Monday, October 31, 2011

Motivation Monday - Pace Of Mind

This is it. The final countdown. Less than a week to go.

At this point, motivation isn't an issue. In fact, most of this week is about reining in the excitement that threatens to get out of control and wear me out. I have to convince myself to get plenty of rest and trust that I'm ready for Sunday.

I started writing this blog in June. Originally, I just wanted a journal of my training and something I could look back on years from now to remember the entire experience leading up to the New York Marathon.

I also wanted some solid evidence that I have put in the work necessary to reach my goal. With past marathons, I've struggled with doubt and waning confidence during the final weeks of training. The last few Long Runs of a training schedule can be pretty demoralizing. Of course, it didn't help that I've also struggled with consistency late in my training for other marathons. Now I can look back at the 120+ posts in this blog and feel confident that I was more consistent... I was more dedicated... I put in the time and did the work.

Ironically, I don't feel the need to go back over my training to feel confident this time. The past two weeks have been reassuring enough to give me faith in my training. I've never trained this hard and had this much success in training. I'm running faster and stronger than I ever have. Last week's training was perfect. There's still a lot that could go wrong between now and when I cross the finish line (I've learned that lesson the hard way) but I've never felt this good about my preparation and fitness.

At first, I was hesitant to share this blog with anyone outside of my wife and a select few people that I thought would be interested in my training. Eventually, I was encouraged to share it with more people and I was surprised by how many people took interest. I'm glad I had them along for the ride and I'm grateful for the extra support and motivation they've provided.

One more week.

Goal For The Day: Rest.
Distance: 0.00 Miles.

Notes: A long day of work and the first Halloween in a long time that I didn't get to hand out candy with Liz. It's easier to swallow with the exciting week ahead though.

Daily Miles: 0.00 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 540.50 Miles.
  Bike - 144.45 Miles.
  Swim - 13,450+ meters.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Everyone's Riding The Momentum

Today was my last 'Long Run' before the marathon. One week from today, I'll be putting over four months worth of training to the test. In fact, by this time next week, I'll be recovering and enjoying New York City!

Today's run went exceptionally well. But first, we spent another fun day with Liz's parents and took a hike through West Tyson County Park. Liz and I have hiked this trail before but it was absolutely gorgeous today with all of the Fall colors.

After Kim and Nancy left for the drive home to Kansas City, Liz and I went for our Sunday runs. This week is going to be busy with all of the preparations for our trip so Liz ran tonight instead of tomorrow. I had 8 miles on the schedule for my final Long Run and I got out the door just before 6:00pm.

I wanted to get another fast run in today but I also didn't want to push the pace too much because I need to be fully rested for next week. I was trying to run in the range of 6:45 per mile. When I checked my watch, I found out I had been running much faster than that.

My plan was to run to Route 66 State Park, run a lap, and then run home. When I got to the park, the sun had already set so I knew there was a good chance I would be kicked out when the park closed. I was only about a half-mile through the 2-mile loop when the park ranger drove by and told me I could either turn around and go out the way I came, or run out the rear entrance along the outer road. He eventually offered to wait if I really wanted to finish my lap, but I felt bad keeping him late on a Sunday evening.

I ran under the highway and out the outer road and the distance ended up being almost identical to what it would have been if I had stayed in the park. I had to be careful on the way back because the mile-or-so of road from the park to Old Town Eureka has no shoulder and it was definitely dark out. I stopped and stepped off the road a couple of times to let some cars pass because they didn't seem to be aware of my presence.

I ran 8 miles in 52:32... an average pace of 6:34 per mile. Holy crap! I don't think I've ever run that far, that fast, and still felt that good!

I wasn't the only one feeling good on Sunday though. The previously winless Rams shocked the NFL by beating the Saints 31-21!!! Last week, the Saints destroyed the other winless team in the NFL, the Colts, by a score of 62-7. Today, the Rams brought the World Series Champion Cardinals on the field for the pre-game ceremony. Apparently some of that Cardinal magic is contagious because no one thought the Rams were going to pull an upset Sunday.

Let's keep the magic rolling for one more week so I can run a PR in New York!

Goal For The Day: Long Run.
Distance: 8.01 Miles.
Time: 52:32. 6:34 Avg. (6:44, 6:19, 6:21, 6:30, 6:21, 6:25, 6:41, 7:06).
Route: To Route 66/Out the river bypass/Home.
Conditions: 62 degrees. 6:00pm.

Notes: I felt chilly off and on all day and it seemed cooler in our house than it did outside so I was a little over-dressed for my run. I didn't need the long sleeves. I was a little warm but still ran okay. I wore all of my Race Day gear including carrying my water bottle so I could get one more dress rehearsal in. All of the hard work is done. Two more short runs this week and then it's just a waiting game.

Daily Miles: 8.01 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 540.50 Miles.
  Bike - 144.45 Miles.
  Swim - 13,450+ meters.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Gear Check: Spectator Gear

In one week I'll run my 17th marathon. Liz has been there to cheer me on for over 5 years and she has become an amazing support for me during the race. She's a Super Spectator!

She has it down to a science. I know where she'll be on the course, what side of the street to look on, what she might be carrying for me, and how to spot her from several blocks away.

Sometimes she's carrying Gatorade or snacks that I want at specific mile markers. Sometimes she's just there to cheer me on and give me something to look forward to in the later miles of the marathon. She's always encouraging and she's a great example to other people cheering for their friends and family as they run by.

Liz has collected quite the stash of Spectator Gear over the years.

She always has a bright yellow "Roadrunner Crossing" sign that I bought at a pet store for a quarter. She holds it up and I can see her long before I get to her spot on the course so I never miss her when I run by. She also has a variety of noise makers... cowbells, whistles, plastic clappers, maracas... they make a lot of noise and don't hurt her hands. (You'd be surprised how painful several hours of clapping can be.) I've also run a lot of marathons in cold weather and she can wear warm, thick gloves and still use a cowbell when clapping isn't an option.

When we're in New York next week, there will be 45,000 other runners and 2 million other spectators. Even with those staggering numbers, I'm confident Liz and I will be able to find each other during the race.

This ain't our first rodeo!

Goal For The Day: Rest.
Distance: 0.00 Miles.

Notes: It was a fun Fall day with the in-laws! We went to Stuckmeyer's Farm to pick pumpkins and then to Kimmswick for the Apple Butter Festival. Good times!

Daily Miles: 0.00 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 532.49 Miles.
  Bike - 144.45 Miles.
  Swim - 13,450+ meters.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Strong Finish!

How about those Cardinals!!! World Series Champions!!!

A huge congratulations to the 11-Time World Series Champs. After last night's nail-biter, today's blowout wasn't nearly as tense, but I was still on the edge of my seat right to the last out. Liz's parents came into town for the weekend and we gathered around the t.v. to watch the Cardinals finish one of the most memorable and unlikely seasons in baseball history!

The Rangers scored two runs in the first inning and Chris Carpenter was looking awfully flat. But he woke up in the second and just rolled from there. The Cardinals scored 6 runs during the game and the Rangers didn't score again. By the 9th inning, you could just feel the victory coming and the stadium went crazy when Allen Craig caught a fly ball for the final out. What a Series!!!

(David Freese was named the Series MVP.)

(That beautiful trophy is back in town!)

It's a good time to live in St. Louis!

My marathon season is wrapping up nicely too. I don't feel that much different from several weeks ago, but apparently the reduced mileage is having the desired effect.

I took a jog over to the track after work for my last session of Bannister Repeats. I wore my iPod again today because the Dave Glover show was playing their annual Halloween special... good stuff! I listened to the show while I ran which was the first time I wore the iPod during speedwork.

I only ran 4 intervals today since I'm tapering but each one felt easier than usual (I still wouldn't call them 'easy') and my times were surprisingly fast even though I wasn't pushing it as hard as I could.

After the workout, it was an easy jog home and then a hot shower in preparation for the big game. It was a fantastic night and a great way to end the week.

Goal For The Day: Bannister Repeats.
Distance: 5.17 Miles.
Time: 4 x 400 meters. (1:13, 1:12, 1:12, 1:11).
Route: Eureka H.S. Track.
Conditions: 57 degrees. 5:15pm.

Notes: 2.09 Mile jog to the track. 4 x 400m. 2.08 Mile jog home. Goal was 1:15 each with 2 minutes rest between intervals. No more speedwork until after the marathon. I wish every Bannister workout felt this good!

Daily Miles: 5.17 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 532.49 Miles.
  Bike - 144.45 Miles.
  Swim - 13,450+ meters.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Don't Stop Believing!

Wow! What an unforgettable night!

I've been sleeping more this week. I'm trying to listen to what my body needs and make sure I'm getting plenty of recovery time between runs so that meant no morning run today. I thought I would go for a run after work and before the Cardinals game but I was distracted by a box waiting on the front porch when I got home. The address label on the package said it was from Gatorade.

I went inside and opened the box to find an assortment of Gatorade products and a note saying, "Good luck at the ING New York City Marathon from your friends at Gatorade." I have to admit, my first thought was, "Holy crap... someone at Gatorade saw my blog." Then I realized Gatorade is supplying the sports drinks during the marathon and they sent the package because I'm a featured runner... not because they read my blog. It's still feels like being a real athlete with real sponsors, but I'm not as big of a deal as I thought for a minute there.

After looking through my free Gatorade and showing off to Liz when she got home, it was after 6:00 and I was seriously considering skipping today's run so I could sit down with a hot bowl of soup and watch Game 6 of the World Series without interruption. Liz was trying to decide about her run too. It was already getting dark out and it was kinda chilly so a warm night on the couch was very tempting. In the end, we both chose to stick with the plan and got ready for our runs.

By the time we left the house it was dark out and I didn't want to run through town so I decided to just run laps around the El Nopal parking lot. I had 6 miles on the schedule and each lap around the parking lot is about half a mile so I was going to be running 12-13 laps. To break up the monotony, I changed directions every two laps.

Liz was doing some speedwork around the parking lot too so we did our best to avoid any head-on collisions when we passed each other.

I wore my iPod so I could listen to the first few innings of the ball game while I ran. When I finished, I was surprised to see my pace was so fast. I didn't exactly expect listening to baseball would inspire a lot of speed. But it was cool outside... and I Love running at night... and I have to admit I was jumpring up and down when Burkman hit a home run in the first inning. And it was a huge adrenaline rush when the defense got Garcia out of a jam with an amazing double play.

By the time I was finished, I had run 6 solid miles and listened to some exciting baseball. Afterward, it was a quick hot shower and that hot soup I had been craving. Liz and I settled in to watch one of the most exciting baseball games I can remember.

It was do-or-die for the Cardinals in a back-and-forth Game 6. The beginning of the game involved a lot of ridiculous errors and I couldn't believe the Cardinals were playing such a sloppy game. The lead changed so many times, it was nerve wracking. The score after each inning:

1st Inning -  Rangers 1 Cardinals 2
2nd Inning - Rangers 2 Cardinals 2
3rd Inning -  Rangers 2 Cardinals 2
4th Inning -  Rangers 3 Cardinals 3
5th Inning -  Rangers 4 Cardinals 3
6th Inning -  Rangers 4 Cardinals 4
7th Inning -  Rangers 7 Cardinals 4
8th Inning -  Rangers 7 Cardinals 5

Then the Cardinals held the Rangers scoreless in the top of the ninth and then David Freese hit a triple with two men on to tie the game! The Rangers scored two more runs in the top of the 10th but the Cardinals matched them with two runs of their own to send it to the 11th inning. When the Rangers went scoreless in the top of the 11th, you could tell everyone in the stadium was starting to think the Cardinals were going to pull off the win. David Freese stepped to the plate as the leadoff hitter and hit a walk-off home run to dead center field!!!

The Cardinals trailed 5 times during the game including being down by two runs in both the 9th and 10th innings and they still managed to pull off a stunning victory!

I can't remember a more intense, rollercoaster of emotions, exciting baseball game! What a magic season!!! This entire season and especially tonights game are perfect analogies for why I never leave a game early. It's not over until it's over! Go Cards!!!

Goal For The Day: Middle Distance.
Distance: 6.00 Miles.
Time: 39:38. 6:36 Avg. (6:53, 6:34, 6:37, 6:43, 6:28, 6:19).
Route: 12+ Laps Around El Nopal Parking Lot.
Conditions: 51 degrees. 7:00pm.

Notes: My pace is still faster than I expected. Everything is falling into place nicely!

Daily Miles: 6.00 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 527.32 Miles.
  Bike - 144.45 Miles.
  Swim - 13,450+ meters.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Last Call For Hills

This is a week of 'Lasts'. As far as I'm concerned, this is the last week I get any real work done. All of my runs are getting shorter but I'll use this week to build confidence about my speed. Then next week only has three very short runs scheduled and they're really only placeholders to keep me from going stir-crazy.

So today was my last set of Hill Repeats before the marathon. It was only 4 trips up Top Notch so I made sure each time up was quality. It was a cool morning and I felt pretty good. There wasn't anything too remarkable about today other than I won't be doing this kind of workout again until after Race Day.

(You see a heart attack... I see an improving elevation profile.)

The rest of the day was chilly and rainy. In fact, Game 6 of the World Series was postponed. So tomorrow night is do or die for the Cardinals. If they can win Game 6, I think they'll take it all. It's been a great October so far!

Goal For The Day: Hill Repeats.
Distance: 2.90 Miles.
Time: 26:01. 8:59 Avg. (8:25, 9:12, 8:22*).
Route: 4 x Top Notch.
Conditions: 58 degrees. 7:30am.

Notes: The workouts always seem so short this late in the taper. I have to remind myself they're intended to be short. I'm not slacking. I'm not slacking. I'm not slacking.

Daily Miles: 2.90 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 521.32 Miles.
  Bike - 144.45 Miles.
  Swim - 13,450+ meters.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Time Is Flying. And Today, So Was I.

According to Einstein, everything's relative. Who am I to argue?

The marathon plays tricks with time in a lot of ways. When I'm running a marathon, the first six miles fly by. It seems like every time I look up, I'm passing another mile marker. Around mile eight or ten, time slows back to normal. Each mile arrives on schedule and all is right with the world. But somewhere between mile 17 and mile 20, time becomes a cruel, torturous force that works against me. It begins by making each mile seem longer and longer until each mile marker takes an eternity to reach. Then, by some paradox of time and space, while the miles start to last forever, the clock also starts moving faster. While I'm struggling just to feel like I'm still moving forward, the clock is speeding toward my goal time without mercy.

The marathon time warp extends beyond the race though. During the two weeks of tapering before the race, time becomes a similar paradox. Waiting for Race Day is like waiting for Christmas. The anticipation makes the days drag by. At the same time, there's so much going on, I look back on the past couple of days and I have no idea where the time went.

Yesterday was a Rest Day and I tried to shake off the funk of Sunday's run. I was hoping today would be a good rebound day and I wasn't disappointed.

Today's forecast listed a high of 86 degrees so I made sure to go for my run in the morning while it was still cool. I'm cutting back on the mileage this week but I want to keep my speed up. Plus, after Sunday's run, I wanted to see if I could make a pace in the 6:40's feel comfortable again.

I ran the Kircher Park Loop and the day of rest did it's job. I was back into the pace range I'm looking for. In fact, I wasn't paying close enough attention to my watch and most of my run was actually faster than I thought.

I was also greeted by the magical low-lying fog in that same field I talked about in last Friday's post. I like to think something really significant happened in this field in the past. There's just something special about it.

Here are a couple of short videos of the fog hanging over the field:

After work, I met Liz for our swim. It was quiet at the gym tonight and we had the lap lane to ourselves for most of the swim. Liz said she felt like she wasn't swimming as well as she usually does but I was feeling pretty smooth in the water. Of course, she was still swimming faster than me.

On our last interval, a little boy asked to share the lane with us. This little kid was good! For the first several lengths, he was swimming as fast as I was.

It was a reassuring day and I'm feeling good about the week ahead.

Goal For The Day: Rest.
Distance: 0.00 Miles.

Goal For The Day: Middle Distance.
Distance: 5.97 Miles.
Time: 39:40. 6:39 Avg. (6:57, 6:22, 6:35, 6:26, 6:43, 6:35*).
Route: Kircher Park Loop.
Conditions: 52 degrees. 7:15am.

Goal For The Day: Swim.
Distance: 1,000 meters (4 x 250).
Location: Fenton Rec Center Indoor Pool.

Notes: It was one of those special, effortless days! If only the marathon could be like today.

Daily Miles: 5.97 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 518.42 Miles.
  Bike - 144.45 Miles.
  Swim - 13,450+ meters.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Fun Morning Volunteering Followed By A Gnat-sty Afternoon Run

Today was the first annual Solutia Rock 'n' Roll St. Louis Marathon. I was tempted to run the marathon this year since it's the inaugural race, but I decided against it when I found out I was accepted to run in New York. Since I wasn't running, Liz and I decided it was a good opportunity to work the race as volunteers.

We were assigned to the 8-mile marker where the Marathon and Half Marathon courses split. The directions we received in the mail said to be at the mile marker at 6:30am and expect to work until 12:30pm.

We got up at 5am and drove down to the Botanical Gardens to park near our assignment. A lot of cars were ignoring the road closures that early in the morning, but we didn't want to get boxed in once the race started so we parked on a side street and walked 4 or 5 blocks to meet our fellow volunteers.

John, from Competitor Group, was in charge of our set of volunteers and we probably had more people than were needed to work the course split. We were given some really cool t-shirts (I think they're better than the race shirts) and John explained our various responsibilities. By then, it was only 6:30 and the race didn't start until 7:30. That meant the first runners wouldn't even reach us until after 8:00. So, we stood around talking to some of the other volunteers and regretting not eating more of a breakfast.

Liz and I offered to hold the giant arrow-shaped signs that directed the runners to the appropriate side of the road. We took our places a little after 7:30 and waited for the first wave of runners to come up the road.

Once the runners arrived, the morning passed pretty quickly. It was a lot of fun cheering everyone on and a lot of runners thanked us for being out there. The signs we were holding were pretty huge so we had countless runners joke about being confused because the signs weren't big enough. Other runners gave the signs a little slap as they ran by. Some people stopped and took pictures with us. Mile 8 was a good assignment because most of the people we saw were still feeling good and in a pleasant mood. I doubt the volunteers at anything past Mile 20 saw nearly as many smiles.

We saw several people we knew that were running the race and most of them actually saw us before we picked them out of the crowd. It was really busy at times though and some of our friends must have snuck past us without us seeing them. A BIG congratulations to Paul, Erin, Leigh, Sharon, Agnes, and Phil. I'm probably forgetting people... it seemed like everyone was running the race. A lot of these folks not only ran, but crushed their personal best!

As time passed, the crowd of runners slowly thinned and then transitioned to all walkers. By 10:30, our section of the course was clear, we had picked up all of the signage and cones, and our day was done. As a bonus, there was a water station on the way back to our car that had been sponsored by Solutia. They were packing up as we walked by and they had boxes of donuts left over that they were kind enough to share with us!

Even though we grabbed a few donuts from the Solutia table, we stopped at Arby's to get lunch on the way home and then snuck in an afternoon nap. I think instead of refreshed, we both woke up still feeling drowsy and sluggish but I had 13 miles on my training schedule for today so I forced myself to get my act together and get out the door.

The run did not go well.

It was another warm day and I was feeling slow and tired. Not to mention, I hadn't had nearly enough to drink during the day so by mile 8, it was very clear that I was dehydrated. I had a G1 pouch before the run and brought two more in my water bottle but it was too little, too late.

Some days just don't go well and today was one of those days. I kept the pace respectable for a while but my foggy brain just didn't want to push it. After a while, I just settled in and decided to get the miles in but not worry about pace. I felt hot, gross, and thirsty. And to make matters worse, I was completely covered in dead gnats by mile 9. There are a lot of gnats flying around at this time of year and many have died gruesome, salty deaths drowning in my sweat but I've never been as completely covered as this. It was disgusting. I was hoping no one I knew would pass me. My shorts had a thick ring of salt from my dried sweat and I was covered in dead bugs. Not a good look!

I ran all 13 miles but I was basically jogging by the end. I was really hoping to pick up the speed a little over the next two weeks since I'm dropping the distance. After running a 5K last night, getting up at 5am, standing and cheering for 3 hours, and then running on a warm day, this training session was doomed before it started.

Tomorrow's another day!

Goal For The Day: Long Run.
Distance: 13.00 Miles.
Time: 1:36:11. 7:24 Avg. (7:26, 7:03, 7:08, 7:04, 7:02, 6:58, 7:11, 7:13, 7:16, 7:32, 7:36, 8:09, 8:23).
Route: To Rte 66/3 Laps/City Hall Extension/Home.
Conditions: 78 degrees/buggy. 2:45pm.

Notes: Passed 500 Blog Miles!!! The marathon is two weeks from today!!! I definitely felt the effects of last night's 5K. Not only did the race wear me out, it also made a 7-minute pace feel slow. Volunteering was fun and it was cool to get a view from the other side of things. I've run a lot of marathons but never watched one start-to-finish. It was also cool to hear John talk about some of the behind the scenes of organizing a marathon.

Daily Miles: 13.00 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 512.45 Miles.
  Bike - 144.45 Miles.
  Swim - 12,450+ meters.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Race Report: Harvest Moon 5K

Liz and I ran the Harvest Moon 5K in Eureka tonight. It was part of the Harvest Moon Festival... one of the small-town events that make me Love this city!

We went down to the festival earlier in the afternoon and bought a handful of books for $5 and took a quick look around the festival. We made our way back down around 6:00 to pick up our packets for the 7:00 race. We were hoping to get there early enough to guarantee t-shirts but there was no need to worry. They had our shirts set aside because we pre-registered for the race.

It was plenty dark outside by the time the race started and they gave all of the participants glow bracelets to wear. It was fun to run around in the dark with glowing rings bouncing along in the distance.

We saw our neighbors, Amy and Eric before the race and there were a decent number of runners considering this is a new 5K.

I ran a short warm-up and then wished Liz luck before we lined up for the start. The start was a little chaotic because a police SUV was parked right in front of the starting line. I don't know if it was supposed to lead us for part or all of the race, but it just sat there with it's lights on when they started the race and everyone had to run around it.

I was worried about going out too fast because it's a habit of mine and because I tend to get carried away when I run in the dark. There were three other guys running with me for the first 100 meters or so but two of them eased up pretty quickly and then it was just me and a younger kid (I found out later he's 19). He had a long, bouncing stride and seemed totally relaxed. I tend to breathe really loudly so it sounded like I was struggling and I started to wonder if I was. Either the pace worried the kid or my loud breathing was annoying... either way, he eased off the pace about a quarter-mile in. After that, I was on my own.

We ran the same course as the Run For Sight 5K that Eureka hosts every September for Eureka Days. Liz and I always seem to have plans out of town during Eureka Days so the only time I've run that 5K was the year we moved into our house three years ago. The course takes two laps through a subdivision and I remember there being a big hill in the middle of the lap that was intimidating when I ran it three years ago. Apparently, living in Eureka has redefined what I consider a big hill because it wasn't nearly as tough as I remember. (I'm also probably in better shape right now and running the hill in the dark helped.)

It was especially dark in the neighborhood and for the first lap, I was just chasing the lead bicycle and trying to keep my pace up. I still thought that kid might be taking the first mile or so easy and then he would come flying past me once I started to slow down. I took a couple of glances over my shoulder when I turned a corner but it was too dark to tell who was behind me or what kind of lead I had.

On the second lap, the road was filled with runners and walkers working on their first lap and it was fun to look down the street at all of the glow bracelets bobbing and swinging ahead of me. I passed Liz right before she started her second lap and she cheered for me as I went by. She was making good time herself and looked strong with a lap to go.

By the time I turned the corner and headed to the finish, I realized no one was catching me. I finished in first place in 19:21. The kid that was chasing me finished a minute and a half later. You have to Love small-town races! Liz finished in 31:37. She's hoping to run a sub-30 5K by Thanksgiving and I think she's in a good position to meet that goal. Eric and Amy finished soon after Liz and they were both happy with their times too.

(Liz approaching the finish line.)

After the race, we stuck around for the awards and met two really nice couples (the two guys from the first 100 meters and their wives). One of the guys was also named Brad and he ran his first ever marathon in Chicago a couple of weeks ago. It was fun chatting about Chicago but a little weird since I wasn't there for the first time in 10 years.

(After the race.)

I got my medal and shook the mayor's hand (I'm kind of a big deal) and then we went home to watch the Cardinals absolutely destroy the Rangers to win Game 3. The score was 16-7 and Pujols hit 3 home runs! A whole lot of history in one night. If only Albert would hit like that when the game is on the line and not when we're ahead by 6 runs. Two down, two to go!!!

(It looks more like a scholastics award than a race medal,
but I'll take it!)

It was fun racing in the dark and it felt good to stretch the legs and push the pace a bit. I also wore my new shoes for the first time today. They did not disappoint!

Goal For The Day: Race.
Distance: 3.10 Miles.
Time: 19:21. 6:14 Avg. (5:49, 6:12, 6:18, 1:01*).
Route: Harvest Moon 5K.
Conditions: 57 degrees. 7:00pm.

Notes: This was a fun race with a relatively inexpensive entry fee. That being said, they'll probably have trouble growing without improving things like post-race snacks and medals. They also didn't follow the standard of removing overall winners from the age group awards. So I got a medal for winning the race but they also listed me as first place male 30-44. That stole a medal from whoever finished 4th in the age group because he would have been bumped up to 3rd. The age groups were also huge. Liz might have placed in a small race like this if the age group had been 25-29. Instead, it was 18-29.

Daily Miles: 3.10 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 499.45 Miles.
  Bike - 144.45 Miles.
  Swim - 12,450+ meters.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Frost? Really?

The temperature climbed into the 80's during my Long Run on Sunday. Today, I walked outside to find the ground covered in frost. You have to Love Missouri weather!

I made some more modifications to this week's schedule. Liz and I registered for a 5k that we'll be running Saturday night. Since I'll be running on a scheduled day of rest, I took yesterday off and ran yesterday's Middle Distance today.

I ran a brisk 8 miles this morning and took my Flip along hoping to spot some deer in the park. I didn't get out the door until 7:30 though so no deer sightings today. I did shoot a short video of the field by Kircher Park covered in frost. It might not look like much in this video, but there's something about running by this field early in the morning. The sun rises over the tree line and the field often has a look about it that just makes it special. This morning it was frost. Some mornings, it's a low-lying fog. Some mornings, the grass is tall and blowing in the wind. It's just a field, but I look forward to passing it in the mornings.

My run went well today. I finally got some cold weather practice and had my winter running clothes on. I think the cold air has a numbing and anti-inflammatory effect on my legs because they felt surprisingly fresh today.

It was a great way to start the morning and I'm hoping for similar weather on Race Day.

Goal For The Day: Rest.
Distance: 0.00 Miles.

Goal For The Day: Middle Distance.
Distance: 8.35 Miles.
Time: 57:58. 6:57 Avg. (7:06, 6:47, 6:49, 6:52, 6:42, 7:02, 6:43, 7:24, 2:30*).
Route: To Rte 66/1 Lap/Home.
Conditions: 36 degrees. 7:30am.

Notes: It wouldn't be as fun for the spectators, but I'm hoping for Race Day temps in the upper 30's or lower 40's. It seems to be cooling off just in time. Let's hope there isn't a sudden heat wave in New York on the 6th.

Daily Miles: 8.35 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 496.35 Miles.
  Bike - 144.45 Miles.
  Swim - 12,450+ meters.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Squeezing It In.

I ran Hill Repeats today and I knew the workout wouldn't take me too long so I saved it for after work again. I just feel better when I can go for a run right after work.

It was also nice to get a good effort in right before meeting friends for our weekly dinner. The free chips 'n' salsa at El Nopal taste amazing after a hard run. (Especially after a little added salt... yummm!)

I jogged my usual warm-up and then ran 6 x Top Notch repeats. They didn't feel as good as last week's hills, but it was still a better workout than I expected for the week after my peak run. I think the cool air helps a lot.

After the run, I took a quick hot shower to warm up and then met everyone for dinner. We kept the meal short too because Game 1 of the World Series started just after 7:00!!!

The Coppins were nice enough to host a viewing again and the Cardinals took Game 1 to start the Series off on the right foot!

One down... three to go!

Goal For The Day: Hill Repeats.
Distance: 3.49 Miles.
Time: 29:20. 8:24 Avg. (7:43, 8:17, 9:10, 4:09*).
Route: 6 x Top Notch.
Conditions: 48 degrees. 5:30pm.

Notes: It's feeling more like marathon weather this week... just in time!

Daily Miles: 3.49 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 488.00 Miles.
  Bike - 144.45 Miles.
  Swim - 12,450+ meters.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Well, Poop.

Shockingly, my Tuesday workout plans had to be changed due to unforseen... problems.

It started with my plan to run after work. I was hoping to run an easy 6-8 miles before meeting Liz at the gym. Unfortunately, I had to work late and didn't have time to run that long. By the time I finally got to the gym, I only had enough time to run 3 or 4 miles before Liz showed up for our swim.

As an added twist, the temperature has dropped significantly since my run in the heat on Sunday. Today's high was only about 50 degrees and I didn't pack clothes to run in the cooler weather today. Instead of running around Fenton, I hopped on the treadmill to get as many miles in as I could.

The good news for the day is that I'm still feeling really good after Sunday's run. I ran 4 solid miles on the treadmill and I don't seem any the worse for wear.

Liz got to the gym when I still had a little over 10 minutes left to my run so she went down to the pool to start her swim. By the time I got to the pool, she was almost finished with a 1,200 meter swim. She was swimming 4 x 300 meters and I thought I would try to swim the same workout since my run was shorter than planned.

I finished one 300 meter interval and was 100 meters into the second interval when Liz finished up so I stopped to tell her I would see her at home. I was getting back to my swim when one of the swim lesson instructors stopped me. She said I could keep swimming if I was determined to get a few more laps in, but they were about to close the pool because there had been "a leaky diaper incident".

I told her a couple more laps weren't important enough to me to swim in poop-filled water. That was the end of today's workout.

So both my run and my swim were cut short today but everything I was able to do felt good so I'm optimistic about the rest of the week.

Goal For The Day: Middle Distance.
Distance: 4.00 Miles.
Time: 28:28. 7:07 Avg. (7:30, 7:13, 6:58, 6:44).
Route: Fenton Rec Center Treadmill.
Conditions: Boring.

Goal For The Day: Swim.
Distance: 400 meters.
Location: Fenton Rec Center Indoor Pool.

Notes: It's amazing how much easier it is to accept changes to the schedule during the taper phase of training.

Daily Miles: 4.00 Miles Run. 400 meter Swim.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 484.51 Miles.
  Bike - 144.45 Miles.
  Swim - 12,450+ meters.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Gear Check - Amphipod ArmPod SmartView

I bought a new armband to carry my Flip camera on my runs. I played with a few different options at Fleet Feet before settling on the Amphipod ArmPod SmartView.

The ArmPod is designed for phones and fits my cell phone well but it also holds my Flip camera perfectly. It can actually hold both at the same time but it's a tight squeeze and it wouldn't be easy to take either one out of the Pod while I'm running.

There's also a padded inner pouch that can fit a key or credit card so they're kept separate from your phone or camera and nothing gets scratched.

I'm used to wearing my iPod on an armband so I didn't have to adjust to wearing something on my arm but I wasn't sure if this armband would take some getting used to since it's bigger than what I usually wear. Fortunately, it's surprisingly comfortable and I forgot about it quickly.

I was able to keep my Flip camera with me for my entire 22-mile run yesterday and the case never bothered me. I'm excited to have my camera with me on more of my runs and I can use the ArmPod for my cell phone on long runs if I want.

I'm also excited to have my Flip camera with me at the ING NYC Marathon. I'll be able to record some of the excitement before and after the race. I'll also have it with me if there's anything I really want to record during the marathon but I'm not sure how much I'll actually use it during the race. I had fun recording some of my favorite running spots around Eureka but I also learned how impractical it might be to use the Flip during this marathon because of my time goal. It's definitely a distraction to unzip the ArmPod and start up the Flip to record something. Plus, if I record things as I run by, the picture is bouncy and not as fun to watch later. But I won't want to stop and record things while trying to run a personal best time.

So this ArmPod and my Flip camera will be a lot of fun for other marathons and on daily runs, but I probably won't get the camera out too often while I'm running in NYC. I'll just have to remember what I see along the course and write about it here!

Goal For The Day: Rest
Distance: 0.00 Miles.

Notes: Taking yesterday slower must have paid off because I feel really good today. If I didn't know I ran that far yesterday, I wouldn't have guessed it based on how my legs feel. I think using the foam roller after the run helped a lot too. Hopefully, this will make it easier to bounce back and get into some great taper runs.

Daily Miles: 0.00 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 480.51 Miles.
  Bike - 144.45 Miles.
  Swim - 12,050+ meters.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Really Long Run... Really Long Post

I've been talking about it all week and today was the big day. 22 miles and the end of Peak Week. After today, it's nothing but sweet, sweet tapering!
I slept later than planned today (shocking, I know) and my run suffered because of my inability to obey the alarm. It has been unseasonably warm all month but today was ridiculous. Instead of getting up at 6:00am and getting out the door by 7:00, I slept past 7:30 and didn't get out the door until after 8:30. Oops. It didn't make a big difference in the actual temperature of my run, but it meant a lot more time in the sun and that's always draining. It did help that it was a little windy today. While running into the wind might have slowed the pace a little, it also helped keep me cool.

My list of gear is getting a little ridiculous too, but I suited up and prepared myself mentally for 3 hours of running. I had my Garmin GPS watch, my Road ID dogtags, my Amphipod water bottle filled with orange-flavored G1 pouches, and my new Amphipod arm band to hold my Flip camera. I might as well cover myself with sponsor decals like Nascar. It was hot enough today that I also took a bottle of water and stashed it on Central in Eureka so I could steal a drink later in my run.

I decided to mix up the course a little today to keep the terrain changing and to better simulate an actual marathon. I ran all over town and tried to capture some of the places I often talk about in my blog on video. Here's a sampling of what I saw today:

(The infamous Eureka trains - The fountain on the way to Kircher Park - Entering Rte 66 State Park - Running by the pond in Rte 66 - Running by the trees in Rte 66 - The hill on Central
- My 2nd encounter with Liz - Six Flags - The Days Inn hill)

I intentionally took the pace slower today than on my 20-miler two weeks ago. Back then, I wanted to flirt with The Wall by going out fast and seeing how long I could last. The problem was, I was pretty spent for the entire week after that run. So today was all about getting the mileage in and not worrying about the pace.

I also played with the camera a lot which meant occasional stops to record something without the annoying bouncing that I get when I record while running.

I ran to Route 66 and then did 4 laps around the park. That meant I left the park with 11 miles under my belt and 11 to go. At that point, I was feeling totally relaxed but not completely comfortable. I was getting hot and the sun was getting higher in the sky. It was going to be a long second half.

I ran back into 'downtown' Eureka and grabbed my hidden bottle of water. I drink a G1 pouch every 6 miles so I had already gone through two of the three pouches in my water bottle. I drank some of the regular water and then mixed the rest with the remaining G1 in my water bottle. It was all warm by then and didn't feel as refreshing going down, but I was definitely in need of the fluids so I wasn't complaining.

As I was getting ready to start the Allenton Loop, Liz came riding down Central on her bike. She was just getting started on a tough bike ride into the wind and over the hills of the Legends. She stopped to make sure everything was going okay and then we both set off toward Allenton. (She made better time on her bike.)
I ran the Allenton Loop back to the house and stopped for a quick bathroom break and a few swigs of cold Gatorade. I also dumped some ice into my watered down G1 before going back out for the last 5 miles.

By now, I was jogging more than running. I wanted to get all 22 miles in but I didn't want to strain myself so much that I couldn't be productive during my taper. So I tried to think of it as if I was just starting a slow 5-mile jog and hadn't already run 17 miles.
I ran back into downtown Eureka (passing Liz again on her way home) and ran the Old Town Eureka Loop with the City Hall extension. This meant I was running the most hills (and the biggest hills) in the last 3 miles of my run. That might not have been the best plan.

The Elks or Lions Club or some group like that (I was getting a little foggy at that point) was having a charity barbeque on Central and they were kind enough to give me some ice for my water bottle as I prepared to climb the hill on Central for the last mile-and-a-half home. The ice only lasted a half-mile before it melted but it was much appreciated for that half-mile!

I had to add one lap around the El Nopal parking lot to make it an even 22, but I got all of the miles in despite the heat. I'm hoping for temperatures about 30 degrees cooler on Race Day.

After a refreshing shower and some stretching, I was surprised by how good I felt. I definitely took the run slow today, but I still expected to be more tired, stiff, and sore. Just to be safe, I got out the foam roller and gave the old legs a good once-over.

"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." I ran 22 miles on a warm day after a week of high mileage. Surely, I can handle 26.2 miles on a cool day after three weeks of recovery mileage... right?

Goal For The Day: Long Run.
Distance: 22.00 Miles.
Time: 2:45:08. 7:41 Avg. (7:20, 6:58, 7:01, 7:07, 6:55, 7:01, 7:06, 7:08, 7:15, 7:13, 7:06, 7:15, 7:23, 7:17, 9:45, 7:27, 8:07, 8:15, 8:11, 8:45, 9:47, 4:36*).
Route: To Rte 66/4 Laps/Allenton Loop/Old Town Eureka Loop w/ Hunters Run and City Hall Extension.
Conditions: 68 degrees at the start/80 degrees at the finish. 8:45am.

Notes: I was stopping my watch when I stopped to shoot video. At one point, I got mixed up with starting and stopping my watch and starting and stopping the video camera. I realized I left my watch running while I stood still and stopped it while I ran a half-mile. So my time isn't completely accurate but I made sure I ran the whole distance. If anything, I might have run a little extra. That's why my times look a little off and I only have a half-mile time for my last mile. My watch only showed 21.5 miles because it was turned off for half a mile. What a mess!

Daily Miles: 22.00 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 480.51 Miles.
  Bike - 144.45 Miles.
  Swim - 12,050+ meters.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Gear Check - ING New York City Marathon Swag!

When I entered the ING Runner's Nation Featured Runners contest, I was hoping to win the HD Flip video camera that was listed as a prize. When I was selected as a Featured Runner, I found out I would also receive a promotional t-shirt. What I didn't know, is that I would also receive a box full of cool ING goodies!

This package actually arrived earlier this week but I thought a Saturday Gear Check would be an appropriate time to take a look at the loot.

The first box to arrive contained:

An ING Duffle Bag
An ING Runner's Backpack
An ING Beer Coozie
ING Shoe Laces
An ING Luggage Tag
An ING Stop Watch
An ING Whistle
An ING Cowbell
ING Sunglasses
An ING Runner's Nation Banner
An ING Baseball Cap
An ING Visor
And an HD Flip Camcorder!!!!!!!

What a haul! It was like Christmas!

Then, two days later... another box on the front porch. This time, it was an ING Runner's Nation t-shirt and a long sleeve ING New York City Marathon Tech Shirt!

Who knew there would be so many perks to being a Featured Runner?

So Liz and I will be all ING'd up and wearing orange when we head to New York. I'm already making videos with my Flip camera so I hope to post some soon. And we used some of the gear for promotional purposes in my attempt to win the VIP race experience through Facebook.

Three weeks to go before the race and all of this gear has me pumped!

Goal For The Day: Rest.
Distance: 0.00 Miles.

Notes: A restful day preparing for tomorrow's 22. Tonight... Outdoor Movie Night!

Daily Miles: 0.00 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 458.51 Miles.
  Bike - 144.45 Miles.
  Swim - 12,050+ meters.

Friday, October 14, 2011

It's All Downhill From Here?

The phrase, "It's All Downhill From Here" has always confused me. Is it something you say as a positive thing or a negative thing? When things go downhill that's generally a negative thing. But if you've been struggling and now "it's all downhill from here", that makes me think the hard part is over and you can just coast the rest of the way. After all, going downhill is easy, right?

In this case, I'm using it as a positive statement. Today was the last mid-week run of my Peak Week. I have a monster Long Run coming up on Sunday but all of my mid-week runs get shorter and shorter from here on out. As an added bonus, today's run went really well.

I ran over to the high school track this morning for more Bannister Repeats. Today was 8 x 400 meters and they went incredibly smoothly. I considered only running 6 intervals after struggling a bit this week but I really wanted to finish my Peak Week strong and I was feeling pretty good after 4 intervals so I decided to run all 8. My leg didn't bother me at all and my stride felt surprisingly smooth. I was definitely laboring to keep things controlled by the last interval, but that's to be expected.

It was nice to end the week on a high note. It makes it easier to face the 22 miles looming just a day away.

As an added bonus, Liz and I took The Cricket for a walk and noticed a package waiting on the front porch. It was another box of goodies from ING! This time they were nice enough to send two t-shirts... an ING Runner's Nation short-sleeve t-shirt and an ING New York City Marathon long-sleeve tech shirt! I'll add them to the list of gear to talk about tomorrow.

Goal For The Day: Bannister Repeats.
Distance: 6.19 Miles.
Time: 8 x 400m (1:17, 1:14, 1:14, 1:14, 1:16, 1:14, 1:14, 1:15).
Route: Eureka H.S. Track.
Conditions: 50 degrees. 7:15am.

Notes: 2.10 Mile jog to the track. 4 x 800m. 2.09 Mile jog home. 2 minutes rest between intervals. Goal was 1:15 each. Chilly morning! I was still okay in a short-sleeve t-shirt but my hands were cold. Finally a little cooler weather! I delayed posting this to watch the end of the Cardinals game. That's a winner! One more, boys!!!

Daily Miles: 6.19 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 458.51 Miles.
  Bike - 144.45 Miles.
  Swim - 12,050+ meters.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Tough Twelve

I received a package full of ING swag in the mail yesterday. I was expecting the Flip Camera that was included but I didn't know they were sending so much free merchandise. I'll probably talk about it all in my Gear Check post on Saturday.

Here's a quick preview pic:

This morning was the longest Middle Distance run I'll do in my training... 12 miles that felt tougher than I would have liked. My left quad is still feeling stiff. It isn't sore anymore, but it feels tight and I didn't feel like I had any spring in my stride.

I took the first mile slow again and then tried to get the pace into the sub-7:00 range. Everything about this morning's run felt awkward though. If I was running with a quick turnover, I felt stiff and my legs were moving fast but not controlled. If I slowed the turnover and lengthened my stride, I felt like I was really laboring.

Finally, almost 8 miles into the run, my quad suddenly relaxed. Unfortunately, by the time it relaxed, I had already run 8 miles of heavy effort so even though it felt better, I didn't have much improvement in pace. I took the last couple of miles easy again today and the last mile was basically a cool-down.

I don't think it helped that I forgot to have a G1 pouch before I left and I didn't take anything along with me for during the run. It was one of those days I just felt foggy-headed and lacking energy.

I think this week's mileage is adding up more than I thought it would. 13 hard miles on Sunday over hills... 10 miles on Tuesday... 4 miles of hills yesterday... and 12 miles today. That's almost 40 miles in five days with more speedwork tomorrow and 22 miles scheduled for Sunday.

Beyond physical fatigue, I think I'm psyching myself out. Instead of just running in the moment and listening to my body, I keep catching myself thinking about how much I've run this week, how many miles I have left in the run I'm on, and about running 22 miles on Sunday. I have to reign those thoughts in and just focus on what I'm doing from moment to moment.

I'm ready for some fresh legs!!!

Goal For The Day: Middle Distance.
Distance: 12.20 Miles.
Time: 1:26:59. 7:08 Avg. (7:21, 6:49, 6:53, 7:09, 6:54, 6:48, 6:49, 6:56, 7:04, 7:23, 7:07, 7:58, 1:41*).
Route: To Rte 66/3 Laps/Home.
Conditions: 61 degrees/cloudy/cool. 7:00am.

Notes: Today was one of those days that 'training' is less fun than just 'running'. The weather was perfect for a long morning run. It rained a little last night and it was still cloudy and cool with a light wind this morning. If I hadn't been worried about my pace, it would have been a run morning for a run. At one point in the park, I turned a corner and surprised a deer that was just standing in the middle of the road. She stutter-stepped from side to side trying to decide which direction to run. She looked like Bambi trying to walk on ice!

Daily Miles: 12.20 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 464.52 Miles.
  Bike - 144.45 Miles.
  Swim - 12,050+ meters.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

From Hills To Bridges

For the most part, the elevation profile for the New York Marathon isn't that intimidating. It looks mostly flat with some small, rolling hills. The only time it looks like I'll be facing any significant inclines is when I'm crossing bridges. From what I can tell, I'll have four bridges to cross so I'm continuing with one set of Hill Repeats a week to prepare.

The bridges on the course:

(Verrazano-Narrows Bridge)

(Pulaski Bridge)

(Queensboro Bridge)

(Willis Avenue Bridge)

This morning I ran up Top Notch 8 times and it was the best hill workout I've done in a long time. My leg didn't bother me at all and I felt strong. I was able to charge the hill much faster than the past couple of weeks without straining too much.

Even though today felt good, I know it'll also take a toll on my legs. But that's the point of the week, isn't it?

Goal For The Day: Hill Repeats.
Distance: 4.09 Miles.
Time: 36:18. 8:53 Avg. (8:00, 8:49, 9:27, 9:14, 0:46*)
Route: 8 x Top Notch Repeats.
Conditions: 62 degrees. 7:45am.

Notes: This is a different kind of running than what I did yesterday. It's possible my quad still needs some recovery time. It's also possible that Sunday's hills made it sore in the first place and today's hills will tighten it up again. I guess we'll see tomorrow.

Daily Miles: 4.09 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 452.32 Miles.
  Bike - 144.45 Miles.
  Swim - 12,050+ meters.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Stop, Stretch, And Roll

My Peak Week got off to a rough start this morning.

I set out on a 10-mile run and was careful to take the first mile nice and easy to practice going out slower at the beginning of a long run. When I picked up the pace, I realized I had not done enough stretching since the half marathon on Sunday morning. My left quad felt tight and sore and it affected my stride quite a bit. I felt like I was running stiff-legged.

(It feels like #2 hurts.)

I was hoping it would loosen up as I went but it was still bothering me several miles later so I slowed down and took the rest of the run easy. When I switched from short, quick strides to long, slower strides it seemed to help.

I want to keep practicing at a sub-7 pace during these last few weeks of training but sometimes pushing too hard on a rough day only makes things worse. I would rather slow down today and have quality workouts the rest of the week than push it today and make the rest of the week worse.

The last 2-3 miles were more of a relaxed morning run than a training run. The last mile was about as relaxed as it gets. It was a nice morning for an easy run, it just wasn't what I had in mind when I got up this morning.

After work, I met Liz for our Tuesday swim. Even though the pool is indoors, the water was cold today. It made us reluctant to get in, but it was a good swim. I felt like I was breathing easier this week than last week. Like Liz pointed out, today was the first time in a long time that I didn't run right before the swim so that probably helped.

I'll hit the foam roller tonight and try to work out some of the problems in my quad. Hills for breakfast tomorrow!

Goal For The Day: Middle Distance.
Distance: 10.17 Miles.
Time: 1:13:03. 7:11 Avg. (7:25, 6:36, 6:47, 6:50, 6:47, 7:09, 7:01, 7:18, 7:34, 7:58, 1:34*).
Route: To Rte 66/2 Laps/Home.
Conditions: 59 degrees. 7:15am.

Goal For The Day: Swim
Distance: 1,000 meters (400, 400, 200).
Location: Fenton Rec Center Indoor Pool. 6:15pm.

Notes: I tried to massage that muscle throughout the day. It's pretty angry right now. Nothing too unusual. Just sore. It'll be fine in a day or two. I just have to get through this week and then all those little aches and pains will get a chance to heal. I saw a blue jay and two bright red cardinals on today's run... awesome!

Daily Miles: 10.17 Miles run. 1,000 meter swim.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 448.23 Miles.
  Bike - 144.45 Miles.
  Swim - 12,050+ meters.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Motivation Monday - The Last Leg? Or The Home Stretch?

I was once asked to settle a debate between a friend of mine and her Dad. They were trying to decide which term is closer to the finish... "The Last Leg" or "The Home Stretch". I voted for "The Home Stretch".

By my logic, The Last Leg is the last section or chunk of a race, trip, journey, etc. That means The Last Leg of a 1,000-mile car trip could be 150 miles long. The Last Leg of a 100-mile relay race could be 25 miles long. The last leg of a 1-mile race could be the final 1/4-mile lap. You get the idea.

But The Home Stretch is always that point when you know you're almost done. The finish line is in sight. It's that last little bit of distance you have to cover before you're home free. No matter how long the journey, The Home Stretch is when you start to think, "Almost there!"

This is my Peak Week! The Home Stretch! Once more unto the breach, dear friends! I have a lot of miles to run this week but then it's nothing but tapering and recovery until Race Day! (I realize that's a lot of exclamation points, but it's getting exciting!)

The tension is building and I'm less than a month away from finding out how all of this work will play out. The excitement... the nerves... the curiosity... it's all coming to a head.

No matter how tired you are late in the race, you never need extra motivation when you reach The Home Stretch!

Goal For The Day: Rest.
Distance: 0.00 Miles.

Notes: I'm feeling good after yesterday's race and a week of recovery mileage. I'm ready to throw myself into Peak Week and see what my legs have in them.

Daily Miles: 0.00 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 438.06 Miles.
  Bike - 144.45 Miles.
  Swim - 11,050+ meters.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Race Report: BAJA Half Marathon

This morning I ran the BAJA (Bone And Joint Awareness) Half Marathon in Festus, MO. My training schedule called for a test-run at the half marathon distance and I was lucky enough to find a race to run.

I was up at 5am and on the road by 5:45. (I'm slow to wake in the morning.) Unfortunately, my GPS was misleading so I did some extra driving around Festus. This was even more embarrassing when I realized the middle school I was looking for is right next to Festus High School and I ran plenty of track meets there in high school so I probably could have found it without the GPS.

By the time I found a place to park, I had less than 15 minutes before the start of the race. That left me enough time to pin on my bib number, put on my running shoes, stretch, and run a two-minute warm-up.

For a small race, there were a lot of competitive runners at the starting line. The race was timed by Fleet Feet so that drew a crowd, but I was still surprised by the level of competition.

For some reason, I had it in my head that this was going to be a fairly flat run. It wasn't. Most of the first mile was downhill so even though I was making a conscious effort to take it easy early, I ran the first mile at close to 6-minute pace. Then the rolling hills continued to wear us down for the rest of the race.

I settled into 4th place pretty early and it wasn't long before we were stretched out a bit and I might as well have been running a time trial by myself in Eureka. The guy in 3rd place steadily ran away from me and I didn't see much of him after mile 5.

My right shoe also came untied just after mile 5 so I had to stop briefly to take care of it. About a half-mile later, I was weaving my way in and out of the hilly neighborhoods of Crystal City, MO. Then I started up a hill just before mile 8. And it kept going... and going... and going. This hill didn't level out until just before mile 9. Over a mile of non-stop incline. Ugh.

A pack of three runners, including the first-place woman, caught me just as we topped the hill. Finally, I had someone to run with. They all passed me and I tucked in behind them as we made a quick loop and then enjoyed a long run back down the giant hill we had just conquered.

Two of them continued to gap me but I stuck with the third. I had dropped from 4th to 7th.  When we hit the bottom of the hill around mile 10, I tried to take advantage of the 'free speed' and keep my pace up. Between miles 10 and 11, I was able to pass the guy in front of me and hoped to hang on with 2 miles to go.

I expected us to run back up the mile-long hill that started the race so I was dreading the last mile. But about 200 meters up the hill, we turned onto a side road and took a mercifully less hilly path back to the finish line.

I still felt like I was fading some and I thought the guy I had passed might have been saving some energy for a push in the last mile so I tried my best to make him work for it. The course ended at the high school track and we ran the final 100 meters down the home stretch. It was cool entering the stadium with the runners' family and friends in the stands to cheer people in.

I wasn't passed in the last mile and crossed the finish line in 6th place. More importantly, I checked my watch and found out I had run a 1:27:30. That means I ran my second-fastest time on the hardest half-marathon course I've ever run. I feel good about what that says about my fitness and it's an encouraging sign for New York.

The guy that won ran a blistering 1:10:59. That's an average of 5:25 per mile. I don't know if I could run one mile that fast and he averaged that pace over 13.1 miles of those hills. He might be a cyborg from the future.

I stuck around and congratulated some friends/coworkers that also ran the race. (Congrats, Leigh and Tracy!!!) The temperature climbed quickly and it felt good to sit in the bleachers in the sun while we cheered runners across the finish line.

I finished first in my age group and got a plaque to match my finisher's medal!

My friend/co-worker/boss, Tracy, also won his age group!

It was a challenging course but a fun race and I'm sure it'll grow quickly in the next few years.

Goal For The Day: Race!
Distance: 13.10 Miles.
Time: 1:27:30. 6:41 Avg. (5:57, 6:31, 6:32, 6:43, 6:34, 7:06, 6:52, 7:14, 7:05, 6:37, 6:33, 6:46, 7:00).
Conditions: 50 degrees at the start. 7:00am.
6th out of 231 Overall (5th male).
1st out of 12 Males 30-34.

Notes: I let myself go out too fast on that mile-long downhill start. I reigned it in after that, but it still probably affected my race. You can tell by the fluctuation in my times when I was hitting bigger hills. I felt good and recovered quickly on the flats though. Now I just have to get through one more tough week of peak mileage and I'll be ready to taper.

Daily Miles: 13.10 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 438.06 Miles.
  Bike - 144.45 Miles.
  Swim - 11,050+ meters.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Gear Check - Nike Free Run 2

New kicks! I bought some new Free Runs at Fleet Feet yesterday. I plan to wear them in New York so I'll be using them on some of my shorter runs between now and then. The Free Runs are so flexible, they really don't need a lot of breaking-in, but I want to make sure there won't be any unexpected blistering.

The updated Free Runs aren't much different from last year's model. Most of the changes seem to be cosmetic:

You can see how much I've worn down the tread nubbins on my current shoes:

There isn't a lot to say about these shoes that I didn't already say in my post about my current Free Runs. It'll probably be a week or so before I even slip these babies on. If there are noticable differences, I'll revisit the subject. Otherwise, I just need to do some waterproofing and they're good to go.

I do Love that New Shoe smell!!!

Goal For The Day: Rest.
Distance: 0.00 Miles.

Notes: A great day of rest. Our friends, the Kanes hosted an Oktoberfest party tonight. Good food, good friends, good times. We left a little early though because I have a race in the morning. Race Report tomorrow.

Daily Miles: 0.00 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 424.96 Miles.
  Bike - 144.45 Miles.
  Swim - 11,050+ meters.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fantastic Friday!

It's been unseasonably warm lately with highs in the low-to-mid-80's. So I'm not getting a lot of cold-weather practice but the morning temperatures have been great for running!

I ran to the track for some Bannister Repeats this morning. This is the last day of my recovery week and I'm racing a half marathon on Sunday, so I only ran 6 intervals. There was a woman there running mile repeats and she had a coach timing her. She looked pretty hardcore. I felt bad because it looked like she was doing some pretty serious training and I didn't want to be a distraction. But she was running mile repeats and I was running quarter-mile repeats so my pace was significantly faster than hers. I passed her on a couple of my intervals and I hope I didn't throw her off her rhythm. I chatted with her coach for a minute as I was leaving. It sounds like she's a fairly competitive runner who is recovering from an injury. Apparently, today was her first track workout since coming back and she's training to run a competitive marathon in December. It was kinda cool sharing a track with her, whoever she was.

My workout went well and I finally feel like I'm back to normal after Sunday's 20 miles. My legs felt fine and I ran every interval under my goal time. I can't wait to see how this Sunday's race goes.

After work, I went to Fleet Feet in Fenton to pick up my race packet for Sunday. While I was there, I went ahead and bought a pair of Nike Free Run 2's. They aren't white like I wanted, but they'll do the trick. I'll probably write more about them tomorrow.

Later, I met Liz in Chesterfield for dinner at Oishi. I Love Japanese Steakhouses and we had a great dinner to celebrate our 3rd anniversary. I'm a very lucky man! The plan was to catch a movie after dinner but we stepped outside and decided it was way too nice outside to be in a movie theater. Plus, our good friends, the Coppins, were setting up a t.v. on their back deck to watch game 5 of the NLDS. So we went home, joined some friends for the game, and watched Carpenter pitch a gem to help the Cardinals to a 1-0 victory over the Phillies. NLCS, here we come!

Start to finish, an excellent Friday and an excellent end of the week.

Goal For The Day: Bannister Repeats.
Distance: 5.66 Miles.
Time: 6 x 400m (1:14, 1:13, 1:13, 1:13, 1:14, 1:14).
Route: Eureka H.S. Track.
Conditions: 52 degrees. 7:30am.

Notes: 2.08 Mile jog to the track. 2.08 Mile jog home. 2 minutes rest between intervals. The intervals didn't feel too bad today. The last one was a little sloppy and my breathing was all over the place over the last 100 meters. But overall a good day. Very relaxed jog home.

Daily Miles: 5.66 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 424.96 Miles.
  Bike - 144.45 Miles.
  Swim - 11,050+ meters.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

The ING New York City Marathon is exactly one month from today. As the marathon gets closer, the excitement is building and there are a lot of special promotions being offered to enhance the participants' race experience.

Last week, I found out that a page on Facebook called the ING Runner's Nation was holding a contest to select six 'Featured Runners'. Each Featured Runner would receive an HD Flip video camera. To enter, you had to make a video that was three minutes or shorter to explain why you should be selected.

I'm already logging my journey to New York on this blog and I thought having an HD video camera would be an awesome way to record even more of my experience. So I made a quick video the night before the deadline and submitted it thinking, "You can't win if you don't play."

Today, they announced the winners and I was chosen as one of the six Featured Runners!!! I should get my new camera in the mail by Monday and I'll be keeping another blog on the ING Runner's Nation page leading up to the marathon.

In addition to the camera and the opportunity to be a Featured Runner, I'm also competing for a VIP Race Day experience. The six of us are competing for VIP transportation on Race Day and access to a VIP tent before and after the race. I honestly have no idea what that involves, but when you say "VIP", it sounds too good to pass up.

So between now and November 4th, people can read our blogs on Facebook and vote daily for the Featured Runner they want to win the VIP experience. As if going to New York and running a huge marathon wasn't exciting enough!

As for my training, I got out for a morning Middle Distance run. I still didn't push the pace because it's supposed to be a recovery run, but today felt better than the past couple of days. My legs aren't as heavy and I felt more relaxed.

One month to go!

Goal For The Day: Middle Distance.
Distance: 8.30 Miles.
Time: 58:33. 7:03 Avg. (7:12, 6:39, 6:56, 6:53, 6:53, 7:07, 6:57, 7:36, 2:16*).
Route: To Rte 66/1 Lap/Home.
Conditions: 49 degrees. 7:30am.

Notes: An exciting day! I can't wait for New York! It's also added pressure. It definitely adds to the tension and suspense.

Daily Miles: 8.30 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 419.30 Miles.
  Bike - 144.45 Miles.
  Swim - 11,050+ meters.