Archive for the ‘Running’ Category

We walked out the door a few minutes later than I would have liked. I knew I would still have time at the start, but at that moment I was feeling the nerves and wanted to get moving. Beth walked me to the shuttle, where I boarded up with fifty other runners to be taken up to Balboa Park.

Waiting in the crowd, I was expecting more nerves. As I slowly shuffled towards the start line in my corral I was expecting fear, anxiety and self doubt. I envisioned having to tell myself over and over that I could do it and not to give into the fear. There was none of that. There was… Nothing. Only determination.

The closer I got to the start line the calmer I felt. I emptied my head of all thought and just focused on the present. Everyone around me was texting, or taking selfies or facetwittering, and having made the decision to leave my phone behind, I enjoyed these moments of being unplugged from the world and just listened to the music and the MC for the event. By the time I found my corral, she was about nine ahead. Several minutes later, she launched the corral in front mine and I put one earbud in my ear. Then the count started, and at five I put the other one in. At one, I pressed play.

Nice job iPod. I seriously could not have picked a better song.

I started my watch as I stepped over the line and got to work. I made an effort to stay slow at first. I picked a few other runners to pace behind, but eventually broke away. The first thing of note was working the water stations. I wasn’t sure how this was going to work, but it quickly became clear that I had made the right choice in leaving my hydration belt behind. It’s true that maneuvering through the water stations can be tricky and I found that actually drinking from a cup while running is even trickier. The first one I damned near drowned myself, and after that decided, screw the time, I was going to walk through the stops when I needed them. Which, by the way, turned out to be just about all of them. I had considered skipping one or two, but once I got a routine down, there was no reason not to grab a quick drink along the way.

The thing I was totally not expecting was the elevation change. Hills, man. Steep, gnarly hills. All my running here has been down by the water, and while I was aware that San Diego had hills, I wasn’t really expecting to run them. As it turns out, I was quite wrong. I saw the first couple coming, and quickly came up with a plan: take advantage of the downhills and go easy getting up the other side. A couple of the downhills were so steep that I just had to focus on keeping my balance rather than going fast. A small price to pay for not toppling my fellow runners.

I settled into a comfortable pace and before I knew it, four miles had gone by and I came up on mile five. Sponsored by Wear Blue Run To Remember, this stretch of road was lined with the names and faces of service men and women who have been killed in action overseas. Running along the left side of the pack, I made sure to look at every name and every face as I went by. I was struck by how many of these heroes were just in their twenties, some with young families. So many young and promising lives cut short. Just following these pictures, were what I assumed were veterans holding American flags and giving up high fives and words of encouragement to us all as we passed. It was a touching display of respect for these brave people that have sacrificed so much for our country and way of life.

The halfway mark blended into eight miles, then ten and before long I was running up to the twelve mile marker. Up the hill and into the tunnel lit with flashing lights and a disco ball, I reached into my right pocket and pulled out this small piece of metal and rubber.

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This shifter knob and the tail light are all I have left of my Triumph Bonneville. In a homage to it, and my story I decided to carry it with me for all 13.1 miles. For the last mile, I closed my hand around it and pushed just a little harder.

The crowd thickened considerably as the pack got closer to the end. I made the last turn and I could see the finish line. I picked Beth out in the crowd and gave her a high five as I ran passed. It was so close. Just keep pushing.

My feet stepped over the line, and it was over. So many miles run, injuries sustained and years to get to here. I slowed to a walk and made my way through the crowd towards our prearranged meeting point. We embraced in the street, and she said “Did you see the time?” I had been keeping track along the way, but the accuracy of my watch was a little off, so I mostly just watched my pace. I had no idea what my time actually was. I started the morning with a goal of 2:10:00 and in the end, I crossed the finish line in 2:05:48. I couldn’t have been happier with that.

Back in the hotel, I feel pretty good about what I accomplished today. The last time I ran 13.1 in training, which was a few years ago, my time was somewhere around 2:20:00. I’m pleased to see the hard work and training paid off. The plan for now is to get home, take a few days off and rest, and then start planning the next race. I’ve got a time to beat.

Here are the official stats of my run:

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Up before dawn. 

From my hotel window the city appears to be comfortably asleep, but I know that at least 30,000 other people are starting their day the same way. The water is heating up for my coffee and oatmeal, and I stare nervously at my race bib. I’m relatively confident that today is going to go alright, but still the nerves manifest themselves in a quickened heart beat and a minor tremble in my fingertips. Just in the last six months alone, I have run nearly two hundred miles to train for this race. I know I can do this. I have a reasonable plan for the race, and if I stick to that, everything should be just fine. 

Welcome to my early morning pep talk. 

I know it’s easy to be overwhelmed at the thought of running 13.1 miles. I can feel it now while having my coffee. It’s a good time to remind myself that like everything else in life, rather than be overwhelmed by the enormity of a problem, or event, breaking it down into smaller parts makes it much more manageable. So, what do I need to do right now?

1. Eat, drink, shower and get dressed.

2. Find the shuttle to the start line

3. Warm up and stretch

4. Run

And that where it gets tricky. Running the first few steps and thinking about the 13.1 miles ahead can be daunting and demotivating. After I cross the start line, what’s next? Salt every couple miles, a gel every 45 minutes. I also break the race into quarters. Counting up to the halfway point rather than down from 13.1. Giving myself these smaller goals inside the larger one helps to not get overwhelmed. Most of all, I have to stay positive. I think I’m pretty good at that. Am I nervous? Of course. But am I going to fail? Nope. Am I going to quit? Not on your life.

As I have checked off my training runs, logged the miles, and finally arrived at the morning of the race, it has occurred to me that training for and running this race has become about more than just running a race or checking off some bucket list item. This year it has become a part of my survival story. I didn’t die on that road in September. I’m still in the fight and I’m not quitting.

Here goes nothing.

We got on the flight yesterday afternoon. Just about six hours door to door, I forgot how long the transcon flights can be. The captain was a friend of mine from my days on the Airbus, so we chatted for a few minutes before I settled into my seat next to Beth. It’s always nice to see a familiar face. We got in late-ish last night and grabbed an Uber to our hotel in the Gaslamp Quarter. This morning, I was up at 0530, just before dawn.

Twenty-four hours to go.

In my entire running career this is the closest I’ve ever been to running this race. I have mixed emotions as I sit here in bed waiting for the sun to come up. My default is to say I’m nervous. That’s mostly true. I’m not especially worried about the distance, or the course. I’ve run in San Diego many times, and while the route is different and certainly longer, none of that really bothers me. It’s all the unknowns that come with running my first real half marathon. Things like, where do I get the shuttle? How will I find the right start line? And mostly, water. I’ve trained all my long runs with a hydration belt, carrying 40oz of water with me. My impression is that this isn’t something people do on race day, so I’m going to have to hit the water stops. I know that’ll slow me down, and I know I can do ten miles without water, but since that’s not ideal on race day I’m going to have to make it a point to stop. Since I’ve never actually done this before, I suspect it’s going to be a learning experience.

I’m putting together a plan for tomorrow morning. The timing will depend on when I start, which I’ll find out later today. I’m assuming I’ll be up at 4ish, make some coffee and oatmeal, relax for a few minutes and get my gear together. Since I’m not running too fast I’m expecting to be on one of the later busses to the start line. I have a plan for the race, and I think it’s reasonable. I’ve been training my long runs at a 10:00 per mile pace, so I’m hoping to be done in around 2:10:00. Is it lightning fast? No, but it’s who cares? I’m getting it done. After this race is over and I start looking to the next one, I’ll start figuring out how to get faster. Right now, the goal is to get it done, the time doesn’t matter as much.

Considering my history with attempting to run races, I’ll spend the rest of the day wrapped in bubble wrap and looking both ways before crossing any streets. This is happening.

Twenty four hours to go.

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I don’t always love it. Sometimes it’s cold, raining, windy and easily the last thing on earth I want to be doing. Yesterday was no different. I procrastinated in the car for an extra song working up the nerve to get out there and get it done. The first half mile was cold and the wind seemed to go right through me. I finally warmed up somewhere around mile 2, and by 3.5 I was committed. At mile five I thought, it’s only five miles back, that’s nothin.

It’s been hard for me to get motivated over the last couple weeks. Cold weather, rain and some pain has made running not a thing I’ve been super interested in. I’m not proud of it but it’s the truth. The thing that makes me suck it up, step outside and run the miles is that for the last eight weeks, every long run has been the longest run since my accident. That accomplishment reminds me that even though it sucks sometimes, I’m not dead, and I’m not quitting.

Monthly Totals for 2016 not including cross training:

January: 6.22
February: 24.57
March: 36.76
April: 57.70
May (to date): 17.11

I hit double digits yesterday with the ten miler coming in just a little under target time. Four weeks to go. I just might be able to pull this off after all.

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So as I understand things, every four years we get an extra day in February. My first thought on this is, why can’t we get an extra day in a month that doesn’t suck? Like July. Who doesn’t want one more day of July? Does this seem wrong to anyone else?

But I digress. Today is February 29 which happens to coincide with the first long run of my training program. It was on the schedule as a five miler, and since I’ve been running this winter more than most I wasn’t feeling too intimidated when I set out. The mercury was reading a balmy (for February in New England) 54 degrees when I stepped outside, so there was no need to layer up. The air was chilly but comfortable and the only issue I had working against me was a line of weather pushing in from the west. I knew when I left the house I was likely going to get rained on.

I’ve been doing some reading this winter about how to better train for half marathons, incuding the concept of running slow or taking walk breaks on long runs. I’ve never really done this before. My approach has always been to run a faster pace early and slow down towards the end. I didn’t really care as long as my average pace was a number I was happy with. I’m getting to understand that this isn’t really the most efficient way to train. Since I’m pretty intent on not getting injured in the next eleven weeks, I decided to make a change. My last 5k came in at roughly a 9:00/mile pace so I set the pace for the five miler at 10:00/mile, a goal of an even fifty minutes. I didn’t realize how difficult this was actually going to be. Rather than just putting my head down and going, I had to keep a close eye on my pace and when I felt myself getting too fast, make the conscious decision to slow down. I found this to be completely counterintuitive to what I’m used to. I’m usually pushing myself to go faster.

A couple miles in the wind picked up and the rain started. It wasn’t a monsoon by any means, but the rain was steady enough, and as you might expect, being cold and wet was pretty awesome. All I wanted to do was pick up the pace, get the run over with and get into the hot shower I had waiting for me at home. Is that what I did? Nope. I watched my pace and ran slow, even though it was uncomfortable to be outside. I got back to the house in 49:35.

So its the end of February, and in the last two weeks I’ve logged 20.57 miles with a couple days in the gym for some cross training. Not so bad for winter and I’d say a pretty good start to 2016.

Here comes week two.

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Here’s something you probably don’t know about me: I’m a half marathon runner who has never actually run a half marathon race. In my running career I have trained for three different half marathon events, always scheduled late in the season, and each year something has happened that has prevented me from being able to actually run the race. The first year I couldn’t get the days off, and the second year poor running shoe choices led to crippling shin splints that derailed my entire season. Now, this past season everything was looking great. I was healthy, no injuries and by late September I was right on track in my training program. Then, in an almost absurd escalation of stupid things preventing me from running races, an impatient pizza delivery driver cut in front of me while I was on my way home on my Triumph Bonneville, causing an accident that landed me in the hospital, and put an abrupt end to my 2015 running season.

I was two weeks away.

I’d like to think that in those few moments spent under engine block of a Volkswagen, I had a moment of clarity. Not of the meaning of life, the universe and everything. No, I’d like to think that while I was laying under that car and fighting my way out, somewhere in the far recesses of my mind it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, I need to adjust my running schedule so I can run a half marathon earlier in the year. This October thing is clearly not working out.

Right now it’s February 2016 and where am I? I’ve been trying to stay motivated and keep running through the winter this year to maintain some level of fitness in the hopes of not starting at zero in the spring. I’ve been doing mostly 5k’s because well, it’s winter, and who wants to be outside in the cold ever, let alone in running gear? It hasn’t been consistent, but I’ve been going when the temps are 30 or better. Consistent or not, that’s the best I’ve ever done since I start running six years ago. A couple days ago I was able to pick up a long layover in Florida and took the opportunity to go for a longer run in the warm weather. Since I didn’t have to worry about being cold, I decided to push myself to do a five miler. I was initially going to run/walk it but when I got started I decided to just go and see how it went. All in all, not bad. Not fast, but whatever, it’s winter.

So a long run of five miles, in mid February. That’s my starting point. It’s not great, but it’s not completely awful either. I started looking around and discovered that San Diego has a Half/Marathon event in early summer. That’s roughly 15 weeks away. If I chose the most conservative training program I would likely not have enough time,  especially considering it’s still very much winter here. It’s going to be tight, but I think it’s worth doing. It also helps that San Diego is one of my favorite places in the country, and this would be a pretty good excuse to take a long weekend to go visit.

And just like that, the goal is set.

San Diego, June 5, 2016.

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I hate when the phone rings when I’m on call. Can you blame me? On a beautiful early fall afternoon, the last thing I want to do is go to work. In the airline world, September and October are well known to be the “slow season.” The schedule slows down a bit after the summer rush and gives everyone time to catch their breath before the holidays and the grind that is winter ops. As a reserve pilot you’re programmed to expect to never get called. You think, “it’s September, I’m gonna have the whole month off.” This is total fantasy.

On this particular day, I checked the open trips and since there were none, I thought it was a safe bet to tackle the garage reorganization project I had been looking forward to. Yeah, I love reorganizing things. I know, it’s weird. After a summer of working on cars, motorcycles and other various things the garage was looking kind of like something out of an episode of Cops. Whatcha gonna do? I had been thinking about working on this for a while so since there seemed to be little chance of going to work, I took everything, yes everything, out of the garage and put it in the driveway so I could clean it out. And what do you suppose happened next? The phone rang. It’s scheduling and they have a trip for me. Son. Of. A. B…

The assignment I got made little sense in terms of duty time, so I asked what the deal was and after putting me on hold they came back to say that another guy had been assigned the trip but didn’t answer his phone, so I was up. Awesome. So some dude didn’t want to work and I had to go do his flying for him. This is a rant for another day.

In great haste I threw everything back in the garage, took a fast shower and ran out the door to get to work. I had four legs that day ending late in Washington, Dulles. The next day had a late afternoon report, so I decided that I would make the best out of a crappy assignment and get a good long run in the next morning. Lemons = Lemonade, right?

We got in late after a thoroughly uneventful day of flying and the next morning I mapped out my route. The half marathon I was supposed to run was a couple weeks away, and after hosting Johnny for a week of motorcycle riding and eating out, I needed to get back on track with a long run. A few days earlier I had run a 10k so today I was committed to seven miles or better. I slept well, and after a series of phone calls, and some delaying YouTube, was ready to go. The route I had chosen was something of a loop that looked like about 7.5 miles. Nice. Being completely unfamiliar with the area I memorized the street names of each turn and set out.

Google maps is a funny thing. It showed me a route that made sense but gave shockingly little in terms of actual detail. For example, the beginning, and consequently the end of this run were under construction, including a bridge that said very clearly “NO PEDESTRIANS.” That doesn’t mean me, right? I’m a runner, not a “pedestrian.” Uh, sure. Then there was the elevation. Yeah man, hills. I’ve been running on a flat rail trail for months and this run was ALL hill. Of the 7.5 miles I would say at least five of those miles were uphill. Yeah, I didn’t know that. What I also couldn’t tell we’re how few sidewalks were available. Normally this wouldn’t bother me, but these small country roads were narrow, with almost no shoulder, and full of blind corners and hills. Good thing I was wearing a dark shirt that blended right in to the background.

And then, my favorite part: the freeway crossing. On the map it looks like just a big intersection with stop light. I assumed I could just wait for a crossing signal and be on my way. What I found when I got there was just slightly different than what I saw on the map. There were stop lights but it seemed they were just for turning traffic, and never actually changed. I stood there for a minute watching the sixty plus mph traffic thinking, “This is a bad idea.” I waited a few more minutes and finally the traffic broke. I sprinted across and the driver on the opposite side of the road gave me that look that said, “That was pretty dumb dude.” Yeah, it wasn’t super smart, and yes, I could have just turned around. But you know, I had a loop to run. I figured the risk would be worth what I hoped would be fewer hills and more sidewalks on the other side. I’m pretty sure my mother would have been disappointed in my decision making process.

While I did indeed find more sidewalks, I also found more hills. I made it a little over 10k before I had to start walking. Ooof, I hate that. I know there’s nothing wrong with it, but I’m kinda stubborn in my training and really wanted to run the whole thing. I ran back across the bridge in the construction zone and tried to hit the last giant hill hard, but I crashed, and ran/walked the rest of the way back to the hotel.

By no means did I consider this run a failure. It actually turned out to be quite an adventure. Having spent the whole summer running the same trail, it was good to run someplace else and actually have to think about what was going on around me. I love my rail trail but the change of scenery was a welcome departure from what I was used to. Next season, when I start training again, I’m going to make more of an effort to see some different places. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed that.