Archive for December, 2009

As 2009 draws to a close I thought it would be appropriate to look back on the year that was. On Friday I will provide a “sneak peek” into some of my goals for 2010. January 1, 2009 fell on a Thursday and marked the first week of marathon training for the Pittsburgh Marathon that would be held on May 3rd. The ramp up to Pittsburgh represented my most serious training effort to date in the hopes of finishing with a BQ (Boston Qualifying) time. For my age group that meant finishing with a time of 3 hrs. 20 min. 59 sec. or better.

2009 Pittsburgh Marathon Training Schedule

89 training runs, covering 687.2 miles over 18-weeks to make a run at a Boston time. I remember posting my training plan to the refrigerator and looking at each of the runs ahead. There would be no excuses, no skipped workouts, no complaining and no failing I told myself. I would eat right, get my rest and put myself in a position to qualify. At that point it would be left to the weather, the day and fate – but I was going to work hard to give myself the best chance for success.

As weeks turned to months and race day approached I really felt like I had a great shot. I was able to run my three 20-mile training runs incident free and ahead of race pace – if I could hold it together for 26.2 miles I should finish with a time just under 3:20:00.

Race day temperatures were right in my sweet spot as I love to run when the thermometer is showing 45-47 degrees. Overcast skies, very little wind and a slight chance of rain in the forecast. I could do without the rain – but when it comes to race day, you have to take what you get.

As the miles ticked by and I hit the hill at Forbes (mile 13) and I looked down at my GPS we were right on target with a split time of 1:37:40. The much publicized hill at Forbes came at a great time for me as I always feel strongest between miles 12 and 16. The climb turned out to be more “hype” than “hill” as I only gave away 17 seconds on the incline which I would be able to make up on the decline between miles 22 and 24 if I could push through mile 20 without incident.

Once again fate smiled on me as the rain showers showed up right as I crested the hill at Forbes and kept me cool throughout the final 12 miles of the race. After a brief fight with my body at mile 21 (this commonly referred to as hitting the wall) occurred when my body was changing it’s fuel source from glycogen (a very efficient fuel) to fat (a very inefficient fuel). Typically I struggle for the better part of 3/4 of a mile before my mind, legs and body sort out their differences and allow me to push through.

]The final two miles at Pittsburgh were some of the most enjoyable I had ever run. Well ahead of my time I was able to really focus on form, pushing through the end of the race and actually hear the shouts of encouragement from the spectators. Running under the overhang at the Pittsburgh Convention Center and seeing my time ticking forward from 3:17 I knew we had it. 3:17:43 was the final mark and we had made the field for this year’s Boston Marathon.

In June I was bitten by the race bug again as recovery from the Pittsburgh race went better than I could have expected. I was back running just 4 days after the marathon and was back to a typical 30-mile training week in just 3 weeks. On June 20th I toed the line at the Holland, TX 5K and ran a very strong time at a great event finishing 9th overall and winning my age group in 19:47:3 (6:23 pace).

You can access the Holland race results here:

With Boston still several months away over the summer my wife Dawn and I learned of our friend Dom’s diagnosis and priorities shifted in the blink of an eye this Fall. The possibility of running both the Boston Marathon (April 19, 2010) and the Pittsburgh Marathon (May 20, 2010) just 13 days later in Dom’s hometown became a reality on August 28, 2009. Each day since then has been dedicated to spreading the word about our effort to help Dom and his family as well as arriving in Hopkinton, MA with the goal of not only completing Boston – but then covering another 26.2 miles only 13 days later.

We have come a long way in 2009 with 1,667 running miles logged since the start of the year. Ironically the distance between Austin, TX and Boston, MA is 1,692 miles – virtually the same distance. We have a long way to go in 2010 – miles to cover, races to run and dollars to raise for Dom and his family to help fight this terrible disease.

To the 115+ followers on Twitter, almost 1,000 viewers of this blog, 125+ friends on Facebook and all of our Run for Dom donors both current and future – I want to let you all know just how much your support and kind words over the past year have meant to Dom, his family and to me. You are all making a difference as we Run for Dom in 2010. Please come back on Friday when we look at what 2010 has in store – until then, I wish you and your families a happy and healthy 2010. Happy New Year!

3 miles never felt so good ….

Posted: December 28, 2009 in Uncategorized

Today was a very big day at Run for Dom.  After experiencing only my second running injury in 5-years last month things are finally looking up on the training front.  I have come to gain a new appreciation for running pain-free and especially the plight of those that suffer from shin splints.  The past month has been especially frustrating as I went from comfortably running 32-38 miles every week to not being able to complete a single 5-mile training run.  My cardio level, leg strength, core strength and mentally everything said “Go, Go, Go” while my lower right leg was saying, “Not so fast there junior”.

Dr. Sierra D'Eramo

As morning runs became an impossibility a new training plan needed to be developed including the substitution of low/no impact cardio work and strength training to keep our fitness level where it needed to be when I was able to resume running.  Call me superstitious but on Saturday morning I had a very special consult with Dr. Sierra D’Eramo who cleared me to resume my running this week.  Dr. D’Eramo (Dom’s daughter pictured above) gave me a full exam and deemed me healthy and ready to go.

At 6:15 am as I laced up my Asics with only 16 weeks to the day away from the start of the Boston Marathon it was time to get on with it.  As I took those first few tentative strides out of our driveway and up Palmbrook Drive I immediately felt different.  Gone was the nagging irritation below my right calf and soreness on the inner part of my shin.  I started the run on the same route that had run over 1,600 previous miles this year fighting to slow my pace and “take it easy”.  The three miles I had scheduled this morning were covered in 21:27 (7:09 pace) – pretty solid with a more than three-week absence from running.

It became apparent that my work on the bike has paid off as I coasted through the run with strong legs and strong lung capacity – great stuff.

Joe & Dom - December 2009

When I got back to the house this morning and went through the new ritual of icing my leg and stretching diligently – two things that honestly I had not paid proper attention to in the past – I realized just how easy it is to take things for granted.  Things that we view as simple entitlements until they are taken away from us.

For me it was the joy of being able to hop out the front door and run 10,12 miles anytime I felt like it – for my good friend Dom coming back from surgery it is everyday things that all of us take for granted such as being able to drink a cup of coffee, eating a bowl of oatmeal or enjoying your Mother’s home-made cavatelli on Christmas Eve ….

Spending time with Dom and his family was a tremendous gift this Christmas as my wife Dawn and I got the opportunity to visit with Dom, his wife Val, his son Nico and daughter Dr. Sierra.  Being able to laugh a little with our good friend and talk about how far he has come in his battle to beat this terrible disease.  Dom’s biggest hurdle to cross right now is simply getting his body to adjust to the very aggressive surgery he had back in November to remove his stomach and spleen as well as a hot chemotherapy bath treatment to treat all of the other effected organs.  Dom is struggling taking solid foods right now and is getting virtually all of his nutrition via a feeding tube.  Despite knowing that he needs to eat and drink throughout the day the discomfort right now is so significant and the reaction from his body so severe that the pain can be unbearable.

RFD Official Motto

As Dom fights through this period of time where nutrition is his largest hurdle to gain strength for his next three rounds of chemotherapy we are just really beginning our race preparations for the Boston Marathon on April 19th and Pittsburgh Marathon May 2nd.  Our revised training calendar calls for 63 runs over the next 16 weeks totaling 430 miles, 47 biking sessions covering 570 miles and 48 strength training sessions.

1,000 training miles to cover 52.40 race miles.  Piece of cake.  I have been saying this since we started this effort to help Dom’s family that I had it easy – and I have never been more convinced of that than this weekend.  Dom is going to need to approach every day’s nutrition “schedule” as I do my training calendar.  A series of small steps forward that will ultimately lead to the finish line.

The key thing to remember is that it is not always going to be easy, sometimes it rains, sometimes it snows, sometimes the wind blows so hard in your face it feels like you are going backwards.  The key is to just keep those legs churning and before you know it you have pushed through and come out the other side.

Before today a 3-mile run was almost not worth the effort of lacing up the shoes – it seemed like it was over before it started.  Today however, those were 3 glorious miles.  I enjoyed every step along the way and felt a great deal of pride crossing them off of the schedule that hangs on the refrigerator door.  Only 997 miles to go – I plan on making the most out of every single one of them.

Good morning everyone – just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday.  Last night my wife Dawn and I were able to stop by our good friend Dom’s Mother and Father’s house to see the D’Eramo family.  It was the first opportunity that we have had to see Dom since he was diagnosed with cancer and has gone through his treatments and surgery. 

Dom and Dawn Christmas Eve 2009

 The house was filled with three generations of D’Eramo’s, O’Brien’s, Richey’s, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Grandchildren, Nieces and Nephews …. as everyone held hands for the blessing the circle of family and friends literally encircled the entire downstairs of the house Dom grew up in.

One of the things I have failed to mention since we have started the Run for Dom blog is the fact that one of my passions aside from Marathoning is eating.  Many runners will tell you they distance run because they love to eat.  Well Mrs. D’Eramo prepared the traditional Italian Christmas Eve dinner (the seven fishes feast) last night (Baccala, Smelts, Shrimp, Crab Cakes, Whiting), stuffed mushrooms, linguini and one of my favorite all-time pasta dishes, homemade cavatelli ….

Man, was it good and I haven’t even gotten to the italian cookie plate afterwards …. wow.  I even was able to give Dom’s son Nico his bottle before we left to head over to Dawn’s family’s Christmas Eve celebration (more great food of course!) which I’m proud to say Nico took down in record time in keeping with the theme of the night.  (more pictures of Nico and Sierra coming when I get back to Austin.

Overall it was a great, great time and it was a very special time for Dawn and I to visit our good friend as he continues to fight the good fight in recovering from his surgery and this terrible disease.  You can read more about Dom and his battle as well as the RFD effort here:

We are all looking forward to having Dom with us for many Christmas Eve’s to come – as well as Mrs. D’Eramo’s cooking!  Thanks to everyone who has followed this effort and for our RFD donors to date – thank you very much for supporting my good friend and making a real difference in Dom, Val, Sierra and Nico’s lives.  They are very precious to all of us.

Merry Christmas everyone, I wish you and your families all a happy and healthy Holiday Season.  God Bless.

With the holidays rapidly approaching I wanted to take a moment to share an update that I received yesterday from my friend Ashley Kumlien who later this spring will be running across the United States to raise money and awareness for MS.  If you are new to the blog and have not heard about Ashley’s effort you can click here for the story:

The local Fox news in Ashley’s hometown did a tremendous piece on her this weekend that I think captures her drive, determination and her amazing approach to this daunting challenge ahead:

As we get caught up this time of year rushing around trying to prepare for the holidays, standing in lines, hustling from one store to the next (or web-site to the next) looking for that last gift it is easy to forget what it is really all about.  This year I will be traveling up to Pittsburgh on Thursday morning to spend the holidays with my wife’s side of the family and on Saturday will be stopping by to visit Dom.  For me this holiday season that is really what it is all about – spending time with those you care about and those that care about you.

Ashley and Mom Jill

Take some time over the next few days to slow down and enjoy them – look for opportunities to make a difference in the lives you care about. 

Ashley puts it best at the end of the piece about her run in honor of her Mother’s struggle with MS when she says “It’s a big idea, but I can do it, anyone can.  You can walk or run as long as you want as long as you have the time.”

Time is something we all have – it is just hard to realize it sometimes.  I for one am going to make sure to not miss out this year on the hugs, the kisses, the laughter and the joy of being with those that make a difference in my life.  Afterall, that is really what this time of year is all about.

Thank you Ashley for reminding me – you are the greatest.  Happy Holidays everyone!

When life gives you lemons …

Posted: December 21, 2009 in Training

On Friday I received a call late in the day from Dr. Fernandez at Austin Sports Medicine with my MRI results from earlier in the week.  Dr. F passed along very good news that the MRI showed no stress fracture or stress reaction in my lower right leg – only what we had been hoping for which was irritation and muscle straining around my tibia causing pain (shin splint).  This pain which has kept me from running over the past two weeks is an obvious disappointment with respect to me kicking off my standard 18-week training plan ramping up to the Boston Marathon on April 19th.  But with the proper perspective on our long-term goal of completing two marathons only 13 days apart this spring as we Run for Dom, perhaps this news and set-back is really a blessing in disguise?

Run Less Run Faster - Runners World

A few days prior to my MRI I received a book as part of my subscription to Runners World titled:  Run Less, Run Faster.  Like most marathoners I have a formula that works and I am very skeptical of training programs that tout reduced mileage as a way to improve performance.  But since I had a lot of time on my hands as I rested and recuperated – I thought, why not?  What can it hurt?

The first thing that impressed me as I began the book was that the premise of the training program was not a short-cut schedule or a magic bean – but actually a very precise 3/2 program that removes your two shortest run days from your 5-day program and replaces them with cross training in the form of cycling, swimming etc. that allows for a tough cardiovascular workout but takes a lot of the pounding from your knees, hips, legs, feet allowing you to train harder during your three run days.


Seemed to make sense to me, but I must admit I was still very skeptical.  Then I learned that this book was not simply written by a running guru that trained at a professional level and completed numerous sub 3:00 hour marathons.  It was actually the research work from a team that started the Furman Institute of Running & Scientific Training (FIRST) program.  You can find more information about FIRST and their training programs and seminars here at:

Included in the book are countless stories from program participants (these are actually runners who enrolled in the program, traveled to Furman University in South Carolina to be tested and followed the program from start to finish in preparing for a marathon) with amazing success rates in reducing their marathon times by 10%-20%.  These again were not only exceptional runners with previous marathon times in the sub 3:00 category – but also “everyday” marathoners with times of 3:45 to 4:15.

Cervelo P1 Triathlon Bike

For me as I know that logging 50 mile weeks is a far way off for me anytime soon, I am in fact looking to help get to the starting line at Boston as prepared as I can be, but also as “healthy” as I can be with Pittsburgh looming just 13 days later.  What had been my intention of starting the transformation from Marathoner to Triathlete in 2012 has been accelerated by 24 months or so which will allow me to bike 2X per week in preparing for Boston and focusing on 3 quality runs over the next 16 weeks.

Pictured above is my wife’s Christmas present to me (and birthday and anniversary and next Christmas and possibly next birthday).  I spent the last week to ten days driving the guys down at Austin Tri Cyclist crazy with questions as I tried to educate myself in what kind of equipment would allow me to train effectively and ultimately race in a few triathlons in the next 12-18 months.

The guys were great, I learned a whole lot and must say that for the first time in a few years am very excited to be taking on a new sport.  I went from knowing virtually nothing about running and marathoning in 2005 to having a considerable amount of experience and knowledge in that sport.  I hope that the transition to the Triathlon is as rewarding and in the interim will help me through the Run for Dom effort with strength, stamina and speed to spare.

One thing I will say is that a new pair of $120 running shoes every few months now seems like peanuts to the cost of this new hobby … now if anyone out there knows any swim coaches in Austin please let me know – that will be a lot of fun to write about I’m sure.

Happy Holidays everyone and thank you Dawn for my gift – you are the greatest.

UND Students Support Run for Dom

Posted: December 18, 2009 in Motivation

With the holidays approaching I thought it appropriate to recognize a key donation that was recently received for the Run for Dom effort.  For those of you who are new to following the blog this journey started in August of this past year after finding out that our dear friend Dominic D’Eramo at the age of 38 years old found himself in the battle for his life.  A husband and father of two young children – Dom’s world was dealt a serious blow.  Details of Dom’s battle thus far can be found here as well as in the side bar under the Key Posts heading.

Some of you may not know that my “day job” is in fact in fundraising work.  For the last 10 years I have been fortunate to work for the leader in non-profit fundraising solutions.  The focus of my division is on College and University on-campus fundraising efforts.  We are now located on 60 campuses across the United States and Canada employing more than 2,500 college students as well as more than 120 full-time staff members from California to Rhode Island, Texas to Ontario – and even the city of Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Back in 2003 we started a philanthropy program called H.O.P.E. (Holiday Outreach Philanthropy Effort).  This program was established to help our student fundraisers learn the greatest lesson in philanthropy that a small gift can really make a real difference. 

Each night in phonathon rooms around the United States and Canada our students would talk with alumni, parents and friends of their College or University and tell them just that.  That their gift of $25, $50, $100, $250 would make a real difference in the lives of current students.  Students just like them who would be able to enjoy scholarships, faculty development, programming and learning opportunities that would shape their futures – just as the generosity of others years before had done for them.

The H.O.P.E. program was our way of bringing this lesson to these students as they were asked to vote on a local charity that they were passionate about (March of Dimes, Homeless Shelters, Adopt a Family Programs, Animal Shelters etc.) and each make a small donation of $5.00 to support the cause.  This $5 donation which may sound insignificant to some is not the case for a college student where $5 is a meal, 2 gallons of gas, or that Starbucks Caramel Brulee Latte that gets you through a long night of studies.

These $5 donations however add up very quickly and in fact our small “army” of student fundraisers donated over $13,000 to charity this fall supporting all kinds of worthy causes making a real difference in the lives of  many this holiday season – I have never been so proud of our group.

Dom at Walmart - practicing for rehab

What was truly remarkable in the case of our students at UND was that they chose to support Run for Dom as their H.O.P.E. program effort.  These students were very touched by Dom’s story and all that we were willing to do to help – in my case running two marathons in two weeks this spring in an effort to raise $26,200 ($26.2) for Dom and his family – that they chose this effort over all others to make a difference.

Each of the student callers at UND made a gift achieving a 100% participation rate which is truly remarkable.  Additionally we had several donations from the group far surpass the $5 goal at the $6 (Amanda Bullene, Kristina Gregg and Joe Laszewski), $10 (Collin Brumskill and Rachel Ripley) and even a large gift of $50 (Emily Wirkus)which was matched by our on-campus full-time manager Chris Brock.

The final total of $258.98 is the largest single donation to the Run for Dom effort to date!  An amazing accomplishment that proves that together a group of individuals can make a very large difference in the lives of others if they focus their effort and believe in a cause.  I personally wanted to thank each and every donor from UND – Lauren Berg, Megan Bezdicek, Collin Brumskill, Amanda Bullene, Rachel Busch, Peter Christian, Lori Florine, Kristina Gregg, Courtney Hanson, Rachel Holt, John Kappel, Jake Kjellberg, Jaclyn Kramer, Joe Laszewski, Scott Lebovitz, Matt Mason, Emma Meyer, Blythe Nakasone, Gideon Ogbeide, Lexie Pullin, Rochelle Rietsema, Rachel Ripley, Samantha Ruane, Rachel Smerer, Bryan Stanke, Marcus Wax, Emily Wirkus, Seth Zander – and welcome them to our honor roll of donors.

People continue to ask me about the two marathon in two-week challenge this spring and ponder “how can I do it?”  Well, it is moments like these where the question I find myself asking is in fact how can I not?

To the group up in Grand Forks – enjoy your holiday break and stay warm up there!  Maybe I can talk you into making a trip out to Boston this spring for spring break and a little road race on this April.

For more information about how you can help – please visit:

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Running A guest blog entry by Rob Ackley

I’d never given running much thought to be honest.  I had friends who ran and seemed to enjoy it.  I’d “run” to the grocery store or the gas station. I’d been on numerous beer runs in my life.  I’d even watched some of the best runners in the world run around the track at the University of Oregon while in college – a track made famous by Steve Prefontaine, a man who is almost worshipped in some circles I’ve heard.  But the thought of actually getting up and running myself never crossed my mind.  Running was something done either by people who have nothing better to do at 5 am or by Forrest Gump – it simply wasn’t for me.

Most of my "runs" ended here

For the sake of full disclosure, it should be said that I am not built like a runner.  I am 6’1” and between 250 and 260 lbs.  This means that if I go back to the buffet after dinner, and Joe goes light on the salad during dinner, two of Joe equals one of me.  I also like chicken wings.  And microbrew beer.  And a nice glass of pinot noir with prime rib and a loaded baked potato.  Clif Bars and energy goo don’t really appeal to me.  I don’t have any issues with people who do enjoy those things, but they don’t jump off the shelf at me when I go to a running store.  On second thought, they may not jump off the shelf because I’ve never actually been to a running store.

Size and build wise I was best suited for the all American game of football.  The unfortunate thing for me was that I didn’t have the talent to play football.  I played in high school as an offensive lineman and while I could bluff and say we won state, the truth is we stunk.  And I was a third string lineman.  A backup to the backup lineman on an awful team – athletic glory was not in the cards for me.

All of this, combined with about 500 other excuses, kept me from running.  Really it kept me from pursuing almost any athletic pursuit.  I was happy sleeping in, tail gating in the parking lot before the game, and just generally thinking about anything other than exercise.  Yet there I was the weekend before Thanksgiving with a number on my chest lined up for a 5k run.  How did I end up at the starting line of an actual timed race?

My nemesis

I wish I could tell you that I had a life changing event that put me on the road to running, but that simply isn’t the case.  My inspiration came in the form of a treadmill taking up space in my bedroom.  My wife and I purchased the treadmill with the best of intentions, but as is the case with many pieces of exercise equipment it turned into an overpriced coat rack.  So as I tripped over the thing for the umpteenth time, I got upset and decided to use it.  It wasn’t a grand revelation or some sort of bolt from the blue – I simply got mad at a bad investment and decided to do something about it.

Once I started using the treadmill I discovered that I actually kind of liked running.  I also discovered what many other runners already knew – running on a treadmill is a tediously boring experience.  I quickly moved outdoors and let my wife use the treadmill, which was another benefit of getting mad at the thing in the first place.  Some practice jogs and an online beginning runner program later (thanks, I found myself at the start of a 5k with three simple goals:

  1. Don’t stop moving
  2. Finish in under 40 minutes
  3. Don’t pass out along the way.

3.1 miles later, I hadn’t stopped moving, I finished in 38:36 and I didn’t black out.  I was beat by a pair of nine-year old girls, but not getting beat by them wasn’t on my goal list so I was okay with that.

So does this mean I’m now in training for a marathon and am working to shave seconds off each mile? No.  It does mean, however, that I am getting out there at least a few times each week and doing some runs.  I’ve had some days that I skipped or couldn’t do what I wanted to, but I didn’t give up like I would have in the past.  I continue to find people who run like Joe to be amazing, and Dom’s story is truly inspirational.  My situation is simpler but it illustrates that if I can get off the couch anyone can.  I’m looking forward to running another 5k in early 2010 and shaving some time off the clock – maybe this is the year the nine-year olds go down.

Rob Ackley works with Joe and lives in Ft. Worth Texas.  In addition to ignoring running for most of his life, Rob is happily married with two sons.

Note from Joe – Rob is a long-time friend and co-worker who I have known for over a decade.  I have shared a lot of good times, not so good times, laughs, smiles and beers with Rob.  I can’t say however that I have ever been more proud of my good friend than I was getting the call that he finished his first 5K.  Way to go Rob, you my friend, are the man.

2009 Year in Review

Posted: December 15, 2009 in Motivation

I am a big believer that goal setting is the first and most important step in goal achievement.  Whether it is in your personal life, business or athletics for me it boils down to choosing the goal, formulating your plan for achieving that goal and doing the work.  If at the end of the day you did everything that you could in the pursuit of that goal and your effort was honest and true – you are a winner no matter the results.  Of course, that said …. results are nice ….  

As I continue to work through this nagging injury that is keeping me from training the way I would like right now I found myself searching for a pick-me-up, so I thought I would glance back at the year that was 2009 and see just how we did with respect to our goals for the year when it came to training and racing.  

2009 Goals

At the start of 2009 my number one goal that I was focused on from the first of January until May 3, 2009 at Pittsburgh was to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  What was interesting to me when I stumbled upon my “2009 Goals” in my desk drawer this morning was the other goals I had set that would allow me to make a legitimate run at a BQ (Boston Qualifying) Time in Pittsburgh on May 3, 2009.  

In hindsight I did a pretty good job setting my goals for the year as even if I was to fall short of my goal at Pittsburgh due to injury, weather, ability – I was still going to have achieved a great deal over the course of the year.  To me, that is what setting goals is all about.  If the only goal on the page was to qualify for the Boston Marathon and I had fallen short – is that really the payoff for all of the hard work, early mornings, strength training, eating right and dedication?  

Setting goals is an important part of the process, but they have to be the right goals.  Not necessarily goals that are “easy to achieve”, but goals that are “possible” given hard work and dedication.  No matter how hard I train I am never going to be able to run a sub-2:30 marathon in my 40’s with only 6 years of running experience ….. can I make a run at a sub-3:00 marathon in the future?  Well, I guess you’ll have to keep reading as we set our goals for 2010 and 2011.   

So how did I do?  Let’s take a look back at 2009.  

1.  Develop a BQ training plan   

With the help of Hal Higdon’s marathon training guide I was able to develop a 5-day a week, 18 week training plan that would cover 687 training miles leading up to the Pittsburgh Marathon.  I would need to bring my mile pace down to 7:29 to make my Boston time shaving more than 30 minutes off of my PR (Personal Record) for the marathon distance to qualify.  

2.  Run each training mile in plan  

I was fortunate enough to train 100% injury free for the Pittsburgh Marathon with the exception of a few blisters here and there and general soreness.  I ran each and every training run 89/89 and make it to the start at Pittsburgh injury free!  

3.  Run each workout with a purpose  

Easier said than done, but I was very proud of my effort throughout the training period.  I trained in 11 different states during the ramp up to Pittsburgh, never missed a workout and tried to focus on that day’s workout with maximum effort.  Whether it was a pace run, a recovery run or a long-run – I focused on that workout that day and made sure I was giving 100% effort.  

Pittsburgh Marathon Training Schedule

4.  Achieve BQ (Boston Qualifier) time of 3:20:50  

It all came together for me at Pittsburgh and as I struggle through a nagging training injury getting ready for 2010 I realize just how fortunate I was.  Race day temperatures were in the mid-40’s at the start of the race with very little wind.  Great course, great crowds surrounded by a lot of family and friends made for a perfect race.  I was able to hit my splits and finished with a new PR and BQ time of 3:17:43 in 209th place overall, 28th in my division. I couldn’t have asked for a better result.  

Mile 6

5. Enjoy Pittsburgh Marathon regardless of BQ outcome  

This was perhaps the easiest goal on the list to achieve – having trained so hard for such a long period of time, this was the first time in many weeks where I simply laced ’em up and ran.  Whatever was going to happen with respect to Boston was out of my control at that point.  All of the training miles were already in the books – I was either going to make my time or not – but I was determined to have fun along the way.  

After the Pittsburgh Race I was asked by a friend if I would run with him at a small 5K race up in Holland, TX.  I had not run a race other than marathon distance since 2006 and had not run a 5K since my first ever race while training for the Philadelphia Marathon several years ago.  

Sure thing, let’s do it I thought – which is the best part about goal setting in advance for the year – always time to make new goals and enjoy new experiences.  

I showed up to the Holland Corn Fest 5K without a lot of expectations.  It was  a warm day on June 20th in Holland with race temperatures in the upper 80’s.  I am an early morning runner like many Texans and very rarely run later than 7:30 a.m., and very rarely in temperatures above 75 degrees.  87 degrees is “air-conditioner” weather for me – and pushing a quick pace at that temperature is not something I even think about doing.  

1st Place Finisher Holland 5K

The Holland race was an exception however and the chance to race with a friend was going to be a new experience as I had never had any company for a race day before – so I was willing to give it a go.  

Being able to simply “run” without a lot of thought about each mile and how I would feel 5,10,15 miles later was very liberating.  I remember looking down at my Garmin at the end of mile 1 and I had just completed a 6:15 mile.  I had NEVER covered a mile so quickly and was interested to see how much I would have left in the tank over the final 2.1 mile of the course.  

By the race end I was as tired coming through the chute as I had been at the end of any marathon finishing with a time of 19:47 in 9th place overall, 1st place in my division!  I have to say that my “corn-themed” 1st place trophy is among my most prized possessions in my office directly below my bib and finishers medal from the Pittsburgh Marathon.   

2009 had it’s down moments as well especially as we all learned of our good friend Dom’s battle with cancer this past August which serves as the inspiration for this blog, for the Run for Dom effort and the inspiration for many of my 2010 goals which I will be writing about at the start of the new year.  

Joe and Dawn at Pittsburgh Marathon

As of this morning 1,604 miles have been covered in 2009 over the course of 229 runs.  A new PR at Marathon Distance, A Boston Qualifying time achieved and a really cool Corn Cobb 1st place trophy ….. not a bad year 2009. 

Can’t wait to see what 2010 has in store for all of us.  I hope that you and your families all have a happy and safe holiday season – God bless and thanks for visiting! 












Of Mondays and MRIs

Posted: December 13, 2009 in Training

Monday, December 14, 2009.  This is a date  that has been circled on my calendar for the past 8 months – the first day of training for this year’s Boston Marathon.  I have had a lot of success following a training schedule for races that comes from Hal Higdon’s Marathon Training Guide.  Weekly mileage that builds over the course of 18-weeks that includes two “easy” run days, two “medium” run days and a long run on Sundays that vary from 8 -10 miles every third week to a long run of 20 miles three times prior to race day in weeks 12, 14 and 16. 

Austin Sports Medicine

I’ve learned quite a bit since taking up mararthoning back in 2006 – when to listen to your body, when you can push pace and frequency in your workouts, nutrition, clothing, shoes, hill-work, strength training and now it appears that we are going to be learning a new lesson this week – how to recover from injury while training for a race.  Team Run for Dom will be spending Monday morning at Austin Sports Medicine having an MRI done on our lower right leg injury that we have been unable to shake over the past several weeks.

What began as a mild calf strain has now become an issue – that has taken up residence on the inner left tibia about one-third of the way up from the ankle to the knee.  I’ve learned a lot about stress reactions and stress fractures unfortunately over the past week – luckily an x-ray on Friday was negative – however according to Dr. Fernandez at Austin Sports Medicine – the MRI tomorrow (Monday 12/14) will tell the true story and we can then work on a recovery plan.

Runner's Joints/Pressure Points

Stress reactions and stress fractures form due weakened muscles that surround the tibia.  In their weakened state they can no longer absorb the pressure/pounding from repeated movements (in this case running) and transfer that pressure/pounding to the adjacent bone.  I typically stride about 200 times per minute – which translates to approximately 1,400 strides per mile.  On a mid-week training run of 6 miles I typically stride 8,400 times at 7:00 min./mile pace.

Studies have shown that every 10 pounds carried by a runner creates 45 pounds of pressure on the knees, ankles, hips and back.  For me at a race weight of 136 pounds that computes to slightly more than  612 pounds of pressure.  If anything is out of alignment or a part of the runner’s musculature is compensating for a weakened area – injuries can and will occur.  In my case a calf strain that I experienced hill-training in Pennsylvania has led to my lower leg injury in Texas.

Lance - Austin Sports Medicine

So what’s next?  First and foremost I feel like I am in good hands here in Austin.  Pictured to the left is one of Austin Sports Medicine’s other clients – some of you may recognize the 7-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.  We’re tight as we follow each other on Twitter …. actually I do keep up with Lance that way, as you can imagine he serves as a great example and inspiration to me in the Run for Dom effort.  Lance did have his broken collarbone addressed at ASM prior to this year’s tour – so I know that I will be getting top-notch attention.

The three possibilities at this point are shin-splints, stress reaction and a stress fracture.  All of which are injuries that will heal with rest and rehabilitation and of course time.  The time part is what we may be running out of.  Keeping my current fitness level is going to be a challenge over this period as a worst case scenario stress fracture would require 6-8 weeks to heal leaving precious little time left to get my mileage to a position where we can compete at Boston.  If we are on the 2-3 week-end of the scale with shin-splint recovery we may not be setting any PR’s at Boston – but we will certainly be in Hopkinton, MA come April 19th.

So for now – we wait.  In a cruel twist of fate December 14, 2009 has indeed turned out to be the biggest day of the year for me with respect to the 2010 Boston Marathon – just for an entirely different reason.  If you have a moment around 10:00 am CST on Monday – please wish me luck and send me some positive energy.

I get asked a lot about any “fears” I have related to marathoning, not being prepared, not finishing – I have always been truthful in answering “No, not at all”.  Well, first time for everything I guess.  On the bright side it looks like I’ll be learning a lot about a new sport – cycling – this winter if I am on the shelf from running for any extended period of time.  Maybe Lance and his buddies will be able to give me a few pointers.

Supplements and your performance

Posted: December 10, 2009 in Nutrition

A few weeks ago I was asked by a friend to write about what kinds of supplements I use (specifically during long training runs and races) to ensure maximum performance and sustain energy.  With Boston training beginning on Monday (12/14) and Sunday long runs will start to build in mileage from 10 miles in week 1 up to the three 20 mile training runs in weeks 11, 13 and 15 nutrition was back on my mind this week.

Training for virtually all endurance sports really is as much about mathematics as it is about heart and desire.  Calories = fuel.  This is a difficult reality for many endurance athletes to embrace as many of us are “fanatical” about not only running or cycling or swimming (or all three in the case of tri-athletes), but also about things such as our body weight or composition.  Even though we “know” that we must increase our caloric intake to train and compete at a high level we try to cheat the system by doing so at the same caloric levels to avoid weight gain and in some cases even lose weight while we are training seriously.  This is not the way to improve performance.

Garmin Forerunner 405

Calories = energy.  Energy = fuel.  Fuel = being able to compete at a high level for a period of time.  My most prized possession when running right after a new pair of Asics is my Garmin.  I haven’t been on a training run in more than two years without it.  For a person like me who travels quite a bit and finds myself running in new cities along new routes with great frequency – this device is a critical piece of training equipment.  If the schedule calls for an 8-miler I know exactly how far I need to run to get there.  It also tracks my overall time, my average pace, my pace per individual mile, elevation changes and even uploads this information wirelessly to my laptop.  One thing it also does however (after you input your weight at set-up) is tracks my calories burned.  This helps me understand that over the course of a 20-mile training run I burn approximately 2,102 calories (I burn 106 calories for every mile traveled).

At a race weight of 136 lbs., running approximately 8.3 miles per hour – 106 calories per hour is the fuel I need in my tank to sustain that energy for that period of time.  So in approximately 2 hours 25 minutes I will burn the daily recommended caloric intake for an entire day.  Because neither I nor anyone really could (or should!) eat 2,000 calories of fuel prior to a long morning run – enter supplements.

I will cover pre-race and pre-training run meals as we get closer to race day – one of the greatest gifts to a distance runner is the fact that you can and will eat A LOT of food as your mileage increases, many runners will tell you they run marathons because they simply love to eat – there is a lot of truth to that.  But back to the topic of the day which is nutrition while training/racing.

5-hour energy drink

I saw the other day an energy “drink” that was called 5-hour energy.  When you look at the label on the back it boasts of all its wonderful ingredients, but then shows you that it packs only 4 calories.  4!

Well if you are dieting and you would like a drink to provide you with some caffeine to get you started in the morning I suppose this would work.  A cup of coffee would do the same trick and actually save you the 4 calories.

This is not a drink that will provide you with “energy” – this is a caffeine drink.  Remember calories = energy.  There is no cheating this fact.

I don’t think that I am going to have 5-hour energy sponsoring Run for Dom anytime soon, (sorry Dom) – but that is o.k. as there are a lot of products out there that do provide runners, swimmers, cyclists the fuel that they need in a delivery system that is conducive to that sport.

I know that during the course of the 26.2 mile test which is the marathon that I am going to need to eat well two days before the race with a lot of carbohydrates.  Really watch my hydration and drink a lot of water for the 36 hours leading up to the race and eat a small meal on race morning.  A bagel, A banana and a caffeine drink (coca-cola, Dr. Pepper etc.) along with my last drink of water 2 hours before the starting gun.  (more on managing bathroom breaks during a race at a later time I’ve never had to stop on a course yet and I’m pretty proud of that fact).

Clif Shot Blocks

My bagel (280 calories) and banana (80 calories) are only going to take me so far come race day – so I need a little help along the course.  For me Clif Shot Bloks are the answer.  They are small, light, packable and do a great job.  They come in a lot of flavors – personally I like the black cherry Bloks the best, I can manage how many I take at a time, which in turn lets me know exactly how many calories I am adding and when and most importantly they do not make me feel sick to my stomach.  In the case of all such supplements taking with water is critical to help absorbtion and to settle your stomach – but these Bloks do the trick.  I race with my own water while on the course as I like knowing when I will be able to drink and eat, not relying on aid stations.  That is simply a personal preference – other runners do not like to have their hydra-belt with them on race day.

For me the formula works, I drink water on every even number mile (2,4,6,8,10 etc.) and eat three Clif Bloks (300 calories) every 5 miles for the first 20 miles of the race (5,10,15,20).

Gu Products

This allows me to consume 1,200 calories along the course along with my 360 at “breakfast” on race day.  Like most things when it comes to training – you have to experiment – for me this has proven to be a very reliable formula where I still have plenty of energy during the latter portions of the race, but I also have a very settled stomach, no cramps and no dehydration issues.

A lot of runners will tell you that the GU product line is the way to go.  Their delivery system used at most races is shown on the left which is simply a quick squeeze after tearing off the top of the package and you are good to go.  For me it was a lot of product to take in all at one time and it made me a bit nauseous.  This is why experimentation is key, just because something works for me or anyone else does not mean it will work for you.  GU has changed their delivery systems quite a bit since their early days and now even has chewable gels such as the Clif Bloks that I am fond of. 

There is one thing however that holds true no matter who you are – be it Lance Armstrong or Joe Marruchella.  Read the label – if it states 4 calories per serving you are looking at perhaps 1/16 of one mile of fuel, Calories = Fuel there is no way around it.