Friday, December 29, 2006

2007 rapidly descending upon us

I am a very goal-oriented person. Somehow, I turned out very forward-thinking. It could be even to a fault, since it can be hard sometimes to appreciate the present.

I've got my list of 2007 goals and plans, which certainly includes but is not limited to running. On top of running, I've got general plans sketched out for career, financial management, writing and even a category I call "family, house and home life".

I even have a list of eight or so things I want to do in my city/neighborhood in 2007. For inspiration, check out a site called 43 Things. It's one of my favorites. In the meantime, I've got my running goals listed on the right hand side.

I had a very strong 7-miler in McMurray, PA on the trail near my in-laws place. I finished my last mile in at 6:32 (ok, so it was mostly downhill, I still had to go up it on mile 1!).

Next, I got my 5 mile recovery in today. I am 23 miles week to date, which is ahead of plan.

I hope to get in 12 miles tomorrow, but it is unlikely I will go early with the CARA team tomorrow. I've got a buddy in town who will want to go out ... late.

Prepare for your successful 2007...!

Marathon history

Posting my marathon history for future reference:

Chicago Marathon - 3:10:04 - 10/22/06
Tampa Gasparilla Marathon - 3:31:30 - 2/26/06
Houston Marathon - 3:23:55 - 1/15/05
Virginia Beach Marathon - 3:26:37 - 3/20/04
Pittsburgh Marathon - 3:29:23 - 5/4/03
Pittsburgh Marathon - 3:46:10 - 5/5/02
Pittsburgh Marathon - 4:15:52 - 5/6/01

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Holiday running in PA - 2007 planning

Reporting from Western PA in the South Hills of Pittsburgh, we're wrapping up a Christmastime visit to my in-laws. On the running front, I got out on Monday and Tuesday this week, with a break today.

Coolest Christmas gift came from mother-in-law (aka M.I.L.), which was the Amphipod RunLite 4 belt. Thanks, Mil!

The local landscape is extraordinarily hilly. The saving grace is a trail about 1 mile from my in-laws that has a steady but reasonable grade upward for several miles, which seems better than the steep, rolling variety.

The positive is that you get to glide down on your way back from an out-and-back. Weather has been mild here and the IT band has been sore but tolerable, as was the case during the 10 miler last Saturday. I couldn't pack "The Stick" due to suitcase constraints, so I have been trying to stretch diligently.

Monday - 5 miles - 38:45 - 7:45 pace
Tuesday - 6 miles - 45:50 - 7:40 pace
Wednesday - Rest today
Tomorrow - Another 5'er

I'm on track for my 32 mile target this week, assuming I can knock out 12 on Saturday. However, I have high school friends coming into town for New Year's, and we know they'll want to be out every night this weekend.

I want to run with Team CARA early Saturday morning, but it will be tough since my old pal will be in town and I can't tell him I need to go to bed at 9:30.

I've lined up my 2007 life goals and plans, which includes my running plans. I will share them on a post over the next couple of days.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Cautiously optimistic on progress

I am feeling cautiously optimistic about my IT band condition as a result of a decent week. I am seeing the light toward the end of the tunnel. Still a ways to go, but I am feeling like I can get out of my rut pretty quickly.

Good news is that I was able to achieve my mileage goal of 25+ without any issue.

I resumed running with the CARA "Boston Bound" group yesterday morning. We now meet at the Morton Aboretum in Lisle, which is a beautiful sanctuary of trees and nature. We run up there because of the well-kept paved roads, which are plowed in the wintertime, and the hills which will help prepare for Boston.

I was pleased to have run the 10 miles without really being bothered by the knee. Don't get me wrong; it is still aggravated. Perhaps I have learned that stretching before will minimize the impact - and the little bit of discomfort has become tolerable at this point. The group was going for another 3.5 mile loop and I could have gone more, but I din't want to push it. So I called it a week.

I have "The Stick" rolling pin device, from a gift from the mother-in-law two years ago. I never used the thing until now. However, I have found that it helps stretch out the IT band. I also have broken down and ordered the foam roller. I am changing my ways as a runner.

I think getting back out with a group helped me immensely. There was a group of about 8-10 runners that stayed together. These are the people that I trained for Chicago with.

I am going to beat this thing soon. I think I will ramp up to 32 miles next week, 36 for New Year's week and 40 the week of 1/8 -- which will be just in time for the PT to tell me that there's nothing wrong with me.

Week of 12/18/06 recap

Mon - 5 with fast finish
Tue - 4 general aerobic
Wed - REST
Thu - 4 easy
Fri - 5 recovery
Sat - 10 EZ - 7:55 pace
Sun - REST

TOTAL: 28 miles

Plan for 12/25/06 week

Mon - 4
Tue - 6
Wed - REST
Thu - 5
Fri - 5 Recovery
Sat - 12

Total: 32 miles

Boston Marathon is 113 days away. Stretch, stretch, stretch...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Running mind game

The soonest I can get into P.T. is January 8th. Frustrating reality as a cog in the massive wheel of the bureacratic machine known to the world as the dreaded HMO.

My wife is a speech therapist and has good references for physical therapists in her hospital system. I had an appointment all lined up for yesterday.

I subsequently was forced to cancel said appointment due to my insurance carrier forcing me into a larger healthcare system. Drat. And larger healthcare system apparently requires 3 week lead time for appt's!

I realize that my condition is not exactly life threatening. I need to keep things in perspective. But when it comes to strecthing and healing this running ailment, I need to be to told what to do. It's an interesting predictament for me. I am so damn independent in all other facets of my life. Not when I need to massage and stretch my pain away!

Tuesday, I went out for a 4-miler. The pain set in on the last mile. I ran high 7's pace. I feel no pain at all after I am done.

Yesterday, I rested.

This morning, I went out for an easy 4-miler again. Nothing special. Tenderness set in again. That slow, steady faint aching that gradually afflicts the left knee. It's a mind game nowadays. "It's all in your head," I tell myself. "How tough are you?" is a follow up question. 4 miles around the 8 min pace mark.

These runs are easy enough to get through. But what happens when I try to go another 13 like 11 days ago?? I am trying to stretch before and after, but I know I am not doing enough.

13 miles WTD - with hopes of a 5 recovery tomorrow and at least 8 on Sat.

Countdown to Boston Marathon - 115 days

Monday, December 18, 2006

The road to recovery leads to Boston

I rested an entire week from running and I really got the itch today to get back. I decided to wait until after this afternoon's appointment.

I went to the nurse practitioner today as planned and got my PT script. She basically agreed with the prognosis of the IT band (I need to credit Whitney for the fastest medical assessment). I knew I wouldn't learn anything from today's appt. but I needed to get it done. The nurse advised me to take 3 ibuprofen caplets 2x per day and wrote the script.

I wanted to get out tonight for a 4-miler to see how I felt. The weather is extremely favorable here right now. I felt good running 7:50 the first mile. First three miles were around that same pace.

I felt strong enough to extend it to 5 miles. My 4th mile I took a little slower to 8:40, only to crank it up on mile 5. Final mile 5 was a 7:09, which was nice.

Today's run: 5.12 miles - Avg pace: 7:55

All and all, the left leg felt OK, but I can still feel the ache in the knee. Gone are the days of not worrying about the leg - at least for now. Every step, I feel my mind evaluating how tender it is - and whether it's strong enough to keep running. This can be mentally taxing.

On the positive, I know I can run 5-8 miles without much issue. However, right now, I can't say with confidence that I will be able to go out and run 15 miles without wanting quit because of the pain.

It's a start what I expect will be an unsual "play it by ear" training plan. I am very meticulous planner, so this uncertainy will be challenging to endure. That's OK... all of this makes me appreciate running all the more, and will making being in Boston all that much sweeter.

Goal for the week: 25 miles

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Care-free seven day hiatus

I haven't run a step since last Sunday's race - not a one. I have no concerns about it either. Seems strange that I am so care-free considering that the Boston Marathon is 17 weeks from tomorrow and I am totally idle.

I wanted to take my first complete week off to start healing this knee / IT band. I think it's the right move; otherwise I'll be fighting this thing for weeks.

I am scheduled to see a nurse practitioner on Monday, who I hope can get me a script for physical therapy. I think I will start running some short distances (3-4 + stretch) this coming week.

My hope is that with prescribed stretching I can run 20 miles next week and get ramped up to 40 in about 3 weeks from now. If I can run 40+ mpw consistently starting in early January, I should be OK for Boston.

Right now, I don't have a clear plan. It's all gotta be on feel for now until I see how this therapy shakes out.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Las Vegas wrap-up

Ok so this may be a little long, but here goes anyway...

As did many runners, we found a place called Battista’s right down from our hotel for pasta on Sat night. This meant that I would deviate from my typical pre-race staple of a grilled chix sammy and Rice a Roni (this would later be significant during the race). I slugged a couple of beers before dinner – and a little bit of wine during. So maybe it wasn’t the best idea in the world, but we were in Vegas, baby.

Sunday AM: Start time was at 6AM. I rose at 4:25. I walked about two miles from the Barbary Coast to Mandalay Bay. That’s what I get for saving a few bucks. I couldn’t have gotten a cab if I wanted to with the roads closed off. The cool wind was whipping and I was questioning my short-sleeve decision.

It was a bit of a cluster as hundreds of runners scurried toward the start line. The layout of the start in front of Mandalay Bay faced North – while all of the hotels are south of the start. The start was fenced in and it was difficult to find the back of the pack.

When I heard the MC announce less than 5 min to start (which was a lie), I followed a bunch of others climbing an 8 foot tall fence to get in the start corral. After scaling one said barrier, I was pinned in with hundreds of fellow runners in against a second albeit shorter fence.

That’s right, hundreds of us had to climb not one, but two fences before running this race. Sardined in between fences, I patiently awaited the start as my legs stiffened. However, there were too many people to try to get over the 2nd fence, so many of us had no choice but to wait until the gun for the crowd to move. It was a debacle.

After fireworks, a Blue Man Group performance, some politicians yapping and a long-winded MC trying to get us pumped up, we finally heard the gun at 6:15’ish AM. I gingerly climbed the fence and began walking with the masses toward the start. About 4.5 min later, I began to run.

Because of my position in the way back, it was a dodge ‘em from the get go. I started behind the 4:45 pace group. Apparently, I was late in arriving to the start?

I must have passed 6,000 of the 16,000 runners during the first two miles. My watch read 13:40 at mile 2, but in retro looking at Garmin, no way was I that fast - marker had to be wrong. The Mile 2 marker was one of only a few that I saw the whole race.

Early on, I felt the bloat. Unfortunately, I knew I had a pit stop coming. Yeah, I went at the hotel – but apparently I wasn’t done – not by a long shot. That damn A/D pill didn’t work. Estimated break time: 3:30. After this break, I think I was at about 38:40 for 5 miles.

After shuffling out of the can, I headed toward the Fremont St. Experience. I knew this would be mile 6. Under the lit up dome, I was thrilled when I was able to make that left back towards the strip, while the other poor souls had to carry on into the windy, desolate roads of the outer Las Vegas vicinity for the whole 26.2.

Heading back south, the winds were very fierce - head on winds sucking the life out of me as my leg throbbed in the late miles. These winds were harder than in Chicago on marathon day. I never wavered but I could tell I didn’t have the power I had in my peak conditioning. My HR was consistently in the 170’s – conditioning may have been a factor. My miles were slower later in the race.

As expected, my IT band pain began to emerge around mile 8. It got pretty bad around mile 10. Not sure if the $15 IT band supporter that I bought at the expo did a lick of good. Frustrating me further was that I never knew where I was. Even the volunteers didn’t know the mile markers.

I think I finished pretty strong but I’m not sure (again, no markers). I just now saw my official time tonight, which was a 1:38:31 - an inexplicable 8:07 off my PR from August. Definitely not where I thought I’d finish, but at least I did it and didn’t get seriously hurt. Coolest part was getting my post-race photo with a sexy showgirl.

My legs have been stiff since the race on Sunday – but more so the leftie which has acted up for 3 weeks now. Next step: Therapy.


Not sure I would do this one again even if healthy and better prepared. Had I been running the 26.2 and trying for a serious time, I would have been pissed. The race needs stronger support and clear mile markers! Not to mention that it was pricey for what you got in the way of aid stations (which were sparse) – and a really crappy race T-shirt.

Also, 20 out of 26.2 of the miles seem lame. It was pretty sweet running down the strip, but miles 7 through 13.1 were through run-down city and industrial back-roads along I-15. I can’t imagine the rest of the full course carried much excitement.

Biggest excitement I had during miles 7-13 was witnessing a drunken & disorderly conduct arrest in progress on a street corner in a sketchy part of town. Fan support was weak. After I thought about it, everyone who was there is not a local and didn’t exhibit the pride in the community that most races generate.

So here is my excuse list:

1. Organization/Support – Logistics were crappy at the start, they couldn’t handle the crowd. Mile markers were non-existent. No offense to the back-of-packers, but being behind 5 hr group was a challenge. Time lost: 1:00
2. Winds – Can’t control it, I know, but those head winds put Chicago to shame. – Time lost: 1:30-2:00
3. GI Tract Readiness – Poor execution on my part (oh well!). Time lost: 3:45-4:00
4. Knee/IT Band – I favored my right leg for the last 5 miles. I must have looked like a waddling duck. Time lost: 1:00-1:30

If it had not been for all of the above factors, and have run better the last few weeks, I am pretty sure I would have had a chance at PR. Well, OK, maybe not…but, what the hell, at least I was out there. There, the excuse monkey is off my back.

Next time, I’ll take my $90 to the tables and skip going to bed at 8:30 PM on a Saturday night in Vegas.

Now off to some rest and a physical therapy screening on Monday. Oh yeah, I’m supposed to start running for Boston this week, but that may be on hold ‘til I get some healing in.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Destination Vegas

Sat 12/09/06 - St. George, UT

Long journey from Chicago on Thursday morning. I flew to NY and then made the short drive to CT for a meeting at work headquarters. Then hopped a flight from JFK to Vegas on Thursday night. Long day, was up for 23 hours.

Jen and I made the 2 hour drive from LAS airport, cutting the corner of AZ to get to my folks' place in UT at 1AM on Thursday night. Here's a first: I was in all 4 timezones and six different states in less than 24 hours. They are as follows: IL (CST), NY (EST), CT (EST), NV (PST), AZ (MST), UT (MST).

There's a very acclaimed marathon here that Runner's World profiled this month and said we should put on our life's to-do list. It's held the same weekend as Chicago, so I need to figure out when I can run this one.

Friday - Ran a short 4-miler in my parents' very scenic town of Ivins, UT - on the edge of St. George. I wanted to test the leg. I hadn't run since that very frigid jaunt on Tuesday morning. The knee held up OK, but again felt tender.

That makes for a whopping 9 miles total this week. With tomorrow's race (assuming I finish), I'll break 22.

We're heading to Las Vegas within the hour to hit the expo and check-in. I'm going to plan to run a 7 min pace for tomorrow's race - and then see how the leg feels from there. It's going to be interesting.

Then the wife and I will celebrate Vegas style for a couple of days.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Rest Knee-ded?

Baby, it's cold outside. I rested on Monday as I planned. Today, I got out to do the 5 miles on the docket. There was little wind, but it was about 1 degree. Brrrr.

I was running about 7:40-8'ish through about 3 or so, when I did notice my left knee pain crop up. It's not excrutiating; rather more like a chronic annoyance at this point. During the last couple, I walked a few steps to see how it felt. I finished no problem, but I don't feel very race ready.

I dunno, maybe I just need to rest this thing up. I am contemplating now doing little or no running before Sunday's race. Maybe a solid 4 days of rest will do it some good. I can get on the bike once or twice before Sunday. And what difference in my time will any additional running do me? I should be in decent enough shape to run respectably.

After the race Sunday, maybe I will cool it for another 6 days until my group long run on Saturday the 16th. This would leave me 17 weeks to prepare for Boston, which is manageable. So maybe I won't PR there. All along, I've said I would be thrilled just to make Boston - even if I trotted a 4-hour marathon.

Additionally, I will go for a P.T. screen on Dec 18, which is the earliest I can go after we get back from Vegas.

I want to nip this knee thing in the bud. If I am going to have to skimp on training to heal up, I'd rather do it when it's sub-zero temp's outside - not to mention being able to celebrate the holidays a little.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Gingerly prepping for the Vegas Half

Something is up with Blogger Beta. I used to be able to create links and format text with bold and italics. But no longer. Now I can't even preview my entries. Anyway...

Saturday, went out to the Morton Aboretum to run my scheduled 10-miler. The Aboretum is is a protected nature area near Downer's Grove. It's really pretty. The Wheaton Group will start training for Boston up there, so I decided to become a member.

The main benefit is that they keep the roads plowed and the loops are pretty scenic routes - especially in the winter months. There are some rolling hills there, and I haven't trained on hills since we moved from Connecticut last April. I enjoyed the scenery.

During, yesterday's run, I confess that on the ninth mile, the left knee started to get tender. I was able to finish strong. I did stretch as best I knew how before hand, but maybe it wasn't good enough. Maybe I just don't know how. Maybe the IT band needs a good period of rest. 10 miles - 7:41 pace.

Today, I did my 4-mile recovery in the 1 degree wind chill around my residential area. Really wasn't bad since I dressed right for it - including "the mask" to protect the face from the gusts. Again, the knee felt tired and there was some mild pain. 4 miles - 8:34 pace.

I am expecting a new pair of Asics Gel Kayano XII to arrive at my house by Tuesday. I'm not that diligent about tracking mileage on my shoes, but I estimate my current pair has around 300 miles max on them. I am hopeful the fresh cushioning on the new pair will help the knee heal up.

The Vegas Half is one week from today. Will I able to run 7's? Who knows. Besides my knee issue, my diet hasn't been stellar. I've been drinking every day this weekend as a result of three straight holiday parties.

After the race, I will rest the knee for a solid 3-4 days, I've decided. I need to be able to begin training for Boston.


Mon 11/27 - 4 Recovery
Tue 11/28 - Rest
Wed 11/29 - 8 Gen Aero
Thu 11/30 - 6 Gen Aero
Fri 12/1 - Rest
Sat 12/2 - 10 General Aerobic
Sun 12/3 - 4 Recovery


Mon 12/4 - Rest
Tue 12/5 - 5 Recovery
Wed 12/6 - 8 EZ
Thu 12/7 - Rest - Fly to CT for work - then fly to Vegas
Fri 12/8 - 4 Recovery in St. George, UT (visit parents' house)
Sat 12/9 - Rest
Sun 12/10 - Las Vegas: RACE HALF MARATHON

Friday, December 01, 2006

Encouraging progress

I am happy to report that the knee issue that I reported last weekend seems to be under control. I have been significantly concerned about it over the past few days.

I think I just need to adopt a strong routine of stretching. My wife, a speech therapist, works at a hospital with physical therapists. She was able to borrow a foam roller, which is the tool of salvation according to OOSG and Whitney (thanks for the tips, guys).

I tried it before my six-miler. That thing can cause some discomfort! But it's important to stretch that IT band. Both runs on Wed and Thurs were no problem.

I think I need to resign myself to the fact that a dedicated stretching habit is what I need to sustain strong marathon running well into my 30's.

Wednesday 6:30 AM: Steady eight miler with no pain. 7:40/mile pace average.
Thursday 6:15 PM: Another solid six miler in the dark and cold. 7:36/mile pace avg.
Friday: NO RUNNING. Blizzard. Shoveled the damn driveway.

Plan for this weekend:

Saturday: 10-miler
Sunday: 4-miler recovery

Goal total for week: 32 miles.

Half marathon countdown: 8 days 'til Las Vegas. Race goal: ???