Sunday, January 25, 2015

16 mile Sunday

Church of the Sunday Long Run is progressing nicely.  Knocked out 16 miles this afternoon. Compared to the polar vortex we experienced last winter, it's been pretty mild so far this year, and I ran today in just shorts and a long sleeved shirt.  I hear there's a snow storm on the way, though.  Just in time for midterms at school this week...

I felt sluggish at the end of today's run, perhaps because I never had a proper rest day after last week's long run got moved to Monday, and on Tuesday I went right ahead with the next week of training.

The goal is to hit a string of 22 milers, maybe even longer, and complete one 100 mile week this training cycle.  At the first sign of over-exhaustion or excess pain, though, I may pull the ripcord and bail.

So, all things considered, training is going well so far.  85 days until Boston.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Free Spartan Race 2015 giveaway!

Last spring I was contacted by the good people of Spartan Race asking if I would be willing to promote their race on my blog.  In exchange they gave me a free race code to give away to my readers.  They also gave me a code to use for myself, but I was never able to make it to a Spartan Race last year.  Fortunately for you, they have generously offered the same deal for 2015, so here we go...

First of all, for those unaware, Spartan Race is an obstacle race series held all over the United States.  They offer varying lengths, including the Spartan Sprint (3+ miles), the Spartan Super (8+ miles), and the Spartan Beast (12+ miles).

As a new parent, and someone who has spent the entirety of my working life with kids, I'm pleased to see they also offer a Spartan Kids race, with age appropriate obstacles for kids from 4 - 13, and 100 percent of the proceeds benefitting the Kids Fit Foundation.

Dan the PR man has let me know that they have not been resting easy over at Spartan HQ, and they have a ton of new things in store for 2015.

These include:
  • The first ever Spartan Race Cruise.  In March Spartan Race is sailing to the Bahamas for a Spartan Sprint.  Joe De Sena, Founder and CEO of Spartan Race, will also be along for the ride.
  • Speaking of Joe De Sena, he's launching a podcast called Spartan Up in which he interviews titans of the fitness industry and shares tips for living a fit and active life.
  • Lake Tahoe will host the Spartan World Championship in October.
  • There is a season pass for 2015 which offers great perks.
Here's a map for the locations this year.  If you're in the Philly area, there are plenty of Spartan Races nearby this year, and I hope to see you at one of them.

Now for the fun part.  I'm once again conducting a giveaway for one free entry to any Spartan Race in the continental US in 2015.  Like last time, all you have to do is leave me a comment telling me why you want to do the Spartan Race, and a way I can contact you.  Like last time, I'll leave the contest open for a week, and next Saturday night I'll pick a winner.

Good luck, and thanks for reading!

Monday, January 19, 2015

The first 100

Yesterday was the nastiest day of winter yet, with temps in the low thirties, black ice everywhere, and freezing rain all day.  I had 14 miles on the agenda, and normally I would have tried to suck it up and go running anyway.  Because I had the day off from school today, though, I decided to reschedule. Stevie and her friend watched bad movies all day, and I baked a loaf of banana bread.  Like you do.

Today was slightly warmer and a lot drier, so considerably more enjoyable.  I ran in just shorts and a long sleeved shirt, and stopped at the Haddonfield Running Company to drink some water and eat the gel I'd brought with me.

The 14 miles today put me at 112 miles for the year, which means I got to claim my 100 mile bib from the Run the Edge 2,015 in 2015 Challenge:

2015 is off to a great start.  The weather is cooperating for the most part, my body is holding up, I'm getting in the miles, and focusing on nutrition more.

How is your 2015 going?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

My own personalized training plan

When we last checked in with my friend Suze, I was helping her out with a homework assignment for her exercise science and health promotion degree.  She's back at it, this time for an assignment in which she had to create a personalized marathon training plan.  I love nothing more than a random professor somewhere reading of my marathon exploits, so I agreed to be her guinea pig again.

She sent over the completed, 11 page paper tonight and here are a few excerpts:
Scott is a 33-year-old marathon runner.  His first marathon was the Philadelphia Marathon in 2005 at a finish time of 4:29:47.  Since then, he has been diligently reducing his time and ultimately qualified for the Boston Marathon at the 2013 Philadelphia Marathon with a time of 3:03:05.  His registration was accepted and he plans to run Boston on April 20, 2015.  He therefore requires a 13-week training program with the goal of a personal record (PR).
I'm not actually planning to PR at Boston.  Training through the winter with a baby at home and running a tougher course than Philly will make it difficult to do so, but Suze decided this would work better for her assignment.
Scott's marathon goal time is 2:59:00 (a 6:50 per mile pace [Figure 1]).  The Boston Marathon's elevation involves more hills compared to Philadelphia's relatively flat course (Figures 2 and 3).  Instead of running every day, Scott will now add in a six-week program that includes two days of strength training and one rest day for increased muscle recovery.  After those six weeks, he will switch to a seven-week program with hill sprints and tempo runs to maintain the power output gained earlier.
She goes on to describe sciency things like lactate threshold, voluntary neuromuscular adaptation, and maximal oxygen uptake.

She then describes the steel rigidity of my hamstrings we learned about in her last assignment.
Some special attention will be given to Scott's hamstrings for several reasons. Over-lengthening weakens the muscle as it is in an inefficient position to produce a contraction.  Weak hamstrings is a risk factor for decreased running economy, shortened length stride, and potential muscle or tendon injury... Part of his program will include core stability and stretching of the hip flexors and knee extensors to corect the pelvi tilt and reduce the stretch effect on the hamstrings. Exercises include plank variations, medicine ball throws with a twisting motion, and single-leg bridges.
I've mentioned this on the blog before, but I should reiterate that I've never actually followed a training plan in my life.  Every success I've had in distance running has come down to gut intuition and listening to my own body and experience.  In short, I just make it up as I go.  So it's interesting to have someone take all of my experiences, and where I'm at currently, and apply a scientific look to it.

I can't say I'll go all out for Boston and try everything Suze mentions in her report, but when I do attempt a sub 3 marathon, it'll be nice to have this document to dust off and consult.

In the meantime...

Friday, January 16, 2015

The relentlessness of marathon training

The word that comes to mind lately when I think of marathon training is "relentless."  Each day brings another training run, and each week increases the intensity and total miles ever so slightly.  It doesn't matter if I've had a long day at work, if I got little sleep the night before, or if I haven't eaten properly.  The next scheduled training run arrives whether I'm ready or not, and the miles just keep on piling up, day after day after day.

For the most part I like it like this.  I like the intensity, the feeling of accomplishment, the sense of challenging myself when it would be so easy to stay inside all winter.

But as every marathoner knows, there are some pretty dark moments in every training cycle when I seriously question why this is my hobby.

But as with anything in life, there are pros and cons, ups and downs, strikes and gutters, and if the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, then maybe it is all worth it.  Right now the parts are made up mostly of cold, darkness, sweaty clothes, and even some doubt.  But lodged somewhere in there is still a healthy dose of excitement for marathon weekend in April, and when it's all said and done and I can finally examine the whole, I'm sure it will all be worth it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

What a difference two days make

On Sunday I completed 10 miles in the brutal (to me) Florida heat and humidity.  I had to stop twice during the run, once to walk and once to duck into a Publix for a drink of water.  Side note: I used to drink from the sprinklers in front yards I passed until Stevie told me the sprinklers use canal water. This is what the ducks look like that swim in those canals:

Florida cancer-faced duck

No thanks.

Now I'm back in New Jersey where the weather is considerably colder, and we had our first snow today.

Winter running in Florida vs. New Jersey

The only thing getting me outside in these conditions is the thought of lining up for Boston this April. The temperature frequently falls into the single digits in New Jersey during January, and, as usual, I'm training without access to an indoor track or a treadmill.

Happy trails to y'all, and send some motivation my way!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Movie Monday: The biomechanics of marathoning

Suze passed this along, and it's a fascinating look at Meb Keflezighi, Olympic silver medalist and New York and Boston Marathon champion, among other accolades.

Filmed by ESPN, the video concentrates on an elite runner's biomechanics and what it takes to not only run a marathon, but to run it well enough to win it.

I am by no means a science person, but I nevertheless found this video fascinating.  Enoy!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2014 mileage total

Monthly mileage totals for the year:

January: 65
February: 131
March: 173
April: 201
May: 237
June: 146
July: 170
August: 144.2
September: 100
October: 131.5
November: 75.1

And December:

That brings me to a grand total of 1,676.8 miles for the year, 337.2 miles short of my goal of 2,014.

Stevie: Too bad we're not living in the 1600's.

Friday, January 2, 2015

2015 running goals

Here are my goals for 2015:

1. Run 2,015 miles.  Holdover from 2014 goals.  Looking forward to redemption this year.  As mentioned, I've joined an official challenge, so maybe that will help with motivation.

2. Run the Boston Marathon.  This is more like a life goal than a 2015 goal, and it shouldn't be too difficult as I'm already signed up for it this year and will run it come hell or high water.

3. Run a 50 miler.  The time committment scares me more than the actual hard work involved.  I already take enough time away from my family with all the marathoning.  But I'm really itching for running 50 miles through rugged terrain and the feeling of accomplishment at the end.

4. Run across the state of NJ.  I've been wanting to do this for years.  Start at the Delaware River and run to the Atlantic Ocean.  It's only about 60 miles, so it seems doable.

5. PR my beer mile time.  My first beer mile was slower than molasses in winter, so this shouldn't be too difficult.  Need to practice chugging beer.

6. PR my half marathon time.  This will take some serious dedication over the summer, but I think it is doable.

7. Run a sub 3:00 marathon.  Probably the toughest goal on this list.  It will take every ounce of effort I have to make this goal.  

8. Continue to make running friends, both in my immediate community as well as online.  I hope to spread the reach of this blog, connect with people/companies on Twitter, and see what opportunities open up.

9. Continue the run streak throughout 2015.  I've been at it for over a year now.  This one is ingrained in me by now.

10. Run more trail races.  I love trail running but don't do enough of it.  It's pretty hard to find decent trails in New Jersey, so I'll have to go out of state to find some good races.

11. Run a Spartan Race.  I was given free entry to a Spartan Race last year but never got to use it. Dan the PR man was kind enough to allow me to defer to 2015.  I'll be writing more about the Spartan Race soon.

Non-Running related:

1. Publish a piece of writing.  Anything.  Whether it's in the Top Dog Runner's World, or some publication no one has ever heard of.  Whether it has something to do with running or not.

2. Travel to a country and/or U.S. state I have never been before.  I have seven states to go in my quest to visit all 50.  I've never been to Africa.  The possibilities are endless.  Better start saving now.

3. Continue to spend time with Neale and Stevie.  Spend quality time with the people I love to build the foundation for a strong and loving family.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2,015 in 2015

I joined the 2,015 in 2015 challenge put on by Run the Edge (Tim Catalano and Adam Goucher - Kara Goucher's husband).  Same deal as last year, except one extra mile.  This time, though, there is a whole online community to go along with it.  Kind of makes the thing a lot more exciting.

The challenge allows people to team up with one or two others, and also allows them to walk. Just like last year, though, I'll be running the whole thing, and by myself.

This morning I ran five miles in the sweaty humidity of South Florida to kick off the challenge. Only 2,010 miles to go.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 revisited

Let's start off by revisiting my running goals and resolutions for 2014:

1. Run 2,014 miles: Uncompleted.  I derailed at the end of August when Neale was born.  I was upset for a bit but I just joined a formal challenge to attempt 2,015 miles in 2015, so I'm just excited to have another go at it, but this time with a whole online community for support.

2. Make more running friends: Completed.  I joined both the South Jersey Athletic Club and a more informal Wednesday night running/beer group called Who's Up.  I love the guys in the latter group and look forward to seeing them each week.

3. Run a Tough Mudder with friends: Uncompleted.  Hope to do a Spartan Race this year, with or without friends.

4. Run a spring marathon: Uncompleted.  Almost ran the Providence Marathon but couldn't get my act together in time to organize hotel/transportation.

5. Run my first ultra: Completed.  Ran the Dirty German Endurance Fest 50k on May 18th. Was really a wonderful race and nice introduction into the world of ultras.  Hope to do more in the coming years.

6. Run across the state of NJ: Uncompleted.  This one has been on the list for years, but I still didn't get to it this year.

7. Run a sub 3:00 marathon: Uncompleted.  This was my goal before I knew Stevie was pregnant and was due in August, but I still included it on the list.  Why not dream big, right?

8. Run a beer mile: Completed.  Ran one on June 21st with Stevie in attendance.

9. Complete my first triathlon: Completed.  Completed the Grind in the Pines Sprint Triathlon on August 10th.

10. PR my half marathon time: Uncompleted.  I might have stood a chance at this one if I had been able to run the Rock n' Roll Half in September like I do every year, but this year I had a wedding to go to that weekend.

11. Streak 2014: Completed.  I ran 6 miles this morning, and with that, I have officially run every single day of the year.

That makes me 5 out of 11 for my goals this year.  Most of the goals I missed this year I'm just going to put onto my list of goals for 2015, and I'll add a few more to the list.  I'll post about that soon.

In terms of running, 2014 was a great year.  After running my 10th marathon in 2013 and my second BQ, I was looking forward to expanding my running horizons in 2014, and I definitely managed that. I streaked the entire year.  I joined two running clubs and connected more with the running community in my area.  I ran my first ultra, my first triathlon, and my first beer mile. I went to a whole running festival and ran a half marathon with the editors of Runner's World. Despite missing several goals, it was still an amazing year, and I'm looking forward to getting even better in 2015.

Outside of running, I traveled all over New England with Stevie, to Minnesota to visit my sister, to Florida to visit in-laws.  I started my 4th year of teaching high school German and gained tenure at the start of this school year.  Stevie and I moved into a new place over the summer.

But honestly, when talking about 2014, it's hard to mention anything other than the birth of my son.  Between Stevie's pregnancy, and the birth itself and the subsequent months of parenthood, it is easy to say that Neale utterly dominated 2014.  I have learned so much about myself, about what it means to be a father, a husband, and a person since he was born.

2014 really was a great year, and here's hoping 2015 is even better.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas in the Keys

Being married to a woman from Florida has its advantages, including but not limited to getting to spend Christmas in the Florida Keys.

I'm not one of those annoying New Jerseyans who bitches and moans about the cold weather all winter, but damned if it isn't nice coming down to the tropics in December.  I was too busy drinking cocktails by the water and swimming and running on the beach and eating amazing seafood to miss Christmas up north.

Here are a few more pictures to make you more jealous:

Neale and Stevie at dusk.

Sunrise on our final morning.
My mother-in-law thinks of everything, including bringing an inflatable Christmas tree to the Keys.

My second time in the Keys, and the second time we failed to make it to Key West, or to get my picture in front of the Marathon sign.  At least I found this in a gift shop.

This is now the picture that comes up on my phone when my father-in-law calls.

Dinner on our final night in the Keys.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The importance of stretching (?)

Suze came over tonight so I could help her with a homework assignment.  She's currently getting her MS in Exercise Science and Health Promotion and had to test someone in different areas of speed, flexibility and agility.  That's how I ended up doing sprinting drills in my driveway tonight:

I had to start in the middle, then sprint to the right, sprint to the left, then sprint back across the middle.

You know, the usual Monday night activities.

This assessment is actually meant for baseball players, not marathoners.  Suze told me they haven't gotten to the point in her class where she can assess marathoners, so baseball speedwork it is.

We then went inside where Suze had me do all sorts of stretches to measure my flexibility, and she learned just how ridiculously unflexible I am.  I can't touch my feet when I bend over and keep my legs straight.  Not even close.  I've always been like this, despite being both a gymnast and a diver  in my youth.  This all led to a debate on the importance of stretching for distance runners.

When I first started running in high school, I stretched religously before each run.  I never enjoyed it, but just saw it as a necessary part of training, because that's what everyone believed.  In recent years, however, research has told us that cold, static stretching not only doesn't help us as much as we thought, but can actually be damaging.  If any stretching should be done, it should be dynamic stretching after a brief warm up.

But I actually don't stretch at all.  Before a big race I might do some sort of warmup routine, but that has more to do with calming nerves than preventing injury.  I've obviously been successful enough without it, but Suze believes I could go even faster if I stretched properly.  I believe that stretching will make more flexible, but not necessarily faster.

The tightness in my muscles seems relegated to my hamstrings, which Suze believes may be due to an imbalance between my hamstrings (the back of my thigh) and my quadriceps (the front of my thigh).  They may not even be tight, just overpowered by the quads.  An orthopedist once told me I had overdeveloped quads, so this seems like a possibility.

We'll see how training goes over the next few months, and if I want to add in a stretching routine or not.  

Saturday, December 20, 2014

2015 Boston Marathon training plan

It's December 20, 2014.  This puts us at exactly four months away from the 2015 Boston Marathon, and four months is typically when I begin a marathon training plan.

I'll mention first that I'm not planning to PR at Boston.  The goal is to train hard this winter and arrive at the starting line fit, healthy and confident, and to enjoy race day and its atmosphere. Training intensely through a dark and cold winter with a baby at home, and racing on a more difficult course than Philly, all add up to more stress than I'd like over the coming months.

Here is the plan for the next four months, which will be pretty similar to my usual marathon routine:
  • I will continue the streak for as long as I am healthy and able.
  • Sundays will be my long run day, and Mondays will be my rest day in which I will only run a mile.
  • I used to do sprint work on the track every Thursday, but because I am not attempting a PR, I may not do this as much.  I hate sprinting.
  • I will definitely scale back on the alcohol, but probably not cut it out completely.  Can't give up on my Wednesday night running buddies, can I?
  • I am toying with the idea of running a 100 mile week.  This was one of my goals while training for the Philly Marathon last year, but I only made it to 73 before I developed shin splints in one leg.  This time I'll build up to it a lot more slowly.
  • I'm going to do my best to become a morning runner.  This is something I've typically struggled with over the years.  I've just never been good at getting up earlier than I have to.
  • As usual, I will concentrate on refining my diet and reigning in my appetite.
It's been over a year since my last marathon (though I did do a 50k last May), and I'm looking forward to having a physical goal to work towards again.  It helps that it's the Boston Freaking Marathon that I'm working towards.  So much of my time and energy over the past several years have gone into this one goal, so all the pain and misery of marathon training become secondary in the mind to the thought of race day glory (<-- new band name).  This makes it so much easier to get out the door on a cold morning, or to do that extra lap of sprinting on the track, or to avoid the extra donuts in the teachers' lounge, or to get to sleep early when I want to stay out later.

All told, it's going to be an excellent few months around these parts.

Take us off, Shalane.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Instant Gratification Run

The racing scene in America just got its newest addition, and where else but right across the river in the City of Brotherly Love.

Introducing the newest gimmick in racing:

It's called the Philly 0.0 Instant Gratification Run, and it's a race that involves no running whatsoever. It has all the hallmarks of a traditional race: participants receive race shirts, they're timed, and age group awards are given out.  But once participants pin the bib on their shirt and line up at the starting line, they simply cross the line and head straight for the after party.

As it says on their website: "All the fun, none of the committment!"  


More like: "All the gimmicks, none of the glory."

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Who's Up Christmas party

7 miles last night at the Haddonfield Running Company, then on to the Who's Up Christmas party at the Irish Mile.

Most of us wore our club T-shirts for the outing, and we took over a corner of the bar where we quaffed beers and discussed the need for a second printing of shirts, upcoming 2015 races, and of course beer.

From the Who's Up crew to you, Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

2015 Nuun Ambassador

I'm pleased to be able to share a recent development from the headquarters of I Thought They Said Rum: I just found out today I was selected to be a member of Nuun Hydration's 2015 Ambassador Program.

For the uninitiated, Nuun is a Seattle-based company that produces drink tabs that add both flavor and electrolytes to plain water.

Every year Nuun partners with bloggers/athletes around the country.  These blogger/athletes are asked to share Nuun on their social media outlets, and in return they are given the opportunity to race with Nuun at select races, as well as free and discounted Nuun gear.

So what does this mean for the blog?  It means I'll be sharing the occasional post about Nuun or the occasional picture of me drinking it/wearing Nuun gear.  Now, if you're a long time reader, you'll know I'm a bit wary of product placement on the blog.  But I don't mind writing about products I believe in when the opportunity arises.  Nuun makes a solid product, and from everything I've read about the company itself, it is a fun and innovative company that I am now happy to work with.

One of my goals in 2014 was to make more running friends, and I am planning to expand upon that goal in 2015.  I want to put myself out there more in the running community, both in my immediate area and online.  I'm hoping to revamp the blog, start a Twitter dedicated to running, and reach out to both runners around the country as well as unique running-related companies.  

Stay hydrated, friends, and here's to an incredible 2015.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Cold weather running

Last Wednesday a reporter and photographer showed up to our weekly run to do a story on cold weather running.

The article was published today in the Courier Post.

It's all about why running in the winter is actually ideal, why you should favor the outdoors over a treadmill, and how to suit up for harsher conditions.

The photographer got several shots of us standing outside of the store, and then made us start the run twice so he could get the shot from two different angles.

"Hurry up!  We've got beer waiting for us!"

Thursday, December 4, 2014

2014 Beer Mile World Championships

Someone finally took notice of the growing popularity of beer miles and decided to make it legit.

While most beer miles are run under the cover of darkness to avoid open container laws (or if you're like me, in the middle of the afternoon with kids around), and without much fanfare, the Austin-based company Flotrack decided to add a little pomp and circumstance to the event.

Flotrack recruited the best beer milers in the world and added professional timing, media coverage, prize money, and lots of screaming fans to the event.  To run in the main event, one had to qualify, but fortunately they allowed an open heat in order for the general public to join in on the debauchery.

The Beer Mile World Championships was held last night in Austin, TX, and Corey Gallagher of Canada won the men's race in 5:00.23, just a few seconds off the world record.  Elizabeth Herndon of USA set a world record and won the women's race in 6:17.76.

Now I can't wait to do another beer mile.  In the meantime, here's the video of the men's race:

Watch more videos on Flotrack

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Tis the season for Christmas beers

Amazing night of running and beer down at the Haddonfield Running Company tonight.

A reporter and photographer from the Courier Post came out for a story on cold weather running.  The photographer had a giant camera and two separate flashes set up on tripods outside of the store.  He was a bit dismayed at how relatively warm it was and how most of us were wearing shorts and T-shirts and was trying to position those of us with hats and gloves towards the front.  We joked that he should just photoshop heavier clothes on us and cover up our bare legs with three feet of snow.  The story is supposed to run next week on Monday.

My mileage and motivation have dipped to the point of seven miles becoming a struggle, but I handled tonight well enough.  Normally I run alone for the majority of the seven miles, but tonight a large group of us stuck together for awhile and we joked about being just like the lead pack of elite runners in a marathon.

It was my turn to bring the beer this week.  I decided to ring in the Christmas season with a round of Christmas beers (and the odd pack of Miller for those unadventurous folk):

The timing couldn't have been more perfect.  Just when I was getting sick of pumpkin beers, in come these wonderful spice soaked ABV bombs to remind me just how much I love Christmas beers.

We have a Texas transplant in the group who was overjoyed that I brought Shiner. Meanwhile, the Great Lakes and Southern Tier were the greatest things I've tasted since... No.  Nothing tastes as good as these beers.

Happy running to you, friends, and Merry Christmas.
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