Monthly Archives: March 2010

The power of wishful thinking

I’m now on day….umm….something of completely not running. Day 5 now that I think about it. Granted, I filled one day with injury assessment, the next with a hefty dose of cycling, the next the same, then the following two days without any running at all, but supplemented with the P90X Ab Ripper workout. I’ve gotta do SOMETHING to keep from getting consumed by the frustrated and negative thoughts that always overcome my every move during down time. Still, despite sticking to the plan of icing, ibuprofen, no-impact exercise and whatever else I can come up with to maintain some sense of fitness, I am still injured to the point where I simply can not run. I even cut out the cycling the past two days as I was having concerns that I was flexing muscles and tendons that shouldn’t be flexed, based only on the continuous trouble I had with just normal walking. The mind is tricky though…I really have no idea what’s going on in my leg and whether it’s healing itself with this rest or not. I don’t know if I’ve really damaged something or just wore something down to the point that it needs to build itself back up. I’m hoping for the latter.

Still, I can’t shake the frustration of not running when I have a race scheduled for next Saturday, of which I was given a free entry. I was really looking forward to running it, but short of some incredible turnaround it looks like that will be a bad idea. I’m not ruling it out yet, but I’m certainly not ruling it in either. I was also looking forward to utilizing the treadmill at the hotel this coming week (I know, weird right?) in order to facilitate aiding my recovery, but I still don’t even know if I’ll be to the point where I’ll be able to run even on a cushioning surface like that. The treadmill would be great to get me back into it, but who knows if I’ll even be able to use it.

Man, injuries are hell. It’s probably related to the Type A personality in competitive distance runners, but it just seems like, when you’re injured, you are going to be injured for the rest of your life. No matter how many times you’ve overcome injury in the past, each new one seems like the end of a career. It’s stupid, I know. But you can’t tell us that. We won’t listen. All we will listen to is someone telling us to go ahead and run, despite the pain, or that they have the answers to our problem, no matter how absurd. Recovery is our religion. We’ll listen to anything you tell us, no matter how irrational, as long as you tell us it will all be better soon. Fortunately, I have an incredibly level-headed fiance, who not only won’t feed my unhealthy perspectives, but probably goes overboard knowing that she needs to balance out the extremes of the swinging pendulum. I am appreciative, even if annoyed. 😉

But maybe the silver linings hidden in the funnel cloud are getting more plentiful. Today I had my fiance’s sister, who is a trained massage therapist, come up and work on my leg a bit. Through some pretty routine massage techniques, some that simultaneously ticked and hurt like all hell, she deduced that I had some pretty stressed out tendons. She thinks I need continuous massage work, but unfortunately I simply don’t have the time and so will have to learn to do this myself. Here’s the thing though, although she wasn’t very convinced that one massage would do much for my leg, the second she was done I could walk around on it with much greater ease than before. I didn’t need to limp from the pain and my range of movement was much greater. This was very encouraging, even if I was trying to temper myself from claiming that I was cured. Because I simply was not. The fam went to the park today and I jogged about 50 yards before I called it quits, not wanting to continue aggravating my shin splints that made their presence known with every step. But the pain was still noticeably lessened.

So I don’t know. Maybe I’m just telling myself the things I want to hear or maybe the healing process is continuing on down there and I’m getting closer and closer to pounding the pavement again. Ok, bad choice of words. Caressing the grass would be more appropriate if I don’t want to end up in this scenario again.

This is how it goes though. We push ourselves and push ourselves, losing all common sense in the pursuit of progression and new personal benchmarks, always toeing the line of progress and injury. The key is to learn from these mistakes, know your relative boundaries and hold tightly to some manner of common sense in the effort to get faster and faster.

But hey, do as I say, not as I do.

I hope my next running related post for you is about sufficient recovery.

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Fitness maintenance and injury pummeling

When I was in Chicago over the weekend I found myself frequenting old (The Chicago Diner) and new (Life On Mars) vegan restaurants and during conversation writing out this blog address on various scraps of paper to hand out. I regretted not having legitimate promo pieces for both the blog and corresponding sponsors, so with that in mind I’ve created and ordered little mini business cards to give out to friends, businesses, projects, etc. in the future. They will arrive in a couple weeks, which will be when we kick off the latest campaign in vegan athlete world domination…or something. So yeah, if any of you want to get in on the sponsorship goodness, do hit me up.

On to more important matters.

I went through work today with my leg choked in stretchy medical fabric, hoping to wrestle my swollen muscles into submission. When that obviously wasn’t going to work I contacted the coach and made an appointment to stop in for a recovery plan. There’s a reason Matt is the man, well, there are LOTS of reasons, but his knowledge of sports injuries and subsequent recoveries is certainly one of them. I could probably never explain how frustrating it is to have a sidelining injury, what with the pain, confusion, ineffectual voodoo magic and everything else that accompanies a sudden slowing or stopping of running. Sometimes the mental frustration is worse than the injury itself, so let me tell you it seems nothing short of miraculous to walk out of the Athletic Annex after visiting with Matt and although the injury itself is no better than when I walked in, mentally I felt ecstatic, if only because I know had a good assessment of my injury and a plan to bury it deep in the ground. First and foremost we ascertained that I did NOT have a stress fracture, which is most important of all. Though we didn’t name the injury itself, it is most likely made up of swollen muscles due to a combination of overuse and poor shoe support. That means, above all else, we have a way to reduce the swelling and pain and get back to running. The fundamentals of the plan are as follows:

1. Establish arch support – Matt hooked me up with a new pair of Adidas Sequence’s and supportive inserts to wear exclusively, during work and around the house. When I’m back to running, these will replace my Nike Lunar Glides.

2. Stick to soft running surfaces – It’s difficult to find soft running surfaces when you live center city, but I do my best to find packed dirt or any stretch of grass. When I start back up though, I’ll be seeking out grass and making my way out to the canal towpath for the most forgiving surfaces I can find while I rebuild strength in that leg. The more supportive shoes will help with that.

3. Reduce inflammation – My muscles are swollen like Violet’s face after she ate Willy Wonka’s chewing gum and that is a primary source of the pain. In order to reduce that I’m doing heat and ice intervals at 10 minutes each, which amounts to dipping my leg in a bucket of water filled with ice for 10 minutes, then transferring it to the bathtub which is filled with hot water for 10 minutes and back 2 more times. The heat I can deal with….the cold HURTS. But it’s what I’ve gotta do to facilitate the healing. I’m also continuing my new diet of snacking on ibuprofen.

4. Flexibility – I’ve been given a couple more effective calf stretches than the typical wall presses I’ve been resorting to, which can actually make the muscle tightness worse instead of better.

5. Cross training – Much to Michelle’s chagrin, I’m to dust of my bike and hit the roads doing intervals of standing up riding and sitting down riding. Anything to get the heart rate going, sweat rolling and quads burning. This is no problem….it was what I did every day before I rediscovered my inherent passion for running. Michelle has been prodding me for years now to get out there with her and I’ve obliged from time to time, but now me and her are going to be tearing up the Monon. Perfect timing to now that the weather is supposed to change for the better starting tomorrow. I’m not sure who’s more excited to get out there and get sweating, me or her.

Beyond that, I’m to continually gauge how the leg feels and do a short test jog for about 20 feet before I attempt to do a sufficient run. When I am good to go it was suggested that I get on a treadmill for it’s forgiving surface among other reasons, which also plays into my plans quite nice as next week I’ll be in North Carolina visiting August and staying in a hotel, which means I’ll have access to their treadmills. Funny how that all works out.

So that’s where we stand right now. I’m injured, but we’ve got a plan and that plan is to get recovered without setting myself back or losing fitness, gaining it if at all possible. I’ve made too great of strides recently to let it all slip as we continue to build up to May 8th and beyond. I could go on about the injury and the psychology that played into its creation, but right now I’d rather not worry about that and just move forward. Thanks Matt!

Race report – Shamrock Shuffle 8k

How NOT To Run A Race – AKA The Good, The Bad & The Stupid

When you  run a good race, any previous doubts or setbacks are forgotten so quickly that it’s like they never existed in the first place. All mistakes are forgotten and you’re only left with an overwhelming sense of pride and satisfaction. Conversely, when you run a bad race, you try so hard to hold onto any of the better moments despite the overwhelming suckiness of it all. And mostly, you find it easier to engage in self-flagellation more than anything else, beating into you the idea to never repeat the same mistakes. With that in mind, I give you the full spectrum of today’s race. Or what was supposed to be a race anyways.

The Good –

Going into this race I had the confidence of some really awesome workouts behind me. Just the Tuesday prior I had knocked out an awesome 10 miler at 5:18 splits and although that doesn’t correlate well to a five mile race, I was hoping the effort was a gauge for something half that distance. I figured I was in good enough condition to make a go for 5:00 / miles and that was my hope.

Coach Matt had given me a solid race strategy to work from in order to help me get those 5:00 flat miles, or something very close to it. He ended the advice with something of a zombie reference where in the last two miles I was to “hunt the dead, dying and overly optimistic.” That was a fitting metaphor related to my attempt and I could already envision running down the competition, shotgun in hand, “double tapping” them as I ran by to the finish. (more on that later)

The Bad –

Above all else, this mysteriously migrating/growing/enveloping pain in my shin area was my greatest cause for concern. I woke up the day before the run to put down an easy 6 miles when just 1 1/2 in I had to call it a day and jog/walk the rest of the way home due to the overwhelming tightness and pain. Every step brought a shooting pain that I feared was either causing great damage or made me think my leg might give out underneath me. Normally, I would have called the race on account of the leg, seeing as it was only a 5 miler, but I put a lot (too much) of money down for this and was really excited to go back to Chicago to race and see what I could do with my elevated fitness.

Now that my leg pain had taken over, I could only concentrate on whether I was even going to be able to race the next morning. I so desperately wanted some sort of miraculous healing to take place overnight and wake to find my leg as good as new. Now, I KNOW that wasn’t going to happen, but when you want something so bad, your mind does funny things. Regardless, I tried to facilitate the miracle with ice, ibuprofen and sleeping with my leg elevated all night. I woke to find it not that bad to walk on and when I started my pre-race jog I knew I could deal with that. I’m sure the ibuprofen breakfast helped and all, but I also hoped all the icing and elevating had done its job. Regardless, I was still going to the start line with barely a thought on the actual race itself and more concerned about what I was going to do if I had to drop out in the first 800. That is NOT my mental game.

The distance. Of every race I’ve ever run….I hate the 5 mile distance. Granted, this was an 8k, so TECHNICALLY it was 4.97, but you know what I’m sayin. The thing with running 5 miles is that there is no easing up and pacing through any point of the race. It’s pretty much all out, but not like a 5k where you can run over your abilities and still come through the finish without first dying. There is such a small window of effort in a 5 mile race where you must be fast to finish quick, but not TOO fast lest you overshoot  your efforts and rig up with a mile or mile and a half to go. It takes an incredibly tempered and self-tuned runner to finish the race strategically and effectively. I’m not that runner. I prefer to either let it all out or push until my endurance takes over.

Then we had the weather. I left Indianapolis where the skies were clear and the temperatures hovered in the 50’s. It was absolutely perfect, but the second we hit the Chicago highways it started…..snowing. YUP. So the morning of the race it had warmed up enough to rain, but it was still cold, drizzly and overcast. Oh, and typical of Chicago….WINDY. Like, real windy. These were not the conditions I wanted to race in considering I was already somewhere else mentally.

The Stupid –

Then we come to the race itself and my inability to understand my own efforts or follow my coach’s very specified instructions that I ASKED HIM FOR in order to run the race well. The strategy was this…..Run the first mile between 5:00 – 5:05, leaning more towards 5:05, come through 3 miles at 15:00 -15:10 then, as he put it, “hunt the dead, dying and overly optimistic.” That was the plan. It was a good plan. However, that plan hinged on my ability/willingness to follow it beginning with the first mile. I had the “hunt the dead..” mantra in my head, but very quickly I seemed to be reciting a suicide song.

A large group of elite runners filled the first wave corral and myself, my teammate and a line of other fast as hell runners shivered as we toed the start line. The skyscrapers of Chicago and a wide open street stood before us as the official began the countdown. At one he sounded his airhorn and we all blasted from the line. I got about 10 feet out paying strict attention to my leg when instantly I realized I was feeling nothing. There was something of a fat feeling, or a tightness, but as I had hoped the adrenaline surged through my body and the pain was non-existent. Motivated by this sensation, or lack thereof, I tore down the street with the rest of the runners, a good deal of them pulling out ahead, which surprised me. The race results from the past 3 years indicated that if I did run 5:00 miles that my placing could range anywhere from top 10 to top 20, so imagine my surprise when all of a sudden I found AT LEAST 20 runners blasting out before me and more trickling past behind. I thought to myself, “Crap…am I running too slow? It FEELS faster than a 5:00 mile, but surely all these guys aren’t going out this fast.” I was wrong. We ran through a darkened underpass, climbed over a bridge and then came screaming down a hill before making the turn to the first mile. I hit the sensor stretched across the ground and looked at the clock. 4:53. SHIT! And that was my first and foundational mistake. I was supposed to run at least 7 seconds slower, if not 10 – 15 seconds slower. Granted, I would have been significantly behind a long line of runners, but I would also have been running in my range and gearing up to start dropping it down.

It was then I realized my hamstrings had already tightened up or began filling with lactic acid. Early into the second mile and my legs were already spent, I couldn’t feel my muscles propelling me forward. I was simply following the pattern of repetition and chasing my momentum more than anything else. Oh, and getting passed. A lot. And let me tell you, it’s so incredibly demoralizing to get passed by so many runners, no matter how fast you may actually be running, when you are getting beat again and again and again, it becomes incredibly difficult to keep your spirits up and continue pushing on. You find yourself tempted to just notch it up to a shitty race and call it a day, running it in with your head down. I, fortunately, did not resort to such measures, but the urge was strong.

We came through 2 miles at 10 and change, which after I thought about it, wasn’t that bad. I was still close to 5:00 flat miles, but I was also aware how quick I came through the first mile, which meant I must have run a much slower second mile. I could only hope my strength would refill my legs and I could continue picking it up, hunting the dead and dying as it would be. Then the course turned again and we hit the brutal Chicago wind. Ripping through the skyscrapers the wind pushed against us harder than we pushed back. I tried to duck behind a runner in front of me, but the wind was at an angle that it simply didn’t matter. Our only recourse was to make it to the next turn where we would either have it blowing at our speed or blocked by a building.

Before I knew it we had hit the 3 mile mark, passing the sensor at 15:20, which again, Matt told me to come through at 15:00 or 15:10, so I still wasn’t THAT far off, but I still didn’t feel strong and this was the point that I was to begin my zombie hunt. But then I got passed….again….and again…and again. We still came through the 5k at around 15:50, just a few seconds off my personal best, which isn’t too shabby, but this was still not the way I was supposed to be running this race. I was a better runner than this…just not tactically smart enough.

Moving into mile four I had one of my only redeeming points of the race. On the sidelines I heard someone yell out, “I love your hair!” So yeah, it wasn’t a total loss right? Too bad I wasn’t running at my abilities….my hair would have been SOO much better then. 😉 Anyways, we took more turns that brought us right back into the wind, which we fought all the way to the 4 mile marker. It was a relief to hit that point, knowing it was just a hair short of a mile till this race was over, despite how short it became. Moving into the fifth mile I figured I could push further than I was feeling and started to lay it on a bit. Surprisingly, I managed to pass a runner….A runner. I think the ONLY runner I passed the whole race. Of course, I was subsequently passed by someone else, but still…it’s the small victories. We kept fighting on and I saw the course turn left up the dreaded bridge that marks the 26th mile of the Chicago Marathon, a short but considerably steep incline towards the finish line. I turned to the bridge, started dragging my tired legs up the hill and found myself not only battling an incline, but also the stiffest wind I felt the whole race. And I wasn’t the only one. Believe me, I probably slowed to a 10:00 minute mile pace, but everyone else around me was moving the same. Coming straight from the lake with nothing to block or slow its path, that wind hit us dead on at the worst point and brought us to almost a standstill. Finally though, I worked over the top and started moving down toward the last turn and sprint to the finish. I use the term sprint lightly. I took the last turn and got passed one last time before moving to the finish. There was one runner in front of me and I began moving up on his back, but just couldn’t muster anything in my legs to put in a final strong kick. I just wanted DONE!!

I hit the finish line at 25:54, almost a full minute off my hoped for time. Admittedly, even if I ran that race well, the wind was enough of a factor that I would have been off my projected time as well, so I wasn’t completely disappointed, but I wasn’t thrilled either. I just wanted to get through the finish chute and put that race behind me.

To be honest, I can’t be THAT hard on myself about the run. Considering some of the obstacles I couldn’t really control, like my leg and the wind, I didn’t run embarrassingly bad. On the other hand, the one thing I COULD control, my pacing strategy…I didn’t. And that is frustrating. Even with everything else that was a problem, if I had run smart, I could at least say I ran what I could have considering….but I didn’t. And that sucks. My only consolation in all this is that the race itself was short and relatively unimportant. Granted, I wanted to have a strong showing and see where I stacked up with runners of this caliber, but like I said, a 5 miler is not my strongest distance. What counts are the races to come….the Louisville 10 miler and the Mini-marathon on May 8th. That’s where I can’t afford to race with bad strategy or a gimp leg. That’s the race I have the most personal stake in.

And speaking of the leg…it’s not good. My first priority from here on out is doing what I can to heal up and get back to solid training without compromise. It might involve more days off then I want to admit, but I can’t drag this (literally) out anymore. I sit here with the residual effects of too much ibuprofen in my system and an ankle wrap choking out my leg. I really want neither right now. I want to be healthy and injury free as we build up to the most important training leading up to the mini. And that’s where I leave you friends. A touch frustrated, mildly wounded, but hopeful for what is to come.

Onward!

——–

Final Results
25:54 (5:12 / mile)
49th overall

How we roll

It is not uncommon that I’m asked, “How do you run so fast? I just can’t imagine doing that.” At one point, if I had thought of what I’m doing now I would have said the same thing.

Yesterday at work a co-worker proclaimed to me that he had run 2 1/2 miles the day prior and that this was his 3rd run of this distance. He spoke of struggling initially and then all of a sudden realizing he wasn’t dying and could actually keep going. And so he did. I gave him encouragement and told him what I tell most every new runner….just keep going. Not necessarily on the run, but just keep running and things will all of a sudden get easier and easier and easier. You just have to put in the time. Of course, some days are hell, but every runner of every caliber experiences those sorts of days, where everything feels slow and heavy. That’s ok, eventually it gets easier.

Another co-worker asked me, “Do you ever hate running? Are you ever out running and really just hate it and want to stop?” She explained that her teenage son had just started track again, and although he’s not a bad runner, he often feels a strong dislike of running and simply wants to stop. It’s not every day, but it happens enough that he struggles with it. This got me to thinking and I had to admit that I don’t really experience that a lot. Granted, deep deep down my mind and body ALWAYS want to stop, but it’s a different sort of consideration than wanting to give up. It’s different from actually hating running and still doing it. I see beyond that. I see where I’m going and the thrill of what I’m doing in the moment, even if the rest of me prefers the relaxation in the end. Ultimately though, I never hate running and in addressing both considerations there is a similar dynamic to running like we do and not hating it.

Yesterday we were pounding out an intense 10 mile marathon goal pace run at an average of 5:18 miles, the sun out and the trail teeming with people. Suddenly, the question of whether I hated running and wanted to stop popped back into my thoughts. Oddly enough, the question was incredibly apparent at this point as I worked my way up two inclining miles in the second half of the run, sweaty, shirtless, breathing forcefully and with 3 miles still to go. I didn’t hate running and although the urge to stop was stronger than ever before, there was no way I was going to let that happen. And that right there was the key. We don’t stop because we don’t hate running and we run the way we do because we don’t stop. That’s what separates runner from runner. Competitive runner from competitive runner. The ability not necessarily to keep going, but the ability to not stop.

There are times out on runs like this when our legs fill with lactic acid and become frustratingly heavy…our body stays, “Stop.” But we don’t. We keep going. Then there are times when our legs become weighted, our forms begins to suffer and our body says, “Stop!” But we don’t. We keep going. Then things only get worse and not only does our body revolt against the effort, but our mind steps in to offer it’s siren call of common sense, saying, “This was a good run, it won’t hurt to cut it short now. You can be satisfied with a good run. Seriously, just stop.” But we don’t. We keep going. Then like a triumphant orchestral sacophony of noise, every system in the body works together, your body losing all sense of control, your breathing fluxuating wildly and your mind chiming in at the worst possible moments, “Dude…FUCKING STOOOOOOOOP!” But we don’t. We keep going. Somehow, an alternate voice in our head, tired and weary, small and quiet, but with a determination stronger than any of our other systems simply and stoicly responds, “no.” And we keep going.

And time and time again, each moment we ignore the influx of common sense, we learn to love running more and more and we simply don’t stop, repeatedly training our bodies to run stronger, run faster, and run harder. And this is how we do it. This is how we separate ourselves from the rest.

On our run yesterday Jesse went blazing past another runner on the trail and I followed closely behind. When I come up on him he turns and says “What are you training for?” “Olympics!”, becomes my new abbreviated response. “Seriously?!” he excitedly replies. “Trials!” I more honestly proclaim. “Good luck!” he yells back as we go tearing off further down the trail. This runner then saw Matt giving encouragement to some of our teammates up the trail and stops to ask him.

“Excuse me…can I ask you a question? Just how do these guys run SO FAST?!”

I forget the answer Matt gave him, and although nothing would ever sufficiently explain the effort, from now on he should just reply, “They don’t stop.”

Machines of speed and grace

It wasn’t too long ago that I was starting my official training with Coach Matt, running an initial 30 mile week just to see how my body might react to the consistent pounding. I was just fine. In the midst of that first week I remember some moments of jubilation where I put down some 6:00/mile runs, which although are routine and easy for me most of the time, they were cause for celebration at the time because it meant I was finally putting in some effort. Of course, now I look back on those 6:00/mile runs and feel a little embarrassed at the effort I had to expend just to get there. My legs felt like sand and my breathing was that of an overweight smoker taking the stairs to the 13th floor. But I had patience.

The more weeks I put in of Matt’s coaching, the more mileage I continued to log. It didn’t really seem like much was changing, but the mileage continued to climb and with minimal aches and pains. It was just a matter of time before some sort of breakthrough. Then at some point he through a 15 mile progression run my way, where I had to drop my pace about 10 seconds every five miles. That is NOT an easy run….it never is really, no matter where you are at in training. Still, I figured I’d start at 5:40 and drop it to 5:20 for the last 5 miles. It was something of a long shot, but knowing what I need to run for Chicago and what I want to run for the Mini, I thought I better get to speeding things up. Turns out, my mind was getting a little ahead of the body. I put down the first mile at 5:50 and even that was an effort, then I dropped it to 5:40, but instinctively knew I wasn’t going to be able to sustain or continue dropping miles where I wanted to. When I got to 5:30’s ahead of the last 5 miles, I suddenly couldn’t hold on and had to cut everything short. It was a bit demoralizing if also a good check where I was fitness-wise at the time. But I had patience.

Matt continued throwing a variety of workouts my way and as the days grew longer and the cold started to subside, I made plans with a teammate to meet up for a rekindling of the Tuesday Night Terror runs, the workouts that comprise the basis of my speed and progression. These benefit of these group workouts is immeasurable. Matt had us doing a few quick miles with various rests in between, but the second we started in on the first mile Jesse was already blasting out ahead of me. It was terrible to watch him continue to fade down the trail as I tried to push harder and harder. Admittedly, I started to question my abilities and if I was going to be able to progress back to the point where I was last year and move on further from there. I just didn’t have it in me. But as frustrating as it was to feel slow, I still had some patience….even if it was wearing a touch thin.

Then the weather changed and something inside of me as well. I can’t explain what happened, but as soon as the temperatures rose over 20 I was able to shed my tights and my legs started to respond immediately. All of a sudden my easy runs were truly easy, even though they had picked up in pace considerably. I wasn’t straining at any point in the run, but I was running faster than ever. And I started knocking out the workouts Matt was throwing at me on my Saturday long runs, putting in good quality without fail..well, save slipping and smashing my head on the ground. Now, running 5:30’s was a breeze and with the most minimal of effort I was running even quicker. Something had finally changed. Then, to really solidify the transition, I had a Tuesday Night Terror workout with a larger group and suddenly I was running right with Jesse and Poray, but this time not getting dropped. I was now running sub 5:00 miles with, dare I say it, relative ease. My patience had finally paid off. And I’m not even close to being done.

Last year at this time I was still running completely solo, my sights set on the Mini-marathon, but without any sort of guidance. Just throwing in some random workouts here and there, putting in long runs without any sort of quality….just running, just hoping I was putting in more work than the months prior. And I still had a good showing at the Mini. This year though, I’m far ahead of where I was last year at this time. I’m putting in specifically guided work. I’m putting in significantly more mileage. I’m putting in intense quality three times a week. I’m also eating better than I ever have. And I’ve still got over a month and a half to go until the race. This has me terribly excited, anxious even to see what I can do at the 1/2 distance, to see where I am fitness-wise in my buildup to the Chicago Marathon. If everything goes as planned, this 1/2 will be a good indicator of where I stand right now and where I need to be come October 10th. All I can definitively say now is that training is going smashingly. I’m more psyched than I’ve ever been at my progression, concrete and recognizeable, instead of just hoping for the best come race day. This time I’ll be going in with a greater sense of confidence and of my abilities than I ever have before. This gives me inspiration for the runs I take each and every day.

Speaking of race day, this weekend is my first race back since the Tecumseh Trail Marathon (please, let’s not mention that debacle ever again…it’s truly embarrassing), the Shamrock Shuffle 8k in Chicago. Now, normally I wouldn’t travel all the way to Chicago to run a race just a hair under 5 miles, but this one is different. This is one of the most competitive fields in the midwest short of a high-profile professional race. There will be numerous professional runners on the start line, which means those of us coming up from Indy will not only be able to see where we stand amongst this caliber of runner, but also have enough fast competition to pull us to, hopefully, our fastest time at this distance yet. I’ve got some numbers in my head of what I want to shoot for, but it’s too early in the game to make any sort of prediction. I don’t wanna cross the finish line with my foot in my mouth. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Until then, I’ll keep tuning the body as machine and see how fast we can make this thing go.

———————-

Speaking of tuning the body as machine….I’ve been obsessed with studying nutrition lately and have been really stoked to read study after study that confirms my dietary choices from a health standpoint. Each and every day I learn more that leads me to believe that not only is the herbivore diet a proper way in which to eat, but also THE healthiest diet for the human species. I’ve strayed from making that statement for quite some time, recognizing the contextual (environment, economic, cultural, etc.) dynamics of our eating habits, but all that aside I still think a plant-based diet is the best choice for quality of life. Even more so, we’ve been making changes in our household to eat more and more whole foods and less processed foodstuffs. And to prove we’re walking the talk….

That’s $116 dollars worth of groceries, primarily whole fruits and vegetables, whole wheat pasta, soy milk, tofu, frozen vegetables, nuts, oats, tea, coffee, etc. This is the fuel that makes us fast. Plant Strong!

Maintenance

The following is the latest Indy Star article about our training group and our attempt to qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials. I meant to post this previously, but it slipped my mind.

http://blogs.indystar.com/fitforlife/2010/03/band_of_four_fr.html

I’ve also added some minor updates around the blog, specifically the Sponsors page. I’ve added the Athletic Annex and will soon be adding Personal Best Training. And hey, if you feel inclined to become a sponsor, send me an email and I’m sure we can work something out.

Finally, I’ll be adding a new post soon, but the past week has been relatively hectic and I’ve been somewhat exhausted from training. Speaking of training, everything has been going smashingly and in the past week or so I seem to have had some sort of breakthrough. My easy runs are easy…but fast and effortless, and my workouts have been awesome. I’m nailing some times in these workouts that I was hitting more towards the end of my Chicago training, which is obviously a good sign. All I can think is that this time last year I wasn’t putting in nearly this sort of mileage (95 – 100 a week) nor this sort of quality. I’m getting really psyched for the Mini, to see what I can do. First though, we have the Chicago Shamrock Shuffle 8k in a week and a half.

Stay tuned.

Coming to terms

Just before our Tuesday night Terrors workout yesterday the journalist who interviewed me for her health and fitness column came to interview Jesse, Poray, Little, our coach Matt and myself again about our attempt to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials. The story is of interest to her for a number of reasons, but selling our efforts to a corporate newspaper who, as she put it, “only runs stories about sports that use a ball.” is another matter. She may never get a story about us in or maybe she will. Regardless, she came out to meet us and I think was taken aback by the bombardment of one-liners and sound bites thrown her way. I had my time in the interview chair previous to this, so I let most everyone else do the talking and talk they did…surprisingly delivering all sorts of passionate diatribes and not the poop and fart jokes I was afraid might dominate the conversation.

For me, I think the most revealing portion was when we started talking about the trials and what that meant to all of us, essentially agreeing that the trials are OUR OLYMPICS. We hold no illusions that we have the ability or maybe just the time to devote to running a sub 2:10 marathon. That’s what it takes. For us, it’s about working full time, juggling relationships, kids, girlfriends, social lives and any other number of non-running activities while still staying committed to putting in the necessary work to run at the trials level EVERY SINGLE DAY. There is no compromise. There is no half-assing. There is no arguing or whining our way in. It’s about running day in and day out and pushing ourselves every chance we get. So for us, to have all these other obligations coupled with the obligation of running every day, qualifying for the trials is an incredible accomplishment in its own right. But what I hadn’t really come to terms with until yesterday was just how incredible of an accomplishment that is.

Just this week the USATF sifted through the bids to host the 2012 trials sent in by New York, Boston and Houston. Houston won. However, before any of this took place a vote was made a year or so ago to change the qualifying standards for the trials race. Previously, you needed to run 2:22 or less to qualify for the “B” standard, which secured you a place in the race, but not much else. You could also run 2:20 or less to qualify for the “A” standard, which secured you a place in the race, travel and hotel fees as well as any other number of amenities. That’s the rock star standard. Overall, approximately 150 or 250 (still not sure the more specific number) men made it into the trials with those qualifications, but now things have changed thanks to that recent vote. In order to qualify for the trials one must run 2:19 or less, which means EVERYONE in the trials has achieved the “A” standard, which means EVERYONE gets rock star status. The whole goal is to push american distance running to a higher level, to force runners to really put in the work to achieve more and more. The jury is still out on the outcome of that theory. Regardless, what this means population wise is that only about 100+ runners will make the Trials this time around. So, for the four years between the trials, there will only be 100 and a handful of runners who put in the time and have the natural talent to run a marathon in sub 2:19.

And here are four of us, 3 in the same house and one just a couple blocks away….all with a chance to be one of those hundred. What are the odds. Now, in my naievity I really didn’t understand what it meant to qualify for the trials. Granted, I know how hard it is to run that type of qualifying time for that distance, but I guess I thought there would be a significant number of runners that would make that time…like anywhere between 500 to 1000. Yes, I’m naive. I really thought that was the case. I had no idea until very recently that only 100 or so people will make the Trials, and I’m still trying to come to terms with the fact that I may be one of those 100. This, if I pull this off, might be the greatest accomplishment of my life in certain terms. I guess, not to arrogantly pat myself on the back, I didn’t realize what sort of talent I’ve been dealing with since I started running again. I just didn’t know I was at this level until I saw those qualifying numbers plain as day. And I now find it even more fascinating to think that 4 of us in the same city, in the same neighborhood have a really great chance of being one of those qualifiers. That’s huge, and no matter what corporate media thinks, that’s a story to me. Of course, I’m biased.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. We still have a lot of work to do and so far not a single one of us has qualified for the trials (this time around anyways). As it stands, we are still just runners who can win local and regional races fairly consistently, not trials qualifiers. We have not yet made it to our own olympics, but damn is that something I want real bad and I think I speak for everyone else when I say they want the same. We have an amazing opportunity at our fingertips and it would be incredibly foolish to let it slip by. So until we reach that rockstar status, we’ve got a lot of work to do. See you in the streets.