Two Cities Marathon and Half Race Report...

What can I say? What an absolute blast. I couldn't have asked for a better 'first' race. Time? Believe it or not, an amazing 2:15:17! And achieving that result did not come by way of a Suffer-fest either, nor was it a piece of cake. It came through a strong and focused effort the entire race. Well, that and 16 weeks of strong and focused training too.

Arrived at the start around 6am. The half was scheduled for a 7am start and the full for 7:30. It was pretty chilly out there--maybe 45 degrees. It was a little tough keeping warm before the start, but nothing you couldn't manage through. Once we started piling into the starting corrals, it was definitely better--being in close proximity to all those bodies definitely upped the temps a few degrees. I was at the front of Corral C. My brother was somewhere in Corral B (he was anticipating finishing somewhere around the 2 hour mark). The walkers were all in D, and well, the usual amazing suspects were all in A.

I never really did hear the starting gun, but suddenly we were moving forward in a wave. My race strategy was to go out slowly at an 11:00 pace for the first couple of miles, to both warm up, and find my rhythm. Then, depending on how I felt, I planned to pick up the pace--shooting for a steady 10:30ish. No rookie mistake here, but there was no way I could have done 11:00 even if I wanted to. I would have been mowed over by those coming from behind. Somewhere about two miles into it, I glance at my Garmin and note that I was running at about 9:30 and feeling good. Decided I was tempting fate, so when the hoards started to break up a bit around mile 3, I slowed my pace to around 10:15 and settled in. Turns out in the end, I averaged a 10:14 pace for the course.

The race was very well organized. Decent race expo (not that I had anything to compare it to as it was my first). Plenty of accessible parking the morning of the event. Sufficient porta potties at the race start. Beautiful (for Fresno) course heading northeast toward the foothills and by the river. Enthusiastic race volunteers and supportive crowds. Live bands played at several points on the course. The weather also cooperated--almost like it was planned. That brisk morning warmed up to about 52 degrees by the time I finished, and there was plenty of brilliant sunshine. Perfect running weather.

Again, not that I have anything to compare it to, but it sure seemed like this race had superior swag. Overheard more than one runner commenting on the nice long sleeved technical tee, the hooded sweatshirt and the hat as being some of the best they have seen. Sure seemed that way to me, as well. At the finish there was a full breakfast waiting, and there were plenty of ice cream sundaes if you were so inclined. Oh, and a beer garden too with two free beers per finisher!

My brother had a great race as well. But by his own admission, he was definitely hurting the last few miles. In the end, he came in better than expected at 1:53:06. Considering he hadn't done any consistent training for the last six weeks or so, he did very well. I wonder though, how much better he could have done had he gotten some regular training under his belt. At the very least, he probably wouldn't have been hurting so much in the end.

What's next? We're already talking about an early spring half in Sacramento--the Shamrock Half Marathon, or possibly the inaugural running of the Oakland Marathon and Half. We're also looking forward to running the American River Parkway Half in Sacramento in early May. My brother really wants to do a marathon. I told him I would be up for it, but am shooting for an early 2011 event so I can take advantage of the cooler training temperatures next fall. DisneyWorld in January, 2011? Just maybe...


Pre-Race Thoughts...

Well, it's finally here. Well almost, anyway. The Two Cities Marathon and Half--the event I have been training for these past 16 weeks, will start tomorrow morning at 7am. In usual fashion, I'm neither 'stoked,' nor apathetic. I just am. I suspect as today wears on, anxiety will mount. Something tells me I'm not going to sleep very well tonight :)

I feel really good about my training. I have no doubt I will finish the race, and finish it strong. Not sure about my time though. Last Saturday's 8 miler was fairly easy at about a 10:30 pace. Eight miles is not 13.1 though. Of course, it should be a little cooler than last week (although some weather reports indicate we could have some wind. Wind! Really? Fresno only gets windy in big storms or about three other times during the year. But of course, one of those windy days would have to fall on November 8!). I'm also reasonably well rested. Very light week at work--surprisingly. Slept reasonably well most of the week. Tried to honor the taper by sticking to my training plan with one session of speed work on Tuesday, and then only three miles, easy, on Thursday (it feels really funny right now not to be gearing up for a Saturday morning long run and at the same time, it seems like such a luxury). My diet during the week? So, so. I could have eaten less fat and more of the green stuff, but it just wasn't meant to be. One thing's for sure, I stayed very well hydrated all week. And healthy, too! Can't forget about that. Everyone--and I mean everyone--I came in contact with the last couple of weeks seemed to be harking up a lung or coming off swine flu. Must have been all that hand washing and hiding out in my office that kept me germ free :)

So anyway, back to my time. Barring some unforeseen catastrophe, 2:45 is absolutely no problem. I would be happy with breaking 2:30, and ecstatic with anything remotely close to 2:20. I do think 2:20 is in the realm of possibility if I'm feeling good. As for race strategy, I plan to go out at about 11:00 for the first couple of miles to get my bearings and warm up. Depending on how I feel after that, I plan to pick up the pace--or not--until the finish. Oh, and my mantra? "Don't eat the paste." Just because Little Jimmy is eating paste (blazing by me and because I feel good and fresh, I feel like I can keep up) doesn't mean that I need to eat the paste. Jimmy will get sick from all that paste eating at some point and I will too, if I'm not careful.

Pop and Bro are coming to town later this afternoon; Pop to spectate and support, Bro to run. It will be nice to have a friendly face in the starting corrals with me--even though Bro hopes to run it in 2:00 and I probably won't see him much beyond the start, and at the finish.

Looking forward to a nice pancake breakfast when it's all over. Race report to follow at some point.


Race Report: Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5k

Beautiful morning for a race--especially a race to benefit such an important charity, finding a cure for breast cancer.

Arrived at Fresno State just shortly after 7am to watch the men start their race. Roosevelt Cook, the guy with the fantastic 10k times at the Cross City Race in September was introduced as last year's winner and race record holder. If I remember correctly he ran it last year in a 5:04 pace. Needless to say, I was at the finish line when he crossed...at 14:47!

I was pretty pleased with my own race. Felt good and strong. I think I much prefer the shorter distances, even though I have been training for (and am more than capable of completing) the half marathon. I think it's the mental thing--the 5k is short enough and fast enough that you don't really have a chance to let negative thoughts creep in or to notice how tired you are. The longer distances leave plenty of time for mind games.

Came up short on my Garmin at 3.05 miles in 28:30 for a 9:21 pace. I'm very interested to see what my official race result will be. Either way though, it looks like I ran negative splits with the first mile at 9:27, the second at 9:25, and the third at 9:11. Not bad for a 47, soon to be 48 year old!


Doubts And Adjusting Expectations...

I've been doing a lot of reading lately (perhaps too much) on what it takes to succeed in one's athletic goals. Setting aside the genetic component that leads to superior performance, it does seem to come down to trust in one's training and confidence (maybe attitude is a better word) in one's ability to succeed.

Ran 13 miles on Saturday. Thirteen frickin' miles! That's a half! The first eight or so, no problem. After that, the doubts started to creep in. I was tired. The weather was starting to warm up more than I anticipated. I kept going though. I was supposed to do 15 actually, but at 13 I pretty much ended up on my own street, and running past my house and on for another two miles just didn't seem that appealing. After all, I need to run 13, I don't have to run 15--especially not when I was struggling and it was getting warm out there. The genetics? Not so much. I do trust in my training. I have been consistent. I have put out the effort and with rare exception, have completed my scheduled workouts as prescribed. The confidence part though?

Let's be honest. I know I can run the 13. I am confident I will complete the race without any undue issues. But I'm not entirely confident I will complete it in the time I want to complete it in. All the calculators put me somewhere in the 2:16 range. I know I can run it in the 2:30 +/- range. But 2:16? Granted, it should be quite a bit cooler out there by November, which is definitely going to help. And I will have that much more training under my belt by that point. And then there's the taper--I should be well rested and ready to go. But 2:16?

In the interest of staying positive, I do have something kind of cool to report. Although my Garmin foot pod has been giving me wonky readings on the treadmill, I've left it clipped to my shoe when running outside. Didn't realize this until after this Saturday's run, but even though I was using GPS outside, apparently the foot pod continues to send cadence data to the Garmin. Uploaded my run when I got home and 'lo and behold, my cadence averaged 90 steps per minute! Right where it should be. Even better, I looked more closely at the data from my last few outdoor runs, and sure enough, there has been a steady improvement in cadence from the low 80's to this 90. W00T!

Observed: Four shiny pennies. One knit fingerless glove. One dirty navy blue mens' dress sock. WTF? How do you lose one dress sock out on the road?


She's A Brick House...

She's mighty, mighty... well not really. And truth be told, it wasn't a true brick anyway. I've been intrigued by workout strategies used by triathletes for some time, and the brick is the most interesting of all. As I understand it, it's a back to back workout of moderate duration, starting out with bicycling and then transitioning to running. The key is in the transition--helping your body to move as smoothly as possible from cycling legs to running legs.

With all the business travel the last couple of weeks, and just my general "it's Fall out there and I need to prepare to hibernate" slacker mentality, I haven't ridden my bike as much as I should. But I knew that I had a 14 miler on the schedule for Saturday morning. What to do? A brick was in order. But this was the brick of a runner, not a triathlete. Got up around 6:30 while it was still cool out there (believe it or not, we're experiencing one of those famed Indian Summers around here with temps upwards of 100 degrees--although, isn't an Indian Summer where it has cooled off and then you have a late season rebound? That just never happened this year. Anyway, I digress). So, where was I? Oh yes, got up early and logged six miles on the Trek. Came home, fixed myself some breakfast, read the paper, and mentally prepared myself for what was ahead.

I've given up running outside when the temps are like this. I'm too tired to get out the door in sufficient time before the heat kicks in. Yes, I know--I did get up to ride my bike at 6:30, but here's the deal. That would only take me a half hour or so. A 14 miler would take 2.5 hours minimally. And by that point we'd be looking at 80+. I know in my heart of hearts that come November when I run that Half, race time temps will top out in the 60 to 65 degree range, and if they don't then the Apocalypse is upon us. As such, I'm just done with running in anything but a comfortable temperature range. So how did I get that 14 miler in you ask? Treadmill.

Now I know that most would rather put a pick axe through their eye than run on the treadmill for any longer than about a half hour. I certainly prefer to be outside, but it needs to be on my terms and right now, Mother Nature is just not giving in. Still, I find running distances on the treadmill to be, shall I say, therapeutic? Something about the controlled steady pace, no sights to distract, no exhaust to smell. It has a calming effect on me.

If you look at the workout over there on the right, you'll see that I went a little longer than scheduled. 15.88 miles. That's to make up for the wonky pace readings thrown out by my Garmin foot pod for the first six or seven miles or so. It was making me crazy. There was no way I was running that fast (a sub 8:00 min. mile in many cases). That in turn, would throw off the mileage. Magically, after mile 7, Gar got with the program and my pace readings leveled off in the 11:00+ range (that's more like it). I feel pretty confident that that last leg of the run was accurate, but I threw in an extra 1.88 miles to compensate for earlier screwiness.

The point of this post, however, is to highlight the value of the runner's brick. Lesson conveyed.


Popping The Race Cherry...

How apropos that this morning's Runners' World 'Daily Kick in the Butt' quote would be a commentary on race performance made by Jack Daniels: "Most mistakes in a race are made in the first two minutes, perhaps in the very first minute." Truer words were probably never spoken.

Sunday, September 20 marked the popping of my race cherry. Long ago I decided that I would run the Susan G. Komen Race for a Cure 5k on October 24 as a prelude to the Two Cities Half on November 8. I felt I needed to get a race under my belt before the big race so I would have an idea what to expect. When I learned that there would be a local 10k benefitting cancer research at St. Agnes Hospital to be held on September 20, I decided that there was no time like the present to get that 'first' under my belt. I was told that I would "have a blast" by a friend who ran it last year.

I'm not sure I would characterize what I experienced as a blast. Not that it was bad, mind you. Maybe surreal is a better word. I had my race strategy down--back of the pack, go out slow, maybe run that first mile at 11:00 to get warmed up and then gradually increase my pace to around 10ish, and finish strong.

The starting gun went off, the pack began to move, and before I knew it, I was swept up in the large crowd, jockeying for open space and listening to the sound of all the footsteps hitting the pavement. Bottom line, I made the rookie mistake of going out too fast. Not that it felt too fast. I was feeling good. The morning was relatively cool. I latched on to a group and kept pace with them for about three miles--at about a 9:30 pace.

Next big mistake I made was at the water station at mile two. I didn't see it coming and blew right past it. My mouth was dry and I could have used a quick drink. I surmised that water stations would be at miles 4 and 6 thereafter and decided I would just have to hold on.

Mile 4 was a little slower at 9:58. And then Mile 5... The first three quarters weren't too bad, that is until I turned the corner on Stanislaus and saw this giant overpass in front of me. Not that I wasn't forewarned, but sheesh! Straight up hill over the freeway for what seemed like an interminable distance. I ended up walking about the last third before the crest. I had company though, so I didn't feel so bad. The ride down was swift, but not enough to salvage the lost time on the way up. Mile 5: 10:44. Mile 6 was mostly in the sun and it was getting quite warm by that point. I walked through the water station as I slurped down another cup. 10:24 pace. That last little bit as I ran into Chukchansi Park to the roar of the crowd (well, there was clapping and encouragement at least) was at a 10:14 pace.

Total race time was 1:01:26 with a 9:58 average pace. I was hoping to break 60 minutes, and probably would and could have had I not walked up that damned overpass. Oh well, live and learn. That's me coming into the chute with the bright pink top and sunglasses.


Running in New Mexico...

Let me start off by saying, New Mexico is an incredible state. I've always fancied myself an ocean lover--I was born in Carmel, California, and always assumed that the sea must have had some special hold over me as a result. I now know that the Desert Southwest speaks to me as well.

My trip to Alamogordo was brief to say the least. I sort of planned it that way--regrettably, I now know. I didn't want to impose on my aunt and uncle for too long, and I had some other tasks to accomplish on my ten days off as well, thus, the 3.5 day sojourn. Alamogordo is probably like any other small town in the desert, a bit run down and lacking in amenities (the highlight is a big Walmart), and really dry and dusty. Still there is a certain amount of rustic charm that just can't be found elsewhere.

Maybe it was the fact that at least on three sides, the canyons and mountains loomed. Perhaps it was the swath of white sand seen off in the distance from just about any vantage point. Lack of traffic crawling along at a snail's pace. How about the fact that every where you went, people were incredibly friendly and hospitable (not a single grunt, groan, or mean glare anywhere). Whatever it was, Alamogordo, NM, and it's surrounds were incredible. I would highly recommend a trip there.

Did I mention my uncle has run more marathons than he can count? How about the fact that at 72, he's still so buff that he could kick most people's asses? He works out daily at the gym on Holloman AFB, and still runs and cycles regularly. My aunt is just as active, if not quite as athletic. Made for a perfect trip. Beauty at every turn, and lots of physical activity.

Since my uncle was aware of my plans to run my first half marathon, he made certain to schedule a variety of runs for me. Day 1, a simple 2.5 on relatively flat terrain--something about needing to acclimate to the 4300 foot elevation. Day 1 was followed by a two hour gym session where I received lessons on the finer points of weight lifting workouts that would benefit my runner's legs. The the best part of Day 1--a run over the dunes at White Sands National Monument.

Day 2 was a hill run--of what seemed to this Flatlander's eyes--monumental proportions. Scenic Drive was the name. One mile, pretty much straight up. OK. That's a bit of an exaggeration. It was more like a quarter mile of a relatively gentle incline, and then 3/4's straight up to the top where a big storage tank marked your accomplishment. The picture I took just doesn't do it justice. You really can't get a sense of how steep a climb it was. Ran it twice, and felt great. Thought about running it a third time, but knew that my uncle had additional activities planned for us and I was afraid I would be totally wiped out.

Day 3 included about a 3.5 mile run down from their house in the 'hood to the main drag, and back. Did I mention that it was 'up' on the way back? And did I mention that I ran with their dog, Pepe? A first for me. Damn, that dog had some stamina! That early morning run was followed by a short trip up in the mountains to the Cloudcroft Lodge for a spectacular breakfast of Eggs Benedict with coffee and grapefruit juice. Perfect way to top off physical activity to my way of thinking!

And finally, an few other shots of incredible beauty for your enjoyment...


TIaRT: The Gold Star Kid...

Imdecken from Chasing the Kenyans asks this week's Take It and Run Thursday question:

What do you do to get yourself motivated to run when it feels like it's the last thing you want to do?

Way back when I was a young'n (I'm talking Kindergarten here), whenever you did something right, the teacher would lick one of those metallic gold star stamps and stick it to your forehead for all the world to see. The gold star on the forehead became a prime motivator for me. I couldn't wait to get through recess, the afternoon snack, and the period where we rested with our heads down on the desks, to the point where I could run home, burst through the front door and show off my accomplishment to my mother. I became known as the "Gold Star Kid."

I'm a lot older now, but old habits die hard. My training log has replaced the gold star. When I'm having trouble motivating myself to run, I go back through my log and review how far I've come, how my times have improved, and how many miles I have on my feet. It never fails to be a motivator for me. Just knowing that I have accomplished something in the past--and perhaps knowing that it is all too easy to take a day off, and then another, and then another until the threat of a sedentary lifestyle looms--and I head out the door just about every time.

Returned from New Mexico late last Saturday night. I didn't exactly run the sylvan trails I was hoping (it was more like running the 'hoods of Alamogordo instead of Fresno) but the vibe was entirely different. Between the altitude (4300 feet), the major hills, and the beautiful mountains looming at every turn, it was spectacular all the same. Been jammed up all this week, but pictures and more details will follow when I get a chance.


In Search Of The Sylvan Trail...

After this morning's sucky run, I most definitely need to recharge my batteries. Was supposed to have been a five mile tempo run at 10:08 pace. The first three miles or so weren't too bad, but those last couple...

Leaving for New Mexico tomorrow. Here's hoping I find the elusive 'sylvan trail,' while I'm there.


Passive Recovery...

Despite having a 10 mile long run on the schedule for this morning, I did something I rarely do--even on the weekends. I slept. And then I slept some more. If it wasn't for the cat walking around my head at around 9am looking for breakfast, I'd probably still be there. Let's just say, it was was a very long week.

I did come to once or twice at key times--about 5:15am (which is the time I'm usually heading out the door to beat the heat), again at about 6:30am (still not too late to get my long run in before the heat), and again at about 8:15 (I'm pushing it now, but it might still be under 80 degrees. Is that cool breeze I feel coming through the window? Or is it just the ceiling fan above the bed going full tilt?) By 9am it was a lost cause.

I've been giving a great deal of thought lately to recovery. So essential, but so hard to commit to. I'm feeling the guilt of a slacker even now as I type. I'm also playing out various scenarios in my head on how to get that long run in Sunday morning and still make it to my regular yoga class. That pushes my regular Sunday morning bike workout to when? Saturday night? If it's like last night, it was still 95 degrees at 8pm. Oy.

A recent article in "Triathlete" magazine by Melanie McQuaid entitled "Knowing Your Limits" did a great job of identifying the various types of recovery modalities used by runners (or in this case, those masochists called triathletes) including massage, heat/cold hydrotherapy, and the old standby, NSAIDS. Also mentioned were what she referred to as 'old school' modalities including stretching, more sleep, active recovery, and nutrition. The irony though is that even when any or all of these modalities are used, there's just no way to know whether recovery has in fact occurred. Sure you might feel better the next day or during the next workout, but you are always walking a fine line between improved fitness and overtraining. Her advice: Follow a sensible training plan--and don't do more than is called for, even if you feel like you could go out and run an ultra. She closes by reminding us that it is "better to be underdone than overcooked on race day." Words to live by, I should think.

Observed: The inside of my eyelids--for a very long time.


Ten Signs That I Had Become a Runner...

My first official 'Take It and Run Thursday.' And what a great topic! Marlene of Mission to a(nother) Marathon asks:

When did you know you had become a runner? Was there a defining moment, or was it a gradual progression over time?

While I'd like to point to an A-ha moment, truth is, the onset was gradual. Thus, I present...

Ten Signs That I Had Become a Runner:

1) I cried after completing my first run of thirty minutes duration.

Started running a little over a year ago on the treadmill following the "Couch to 5k" training program. Can still see it in my mind's eye like it was yesterday. Watching the countdown on the treadmill dashboard. Hearing the distinctive 'ding' when the time ran out. Sweat pouring off me. Tired, but exhilarated at the same time. Embarrassed to find myself spouting tears, but there they were. It's just running for goodness sake. Millions of people do it. And now I was one of them.

2) Started rolling out of bed at 5am to get in my run.

Never ever considered myself a morning person, but always set the alarm for 5am anyway. Why? So I could hit the snooze for 45 minutes before committing to the day. Felt a little like stickin' it to the Man. I'll get up when I'm good and ready and not because I have to. Maybe take a little extra time to read the paper or check my email while eating breakfast. You get the picture. Running after work was difficult with the warm temps and fatigue from the workday. One day about nine months ago it occurred to me 'Hey, maybe you could get your lazy ass out of bed and put that time to good use.' Been doing it ever since. And sometimes it's dark and cold out there and I'm still doing it.

3) Talked about running all the time to my husband.

So much so that he finally had to say, "I get that you're excited, but I don't need to hear about it all the time." 'Nuff said.

4) Became an avid "Runner's World" reader.

After all, what runner doesn't read "Runner's World?"

5) My blogroll of running blogs seemed to grow exponentially overnight.

Go ahead, check it out. I'll wait. It's right over there ->->->->

6) Had to move up to a larger suitcase when traveling on business to accommodate my running shoes and clothes, and my Garmin.

If someone knows of a good way to pack these things into a smaller bag without harming your business attire, please let me know.

7) Started to accumulate an amazing library of running books.

Some that I would highly recommend include this, this, and this.

8) Signed up for a Half Marathon.

Now that I'm several weeks into my 'official' training, I keep asking myself "What in the heck did I get myself into?"

9) Admitted in public that I signed up for a Half.

The first admission was made very tentatively. I now speak with conviction. It gets easier. Trust me.

10) Started this blog.

I consider it my 'coming out' party. Not sure if I will ever garner a regular readership, but that's not really the point. The blog is a place to capture my passion, to explore my insecurities, and to document my successes and failures with all things running.

Here I am ... A Runner.


Oh To Be A Route-ist...

It was with great relish that I sat down to read, cover to cover, the August edition of "Runner's World" earlier this week. And when I say cover to cover, I mean that literally. I was stopped in my tracks though when I read David Willey's Editor's Letter bemoaning a recent vacation in Northern Michigan on Walloon Lake where he was relegated to running "five miles on a paved road that could've been in suburban Detroit," instead of the "sylvan trail along the water" that he dreamed of. Mr. Willey said that he "subscribed to the belief that one should run on the best, most scenic route possible," and declared himself a "route-ist."

Virtually all the miles I have logged so far this year have been on paved roads that could have been in suburban Detroit. They weren't. They were logged on flat as a pancake, hot as a mother (well, in the summer, anyway) suburban Fresno, California. I run the 'hood for the most part--thus the name of this blog. Past "little boxes made of ticky tack," zigging and zagging to avoid parked cars and the occasional garbage truck. Counting the number of fast food wrappers left abandoned on the street. Running the stretch along the railroad track where if you time it just right, and the Amtrak blazes past you, for a moment all time seems to stop as you no longer hear your labored breath or the sounds of your feet hitting the ground. Saying hello to the occasional walker or waving to the rare fellow runner passing by in the other direction. That's my runner's world.

I long for the 'sylvan trail.' I want to fancy myself a route-ist. But it seems as though you actually have had to experience the exhilaration of running through beauty first to claim that title. For now I will have to settle for miles of asphalt and lots of broken glass instead. In the end, does it really matter? Isn't it really about the running and not the run? Process versus outcome?

How about you? Are you are route-ist?


Funny The Way It Is...

From the moment I heard that new song by the Dave Matthews Band, it resonated with me. It's true...it is funny the way it is. You can want something, but when the going gets a little tough, you can think of a million and one excuses why it no longer matters and you want to abandon the goal.

I've only been running a little over a year. Like many, I took up the sport as a means to an end--I had about fifteen pounds to lose. The calorie burn promised by running is very attractive--particularly for the time investment. Seemed like a winner to me. Followed the "Couch to 5k" plan like so many others and in just nine weeks, I was a runner. I vividly remember the first time I ran steadily for thirty minutes. I cried tears of joy. Something that seemed so impossible at the outset became a reality.

Somewhere the Type A in me took over. It was no longer about losing weight or getting fit (sure, those things happened, but by that point, it was immaterial). Suddenly it was about the run...getting better, going faster, enduring longer. I always tracked my results and studiously analyzed each run after it was completed looking for clues to improved performance. Still, I listened to my body each day. If I felt like running, I did. If I didn't, I didn't. If I wanted to run fast, I did. If I didn't, well, you get the idea. It was fun.

Like many runners, I decided to dip my toe into competition. I targeted a local half marathon, the Two Cities, in November, 2009. I carefully researched a number of training plans and read countless running books looking for pearls of wisdom. The 'beginner' plans just seemed too easy and unfocused...run thirty minutes, run for one hour. I craved more structure and challenge. I wanted that plan that said do this for this long and at this pace. In the end, the First training plans hit home. Structured? Most definitely. Down to the prescribed pace. But without a local track nearby, following the plan religiously was going to be difficult. In typical fashion then, I re-worked the plan to take advantage of my treadmill for the speed work. Not quite the same, but it will have to do.

And that's when it got funny...suddenly the structure felt like a noose around my neck. The runs that I used to so look forward to became like drudgery. Instead of running when I wanted to and how I felt like it, I now had to accomplish something on a regular basis. You should hear the dialogue going on in my head as I struggle to pull myself out of bed to put on my running shoes.

Funny the way it is. How about you? Do you struggle like this, or is it just me? What mind games do you play with yourself to keep focused on the goal?


Sixteen Butts and What Do You Get...?

Just shy of nine miles, that's what you get.

Week 2 of my modified First training plan for my upcoming Half in November didn't go exactly as planned. Life, of course, got in the way. Spent four days on the road meeting with staff, attending training, and conducting budget planning discussions. Got the Sunday morning 6 mile bike ride in without an issue. Check. Sunday yoga. Check. The first indicator of trouble was knowing that I had a three hour car ride in front of me on Monday morning. Even though I was out the door just after 5am, the planned 5 mile tempo run got cut short. The prescribed pace (9:53) eluded me and my heart and head were more concerned about getting behind the wheel in time to make my first meeting than finishing a yucky tempo run. Effort not exactly abandoned, but not exactly completed either. Half-check.

For the regular business traveler saddled with the limitations of per diem and government lodging rates, Hampton Inns can be a friend away from home. Nicely appointed, usually quiet and clean, and serving up a reasonably decent light breakfast. What more can anyone ask? I'll tell you what more...a decent fitness center. Knowing that I needed to knock out 3 hilly miles, I thought, I know, I'll just use the treadmill at the hotel. All treadmills usually have some pre-set runs that include a hills option, right? Not this one. Oh, it had a way to set the incline, but unless you were willing to keep adjusting the setting during the run (and the buttons would stick and not change the incline), you were out of luck. Not that it really mattered though--my calves were still screaming from my tempo run earlier in the week. Still, I managed to knock out the three miles before calling it quits.

Saturday's long run was postponed until Sunday due to a family engagement. Blew off Sunday yoga and the normal 6 mile bike ride to get the planned nine miles in. Averaged 11:18 against a planned 11:28. Not too bad, all things considered.

Observed: Sixteen cigarette butts sighted along the loop. One washer and a broken O ring. A rusty nail. Two screws. And something that looked like a bullet shell.