …
* I am the owner of a Power Balance wristband. Take a look at the website for yourself. In looking up things on the Internet, some say it’s a scam. I say it works. If it’s just a mental thing, so be it.
* I bought a new pair of Brooks Ravenna even though I don’t need them for a while. They were 20 percent off and I saved about $5 from what I paid for online earlier this winter. The nice thing is I’m set for shoes until mid-summer probably. I hope longer — these shoes tend to have a good life on them more than other shoes have worked for me. I’ve stayed injury free since I switched to these, so no reason to change.
Speaking of being injury free, a little more than a year ago I went to the doctor about my lingering foot problems that started at the end of 2007 (after the, um, marathon). After wearing a special insole for a couple of months and then switching to nothing at all, my feet haven’t bothered me much. I’m not putting anything else into my shoes again. I didn’t have any problems for a long time, and then for some reason I put gel insoles in. While it was initially comfortable, they haven’t really “worked.” And by “worked,” I’m not really sure what good they do anyway. It’s a personal thing, I think.
* The Shamrock event expo is great. After some issues with it in my first Shamrock in 2007, they’ve made drastic changes to the layout of the floor plans and picking up the race number and T-shirt. It’s been mostly flawless ever since. The Virginia Beach Convention Center in general is just a good place for a race expo — even as much as I’ve complained about the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half event, the expo is always great there.
* The Shamrock Half Marathon is the first event that I’ve done four years in a row. I have also done the Bedford Christmas Classic four times, but one of those events was a 10k. It’s pretty cool to look at my race times since 2004 and scroll to the end and see this:
1:42.52, March 2010 – Shamrock Half Marathon
1:44:23, March 2007 – Shamrock Half Marathon
1:46:53, August 2007 – Lynchburg Half Marathon
1:49:07, March 2008 – Shamrock Half Marathon
1:49:30, March 2009 – Shamrock Half Marathon
1:55:28, August 2006 – Lynchburg Half Marathon
1:59:19, September 2009 – Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon
2:06:16, August 2008 – Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon
All four of the Shamrocks are in the 1:40s. It’s kind of weird to think that I beat last year’s time by almost 7 minutes. It’s also very satisfying to know that I’ve done eight half marathons since 2006.
* Lastly I wanted to give a big thanks to the Shamrock organizers, the hundreds of volunteers, the sponsors and all the people who lined the course this weekend. This is always a special event no matter what the time was on the course and each year it seems to get better.
It’s here. Normally I would say “finally,” but training for the Shamrock Half Marathon this winter has been the best training I’ve done in a long time. In a way, it’s sad to be over. In another way, though, this is like training before training with the Richmond Marathon later this year. Or maybe something bigger before then — that’s not a decision I will make right now. My focus in Shamrock.
And go figure that at the end of this “season” that I’m starting it like I did Jan. 1 — with a cold. This one isn’t nearly as bad and I think allergies might be attributing to it. It’s just kind of weird that in the moment I let my mind and body rest, I get a cold. Last week I took my first two-day break in almost two months and it happens. I know the body needs rest and I will always, always, always rest up when I need to. But I’m just mad.
Assuming that this is a normal cold and by week’s end it’s gone, my focus for Shamrock will be like it always is — to do the best I can possibly do. Last year was the most satisfying Shamrock I’ve done. Two years ago was the most disappointing ever. Three years ago was the biggest surprise ever with a sub 1:45 time. My goal since that race has been to beat that time, but my training just hasn’t been there like it should be. Whether I did enough this year or not will be answered on Sunday.
My approach to this race is simple — don’t get caught up with the speeders at the beginning, make my first mile or two the slowest, get in a good pace for the middle miles and then figure out at mile 10 if I can do it or not. If it’s realistic, I’ll go for it. If it’s not, I won’t hurt myself trying to do something crazy.
* The cold weather snap is over! For a few days anyway. Last night was the first time all month that I’ve run in shorts and temperatures should be in the mid-50s tomorrow, actually above normal. Things aren’t looking so good in about a week though. Even if we don’t get snow again, the cold weather will be back. Rumors are already flying around about next week though being bad. I’ll speculate later and get in the miles when I can if wintry weather does return.
* Last night I had what I think was the best short run so far this year. I ran 4 miles, with 3 of them coming in about 24 minutes. It was a good pace for a training run, but it leaves me wondering how well I can actually do for a flat race next month. Three years ago my best Shamrock Half came after training on hills … but that was three years ago. I know hills make me stronger and I hope it translates into a faster time. Speed work like I want to do is hard around here, especially when every flat area available has been snow covered for so long.
* I’ve been in countdown mode this week. There’s only four weeks to go until the Shamrock Half. That seems like such a long time, but it’s not. Despite the scale not quite doing what I want, training has gone well. I’ve stayed injury free and I’ve been consistent. That sets me up well for the whole year. Speaking of the year, it seems so long away, but the Richmond Marathon is now 266 days away.
* I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m on Daily Mile. At one point I referred to it as “Facebook for runners,” but I’m beginning to think it’s more than that. Facebook is a time waster. On Daily Mile, your real and virtual friends lift you up and help hold you accountable in a respectful way. People are nice there. People don’t complain as much. Our society spends time beating people down so much, but this site is the opposite of that. If you’re a runner or an athlete I highly recommend that you check it out. It’s very easy to use and it’s an excellent place to log your workouts. Best of all, it’s free. Click on the logo above to check out my profile and add me as a friend.
Since the year is almost over, I thought I’d give you a special treat – a look back at the top 5 most read posts of the year. This is all about you, my loyal readers. I can’t make this stuff up. Only WordPress can. And apparently, you like what other people have to say (see Nos. 2 and 3 below), but I don’t really mind.
#5 – I am a marathoner and On the way to 100 push-ups
Technically my post from 2007 after the Richmond Marathon is the No. 5 most-read post this year. It’s not surprising since this has a link in my “About me” section, and I’ve linked to it several other times in other posts. It’s just kind of funny to me that a two-year-old post gets enough page views to be in the top 5.
As for my top 5 new posts this year, a post about my 100 push-ups journey takes this spot. A journey I have yet to complete for various reasons. Bring on 2010.
#4 – Stung in the eye
I would expect nothing less for this post to be here because people like to read about gross things. Three months later, I still cringe when I think about how it felt for a bug to get stuck in my eye. Next summer I will certainly be running more in sunglasses or clear lenses at night.
#3 – Are we really born to run? She says YES!
This was my first guest post of the year from one of my favorite bloggers out there. Go check out that post if you haven’t and click on a link to Michelle’s blog to read about her journey to 1,000 miles this year. It’s enough to make that a private goal for me next year. (Wait … I guess that might not be private now.)
#2 – But I did it anyway
More proof that you like other people, this was also from a guest blogger. Not that I mind – the few guest bloggers I’ve had have been great, and this one is from an ultra-runner who also coaches endurance athletes. Check it out for some inspiration.
#1 – A death near the finish line
This post is far and away the No. 1 post for the year, but it’s not a cause for celebration. This was about my experience as I neared the finish line of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Virginia Beach on Labor Day weekend. If you go back and reread that post, you’ll see that something is being planned to honor the runner who died that weekend.
Thanks to everyone who has visited this blog this year. Although I hinted at some changes a couple of weeks ago, I will be keeping this URL and name of the blog. While I want to make some changes in 2010, moving this blog isn’t something I need to do right now.
I’ve been thinking about my second marathon since I did my first one two years ago. But injuries, a baby and an overall lack of motivation have prevented me from signing up for another one.
But it’s time … or at least a year from now it will be time. I’m not in a good situation right now to train for one this spring, but I really think next summer will bring some great things. This winter and spring will be all about building a base … and when it’s time to start training I’ll be in a good place to focus on the marathon.
If you’ve never read my blog post about my first marathon, click here or on my photo to check it out. Two years later, it’s still my favorite post since I started blogging. I like to read it occasionally and take a few minutes to be selfish knowing that I completed 26.2 miles. I can’t wait to do it again.
Today was a big running day in Richmond – an 8k, a half marathon and a marathon. The same and only marathon that I ran two years ago. I was going to run the 8k, but as soon as I got my job offer I knew that I didn’t want to squeeze it in with the moving that had to be done.
Instead of running a race this weekend, I spent last night getting a workout in by climbing up and down a ladder and carrying boxes out of my attic in about an hour’s time. Today I’m feeling it — my feet and hips are sore from that up and down mess on the ladder, my elbows are bruised from hitting the sides of the attic entry and my knee hurts because I missed a step coming down one time, resulting in me banging my knee against the ladder.
But that wasn’t a PR in an 8k or a 4-hour marathon. It was life’s work. While I’m excited about my move and completely happy with my new job, it was sad not participating in a big race today with thousands of other people. But the great thing about running is there’s always next year. It’s so cliché, yet completely true. I’m actually tempted to sign up for next year’s marathon this weekend while there’s a discount rate.
I’ll give it a day, though, just to make sure I’m not going with my emotions right now. My body and I need to talk about this …
I can now say what many people never say in their lives – I am a marathoner. Even if I never do one again, I am a marathoner. Yesterday was truly an unbelievable experience. From the start to the numbness near the end, I took it all in.
The weather before the race was nice and cool. It wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be, but cold enough to start with gloves and a thin long-sleeve shirt underneath my Livestrong shirt. I planned to toss those aside when I would see my wife and family and my friend Jon at the party zones creatively set up by the Richmond Sports Backers. After I walked around a bit with everybody, I said my goodbyes and then did a little more walking around, just amazed at the thousands of people getting ready to do this. Then, fortunately, I saw a familiar face — I knew my old friend Travis (in the photo below), who I used to play basketball with, was running, but I hadn’t gotten in touch with him. But among the sea of people, there he was along with a guy he had been training with. Their goal times were between 4-4:30, so it was perfect to run this race with them.
The start of the race was odd — it just started. The speakers weren’t loud enough where we were to hear the national anthem or the gun to start the race. We were suddenly walking forward. No one was pushing or in a rush, but as soon as we hit the start line, the running began. It was nice having someone to run with — we were basically chatting about old times in Bedford and catching up on other things in life. We hit the first mile in 9:15. Everything felt great — the weather was still good and no one around us was running too hard or too slow it seemed. We hit the next two miles just under 9 minutes and kept getting that strong urge to pee. I knew I would have to at some point, but I was hoping to wait until closer to half way. But this couldn’t wait.
About half way between mile 3 and 4 I sped up to get to the port-a-potties and hope that I’d time it out where Travis and his friend would go by as I finished. It was perfect, although I ended up peeing next to the port-a-potty along with about half a dozen other guys. After a quick mile of 8:33 thanks to having to pee, we maintained a good pace by hitting the next miles at 9:16 and 9 minutes. Between miles 6 and 7 were downhill and clocked in at 8:42. I managed to take off my gloves, stuff them in my pocket, then take off the long-sleeved shirt without missing a beat. I then held onto my gloves and shirt until I spotted my group at the party zone. I had an easy hand-off of my clothes to Jon. And to my surprise, my group had made some signs — I should have never mentioned running like a gazelle last week.
The next mile made its way up a small hill to the Huguenot Bridge — the first uphill of the race and everyone stopped talking until we were crossing the bridge. It was the first chance to see the James River, and on an overcast, slightly foggy morning, it was a very awesome view. After crossing the bridge, the course went down Riverside Drive to run alongside the mighty James. It was like running on a back country road — so nice and peaceful, and the miles were just going by so quickly it seemed. Miles 8, 9 and 10 were: 9:15, 8:58, 9:20. It was a comfortable pace — basically about the same as my training pace on normal runs.
After we hit the double digits and strolled through a neighborhood and got to Forest Hill Avenue, I was wishing I had my gloves back. My hands were cold. The sun came out oh so briefly somewhere along there, but the weather, overall, was still good. When we hit the double digits, I was hoping my family made it to the next party zone at mile 12.9 so I could exchange hats. Even though I wasn’t sweating all that much, getting something drier on my head was going to be welcome. Miles 11 and 12 were in 9:04 and 9:15.
In previous races I’ve done, I rarely pay attention to the crowds, but not for this race. Everyone seemed more genuine in their support for this event. This wasn’t a race — it was an experience, and I think for many spectators it was an experience, too, rather than usual clapping and shouting “Go runners!” So, as I was in awe of the spectators, I saw my group at the next party zone from at least 50 yards away. I stopped briefly to make sure the exchange went easily. To my surprise my sister, brother-in-law and dad had made it to this stop as well. I hit mile 13 in 9:22, and hit the half-way point just under 2 hours chip time.
This whole time I had not gotten caught up in my time or trying to figure everything out with finishing at a certain time. My #1 goal was to finish and somewhere in the 4 hour range would be all the better. But it was the half-way point when I started hitting distances in a race that I hadn’t done before (that 30k just doesn’t count in my books), I realized what an experience this was turning into. This wasn’t like a 5k or the half marathon where I was worried about goal times — this was becoming a life-changing day, on top of the already life-changing training. That all being said, at halfway, I briefly thought that if I kept that pace I’d be under 4 hours, but I pushed those thoughts aside knowing that this wasn’t a race against time.
After a 9:14 mile to mile 14, I began to pull away from Travis. Conversations had pretty much stopped anyway, as the mental part of the marathon started to take over. At mile 14, I grabbed two Clif gels that were being handed out. I chewed one (I really don’t like Clif gels, but they seem to work the best) and put the other in my pocket that I took a few miles later. Up to this point I had taken two PowerBar gels at mile 2, and somewhere around mile 8 or 9. Plus I had taken an Advil at the same time of the second gel.
I did mile 15 in 9:30 when the weather started to change. Coming across the bridge back into the city, the wind was in my face. Wind? That wasn’t in the forecast, but sure enough that wind kept going and going and wasn’t in our backs for the rest of the race. It was always coming from the side or directly in our face. Between miles 15 and 16 seemed so long. Was this bridge ever going to end!! It was a great view — the James to the left, the city skyline to the right. The sun was trying to poke through again, making for some cool rays of sunshine. But along the never-ending bridge, there were no spectators, just cars whizzing by, with a few occasionally honking their horns. Surprisingly when I hit mile 16, I was just under 9:30 for the mile. That was the longest 9-plus minutes of running I had ever done.
The next few miles were nice because I was in familiar territory running by VCU and my office. As I hit mile 19, I could tell I was slowing, but everything seemed to be in check. (Mile 17-19 were 9:37, 9:46, 9:49.) My feet were hurting just a bit, but nothing major. And just before mile 20 was a hill — I dreaded that hill. It was at this point I began to see people stopping to stretch, or just flat out walk up the hill. I had come that far that I was not going to walk until the next water stop. I hit mile 20 in 10:30, then slowly walked through the water stop. Even though I had gotten lots of water or Powerade at every stop, and I was feeling great as far as thirst went, I took this water stop for all it was worth. Two cups of water and a cup of Powerade to go, please. I walked about another 100 yards taking every drop of fluid in those cups. About 10 other people were doing the same thing. And this is the point that everybody talks about — after mile 20.
Every block or so, at least one person was stretching or rubbing their legs. It was at this point, the numbness started in my legs. Nothing hurt really, except my feet just a bit. It was at this point when I started thinking about everything in my life, looking for things to push me the final few miles. My feet were hurting — my grandmother who passed away earlier this year always complained about her feet. Was this her way to keep me going? That’s what I thought.
With the walk break for the water, I hit mile 21 in 11:14. I thought it would be 15 minutes. I wasn’t looking at my watch except at the mile markers. I didn’t want to know my pace at this point. I felt like I was pushing myself, except I hit mile 22 in 10:18. I hadn’t ran a training run that slow since I was running the hills in Lynchburg. But I kept running, not looking too hard at the people stretching. I didn’t want my mind to force my legs into a cramp. I don’t remember if it was mile 22 or 23, but I walked through another water stop, grabbing two cups of water and a Powerade. I also kept cursing the wind. Miles 23 and 24 were in 10:19 and 10:17.
Less than a 5k to go, I was telling myself. I’ve ran plenty of 5ks, I can push myself through this. I had all kinds of thoughts running through my head. I thought a lot about my late Uncle John and wondered what he would’ve thought of this. It was kind of eerie, but a single ray of sunshine was poking through the clouds when I was thinking about him. It was proving the point to me that running a marathon for the first time wasn’t about what the final time was, but about this experience of putting your body through something amazing. It’s just so hard to describe.
I was trying to go faster, but I hit mile 25 in 10:40. What!?!? I was pushing myself, but I just wasn’t going faster. By this time, the numbing had spread to my arms and hands and I was freezing. Between miles 23 and 25, I was running with arms to the side, moving them up and down and squeezing my hands trying to get rid of this numbing feeling. It was like someone else was inside me doing the running, but it was my mind carrying the body along. You hear how much running is a mental thing — the final 6 miles of a marathon is 90 percent mental.
When I hit mile 25, I knew it was a little more than a mile, with much of it downhill. “It’s all downhill from here,” is what the spectators were saying. It’s easy for them to say. But as I rounded the final turn, I started seeing people who had already finished and they were showing their support for us who were finishing an hour after them. So truly the marathon does end! The final mile they kept saying … I can run faster for the final mile can’t I? Sure, I was flying, or so I thought, going down that hill. Mile 26 was 11:04. At this point, I knew I had less than a lap around a track and I wasn’t going to stop now. The last .2 miles, I managed an 8:13 pace, so yes, finally, my body was doing what my mind asked it to do.
At mile 25, I knew I wanted to beat 4:15. Finishing within 15 minutes of my ideal time would be great after 26.2 miles. I managed to have a chip time of just under 4:13. As I cross the finish line, there was no standard arms-in-the-air celebration. I think I tried, but seriously, my arms were numb from the race and the coldness. After I crossed, I just stopped for about 30 seconds and thought, I did it. I really did it. I thought maybe I’d cry, but I just didn’t have the energy to. On my first step after stopping, I was like, I can walk! I got a Mylar blanket, which immediately helped the cold feeling. I got the chip snapped off my foot — I couldn’t even lift my right leg to help out the guy cutting them off.
I grabbed my finisher’s medal, and looked back for a second — I really did it, I kept thinking. After getting the medal, I opted to skip the photo op with the SunTrust logos all over the place. I wanted to talk … or at least see a familiar face. It had been a couple of hours of silence, except for a few comments with other runners along the way. I quickly saw my wife and my dad and they asked how it was. I didn’t have an answer. I was hungry … and cold.
The unfriendliest part of America’s Friendliest Marathon is after the race. You have to walk downhill to get some food. I got a slice of pizza, a banana and a Powerade, then walked back up the hill. I warmed up briefly in the host hotel lobby, and I was ready to go home. I still didn’t know what to say about my experience. I briefly looked for Travis afterward, and for fellow blogger Jason, but it was just too cold and windy to stick around. I think most people around there felt the same way.
So, while I could still walk reasonably well, I took a shower while my wife ordered pizza for my mom and stepdad and Jon (and me). I came downstairs and rolled The Stick over my legs. I began telling a few stories about my experience, but it was still hard to put into words. More than 24 hours later, it’s still hard to come up with the proper words as to what it meant to me and what it was like. The physical parts are easy — I can barely walk. I slept downstairs just because I didn’t want to walk down them early this morning. My elbows are actually sore — after running for 4 hours, I guess it makes sense. I actually am less sore than I thought I would be, but it’s still not pleasant. Last night I would sleep for a couple hours, wake up, physically pick my legs up and put them in a different position and repeat 2 hours later.
But as far as what this does to me mentally … it’ll take a while to put into words. I want to again thank everyone for their support these past few months, and for coming out yesterday. It means so much to me.
So, now what? At one point this summer, I swore off training for a marathon again. But that was when it was 90 degrees and had a horrible long run. Training is the hard part — the experience of the marathon is priceless. It’s a time commitment that I don’t have right now or next summer. I miss my weekends, and I have a house that I’d like to spend time on next summer. I really like half marathons from a racing standpoint, and that’s what I’m focusing on next in March. Like I said last year at this time, any decision on a marathon is going to have to wait.
I’ll take this PR and this experience for all its worth. If I never do another one, I have absolutely no regrets on what has happened in the past few months and yesterday. If I could do yesterday all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing (except for keeping my gloves). I can’t ask for anything better than this feeling I have right now. I am a marathoner.
Here’s a look at how Week 1 of my official training for the Richmond Marathon went. First part is my goal from last week’s post, then the line with what I actually did:
Monday, 7/16: 3-4 miles
actual: 0.8 + weights (Click here for the post on being flexible with goals.)
actual: track workout, 5.3 total
actual: 5 miler in 36:59, 6 miles total. Plus pulling carpet later in the day
actual: Pretty much rest, but I did do some cleaning up in my basement, along with moving some furniture around. I was pretty beat today after yesterday’s race and carpet stuff.
I fell just short of my overall goal (23-26 miles), but I’d have to say that this was a good week overall. My workouts were solid and I felt great all week.
I often get asked how training is going for the Richmond Marathon. Well, honestly, ever since I signed up for it in March, I don’t feel like I’ve done much for it. Basically, I’ve maintained decent mileage for a couple of months (16-22 miles a week) and just waited until this month to get here to really focus on it. My long runs will steadily increase between now and November, but I think I’ll be comfortable upping my mileage until I get to a distance I’ve never done. Last year when I trained for the 10 miler, each long run always felt good mentally because, simply, I had never gone that far before. At the same time they were a bit uncomfortable physically because I had never logged that distance before. My longest runs since I started running again have been my half marathons. Including warming up for those events, I’ve never gone more than 14 miles in a day. When I hit that distance sometime in August, I know that mentally it’ll be great. Physically? We’ll see …
I’d like to take a chance to layout some things I’d like to write about (it’s sort of like what happens at work — having a meeting to discuss other meetings). Next week will mark 16 weeks to the marathon. I plan to write about long runs specifically. My goal is to write about how I felt on the long runs and provide a link on mapmyrun.com or using google maps to show where I went. I believe that the key thing with the marathon training will be the long runs. Through September, I’ll be in the speed and endurance training group. I plan to write about each of those workouts. Lastly, I plan to write about weight and nutrition. I’ve written about the journey from 220 pounds ago (click here for that post), but I’d like to detail a little more about my goals and look back in a little more detail of where I’ve been since the initial weight loss. If I somehow don’t touch on these subjects in the next couple of minds, please kindly remind me to.
To end us this no-point post, I’d like to thank those who have become regular readers. I’ve enjoyed reading other blogs and I look forward to reading more – I hope that this blog has become somewhat helpful and/or entertaining. For those running the Richmond Marathon or the 8K that same day, maybe we can actually meet the night before or the day of the race.
Since mid-March, I’ve been keeping in my head that July 1 is THE day to put all my focus on November’s Richmond Marathon. Well, that day is here and now it’s time to get serious. This weekend didn’t quite go as planned, as I had hoped to run 6-7 miles on Saturday. I changed up my routine and did that today, which is a good start to this second half of the year. I had a very comfortable 6.5 miles today on the Blackwater Creek Trails. It had been a while since I went there, but it was a refreshing change to my usual neighborhood.
So, what now? The first quarter of the year was about my half marathon; the second quarter was about recovery and maintaining decent mileage. Now, the challenge begins. It’s time for my long runs to get longer; my tempo runs (which will be my group runs through September) will get more intense; and the easy days will probably remain about the same. In the coming weeks, after a vacation this weekend, I plan to write about my workouts in a little more detail, with putting some goals down and then writing about what actually happened.
Part of the July 1 changes include absolutely no french fries, no soft drinks and yes, no ice cream. More on all that later.
This week I have a group run on Tuesday and a mile race on Wednesday (I’m shooting for less than 7 minutes) that will be the biggest things. I’ll be in Ohio for a nice flat run this weekend.