Archive for February, 2010

7 Weeks to Boston …. Born to Run

Posted: February 28, 2010 in Training

Monday March 1st and we are now just 7 weeks away from the Boston Marathon.  When I think back to where we were 9 weeks ago at the start of this training cycle for the first of two marathons, it is pretty incredible to see how far we’ve traveled.  Back on December 28th I was finishing up rehabilitation from my shin injury and starting our training plan with just 3 tentative miles.  My shin splint issue was only about 90% resolved, but with 16 weeks to race day it was time to gradually start building mileage and strengthening legs that had taken close to a full month away from running.

Since that first 3-mile run 253.25 miles have been covered during 36 training runs.  340 cycling miles have been logged over 25 rides.  We raced at the 3M Half Marathon in January posting a Personal Best 1:32:13, continuing to move further and further away from our injury woes of November and December.

Today’s long run was scheduled for just 12 miles before another jump in mileage up to 19 next Sunday.  This presented a great opportunity for a “fast finish long run”.  I like to work in 3 or 4 fast finish long runs into the training plan before my 20-mile long runs appear on the calendar.  Bring it on I thought.

Full Moon over Austin

It was virtually a perfect morning for running long.  At 5:40 a.m. there was a temperature of 39 degrees, no wind whatsoever, and a full moon to help light the early morning trails.  There are a lot of things I enjoy about being out early for my training runs, but this morning was really tough to beat.  By 6:30 a.m. I could look over my left shoulder to see the full moon in the sky and off to my right on the horizon was the sunrise – great stuff.

Sunrise Brushy Creek Park - Austin

The goal in my fast finish long runs is to run the early portions of the distance at my goal pace (right now 7:22 to 7:26 pace per mile) and over the final 30 -40 minutes of the run, push the pace running much faster than my marathon goal pace.  This trains your body to push tired legs through their fatigue stage and work on leg turnover which builds speed.  You can read about fast finish long runs here:

Sunday Run Stats

Today’s workout was very solid with mile splits at:  7:23, 7:13, 7:25, 7:20, 7:19, 7:22, 7:09, 7:03, 7:10, 7:14, 7:05, 6:47.  Total time for my run was 1:26:35 (7:13 pace).  Last year in training for Pittsburgh I posted a 1:30:10 for this workout at 7:31 pace. 

Now a couple things are important to remember – no two runs are the same so comparing a workout to a previous week, month let alone year can be very misleading.  Another key point is that peaking for April 19th is the goal – not posting impressive splits in the month of February.  Nobody will remember my 6:47 split on February 28th (including me) if I blow up at Heartbreak Hill in Boston or at mile 20 at Pittsburgh.  That said, I do take pride in having a specific plan for today’s run and executing that plan throughout the training session. 

We still have a lot of ground to cover before we toe the line on April 19th and the weather in Boston on Patriot’s Day will play a major factor in our goal for that race – but it would be a great way to honor Dom by posting another Boston Qualifying time during the Boston Marathon itself.  If history serves as a guide, less than 30% of the runners this year will accomplish the goal of running a “Boston Time” during this year’s race.  I’d love to be one of them.

The Boss

I had a bit of a secret weapon this morning as well when I came over the footbridge that is 1.1 miles from our home.  The unmistakable drum kick of Max Weinberg and the saxophone of Clarence Clemons from the E Street Band kicked of one of my favorite songs of all time to listen and run to.  Springsteen’s Born to Run.  Now growing up in the Philadelphia suburbs in the 1970’s and 1980’s certainly has had a little bit to do with my love for the Boss.  I have in fact seen Bruce in concert 11 times over the years – but when it comes to running songs – Born to Run is pretty tough to beat.

I run to music during all of my training runs as well as most races I have competed in.  (I am considering running Boston without music to take in the spectacle for all it is this year …)  But for me there is really something about pushing through a difficult hill or a challenging portion of a training run to an inspiring beat.  I am going to be putting together a new playlist for my 19 and 20 mile training runs that I have the next two Sunday’s this week.

If you have a song or songs that you like to jam out to when  you are training please drop them in the comments below.  I will put the list together for everyone at the end of the week and give it a try myself on Sunday.  Going to be tough to top this one:


In the day we sweat it out in the streets of a runaway American dream
At night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines
Sprung from cages out on highway 9,
Chrome wheeled, fuel injected
and steppin’ out over the line
Baby this town rips the bones from your back
It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we’re young
‘Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run

Wendy let me in I wanna be your friend
I want to guard your dreams and visions
Just wrap your legs ’round these velvet rims
and strap your hands across my engines
Together we could break this trap
We’ll run till we drop, baby we’ll never go back
Will you walk with me out on the wire
‘Cause baby I’m just a scared and lonely rider
But I gotta find out how it feels
I want to know if love is wild
girl I want to know if love is real

Beyond the Palace hemi-powered drones scream down the boulevard
The girls comb their hair in rearview mirrors
And the boys try to look so hard
The amusement park rises bold and stark
Kids are huddled on the beach in a mist
I wanna die with you Wendy on the streets tonight
In an everlasting kiss

The highway’s jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive
Everybody’s out on the run tonight
but there’s no place left to hide
Together Wendy we’ll live with the sadness
I’ll love you with all the madness in my soul
Someday girl I don’t know when
we’re gonna get to that place
Where we really want to go
and we’ll walk in the sun
But till then tramps like us
baby we were born to run

The elite field for the 114th running of the Boston Marathon on April 19th was announced on Wednesday. Defending champs Deriba Merga and Salina Kosgei return as well as prior Boston winners Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot, Catherina Ndereba (Catherine the Great), Dire Tune and Lidia Grigoryeva.

The Boston Athletic Association (BAA)  has also put together a top field of Americans, including Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi, Josh Rohatinsky, Antonio Vega and Jason Lehmkuhle.

The women’s field will include top runners Teyba Erkesso, Yurika Nakamura, Weiwei Sun and Agnes Kiprop.

 114th Boston Marathon John Hancock’s 2010 Elite Athlete Field

Men’s Open Field Personal Best
Deriba Merga, Ethiopia 2:06:38 (London, 2008)
Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot, Kenya 2:07:14 (Boston, 2006) CR
Ryan Hall, USA 2:06:17 (London, 2008)
Abderrahim Goumri, Morocco 2:05:30 (London, 2008)
Gilbert Yegon, Kenya 2:06:18 (Amsterdam, 2009)
Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot, Kenya 2:06:23 (Frankfurt, 2009)
Evans Cheruiyot, Kenya 2:06:25 (Chicago, 2008)
Chala Dechase, Ethiopia 2:06:33 (Dubai, 2010)
Elijah Keitany, Kenya 2:06:41 (Amsterdam, 2009)
David Kipkorir Mandago, Kenya 2:06:53 (Paris, 2009)
Benjamin Maiyo, Kenya 2:07:09 (Chicago, 2005)
Tekeste Kebede, Ethiopia 2:07:52 (Fukuoka, 2009)
Gashaw Asfaw, Ethiopia 2:08:03 (Paris, 2006)
John Kipkorir Komen, Kenya 2:08:06 (Reims, 2008)
Samuel Mugo, Kenya 2:08:20 (Beijing, 2009)
Stephen Kiogora, Kenya 2:08:24 (Frankfurt, 2008)
Mebrahtom Keflezighi, USA 2:09:15 (New York City, 2009)
Moses Kipkosgei Kigen, Kenya 2:10:12 (Nairobi, 2009)
Abdellah Falil, Morocco 2:12:37 (Turin, 2009)
Jason Lehmkuhle, USA 2:12:54 (New York City, 2007)
Cutbert Nyasango, Zimbabwe 2:13:19 (Berlin, 2009)
Alejandro Suarez, Mexico 2:13:33 (Torreon, 2009)
Josh Rohatinsky, USA 2:14:23 (New York City, 2008)
Antonio Vega, USA 2:15:45 (Minneapolis/St.Paul, 2009)
Joe Marruchella, USA 3:17:43 (Pittsburgh 2009)
Women’s Open Field Personal Best
Salina Kosgei, Kenya 2:23:22 (Berlin, 2006)
Catherine Ndereba, Kenya 2:18:47 (Chicago, 2001) NR
Madai Perez, Mexico 2:22:59 (Chicago, 2006) NR
Teyba Erkesso, Ethiopia 2:23:53 (Houston, 2010)
Dire Tune, Ethiopia 2:24:40 (Houston, 2008)
Lidiya Grigoryeva, Russia 2:25:10 (Los Angeles, 2006)
Weiwei Sun, China 2:25:15 (Beijing, 2002)
Bruna Genovese, Italy 2:25:28 (Boston, 2006)
Albina Mayorova-Ivanova, Russia 2:25:35 (Chicago, 2003)
Yurika Nakamura, Japan 2:25:51 (Nagoya, 2008)
Agnes Kiprop, Kenya 2:26:22 (Turin, 2009)
Nailya Yulamanova, Russia 2:26:30 (Rotterdam, 2009)
Koren Jelela Yal, Ethiopia 2:28:41 (Venice, 2009)
Waynishet Girma, Ethiopia 2:29:50 (Amsterdam, 2009)
Tatyana Pushkareva, Russia 2:30:30 (San Antonio, 2009)
Meseret Legese, Ethiopia 2:31:37 (Padova, 2009)
Michelle Frey, USA 2:35:51 (Minneapolis/St. Paul, 2006)
Mestewat Tufa, Ethiopia Debut
Chaofeng Jia, China Debut

Just thought I would sneak that last Male Elite runner in there to see if you guys are really reading along!

The reality is that the top elite men will be finishing the course about the same time I am reaching mile 17 – but just being part of such an incredible event is going to be an amazing experience.  In fact 2010 is shaping up to be full of amazing events.

Back in January I had posted my goals for the upcoming year – and at the time I had mentioned that I had a “surprise” lurking off in the distance – well this week I received clearance from the boss (superwife Dawn) that it was o.k. to share with all of our Run for Dom friends that we will be expecting our first child in September.

Kayla .... not too sure about this "kid thing"

At 42 years old I thought it was wise to get this first one out of the way early while I was still young — but seriously, my wife and I could not be happier as this is something we had been hoping for for quite some time.  I have a lot to learn in a short period of time – so if anyone out there has a 28-week training schedule that I can put on my refrigerator I would be eternally grateful! 

I apologize for being a little cryptic about my race plans after the summer for those of you who were asking – now you know why.  But I must say that the thought of getting back to Hopkinton for the 139th running of the Boston Marathon in 2035 with my son or daughter is a pretty cool prospect.  The best part is I will only have to run a 4:15:00 time to qualify! 

Elite Marathoner 2035

Christmas comes early to Run for Dom!

Posted: February 24, 2010 in Training

As the alarm clock sounded at 5:45 a.m. Tuesday I could hear a lot of “noise” outside.  Wind blowing, rain falling and a quick 4-mile run on the schedule.  Tuesday’s are days where we get to push the pace a bit and “run fast” – so I knew I wouldn’t be out in the elements very long – but all things considered I would have preferred a mild morning with 50 degree temps.

Instead it was 31 degrees, rain falling and a lot of wind blowing in from the North – fun times.  After a quick first mile I decided that it was simply too wet and nasty to head down to the trail – so I would simply knock out the 4-miler on our neighborhood streets.  After a Sunday long run I like to stay off of hard surfaces during my next run – but the weather just wasn’t cooperating today.

As my Garmin beeped to mark the end of the first mile I hit the swithback that sends me back toward our home and I noticed that the “rain” that had been at my back was now a bit more biting as it was hitting my face.  In fact it wasn’t rain at all any longer – it was small icy projectiles – could it be?  Was it actually snowing?

I have to say that I really don’t take the local weather forecasts very seriously when they talk about snow or ice as it simply doesn’t snow here in Austin.  Any chance of it tends to get our local meteorologists a bit too “excited”, but this morning it appeared that they had it right.  Amazing.

I turned on the jets during the last couple of miles and wrapped up my “Ricky Bobby” workout in 28:24 (7:06 pace).  My last mile ticked by at 6:58 – good stuff.

Austin Snow Man - Really?

The snow kept falling and falling throughout the day giving Austin the most snow accumulation since 1985.  When I pulled into the neighborhood early this evening I actually passed several snowmen in our neighborhood – the most impressive almost 3 feet tall.  Now – I know the Northeast has been absolutely hammered this year with one snowstorm greater than the next – but this is “big-doings’” around these parts let me tell ya’.  Snowball fights just don’t happen very often in Austin.

New Gear from Under Armour - Score!

At dinner time another surprise greeted me as the doorbell rang and FedEx had delivered a package addressed to Run for Dom.  The return address was from the folks at Under Armour – SCORE! New Gear.

Being a huge fan of Under Armour apparel – a few weeks ago I had reached out to them to ask if they were interested in supporting Run for Dom.  After filling out a brief survey of sorts sharing the focus of our effort and the story behind Run for Dom, Under Armour was very gracious in getting back to me.

They told me that they would be happy to extend a sponsorship offer allowing me to order anything from their website or catalog at a 40% discount, how great is that!  I was able to load up on some great running gear, (new singlets, shorts, skull cap) and a few pairs of my absolutely favorite product – their “runderwear”. 

A lot of runners struggle with whether to wear underwear under their running shorts, if so, what kind and especially at the marathon distance, how to avoid painful chafing.  I tell everyone that I talk with about the subject that Under Armour’s “runderwear” and a little bit of body glide solved that issue for me 100%.  Great, great product.

So we had an early Christmas here in Austin this week with snow and everything!  Had I known better I should have ordered another one of those arctic beanies from UA that I like so much.  To the folks at Under Armour – thank you for your generosity, your running apparel is unmatched as far as I am concerned, and your customer service is pretty great as well.  Welcome to the Run for Dom team – I’ll be proud to race in your gear at Boston and Pittsburgh to honor my close friend Dom.  Happy Holidays everyone!

Running toward wisdom ….

Posted: February 23, 2010 in Motivation

Two months.  Not a lot of time.  When I crossed off this past Sunday’s 17-mile training run from the schedule I took a peek at what was ahead.  I actually try not to do that too often when I am training for a race because a lot of things can happen – many of them not good.

You can suffer a freak injury, catch a cold, step in a hole on a dark morning.  I’ve even slipped and fallen when a neighbor’s sprinklers went off in the middle of the night and the water froze on the street in front of their house – Ouch.  But mostly I try not to look ahead because the fact of the matter is, I am a little superstitious.  It started back in middle school where I only wanted to wear the number 11.  I even bribed a fellow teammate in High School to make sure I kept the number all four years.  To this day I always put on my left sock, then my right followed by my left shoe, then my right.  Yup, even this morning.  I figure, why take any chances?

But this Sunday I did peek ahead and noticed that I only had three training runs that I would consider “long” before the Boston Marathon remaining.  19 miles a week from this coming Sunday followed by my first 20-miler the next week.  After another step-back week I will have my second 20-mile training run, followed by a three-week taper to Boston. 

I realized this weekend that time is of the essence.  It is time to really focus in on what we need to accomplish over the next 8 weeks to peak on April 19th. 

Just 13 days later it will be time to toe the line once again at the Pittsburgh Marathon honoring my good friend Dom and hopefully make a big difference for Dom and his family as he continues to fight this terrible disease.  Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.

It’s funny that from time to time every one of us starts to take things for granted.  Even those of us who are supposed to “know better”.

Just last week a good friend who lives out in Boulder, CO asked if she could interview me for a piece she wanted to write about Run for Dom on her website – Saturday Morning Zen.

Lara - Pictured as Frosty the Snowgirl

What I didn’t realize at the time was that Lara was going to help me in more ways than just sharing our story.  Lara, who is a fabulous writer, found a way to really tap into what RFD is all about.  She had me looking at something that I had been living for more than six months day in and day out in a completely different light.

She was able to hold the RFD effort up to the light and tilt it ever so slightly.  Like looking through a piece of glass or prism, her writing reflecting an entirely different side of the story.  You can read part I of Lara’s piece here:

Lara, I need to thank you as you were able to really get me dialed back in to what is important about RFD.  It’s not about mile splits, personal records or training runs.  It is about showing up and giving my absolute best effort every day between now and May 2nd to honor a close friend literally in the fight of his life.  Finishing is what it is all about.  It is O.K. to look ahead, in fact it is empowering!

With 32 training runs remaining before Boston covering 255 miles I can’t wait to run every single one of them to the best of my abilities that day.  There are sure to be easy miles and difficult ones.  There will be clear skies and rain.  Certainly there will be calm winds and blustery mornings.  Regardless, each and every one of them is special, each one is in fact a gift.  Embrace them all I say, because they are all part of the journey that started back in August – possibly even further back than that.

Maybe they started over15 years ago when a couple of guys met who were supposed to help each other make some sense of this craziness we call life.  Maybe looking ahead isn’t such a bad thing afterall, maybe that is the perspective that I had been missing.  Thank you Lara – you are a great, great friend for pointing the way.  Your site talks about “running toward wisdom” – I had no idea just how right you have been all along.

If you would like to help RFD or even sponsor one of the remaining 15 miles at the Boston or Pittsburgh Races, please visit or click on the how you can help link in the right sidebar of this page.  This is the part where I need some help.

For those of you who have sponsored a mile or are planning to do so – I will absolutely do my very best to make you proud and leave nothing on the course that day.  There are very few guarantees in life, but this is a promise you can count on.

Update – Part II of Lara’s interview can be accessed here:

8-Weeks to Boston …. Hill Work

Posted: February 21, 2010 in Training

Monday morning marks only 8 weeks to go before race day in Hopkinton, MA – April 19, 2010.  Back in December when training resumed after struggling with my shin injury it seemed like I had all the time in the world to prepare for the first of my two marathons.  Waking up this morning to a light rain here in Austin with a 17-mile training run ahead of me I realized race day was rapidly approaching.

The focus of Sunday’s run would be to continue to stretch the long run mileage to build more strength and endurance in those legs of mine, but also to focus on some serious hill work.  I’ve written in the past about the Boston course being very unforgiving.  If you want to handle Boston you have to be equally adept and running downhill without destroying your quadriceps muscles as well as being prepared to run several up-hill miles when your legs are fatigued (Miles 16-21).

I have been focusing these last few weeks on practicing “even effort” during my long runs each mile instead of focusing on “even pace”.  Nice even mile splits ticking along at virtually identical pace look great on your training log – and during my mid-week runs over relatively flat terrain that is exactly what I strive for.  But on my long runs I am trying to work on taking up-hill and down-hill sections exerting the same amount of effort and allowing the terrain to determine my splits.  If I pick up :10-:15 seconds going downhill and sacrifice :10-:15 seconds over the uphill sections of my run I know at the end of 26.2 miles I will wind up right on time without “blowing up” at mile 21’s famed Heartbreak Hill.

Sunday 17-mile long run

With a light rain falling throughout the run and 53 degree temperatures, it was almost a perfect morning to go long.  A rain like today’s is very refreshing and can help keep the body cool throughout the course of a long run.  I was smart to grab my running ball-cap on the way out the door to keep the rain (and later sweat) out of my eyes which made all the difference.  Total time 2:05:02 at 7:21 pace – which was a very strong effort – in fact faster than the pace of my Chuy’s 8-miler earlier in the week.  I still shutter a bit reliving that training run.

One year ago at the same 17-mile distance I posted a 2:06:50 at 7:28 pace on my way to posting a PR at the Pittsburgh Marathon and a Boston Qualifying time of 3:17:43.  It appears that the drop down to 4 run days per week from 5 last year but adding 3 cycling days as cross-training is delivering the desired result of added strength, power and greater endurance.  After three straight weeks of challenging Sunday long runs (14.5, 16 and 17 miles) we enter a “step-back” week.  This is the time in the training schedule where I decrease mileage for a week to let those leg muscles rebound a bit and then move forward with 19 and 20 mile long runs two and three weeks from now.  It is a critical component of the marathon training plan to get your scheduled rest.  Without taking a step back every few weeks you will only be breaking your body down without giving tired muscles a chance to adjust to the increased training intensity in order to grow stronger.

So this week will feature a couple of shorter mid-week runs and a long run of just 12 miles this coming Sunday.  So what will I do with all that extra free time?  Research. 

I feel like one of the greatest advantages a marathoner can have over a course is experience.  It is one thing to know that there is a difficult mile approaching with a large hill or at tough rolling section.  It is quite another to have seen it.  Better yet is to have raced it.  Unfortunately for me at Boston I will not have the luxury of having competed on the storied course in the past.  I will have to rely on others for their experience to be my eyes, ears and legs for me.  As I have said on many occasions in the past my mantra come race day is “No Surprises”

To help myself in this quest for course knowledge I received a package in the mail this week which could not have arrived with better timing:

Boston Marathon - Raymond Britt

The book pictured above was written by Raymond Britt.  Raymond is Managing Partner at WinSight Ventures, publisher of and one of the most experienced endurance athletes in the world.  He’s completed 29 Ironman Triathlons – 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run, 48 Marathons, 8 Ultramarathons – 31 or more miles, and more than 60 other triathlons and running races.

Most importantly for me is Raymond’s experience at Boston where he has completed 13 consecutive Boston Marathons.  The book covers everything that Raymond has experienced over the years from the athlete’s village to the finish line.  The book is filled cover to cover with course photos as well as Raymond’s commentary about each mile along the course.  I can hardly wait to dive into this book to mentally download every image that I can between now and April 19th.

We plan on showing up in Hopkinton in 8-weeks not only physically prepared for the rigors of the course, but mentally ready as well – No Surprises.

Pre-run nutrition …. Damn you Chuys!

Posted: February 19, 2010 in Nutrition

Everyone has heard of the Freshman-15 right?  You remember, you go away to school, start subsiding on cheap pizza and even cheaper beer.  You sleep in late, sometimes all day and by the time you make it home for Winter vacation – Wala! you are 15 lbs. heavier.

Everything is bigger in Texas

Since everything is bigger in Texas we have something here known as the Texas Twenty.  We do quite a few things really well here in Texas – Rodeo, pitching washers, two-stepping, football – most definitely football.  But there are very few things we do better than Barbeque and Mexican food.  When a transplanted Yankee like myself arrives we just can’t control ourselves.  It took me no time at all to put on that Texas Twenty – and boy was it fun.

But after getting serious about running in 2006 it was time to take a hard look not only at workout schedules and training runs, but also at the fuel that I was putting in my body.  I was able to cut out a lot of things with relative ease – Coca Cola, Fast Food, French Fries, (virtually all fried things actually).  Combined with my increased running mileage I was able to remove that Texas Twenty + another 19 lbs. to arrive at my current race weight.  But just as Superman has his Kryptonite, Werewolves fear silver bullets and Vampires avoid garlic – such is my weakness for Mexican food.

Living in the Northeast I really never fully appreciated authentic mexican food – I honestly could take it or leave it.  But after only a few months in Austin – I had found my kryptonite.  Cheese Enchiladas, Tamales, Chile Con Queso, Flautas, Burrittos, Homemade Guacamole …. man, is that good stuff!

Chuy's Flour Tortillas made from scratch on premises

For the most part I can keep the lid on the jar and behave myself  when I have long or important workouts on the schedule.  I focus on eating the right things the night before to provide the proper fuel for my run.  You guys know the drill right? Carbohydrates like pasta and potatoes, vegetables, fruits, whole grains.  In addition I pay close attention to my hydration level not only during my runs but the day and especially night before.  This makes a huge difference in your performance.  I know this.  No excuses.

Chuy's Austin, TX --- The Lion's Den

But on Tuesday night this week on the eve of an 8-mile pace run I had some colleagues visiting from out of town.  Traveling into Austin from Denver, Richmond and Boston respectively – they were looking foward to some authentic Mexican food.  At 6:00 p.m. we entered the Lion’s Den …. Chuy’s.  I had not seen this group of friends for awhile and as the homemade chips and salsa (that are actually self-serve out of the trunk of an old car) were consumed along with copius amounts of a lager type beverage …. I knew I was in trouble.

Wednesday's 8-Miler .... rough.

“It’s just one workout” – I told myself.  “Only 8-miles how bad could it be?”  Well 11 hours later as I was lacing up my new Asics Gel Kinetics for my morning run I was about to find out.  The Chuy’s 8-miler was completed in 59:08 at 7:24 pace.  Miles 1-3 were basically “all right”.  I didn’t feel tremendous by any means, but I was keeping it together pretty well.  Miles 4 through 8 however were gut-check time.  It was a struggle just to keep moving at my usual pace.  I found myself thinking negative thoughts about the sport that I love and question my desire to keep moving.

Me!  Unbelievable.  As I worked my way back up the last hill leading back to our home all I could think about was finishing the run.  Disgusted with myself I walked inside, crossed the 8-miler off my schedule on the “Magic Fridge”, quietly cursed myself as well as the dreaded Chuy’s and moved on with my day. 

Well this morning was a day of redemption for me.  Another 8-mile pace run stared me in the eye and today was going to be different.  Same route, same plan for the run which was to focus on even effort over the hilly course, not necessarily even mile splits.  Which is what I am working on right now leading up to the Boston Marathon which features long stretches of both downhill and uphill miles.  Trying to run 26 consecutive miles at the same pace is very unrealistic given the course – so instead I am focusing on exerting 7:25/mile effort.  This will allow me to hopefully achieve my goal of averaging 7:30/mile over a very hilly and challenging course.  For every 7:15 downhill mile I can count on an uphill 7:45 to balance my overall pace.

This morning with a much better pre-run meal last night of Ahi Tuna I covered the same course at a 7:19 pace, :05 seconds per mile faster.

Splits from the two runs are very interesting when viewed side-by-side:

Chuys 8-Miler          Friday 8-Miler

Mile 1:  7:26               7:23 (-:03)

Mile 2:  7:13               7:11 (-:03)

Mile 3:  7:17               7:18 (+:01)

Mile 4:  7:13               7:06 (-:07) 

Mile 5:  7:29               7:25 (-:04)

Mile 6:  7:32               7:29 (-:03)

Mile 7:  7:31               7:27 (-:04)

Mile 8:  7:23               7:16 (-:07)

For good measure I even added an additional .25 miles this morning at 7:00 pace to wrap up my run at 8.25 miles.  All the while thinking to myself that the “rocket-ship” was back.  (See rocket ship post here:

So if you were every wondering how much time is lost by poor pre-run nutrition – it appears to be :05/mile.  All things considered that seems like a small price to pay for the Chuy’s Chicken Enchiladas with Green Chile Sauce, rice, refried beans, chips, salsa and guacamole.

I think I’ll stick to Pasta and bread on April 18th however.  I don’t know where any authentic Mexican restaurants are in Boston anyway ….

I wanted to thank everyone over the past few weeks who have visited the blog and asked such thoughtful questions about my training plan for this year’s RFD “double”.  Training for two marathons just 13 days apart has definitely required me to take a long look at my preparation.  I have incorporated new workouts, increased cross-training to three days per week as well as added new elements to my traditional runs.  Previous posts that have discussed tempo runs, traditional long runs, fast finish long runs, pace runs and racing as a part of marathon training.  I have included links to those previous posts at the bottom of this page for your review.

Ever since the “Magic Fridge” post I have had a lot of requests for a copy of my actual training plan.  Ahhh, the famed training schedule.  When I started training for my first ever marathon back in 2006 and I poured over schedule after schedule trying to find the similarities and differences between all of the online experts.  I remember thinking to myself, who is going to give me the best chance to finish that first marathon under 4 hours?  I knew picking a training plan was going to be a very important decision for me as with my travel schedule and lack of previous running experience there was a lot of “knowledge” I simply needed without an easy way to acquire it.  I didn’t have a group of experienced matathoners to rely on for advice, nor was I connected to a great group of runner friends like I am today through Daily Mile, Twitter and this blog. 

My first marathon was going to be a true solo mission – and I was fine with that.  I just wanted to know that I was relying on a schedule that was tried and true.  A plan – that’s what I needed, a plan.

Philly Marathon Finish - IT Band Pain

I eventually landed with Hal Higdon.  Hal had run more than 75 marathons himself and had been guiding marathoners to their first race finishes as well as Boston Qualifying times for decades.  I read Hal’s books, downloaded his training schedule and ran each workout religiously to a 3:58:08 finish in my first race.  In hindsight the finish was pretty remarkable as I was suffering with an IT Band problem over the final 14 miles that would land me on the disabled list for close to 3 months afterwards.  Please keep in mind my injury had nothing to do with Hal’s program.  His advice about increasing mileage incrementally, taking your rest days and honoring step-back weeks is all 100% spot on in my opinion.  I simply suffered a all too common training injury at an inopportune time making for a difficult first marathon experience.

Upon recovery however the bug had bitten.  I was coming back and I was going to make a run at a Boston time, it was on.  I took the entire 2007 year away from racing to focus on building mileage base running 5 times a week.  I would begin training for my next marathon in late 2008 focusing on an early spring 2009 marathon that would get me to Boston in 2010.  I incorporated strength training 3 times per week beginning on my 40th birthday in 2008 which I still continue today.  I focused on strenghtening my core, legs, chest and arms as well as learning a lot about distance running through trial and error.  Incorporating all of these elements to my schedule really helped prepare me to train hard for Pittsburgh last year.  Results were a new PR of 3:17:43 and a Boston Qualifying time in only my second attempt at the Marathon distance. 

I say all of that to preface the schedule that I am sharing with you below.  I do not think that I have it all figured out by any means.  I simply kept tweaking and finessing the edges of popular training plans and created my own tracking device.  I feel like the plan I am following today allows for the proper amount of rest, base mileage, speed work and recovery to successfully not only complete my 2 marathon in 13 day commitment to honor my good friend Dom’s battle with cancer, but I plan on making it known I was there.  It is one thing to complete and yet another to compete.  I fully expect to do both.

Instead of using  a traditional 18-week training plan leading up to race day, I am using a modified 16-week schedule leading up to Boston with a full 18-weeks to my second marathon in Pittsburgh.  In some ways the Boston Marathon is actually serving as my third “20-miler” followed by a second taper (recovery) period that will get me to the start at Pittsburgh hopefully physically and mentally ready for another 26 mile 385 yards less than two weeks later.

RFD Back to Back Marathon Training Schedule

Currently Monday, Wednesday and Friday serve as my “doubles” where I strength train after my cycling or running workouts.  The lone exceptions are my Monday rest days scheduled after very long runs or any racing I may be doing.  On these Mondays I rest completely from running or cycling but I still make sure to get my weight training in.  I have reduced my run days from a traditional 5 times per week down to 4 so that I can avoid running on back to back to back days mid-week.  This has allowed me to reduce the pounding on my now 42 year old legs by about 5 miles per week, but in its place increase cross training on the triathlon bike.  These cycling workouts are allowing me to build strength and power in my quads and calves to be ready for the rigors of the Boston marathon course, while reducing the risk of training injury.

When comparing my workouts to last year when I utilized a traditional 5-day per week training plan I have taken between :04 and :06 off of my average mile splits at distances over 12-miles and :15 to :18 off of my average mile splits at distances 10K and less.  All on legs that are a year older.  I think that there is something to be said about running smarter and with great purpose during each workout.  Currently I am trying to really zero in on quality workouts and not just padding my mileage stats for the week. 

For comparison purposes I have included my 5-day per week marathon training calendar that I used one year ago when training for the 2009 Pittsburgh Marathon.

Traditional 5 Run Day Marathon Training Schedule

The lesson here is don’t be afraid to take a plan that is widely accepted and make some changes to it.  Listen to your body, chart your performance and realize that backing off of a run, skipping a workout, adding a rest day or incorporating fast finigh long runs can all prove very beneficial in your training.  It’s not only about logging miles.  They need to be quality miles to get you where we all want to be in the end – toeing the starting line in peak condition, mentally and physically prepared and most importantly – 100% healthy.

The training schedule that I am using today is really just a combination of the key elements from great resources like Hal Higdon, Greg McMillian and the FIRST program from Furman University. 

If you would like the excel version of these training plans, please e-mail me directly at and I will send you a copy for you to have as your own.

Thanks for visiting everyone, here is to happy training!

Tempo runs: 

Traditional long runs: 

Fast finish long runs: 

Pace setting strategies: 


Sometimes it is the simple things in life that make you smile.  A baby discovering that they can in fact fit their entire foot in their mouth, the Hot Now sign on outside of a Krispy Kreme or the way your dog greets you at the door after a long day of work like you are the most important person in the world.

For an early morning runner like myself – there are a lot of great ones.  Coming around a curve on a trail and being greeted by a group of deer.  Seeing the sunrise as I’m heading east on my run.  Just last week I saw an early morning beaver making their way back to the dam on the old ranch land that I train on.  But one of my all-time favorites is the first run in a new pair of shoes.

Now for me over the last five years that has meant the first run in essentially an identical pair of shoes than the ones I had retired.  Aside from annual changes made by the manufacturer I have been running in essentially the same shoe since 2005.  I have loyally gone through each product enhancement in the Asics Gel Nimbus line moving through the Gel Nimbus VI, VII, VIII, IX, X and XI’s.  Well over 5,000 miles all in the same shoes.

But this morning as I laced up for my morning 4-mile recovery run it was literally the dawn of a new day.  Run for Dom meet the Asics Gel Kinetic.

Asics Gel Kinetic II

What made me change?  As I have been increasing my training intensity since suffereing shin splint issues in December I have been trying to analyze everything about my training.  I have been looking for any possible edge that will allow me to continue to train hard, but make sure I show up at the Boston Marathon 100% healthy.   With only 12 days of recovery time before a second cross country flight to the race at Pittsburgh, I know I need to start recovering from the first of two marathons virtually right after coming through the chute in Boston.

The healthier I wake up on April 20th the better off I will be 12 days later.  I know that taking care of my feet, legs, hips and back will be critical to a strong performance in the second of my two marathons.  Lately during my strength training sessions I have noticed that any of the soreness that I have experienced in my feet after a tough run has lingered while I am lifting weights.  I think part of the reason is the fact that I essentially take of my running shoes, shower, then put on a virtually identical pair to spend another hour in while working out.  Same shoe, same model, the only difference being is that pair I am cross-training in had reached its 300 mile retirement age and had been set aside for strength training.

I’ve said in the past that sticking with a formula that you know is successful is very sound strategy for a distance runner.  I remain a firm believer in that strategy as essentially the training for the sport is deeply rooted upon repetition.  But by wearing the same shoe over and over any “hot-spots” that I may have on the bottoms of my feet, toes or lower ankle area were not getting a break from the pressure points my running shoes were applying.

I was very reluctant to change shoes as I have been running and training basically injury free for many years – again, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.  The other thing that I like most about the Gel Nimbus series of shoe from Asics is that for me I can literally pull a pair of size 9 D width shoes out of the box, lace up and run.  No break-in period, no worries, no problems.  That is a great, great thing.  In fact for my actual marathon racing shoes I typically run only my final 8-mile long run the week before the race in my new shoes just to make sure there were no issues or deformities inside and then box them back up for race day.

But Monday while at Sports Authority replenishing my Body Glide supply I saw a “Godfather Ad”.  They made me an offer I could not refuse – $60 off a pair of Asics Gel Kinetic II’s.  The good news is that the shoes were $60 off … the bad news is they were still $99.  Now, no matter what kind of runner you are that is a lot of dough, but if not now, when?

So I chose to look at it as a great deal on a pair of shoes and not worry about the real question I have about making the switch.  What if I really like them?  Had I crossed over to a new level of crazy?  I’m not sure there can be that many levels left.

So how did it go this morning on the maiden voyage?  I have to admit – I really liked them.  The key difference between the Kinetic line and the Nimbus line appears to be the level of cushioning in the heel of the shoe.   The Kinetic really seems to have increased stability and cushioning in the rear of the shoe that the manufacturer claims improves mechanics and a wider platform to drive from your heel forward.  I have always thought that the Gel Nimbus was a really plush “ride” so to speak – but after only a few strides I could really feel a difference in the Kinetic.

It was only a quick recovery run this morning at a relatively easy pace – but I did like the way my heel felt on the ground-strike and how stable my foot would feel driving onto my next stride.  I plan on placing the Kinetics into my weekly shoe rotation and running my 12-miler a week from this Sunday in the shoe. 

Click here to read about proper shoe rotation:

For this week’s 17-miler we’ll stick with our reliable Gel Nimbus XI’s as a training run more than 2 hours in length is not the time to experiment with new equipment.

I can see why there are fans of the Kinetic out there – we might just have to call around to a few more Sports Authorities and see how long this sale will last, because after all – it’s gotta be the shoes.

Monday morning there will be just 9 training weeks remaining to the first leg of the Run for Dom “double” – the Boston Marathon.  The list on the “Magic Fridge” this morning called for a 16-mile long run.  For Marathoners the “long-run” is a key part of the training schedule.  I’ve said many times in the past that there is no single individual workout during a 16, 18 or 20 week marathon training schedule that is any more important than any other. 

That is absolutely 100% true.  It is the culmination of all of your individual workouts that result in a well prepared, healthy, rested and mentally strong marathoner.  Your rest days, recovery runs, tempo runs, mid-week “sorta” long runs (8-10 miles), long runs (10+ miles) and taper period all contribute to arriving in peak physical condition on race day.

16-Mile Long Run Summary

The long run however just seems like it is the most important workout on the schedule.  It gets the most attention, takes the most time to complete and tests you more mentally and physically than any other workout.  When I think back to my first marathon in 2006 I was in a very different place mentally than in 2009 when I was going to try to run a Boston Qualifying time at Pittsburgh.  By 2009 I was a more experienced runner.  I was stronger physically for sure, but most importantly I was more confident.

There is a significant difference between thinking you can do something and in fact knowing it.  In 2006 running toward City Hall at the Philadelphia Marathon I had never run farther than 20-miles.  Could I run 26.2? What would it feel like? Just how hard would it be?  Was my nutrition plan sound? Would I be able to handle the water stops? Would my feet blister? Was I dressed warm enough? Was I dressed too warm? Could that guy running while dressed in drag really beat me? (Yes was the answer to the last one).

But at Pittsburgh it was a different story.  I knew what the final 10 Kilometers would feel like.  I knew that my training plan had been tweaked, re-tweaked and re-tweaked again to peak for May 2, 2009.  My clothing, gear, nutrition plan, hydration plan all were tested, re-tested and re-tested again.  And there was no way in the world another cross-dressing runner was going to take me down.

So where does that confidence come from?  Sunday long-runs.  It is where you can really focus your workout to test everything from your equipment to your pre-race meal.  It is where you transform from a runner who “thinks” they are a marathoner to one who “knows” they are.  That confidence makes all the difference in the world as I strongly believe that after a certain fitness level is attained distance running is 80% mental and only 20% physical.

It was my desire to strengthen not only the physical side but also the mental side of my marathon preparation that led me to adopt a training strategy endorsed by Greg McMillian at McMillian Running.  As I approach the final 10 weeks of my marathon training program I incorporate two different types of long runs in my training schedule.  The traditional long run as well as the fast finish long run.

The traditional long run or slow and steady long run is widely accepted as a critical part of marathon training.  The key to this workout is to run the long distance of 12-20 miles at a slow and steady pace somewhere between :30 and :45 seconds slower than your target race pace for the marathon.  This accomplishes a few things:

  1. Increases your body’s ability to burn fat and increase your glycogen stores.
  2. Increases your leg strength and your stamina.
  3. Increases your ability to continue to run when you have become fatigued.
  4. Increases your confidence level that you can run for 3 or 4 hours at a time.
  5. Increases your mental strength that you can and will continue to run when you are tired.
  6. Allows you to build mileage and not risk injury by training too hard too fast.

The fast finish long run is a strategy that is not nearly as widely adopted.  In fact I do not personally know many runners who implement this strategy.  It calls for running a significant portion of your long run at or near race pace and then push the final 10-15 minutes of your run at a pace “faster” than your marathon race pace.  Yup, I said it,  faster than your marathon race pace.

Saturday Night's Seafood Pasta

This serves as a confidence workout for me.  It allows me to really zero in on my splits and determine the type of race I am capable of running.  Now this is a key point – it is not a good idea to do these fast finish long runs very often nor is it a good idea to do them too close to race day.  I typically do 3 fast finish long runs with 9, 7 and 5 weeks to go before race day.  This allows for a very solid month of decreased intensity and a strong taper period so I can peak for race day.

So how did our workout go today?  16 miles in 1:58:21 (7:24/mile pace), last year’s pace for this distance was 7:32/mile.  My individual mile splits were:  7:21, 7:22, 7:31, 7:27, 7:25, 7:27, 7:22, 7:34, 7:23, 7:31, 7:13, 7:28, 7:32, 7:22, 7:11, 7:05.

The key numbers there are miles 15 and 16 which were run at 7:11 and 7:05 respectively after I had already covered 14 miles.  Great stuff this morning on a near perfect day for running – 43 degree temps and very little wind.  The fast finish long-run is not meant to be an easy workout – but after a few of these runs you will really start to see the benefit as you reach the latter stages of your 16,18 and 20 mile runs. 

Confidence is a powerful weapon.  Come the Newton Hills at Boston or Forbes Hill at Pittsburgh it is nice to have that little “extra” in the tank knowing that even when you feel fatigued there is another gear that you can tap into that will be there when you need it most.

So with only 63 days to Boston, 76 to Pittsburgh and another great week of training in the books, confidence is high – bring it on.

My refigerator has magic powers ….

Posted: February 12, 2010 in Motivation

I think my refrigerator has magic powers.

I’m not kidding.  There is something magical about my refrigerator – specifically the door on the left where I have posted my training schedule since I began running marathons in 2006.  Once the schedule is stuck to that refrigerator door it is no longer just a sheet of paper and ink jet digits.  It is not a “recommendation” or a “guide”, it is in fact a binding contract.  One that I have entered into with myself.  It is non-negotiable. 

Magic Fridge

If the refrigerator door says 8-mile pace run, well then that is what is required.  12-miles at race pace, no problem.  4-mile recovery run, 8 mile tempo run, 16 mile bike for cross training, even the scheduled “Rest Day” – all are sacred.  Cold weather, wind blowing, rain falling, late flight home – doesn’t matter because if I don’t complete that workout the only person I am cheating is myself.

Training Schedule

Perhaps that is where the magic is.  It may be that it is the schedule or the “list” that holds the power.  That actually makes more sense.  I am being completely honest when I say that one of my favorite parts of the day is when I get to grab that yellow highlighter on the kitchen counter and cross off my latest workout.  Sometimes it is the very first thing I do when I come in from a run if it was a particularly challenging workout. 

Crossing off those 18, 19, or 20 mile runs provides a great deal of satisfaction – just as running a solid pace run or recovery run does.  It marks being one step closer to the goal I am chasing.  I’m one day stronger, one day more prepared, one day closer to toeing the line at Boston or one day closer to that finisher’s medal at Pittsburgh.  One day closer to hugging my wife, family, friends and of course Dom knowing that I gave everything I had that day to honor my good friend and his fight against a terrible disease.

After finishing up this morning’s 8-mile pace run I now have 65 opportunities left to cross the boxes off my list before Boston.  Then 13 more boxes remain and I’ll be finishing the final leg of Run for Dom at the Pittsburgh Marathon.  Will there be another list waiting on me after Pittsburgh?  Absolutely. 

In honor of the power of list making – here is my list of reasons why making lists can be so magical:

  1. Focus – Having a list in front of you allows you to truly focus on the next step necessary to accomplish your goals.  Setting out to run 26.2 miles, start your own business or build a better mousetrap has many incremental steps that need to take place to realize your dream.  Having a list enables you to focus on just the next required step and removes distractions.
  2. Clarity – Having a list helps you zero in on how you will get to your end goal.  You can literally visualize all the steps in the process and it helps keep you on course.
  3. Direction – Having a list enables you to always know which way you are heading.  It helps to serve as an internal compass, always pointing you toward the finish line.
  4. Hierarchy – Having a list creates an automatic “ranking” system of your priorities.  “First I must do this, then that” – there is a liberating power in knowing you are moving in the right direction at all times.
  5. Accomplishment – Having a list allows you to do the most liberating thing of all, which is crossing off your accomplishments as they occur.  This allows you to experience many small victories along the way to your end goal and removes the feeling that “I will never get there”.

Removing that fear of failure is the greatest gift of all.  Of course you will!  Just count the squares and before you know it you will be there.  Trust me I know this to be true – in 65 mornings I am going to find myself standing in the middle of 25,00 marathoners from literally all over the world.  I will be in the middle of the greatest international marathon on earth.  Me – and I owe it all to making a list more than 4 years ago that simply said, “Boston Marathon” on it.

Of course there is the very real possibility that my refrigerator has magic powers.  Just don’t tell my wife Dawn or there might be a new list on that refrigerator door tomorrow …. I can only imagine the kinds of things I might find on it.

Monday, April 19th ..... Boston