Archive for September, 2010

I just had to know.

As I woke up on Tuesday morning and glanced at the outdoor thermometer in our bathroom, the readout showed 54 degrees.  Making Tuesday the coldest morning in Austin since May 5th.

On the schedule was a 10K tempo run.  A workout that I have had in my training plan for the past two months with the specific goal of breaking the 40 minute mark at the IBM Uptown Classic 10K on October 17th.

39:59 equates to a 6:26 pace for 6 miles, 385 yards.

Based on my recent 5K time of 18:12 posted twice this summer at the Cougar Country Classic and NOCC Balance 5K, a sub 40:00 minute 10K should be possible given all of the hard work we have been putting in.  My confidence has been growing with each passing week of training.

I’ve been running strong, hitting those hill repeats each and every Thursday and comfortably finishing each workout before moving on to the next.  All recent signs have been very positive.

But still, when I would think about IBM the same two questions would arise: 

Can I? 

Will I?

In the past I have written about the fragile mental state of the distance runner.  As my good friends Sean, Winston, Bob, Brian and others are firmly in their marathon taper for races on October 10th, I think about what they are going through right now. 

No matter if it is your first marathon like Sean who is running for Dom at Chicago or Winston running his 29th marathon with the goal of running a sub 3:00 hour marathon at the age of 50.  Pre-race “jitters” affect all of us.  You spend so much time preparing for a single race, as that day approaches, the enormity starts to really sink in.  There are no “do-overs”, just a single moment for it all to come together – or not. 

In most cases marathoners will run 90 training runs covering more than 700 miles in preparing for race day.  As those workouts shrink in length and intensity closer to marathon morning, your mind starts to play tricks on you.  You start to question every little snap, crackle and pop from your knees and ankles.  You also start to wonder about your carefully crafted training plan.  Did I work hard enough?  Could I have done more?

For me, the true source of this uneasiness comes from the difference between thinking I can do something and “knowing” it.

The only way for me to absolutely “know” I can achieve a race day goal is by previously hitting that mark.

From the time I spent stretching on the family room floor, to letting Kayla outside and finally stretching my calves against the garage, I could not shake loose from the number – 39:59.

I just had to know.

So with very little fanfare, I decided that Tuesday morning was the time.  Avery Ranch was the place.  I was going for it.  Thinking about it, there was not a whole lot of downside.  The course I was going to run was the same as my hill repeats.  It would not be “flat and fast”.  I would have to climb up and down more than 185 feet of elevation changes.

I would be running by myself.  No crowds, bib number or timing chip.  No race day “mojo” to get the competitive juices flowing.  Just me, my garmin and 6.2 miles.

If I missed the 39:59 I could explain it away pretty easily that it was the course, the fact I was running alone, that there was no one to push me, no one for me to chase, no real reward waiting for me at the end of the ten kilometers.

But if I made it.  What if I actually made it?

I just had to know.

I ran a short little loop in front of the house to shake loose a bit, less than 3/10 of a mile.   Not a true warm-up, not like I would run on race day, but enough so that I would not risk straining anything over the first mile.

As I reached the driveway I punched the GPS on my wrist and thought to myself – “you wanted to know, so let’s find out”.

The cooler morning temperature really agreed with my stride and my breathing.  I felt strong immediately heading up the 44 foot climb over mile number 1.  As I hit the top of the neighborhood I heard the beep on my GPS watch and glanced at the dial under the street lamp.

A 6:17 first mile.  Not a bad start.

Mile two essentially backtracks to our home, then starts the ascent into mile number three.  My breathing and leg turnover still felt good, but I decided to back off just a hair as we would have to climb a bit in both mile 3 and 5.  I didn’t want to burn out to quickly.

Mile number two came in at 6:24.  Two seconds faster than our race goal.

Mile three is a 4-story ascent into our neighboring subdivision.  The climb is very gradual which makes it feel a bit easier than it is.  I knew that managing mile three and four just like on race day would be key.  I wanted to hit it hard, but still stay in control.

6:21 for mile three.  Can I really do this I thought?

Mile number four is a mixed bag as the first quarter-mile is still uphill, then a nice 4/10 of a mile downhill section where we run our hill repeats on Thursdays.  I wanted to back down the effort just a bit on mile 4 so I would have some strength left to make the climb back up on mile 5.  That was going to prove to be the really challenging part of the run.  It was all about mile 5.

Mile four came in at 6:24.  Another :02 in the bank.

As I started mile 5 I mentally broke it into three parts.  The first climb would last about 1/5 of a mile, followed by a short downhill section to catch my breath.   From there I would be staring at 4/10 of a mile straight uphill to the top of the neighborhood, “Hill Repeat Hill”.  If we could keep it together here and not lose too much time we had a shot.

Mile 5 frankly felt like a race.  I tried to pick out the landmarks that I use on Thursdays.  The black stripe on the road ¼ of the way up the hill.  The bushes that mark the half-way point.  The neighborhood mailboxes that are ¾ of the way to the top and then the final street lamp that marks the end of our hill repeat.  At the top of the hill we made our right onto the road heading for home and the GPS sounded.

6:33 for mile 5.  It was all downhill from here.

I felt both my legs and my breathing start to change.  What had felt “comfortably hard” was now simply “difficult”.  This is where the lack of “race day mojo” was really going to hurt.  I passed a neighbor walking their dog on the side of the road and managed a “good morning” and pushed on.

I felt “fast” but it is amazing how different your feelings are from reality at the end of a tough run or race.  The GPS beeped marking just 2/10 of a mile to go.

Mile 6 came in at 6:19, only :02 slower than our opening mile.

Just .20 miles to go and I searched for my finishing kick.  This was very encouraging as there actually was something there when I reached back for it.  I covered the final 2/10 of a mile in 1:14 – 5:57 pace.

As I hit the stop timer on my GPS and slowed to a jog I glanced down at my watch.


20 seconds to spare, 6:24 pace.

Sub 40:00 10K

It was like Alice traveling through the looking-glass as what once seemed only “possible” became “achievable”.  I am smart enough to know that one run does not mean that all future runs will go as smoothly.  A lot of things have to come together on race day for you to truly run your best.

Last year’s Boston Marathon taught me that and then some.

But I have to say I will be pinning on that bib at IBM with some serious confidence.  Now I know that I have that kind of race in me.  It is just a matter of channeling that “mojo” on race day and preparing for an uncomfortable and sometimes downright painful 39 minutes and 40 seconds.

Now if Dom can pull a few strings for me and arrange for cool temps and low winds I feel like we really have a great shot at this thing. 

Thank you in advance Dom!  I know you’ll be there for me at IBM, I’m sure you wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Mondays are typically cross-training days for me.  I am usually pretty beat-up from a couple of days of tough running over the weekend and I simply need to back off and rest the legs to get ready for another week of training.

This week was no different as I decided to throw the triathlon bike on the trainer for a quick 15.5 mile ride to get the legs a little work, but save them from the pounding of a recovery run.

I’ve learned a lot about running since training for my first marathon in 2006 and one of the irrefutable facts remains that for me, five days of running with two days off is my “optimum” schedule.  It allows me to work hard on improving and reaching my goals, but also provides me with the downtime these 43-year-old legs need to stay injury free.

Not pain-free mind you, but injury free.  Two very different things.

I have my share of bumps and bruises just like any distance runner or endurance athlete does.  Which is why last week’s “step back week” was much-needed to allow me to get my legs “back under me”.  We had really been pushing the intensity over the last month and I simply needed to dial-back a bit.

What was interesting to see was the fact that I actually ran more miles last week (46.05) than I did the week before (44.85).  However, I only ran 13 of those miles at a pace under 7:00 min./mile.  The week before that number was closer to 20. 

That is an important lesson as it is not only the quantity of miles that need to be monitored, but the quality or pace of those miles needs to be carefully measured as well.  Effort is something that as an aging marathoner I will need to really examine if I hope to continue to progress as a distance runner.

Late Sunday night I had started to think about finding a local 5K race for this coming weekend to use as a “tune-up” with IBM still 19 days away.  As I hopped off of the tri-bike this morning after 50 minutes, my legs felt remarkably fresh.  I felt “Racey”.  Let’s do it I thought.

No matter how much I try to push pace on my training runs, there is no substitution for a true “race” to get those juices flowing and force me to run “hard”.  For me to get into that sub 6:00 minute/mile pace, I simply have to have a number pinned to my chest and a timing chip on my person.  That’s just the way that it is.

So, I took a look at the local race calendar and found a 5K just north of our home for Saturday morning.  The Harvest Fest 5K in Georgetown TX.  The race will be run at 8:00 a.m. at St. Gabriel Park – an area I have never run before.

The course looks like a nice flat out and back, some of which will be on the trail system. 

I’m not going to worry too much about “going low” or posting a “PR” this weekend as it is all about getting ready both physically and mentally for IBM on the 17th.  I do however want to run well, something in the range of 18:15 to 18:25 which will serve as a good boost of confidence with two weeks to go in our quest for that sub 40:00 minute 10K time.

I might even be lucky enough to have Little Miss Landry and Dawn at the finish line this weekend, making the Harvest Fest 5K her first ever race. 

Come to think of it, maybe we do have a PR in us this Saturday.

I was kicking around the idea of stretching my scheduled 12-mile run on Sunday morning a little bit as the reduction in training intensity this week had my legs feeling really fresh and rested.

On the eve of turning 1 month old, little Miss Landry slept through the night from 10:30 p.m. to 5:20 a.m. – giving Dadathoner and her Mom a really great night’s sleep.  South Carolina’s loss to Auburn must have been too much for her.  She’ll have to get used to heartbreaking defeats if she is going to be a Gamecock fan.

Dad & Landry - Saturday Night Football!

So as I was loading up my hydra-belt with water and Gatorade, it seemed like a good morning for a half-marathon.  As I walked toward the front door through the kitchen, I saw the fresh loaf of Texas Toast on the counter that would become a French Toast breakfast in about an hour and a half.

That was the last piece of motivation I needed.  As I stretched my calf muscles against the garage and looked up at the still flag lying limp in the breezeless morning – it was a done deal.

The first running of the unnoffical, unsanctioned – French Toast Half-Marathon was set to begin.

Surprisingly, I have only run 13.1 miles once before at last January’s 3M Half Marathon.  I have of course run full marathons as well as many training runs longer than 13.1 – but for some reason, the half-marathon and I just haven’t connected lately.

The Harvest Moon was still high overhead as I left the house in the pre-dawn light.  Truly a beautiful morning with virtually everyone in Avery Ranch still snuggled up in their beds I was able to log close to three miles before I saw another human being.

My plan for the run was to take the early miles nice and easy, running at Austin Marathon Goal Pace, then gradually ramp up the intensity as I hit the rolling hills over miles 3 through 6.  Not an ideal “course” for a half-marathon, my training route would take me up and down 425 feet of elevation change.  So a “Fast Time” was not really on my mind.  I just wanted to run comfortably and ramp things up a bit at the end of the run, finishing off a great week of training.

I had a new companion with me on my run on Sunday as all of the rain, sweat and heavy usage proved to be too much for my old-generation iPod Nano.  It “gave up the ghost” with two miles left on my 8-mile run on Saturday.  Knowing that I was “running long” on Sunday, I needed to find a replacement.

Dawn and I took Landry on her very first trip to Best Buy and we picked up an 6th generation Nano.  She was an absolute angel, not a peep out of her as we did our shopping.  She is definitely a bigger fan of riding than sitting at red-lights, but aren’t we all?

8 GB hard drive, which can hold up to 2,000 songs – the new Nano is SMALL.  Crazy small.  After moving over my playlists to the new device, it was ready for its maiden voyage on Sunday.

How is that for small?

Very different than previous versions with no navigation wheel – the Nano now operates much like the touchpad on the iPhone.  Very easy to use and even has a built in Pedometer.  Amazing.  Tucked into my hydrabelt, I never gave it another thought throughout the run. 


As the miles ticked by and I reached the half-way point I began to think a bit about our upcoming race in three weeks at the IBM Uptown Classic, and Austin Marathon training that will formally begin the very next day on October 18th.

Marathons now mean Dom, and I spent a few miles this morning thinking about the last six weeks and how much I know Val, Sierra and Nico miss their Husband and Dadda.  I thought I realized at the time just how tough it must have been for Dom to think about missing out on all of the things that Sierra and Nico will see, say and do over the coming years.

After just one month with Landry, I can’t imagine her growing up without Dawn and I, nor can I imagine not having her in our lives.

As I hit the last major climb on my run I started thinking about how much stronger I have been running hills since incorporating hill repeats into my training plan.  I started envisioning how I can incorporate those hill repeats in my ramp up to the Austin marathon, which features a hilly course.

I shook loose from thoughts of February around mile 9 and with four miles to go I began to increase my leg turnover, gradually at first and then a bit faster as each mile ticked by.

At the start of mile 12 there would be one more hill to climb that would take us to 12.6, then a half-mile descent back home.  I did not want to glance at my watch as I am trying to get in tune with body and how it feels running faster than 7:00 minutes per mile pace.  I am going to need to lean on that experience at IBM, chasing after that 6:26 pace over 10 Kilometers.  Mile splits on Sunday were:

7:39, 7:30, 7:23, 7:27, 7:18, 7:22, 7:18, 7:13, 7:11, 7:08, 6:45

Finishing kick produced a closing 1/10 at 6:06 pace.

Total time 1:35:37, just 3:35 off of my race time at 3M last year of 1:32:07.

As I hit the driveway there was no race clock, no attaboys, high fives or finisher’s medal.

There was something better waiting for me however. 


The first “French Toast Half Marathon” was in the books.  Next running will be in two weeks if anyone is interested.

First Place Award - French Toast Half Marathon

The other day I was in the bathroom shaving, talking to my wife.  Baby Landry was snug as a bug in a rug, fast asleep in her “napper”.  Kayla was asleep on the cool tile of the bathroom floor.  It was not quite 7:30 a.m. and I had already returned from my 12 mile training run.

I had decided to push the intensity and pace a bit on my 12-miler this past Sunday, making it a “Fast Finish” Long run.  Where instead of just running 12 Marathon Pace miles, I would gradually ramp up the pace and finish with four increasingly fast miles finishing around tempo pace.

These workouts are one of my favorites as it gives me something to “look forward to” during the course of my long run.  It also trains the body to run at a quick pace on tired legs. 

It’s one thing to crank out a 6:30 mile on fresh legs.  It is another to do so after having run 11 miles already.  In a way, this workout is a confidence booster for me.

Splits over a hilly run came in just as I had hoped: 

7:22, 7:25, 7:13, 7:16, 7:12, 7:29, 7:20, 7:11, 7:09, 6:51, 6:30.

Confidence boosted.

As I was talking with Dawn I started thinking about just how tough the training week had been.

46.65 running miles at 7:15 min./mile average pace.

3 one-hour strength training sessions

1 16-mile ride on the tri-bike.

Over the past 30 days we had run over 180 miles climbing 5,675 feet of hills.

I remarked to Dawn that I couldn’t wait for marathon training to begin on October 18th as I needed a break.  That’s when it hit me.  I had been training harder than the majority of weeks leading up to a marathon.

I needed to back off a bit.

This is a tough lesson for any endurance athlete as it is so easy to get caught up into the vicious cycle of doing more, running faster, more hills, more tempo work, longer workouts, less downtime – more, more, more, more – more.

Instead of leading to improvement it will usually lead to something far worse.


So, starting with Tuesday’s workout this week I put the brakes on our Tempo Run.  Instead of going all out like a crazy-man and trying to top the tempo run one week earlier where we covered 6.2 miles of hills in 41:41 (6:43 pace), I decided to find a comfortable rhythm and just “cruise”.

I covered the same exact course in 45:52 (7:24 pace), paying careful attention to the early miles and made sure I really coasted at the start to shake loose.

Wednesday meant a midweek 8+ mile run at moderate pace.  I failed a bit to really hold myself back and finished the 8.35 miles in 1:01:11 (7:19 pace).  Again, I just focused on dialing down the intensity and running smooth and relaxed.

The plan for the rest of the week is hill repeats on Thursday, a complete rest day on Friday (which coincides nicely with a Thursday night on Bourbon Street in New Orleans), 8 easy miles on Saturday and a 10 mile long run on Sunday.

Total mileage for the week will come in around 42 miles, a 10% reduction from one week ago, and a decrease in intensity of approximately 5-10% as well.

It is these weeks that are important to include in your training schedule so that your muscles have a chance to adapt and “get stronger”.  If all you are doing is constantly beating up your body with a series of hard workouts, you never allow those muscles to adapt to the new workload and grow stronger. 

They will just remain in a state of constant fatigue which will either lead to over-training and/or injury.

2010 Boston Marathon - Mile 17

So next week we will get back after it in an all-go-no-quit kind of way for back to back weeks, then a short taper week prior to the IBM Uptown Classic on October 17th.

The last two months have been all about putting ourselves in position to run a sub 40:00 minute 10K at IBM.  To stay on track, this week needed to be about backing off so that we show up on race day in the best possible position to take down that 10K time.

The last thing we want to do is to leave our race legs back on our training course three weeks early or worse, show up to the starting line injured and unprepared to give our best effort.

I’m preparing myself for a tough day on October 17th

I know there is going to come a time over the first 6 miles at IBM that I don’t think I can hold the pace.  I am going to wonder if my legs have another 6:20 mile in them.  It will be gut-check time.  Time to rely on all of the speed work and hill training we’ve done for the last two months building for that one moment.

I’m pretty sure Dom has that date circled on his calendar to take a quick peak in on me and make sure I am giving absolutely everything I have to hit that line with every bit of effort I have.

If I’m not fast enough, so be it. 

If I’m not talented enough, I’ll live with it.

I will pick myself up, dust myself off and start training the very next day to run the best marathon I have ever run on February 20, 2011.  Lady Marathon and I have a little score to settle in our best out of five rubber match we have been waging over the past three years.

But those are the only two excuses I’m willing to accept come race day. 

I foolishly brought a knife to a gun fight at Boston in April.  I vowed to never let that happen to me again.

1 minute, 47 seconds short

Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose.

I’d like you to do me a favor as I am truly struggling to understand something.

Please sit back in your chair and extend your arms out in front of you.

Bent slightly at the elbow, hands outstretched toward the edges of your computer screen.

Place your left hand at 9 o’clock and your right hand out at the 3 o’clock position in front of you.

Now, “turn” both of your hands counter-clockwise to the left about 3 inches, so your hands are now at 8 o’clock and 2 o’clock.

O.K., now turn them back to 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the most difficult, how hard was that?

A one?  Two at the most?

So tell me why it is that at 6:00 a.m., with no other cars on the road in either direction for miles, would a driver on a four lane divided highway refuse to switch from the right lane to the left for only 5 seconds to give runners enough room to feel safe?

I mean, can’t we all just get along people?

Here in Austin they recently passed a law that motorists need to yield to cyclists on the road and allow them a full 3 foot berth when passing.  Seems reasonable, as those cyclists pay local taxes and federal taxes for the roadways just like the drivers of those automobiles.

But what about us runners?  Before we all leap to the, “why can’t you just run on the sidewalk” argument, which I understand appears to be a valid point of view from non-runners.  Let me just say that we are entitled to our spot on the road as well.

The reason that runners prefer the shoulder of the road, running against traffic is three-fold.

  1. Sidewalks are essentially 100% cement.  It is terrible for your knees, ankles, hips, back, tendons and cartridge if you are a high-mileage runner.  It frankly is terrible for you if you are a low-mileage runner.  It just isn’t realistic for us to run on cement and risk injury.
  2. Each intersection will require a small jump, leap, stride adjustment or change in our running economy as we go from block to block to block.  I counted more than 75 of these on my 12-mile run Sunday morning.  Again, not realistic.
  3. Lastly, runners “want” to be seen.  Running against the traffic allows runners to not only see the approaching cars, but to see ourselves, “be seen”.  Running on the sidewalk puts us directly in the line of fire with cars rolling through intersections, only looking to the left as they pull out on the road.  Dangerous stuff.

I think all of us would prefer to run on trails and parks if given the choice.  I know I would.  But we also have jobs, lives and other commitments that make it difficult to add a commute by car to said running trail or park if we are fortunate to have that option at all.

For some of us, that trail may be underwater or in a state of disrepair, which is the case right now for us who love to run on the Brushy Creek Trail in Austin.

Even on my “trail days”, I still log close to 2-3 miles on streets to get to and from the trail system.

This brings me back to my original point.

Can’t we all just get along?

Does it not take more energy to flash your high beams at me than to rotate your hands 3 inches to the left?

Does it not take more energy to honk your horn loudly as you speed past?

How about the driver who actually stops, turns around, comes back the other direction, stops again, turns back around for the second time to pull up next to me, proceed to put down their window and then yell something at me?

Again, 3 inches to the left.  Really?  Really.

I’m not a “Ranter” or an “Advocate”.  I’m not out to change the world, I just needed to get this off my chest.  We’re all in this together people.

Life is a garden.  Dig it.

So the next time you see a distance runner out there, battling the elements, fatigue, hills and their own will to keep going – show them some love – turn those hands on the wheel to the left those three inches and give them a little room out there.

If you do that I bet you’ll even get a wave from the runner as they go by, a smile and a thank you.  I know every car that passed me with that level of consideration on Sunday morning did.

As for the driver in the white Ford Aerostar who decided that the right lane was just too precious a commodity to give up Sunday at 6:22 a.m. on Avery Ranch Road – I’m really sorry that you haven’t “gotten it” yet.  Perhaps things will turn around for you soon, and priorities in life will become more clear to you in the coming years. 

But today, I feel sorry for you.  You missed one hell of a sunrise on Sunday, as you were too busy honking at that annoying runner who was taking up “your” lane to notice.

Next time maybe you’ll give up those 3 inches.  Sometimes that makes all the difference in the world.

Running and music.  Two things that I truly love.

The only thing better?

Both at the same time. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I think that logging miles with no distractions, noise or technology is good for the soul.  I try to run at least once per week completely unplugged.  Naked Wednesday has become as much a part of my marathon training as Tempo Runs and Hill Repeats. 

But on those days when I really want to push pace and crank out a tough run, I lean on a carefully crafted playlist that will not only get me moving as I take those first strides out of the driveway but will keep me moving when hills, temperatures, distance or pace start to challenge me.

Early on for me as I was just getting into the sport I went through a lot of different earbuds and headphones.  I tried some with foam, some without, some that hooked over my ears, some that did not.  All in all I must have gone through at least a dozen models and brands with limited comfort and success.

I would read reviews online and on running blogs and ask fellow runners at races which earbud solution they found to work best for them.  I would try their recommendations with limited success.  It was then that I realized that the issue was not really with all the various products I had tried, but the fact that everyone’s ears are different. 

Different sizes, shapes, depths which all contribute to whether or not those ear buds will or will not “stay put” while you are out there pushing it.

When I was given the chance to try out a pair of Yurbuds, I was very anxious to review the product.  Whether you are a runner, cyclist, hiker, backpacker, snowboarder or power walker it seems that everyone is searching for the right pair of ear buds.  I had heard some great things about Yurbuds and couldn’t wait to get started. 

Afterall they were designed by a Marathoner and an Iron Man Triathlete.  They come with a guarantee not to fall out or your money back.  Sounds good to me I thought!

The first step in the process was to get “custom fit” for my Yurbuds.  This can be done in one of two ways after visiting the yurbuds website:

1.     Take a close-up photo of your ear with an “iPod” type ear bud in your ear.

2.     Take a close-up photo of your ear while holding a quarter below your ear lobe for scale.

Fitment Photo submitted to Yurbuds

After I submitted my photo I was contacted by the folks at Yurbuds letting me know that I was a size 6.  My pair of Yurbuds was on the way and I should receive them in about 3-5 days.

As promised my package arrived and I was ready to rock.

After opening my package I quickly read the instructions.

1.     Find the small (L) and (R) on each bud to place in the proper ear.

2.     Place Yurbud in your ear with the stem of the earphone at the 9 o’clock position.

3.     Rotate Yurbud down with the stem in the 6 o’clock position.

4.     Go out and kick assphalt.

(O.K., I added that last step).

Almost immediately I felt like these buds were going to stay where they were supposed to.  I jumped up and down, shook my head back and forth, jogged in place.


The product is truly a soft rubberized “Earbud Extender” with a small tube that drops down into your ear canal.  Once rotated into place, the comfortable rubber holds “Yurbud” in place. 

They didn’t slide, move, bounce – they stuck exactly where they were supposed to.

I clicked on my iPod and scrolled searching for Springsteen’s Born to Run.  It’s kind of a tradition I’ve had since High School.  If I buy a new car, move into a new place, buy a new pair of stereo speakers, Born to Run gets the honor of the first “play”

I’ve carried this from Vinyl to Cassette Tape to CD.

Even Landry’s first song on the ride home from the hospital was The Boss.  Can’t start them too early I say.

Before we even hit the road I was impressed with the sound quality.  The bass tones were there as were the dynamics and mid-range as Clarence Clemons wailed away on his sax.  Good stuff.

We left the house Thursday morning for our maiden voyage.  It was Hill Repeat Thursday, which would represent a great test for my new pair of Yurbuds, I guess technically now they were “Mybuds”.  Ten hill repeats at 5K effort as part of a ten-mile run.  If they performed well in those conditions, I was confident that we had found some new gear.

As we edged away from the house the rain started to fall.  If you recall our Hill Repeats in the storm lingering around from Hermine two weeks ago, yup, same morning.  Talk about a tough test environment.  “Mybuds” never moved an inch the entire workout.  In fact I had forgotten all about them after the first warm-up mile, which says just about all you can about a pair of ear buds when it comes to exercising.

I wanted to try them in a few different environments before writing this review, as the real test is how a product performs in a variety of conditions.

Here are “Mybuds” on the Tri-Bike Trainer:

Yurbuds on Tri-Bike Trainer

Yurbuds in action out on the road:

I even found a great use for them around the house with Landry:

Yurbuds as "noise reduction" earbuds

Last Sunday I wore my “Yurbuds” on a 14-mile long run, followed by a very hard tempo run this Thursday at 6:41 pace.  I couldn’t be happier with the fitment and comfort.  So if you are in the market for a new pair of earphones to workout with, or if you have been holding off on bringing music along with you for the run or ride because you are worried about your earbuds staying put – you may want to give these guys a try.

Great product, great price.

As is the case with all product reviews at Run for Dom – these are simply my honest opinions on a product after I have had time to try it myself and see how it holds up.  I am in no way compensated for my time or my opinion.

Happy trails everyone – If you are so inclined to take music along on your runs and rides, Rock On I say!

For more information on Yurbuds visit:

I am running better than I ever have before. 

There, I said it. 

Normally I’m not a superstitious person.  I tend to believe that hard work is what pays off whether you are hoping to improve at your job, your relationships or of course your running.  But it does seem that whenever you start really feeling good about yourself – that four letter word LIFE seems to reach up and drag you back down a few steps. 

I have been holding off on writing this post ever since the NOCC Balance 5K the day before Landry was born as I didn’t want to “jinx it”, but when I look back on my training logs from last year, my weekly mileage totals and my race results, I may be getting older, but I am most definitely getting stronger and faster. 

Age 43, who would have thought that would be possible.  Certainly not me. 

Cougar Country Classic 5K - 18:12

Recently I have had a few running friends ask me to help them develop training plans and race day strategies.  This has been a great opportunity to give back to other runners as they look to improve, as it really is about paying it forward in life.  

As much as I have enjoyed the opportunity to pass on some “coaching”, it has benefitted me greatly as I have been able to really look at my own training – and determine what workouts have proven to be the most beneficial. 

I’ve taken a step back and looked  at where I have gotten the most “bang for my buck” when it comes to my training runs – and how I have been able to maximize the impact from each of my 5 run days per week. 

Since I fully recovered from back to back marathons this spring and started what I have been calling my “Pre-Austin Marathon Training Cycle”, as Austin training begins October 18th, I have stuck to the schedule below: 

Monday – Rest/Cycle/Strength Training 

Tuesday – Tempo Run 

Wednesday – Marathon Pace Run/Strength Training 

Thursday – Hill Repeats 

Friday – Rest/Cycle/Strength Training 

Saturday – Tempo Run or BQ Pace Run 

Sunday – Long Run 

This schedule has given me a great mix of workouts that as I sprinkled in 5K and 10K races over the last few months, has allowed me to work on improving all aspects of my running for the first time really, ever. 

Pre-Austin Marathon Training Schedule

Speed has been addressed in my Tempo Runs and Racing, Strength during my Hill Repeats, Stamina in my Marathon Pace Runs and Endurance during my Sunday long runs. 

Each workout has had a goal and purpose as I have avoided running any “junk miles” or “throwaway workouts”.  The type that don’t do much other than add miles to your training plan and look good crossed off of the refrigerator.  I’ve tried to make every run count this summer and the results are definitely there. 

But if I was forced to pick just one workout to keep in my training plan and get rid of all the others, which is completely unfair along the lines of asking me to only eat one type of meal for the rest of my life, I would have to pick Tempo Runs. 

Tempo Tuesday has become such an important part of my training plan that I cannot imagine giving it up. 

After an off-day from running on Monday I have relatively fresh legs for the workout.  I usually do not have any lingering soreness or any aches and pains and I have been able to really focus in 100% on the goal for that morning. 

A tempo run is a workout that will benefit all runners from 5K racers to Marathoners.  It seems counterintuitive to think that one workout could be so versatile – but the Tempo Run truly is. 

The Tempo Run teaches your body to run faster before fatiguing. 

Now, a lot of studies have been done by scientists and runners much more sophisticated and smarter than I am that show the best predictor of distance running performance is your lactate threshold or LT. 

The “everyman” explanation for lactate threshold is the speed you are able to run before lactic acid begins to accumulate in the blood.  Once that lactic acid level builds to a certain point, your muscles fatigue and you slow down.  

By regularly including tempo runs into your training schedule, you will increase the speed that you can run before lactic acid begins to slow you down. 

This only occurs by “running faster” – it will not improve by simply running more and more miles at the same slower pace.  You will improve your endurance and stamina by stretching your long runs from 8 to 10 to 12 to 14 to 16 miles.  But you will not necessarily decrease the pace at which you can run those miles. 

To put it simply, if you want to race fast, you have to train fast. 

Cruising - 5:50 pace

Tempo runs have been my go-to workout over the past three months to do just that.  Get faster. 

So what is a Tempo Run?  Truly it doesn’t have to be a complicated workout.  You will hear a lot about interval training and Yasso 800’s – which are all great workouts.  But to add a traditional Tempo Run to your training plan you don’t need a track, a coach or fancy GPS timer.  The idea is to run somewhere between 20 minutes and 35 minutes at “Tempo Pace” after a warm-up mile or two.  After the “Tempo” portion of your run, you will want to run a cool-down mile or two. 

More on what “Tempo Pace” is in a second. 

If these workouts are not a part of your training program today you may want to start gradually with a tempo run that features the “tempo portion” of just two miles.  Then add a half a mile every other week until you reach 4 miles at your tempo pace. 

More experienced runners may want their tempo portion to stretch up to 5 or 6 miles.  Like anything, as you improve the workout will get easier, so you need to keep challenging yourself to keep improving. 

Some runners like to break their “tempo portion” of the run into two parts – taking a 45-60 second break from tempo pace in the middle.  An example of this would be a 1 mile warm up, two miles at tempo pace, a 60 second recovery jog, two miles at tempo pace and a closing cool down mile.  

This would make the workout a bit more manageable as you begin to stretch those distances.  Again, the key is to run at that Tempo Pace for an extended period of time, allowing your body to adapt to the pace and improve your Lactate Threshold. 

So how do you know what your Tempo pace is? 

Well, traditionalists say that a solid tempo pace is :30 seconds per mile slower than your 5K Race pace or :20 seconds per mile slower than your 10K race pace. 

If you do not know what your race pace is for those distances, you can use what is known as “perceived effort”.  A tempo run should be run at a “comfortably hard” pace.  I know, I know, what the heck does that mean.  

That means that you should feel like you are running fast enough so that you know you’re working hard, but if you had to, you could keep up the pace for up to an hour.  If you are running with another person you’re able to say a few words here and there, but you can’t really “chat”.  

I usually gauge this by the fact that I can say, “Good Morning” to an approaching runner without being out of breath, but I most certainly couldn’t recite the preamble to the Gettysburg Address. 

Tuesday’s Tempo Run this week took me out of the comfort zone of the Brushy Creek Trail and onto the road near our home.  Since Hermine blew through Austin dumping unprecedented rains on our area – our trail is in very, very poor condition.  Erosion, ruts, standing water, fall offs, pretty dangerous for a pre-dawn runner like myself.  So we took to the streets of Avery Ranch and covered a hilly course for our Tempo Run this week. 

Ideally I like to run this workout on flat terrain, so that I can measure my mile splits evenly.  That was not possible this week, so instead I focused on keeping my effort the same over my 6.2 mile Tempo Run, knowing my times would be slightly faster on the downhill and slightly slower on the uphill miles of the run. 

This is a key workout building towards our run at that elusive sub 40:00 minute 10K time at the IBM in October. 

Tempo Tuesday

Tempo miles Thursday: 

6:43 (+43 feet)
6:37 (-35 feet)
6:44 (+37 feet)
6:37 (-36 feet)
6:59 (+59 feet)
6:42 (-48 feet)
Final .20 at 6:22 pace 

Shooting for a 6:26 pace at IBM, our tempo run came in right on target, about :15-:20 seconds slower than our 10K goal pace.  Add in the hills, 78 degree temperature and 88% humidity, as well as a 14-mile long run on Sunday and I would say we have a really good shot at reaching our goal at the IBM Uptown Classic. 

Today is Thursday, which means hill repeats.  Another great workout and one that is helping us gain great confidence for all the climbing we will be doing during the middle stages of the Austin Marathon in February. 

Like I said before, we’ve never felt better, never run faster, never been stronger – now all we have to do is keep up the hard work for another 5 months, stay healthy and we should be in fine shape to honor Dom in the right way on February 20th.  

My goal is to never race again without Dom’s name on my shoes and his memory in my heart. 

Thanks for the added push this summer Dom – I miss you every day.

You seriously didn’t think that we were going anywhere did you?

I mean, let’s face it, in true Dom D’Eramo fashion, we are nothing if not stubborn here at Run for Dom.

A little over a year ago on September 9, 2009 was launched as our first vehicle to get the word out about Dom’s battle with cancer.  It was our first use of the web to share our plans for the next 9 months.  We began to tell the story of Dom, his wife Val, their daughter Sierra and Son Nico, who was just two months old at the time.

We hoped that through Run for Dom we would be able to honor our good friend Dom’s fight, help raise awareness about the terrible disease which is cancer, and hopefully raise money to help offset medical expenses for Dom and his family.

The last year brought us many gifts.

Friendships were made that will last a lifetime.  Relationships from long ago were rekindled.  Families reconnected, holidays were celebrated as were birthdays and even new family members were born.

Landry Grace - Born 2 Weeks after Dom's Passing

We also got to spend 11 more months with our Dom before his passing on August 15, 2010.

Dr. Dom and Nico D'Eramo

My good friend Lara Robinson asked me if we could do a third part to her interview with me last week and we kindly obliged – you can read Lara’s transcript here.

I shared with Lara that when all this started a year ago I really wasn’t completely sure where Run for Dom was headed.  I knew we would make our way to Boston and Pittsburgh for our two marathons just 310 hours apart. 

I also knew that we would train hard for those races to honor Dom’s cancer battle in the manner which it deserved, but above all else, I hoped that we would be able to reach our fundraising goal of $26.2K to help the D’Eramo family.

Everything else was an unknown.  But much like Dom’s journey that led from one challenge to the next, constantly searching for the treatment or procedure that would finally kick cancer to the curb once and for all, Run for Dom would keep searching.  We would keep looking ahead to the next curve in the road or hill that rose up in front of us. 

I always felt like once we cleared the next obstacle, we would know exactly where we were heading.

Sure enough, after Dom’s passing last month the path became clear.  The next step for Run for Dom will be working to help fund the 529 Education plans that have been established for Sierra and Nico.  That is the path we are on right now and we will chase down that goal just like Boston, Pittsburgh and everything else that has gotten in our way.

So today, is back and better than ever.

Please stop by for a visit check out our new site, additions include:

Contact Us:  Where you can submit a question or comment to me anytime about running, training, racing, fundraising or Run for Dom opportunities.

News and Events:  Where all Run for Dom related events will be posted, such as Sean’s Run for Dom at the Chicago Marathon or my upcoming race schedule.  There is also a calendar where you can look months ahead for upcoming events.

Run for Dom 5K:  This is the next big project for Run for Dom as I plan on hosting a 5K Run & Walk in honor of Dom in his hometown on the second weekend of August each year as a Memorial to Dom and his fight against cancer. 

Proceeds from the race will go to fund the 529 Education plans for Sierra and Nico – but just as importantly – I hope the event will allow the community to remember Dom each year on the anniversary of his passing.  What better way to celebrate Dom’s life and remind all of us just how wonderful a Father, Son, Brother, Uncle, Cousin and Friend he was.

I will be asking soon for advice, volunteer help, sponsor ideas and of course for runners to help me make this a first class event.  Please reach out to me with interest – I will take any and all help that I can get!

Follow Joe:  This will take you directly to Joe Still Runs for Dom.

Sean Runs for Dom:  Features Sean’s fundraising effort to Run for Dom at the Chicago Marathon, where he and his family will match 50% of all donations made to Sierra and Nico’s education plans out of his own pocket.  Race day is rapidly approaching on 10-10-10, so please click here to visit Sean’s fundraising page!

I will be using this area to share any and all fundraising efforts in the future for Run for Dom.

Donate Now:  This of course will allow you to access our secure giving page and make your donation to Run for Dom 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.

We will start our fundraising effort for the Austin Marathon on the first day of Marathon Training, October 18, 2010.  Race day is February 20, 2011 – where we will toe the line once again and take on Lady Marathon for the third time in 9 months.

Kicking cancer’s ass 26.2 miles at a time.

Thanks for visiting everyone!  And thank you all for your tremendous love and support of Run for Dom.  We’re back, and we’re better than ever!

Landry Grace turned two weeks old about 30 minutes ago.

It really is pretty amazing that she has been here only 14 days, not even as long as a marathon taper, but already, I can’t imagine the world without her.

I've grown 1 1/4 inches in two weeks!

This morning I left the house for 14 miles hopefully at Marathon Goal Pace – which for me heading into Austin Marathon Training is 7:30 min./mile.  1 hour and 45 minutes give or take a minute or two.  This run would push our weekly mileage to 46.2, with another 20 miles on the tri-bike.  The most mileage I’ve run in a week since training for Boston last spring.

As I left the house and tried to shake loose over the first mile my thoughts immediately went to wondering what kinds of things Landry and I will have in common, and what things she will share with her Mom.

Growing up my Dad’s son we shared a lot of common interests.  Pretty much anything and everything that he enjoyed doing, I thought was pretty cool as well.  Whether it was him working with his hands, (my father is an amazing carpenter – now retired), shooting pool, watching boxing (huge Rocky Marciano fan) or going to the gun club on Sunday’s in the winter – I pretty much wanted to be right there with him.

But when it came to baseball, that is where we really shared a common bond.  By all accounts, my Dad was a tremendous baseball player when he was a young man.  In fairness, he was a tremendous athlete.  He had never swung a golf club before he turned 21, but was a scratch golfer by 35.  Pretty darn impressive.

But baseball, and in particular, rooting for the Phillies was something that we both enjoyed doing immensely.  He would tell me stories about going to Shibe Park and watching Robin Roberts pitch, about the collapse in 1964, how Dick Allen could hit majestic home-runs and of course, how Joe DiMaggio was the greatest baseball player to ever lace up their shoes.

We would spend nights laying on the living room floor listening to Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn call the games on the radio – long before Cable Television and Direct TV.  We would throw the ball in the backyard for hours and he taught me about the game.

How to judge where a batter would hit a ball, how to turn a doubleplay,  how to hit, catch, throw, pivot and slide.  He turned a little runt of a kid into a pretty darn good player – one who was always the first to the park for practice and the last to leave.

Hard work and the desire to be your very best.  To DO your very best, no matter what it was, is something that I got from my Dad at an early age.  I’ve carried that life lesson with me all these years later.

He never ran a footrace that I am aware of.  But my Dad is as responsible for me becoming a relatively decent marathoner than anyone else.  Perhaps even me.

This brings me to mile 5 today, not quite half-way through our run.  I started thinking about a few packages that arrived this week for Landry.

First to arrive was from my friend Danica out in California.  Danica writes a tremendous blog Chic Runner – if you are not reading her blog, you truly should be.  Nobody does it better.

When I opened the package from California – I saw the smallest of Nike boxes.  Tucked inside were the coolest pink running shoes – size 2C for little Miss Landry.  Now mind you, these were not just little sneakers.  When I say running shoes, I mean running shoes.  The soles, uppers, cushioning – all 100% authentic.  What a wonderful surprise and an amazing gift.  Danica – you really are the greatest.

My First Running Shoes

A couple of days later “Aunt Barb” back in Pennsylvania sent Landry a pink Adidas Running suit that looked eerily like my Boston Marathon Running Jacket from this year’s race.  Once again, the fabric, wicking material, anti-chafe stitching – all 100% spot on perfect.

Gearing up for Boston

During my run I started to think about whether or not Landry will think her Dad’s running is “pretty cool” or if she just won’t see the point in logging mile after mile in the Texas heat.  Will she get excited for race day and enjoy competing, or would she rather stay inside to read a book or lounge by the pool like a native Texan should?

Will she enjoy working in the yard with her mother or will she like riding on the back of Dad’s Harley?

That is part of the magic of the experience I guess.  Not knowing the way the story will end until you read every chapter.  Her first word, her first step, losing her first tooth, her first day of school, all things that no matter how curious I am about them right now, I’ll just have to wait and see like everyone else.

The only thing I do hope for is that she has a passion.  No matter what it is, whether it is school, dance, sports, science, art or even, dare I say it, running.  I hope that she finds something she truly loves to do, and works hard at it, to be the very best that she can be.

Just five more minutes Dad ....

No matter what it is, I’ll be proud of her and wonder where all the time went.  How back in September of 2010 she used to fit in just one of my hands and fall asleep with my pinkie finger in her mouth.  These are the days right now, truly amazing.

How did the run go?  1:45:00, spot on perfect.  Not a second too slow, not a second too fast.  Perfect.  Just like my little girl.

So you want to be a marathoner?

Doesn’t sound too difficult right?

I mean, there are more people running marathons in the United States today than ever before. By the time the final marathons were completed in 2009, 468,000 runners completed the 26.2 mile distance.  That is 43,000 more finishers than in all of 2008.  9.9% growth in a single year.

Back in 2000 there were only 299,000 finishers at marathons in the US.  That is pretty incredible growth in less than a decade.

It seems like everyone is doing it these days.  How hard could it really be? 

For me, the marathon itself is not the truly difficult part.  It is the training for race day where the true tests come.  The training period is where strength, stamina, character and mental toughness are developed.

Race day is pageantry, excitement and of course time for celebration.

After all, a marathon is just a 10K with a 20-mile warm-up.

Don’t believe me?  Well let’s take a look at Thursday’s workout.

Hill Repeats, 10 Repetitions, Total distance 10 miles.  The same hill repeats we had been building up to 10 repetitions for the last six weeks.  Hop out of bed, let the dog out, knock out our run, and be back home in 75 or 80 minutes max.  Piece of cake.

Well, that is why our sport is such a great one.  Because the only easy day is yesterday.

It had appeared that tropical storm Hermine had moved through the Austin area for good overnight.  That is what all the weather forecasts had said anyway.  I thought to be on the safe side I should bring my running hat with me on Thursday morning, just in case there was a stray shower hanging around.

Flooding at the shallow end of Barton Springs Pool

As I stretched my calves against the garage door, the first raindrops started to hit me.  Good call I thought on the running hat.  As I waited for my GPS to locate its signal, the rain started falling harder.

I saw 00:00:00 on my watch, which indicated we were ready to roll.  I took off up the hill away from our house to run my warm-up of 1.5 miles before we made it over to the hill to get started.

By the time I passed the fourth house on the left, all hell had broken loose from the sky.  Torrential downpour that had me soaked from head to toe only: 30 seconds into my run.  I could already feel the water squishing in my shoes.

No problem I thought.  We’ve run a full marathon in the rain before.  I’ve got this.

As I started to wind my way through the neighborhood I approached the entrance to the trail system behind our home.  I knew that there would be some erosion due to the flooding from Hermine, but I was hoping that the trail would be in decent shape.  We had run the identical hill for the last 5 weeks and recorded all of our workouts, building from 6 repeats to 7 to 8 to 9 and finally 10 last week.  Our goal now was to continue to run 10 repeats up the .40 mile hill, only at a faster pace each week for the next 5 weeks.

The trail was a mess.  Lots of loose areas, standing water, puddles and ruts.  In the early morning darkness, I couldn’t see very well.  But having run this trail more than 600 times, I knew exactly where the problem areas usually were after a storm.

I reached the bottom of the hill after my warm-up, punched the lap timer on my GPS and started up the hill at 5K effort.  My first four strides went through 3 inches of standing water, running down into my shoes.

No problem I thought.  We’ll find a dry launching point on our next repeat.  I’ve got this.

I made my way up the hill a little less than ¼ of the way to the top and I saw a large, dark shadow about 5 feet tall in the middle of the trail.  It had to be a fallen limb from the trees on the left.  I drifted to the right side of the trail and was just able to sneak past without breaking stride, less than a foot from the bushes on the right.

No problem I thought.  I’ll just drag that out of the way on my way back down.  I’ve got this.

I took 20 more strides and hit some large ruts on the path.  These were “ankle-twisters” if there ever were any.  Very bad news for a runner, especially in the dark.  I fought my way over the ruts to an area that was a bit smoother on the left.  Just a couple of missteps, but I was holding my pace.

No problem I thought.  I’ll look for a smooth patch on my next repeat.  I’ve got this.

As I made it to the ¾ point of the hill I heard rushing water up ahead over the Gin Blossoms that were playing on my iPod.  I started to let off the gas a bit and I saw it.  There was a veritable waterfall coming down from the top of the dam on the left of the trail, washing more than 6 inches of water directly across the trail in front of me.  It was moving swiftly and was more than 2 feet wide.

Somebody must be trying to tell me something.  At that point, I hung my head, turned around and headed back down the hill ever so carefully.

Time to go home right?  Not a chance.

I chuckled to myself a bit, thought about all of the different things that our boy Dom had gone through from treatment to treatment, surgery to procedure and thanked him for the lesson that the only direction to keep moving is forward.  There has to be another hill around her somewhere right?

Flood Waters at Brushy Creek

So I backtracked up the trail, cut through a few areas I knew and made my way back to the bottom of the hill from Wednesday’s “Boston” Course.  This is a neighborhood adjacent to ours that features a steep hill taking you from the pool area at Water’s Edge up to Avery Ranch Road.  I used this area preparing for the uphill and downhill nature of the Boston Marathon course last winter.

The distance of the hill is a bit shorter, only .35 miles compared to the .40 miles we typically run our repeats on.  But the slope is much steeper and covers more than 60 feet of elevation change.

I would not be able to run the entire hill as the turnaround would be at an intersection.  I did not want to introduce morning commuters with their cups of coffee in one hand, iPhones in the other to my morning “obstacle course”.  I decided to run .30 miles up to the top of the hill, just short of the entrance to the development. 

It had already taken me more than 3.5 miles to get to the bottom of this hill.  But if my math was correct, we could still run our 10 repeats and bring our run in right at 10 miles.  Just as we had planned.

I turned my hat around backwards as the rain had finally stopped and took off up the hill.

Repeat after repeat up and down we went.  Legs aching, lungs burning, arms pumping, feet squishing.  Up and down, up and down, up and down until we reached our 10th repeat.

1:48, 1:49, 1:48, 1:51, 1:54, 1:53, 1:54, 1:56, 1:55, 1:54.

1:50 = 6:28/mile pace climbing up the equivalent of a six story building.

Not bad.

I made my way home with a final mile at 7:24 pace.  :13 faster than we will need to average at the Austin Marathon to re-qualify for Boston this spring.

There was no finish clock in the driveway, no family members or friends there to greet me, no medal to be won or even a high-five.  Hell, my paper had not even been delivered yet.

But what was there waiting for me when I returned was better. 


Like most challenges in life I don’t think that marathoning builds character as much as it reveals it.

I’m sure that if Dom was looking in on me Thursday morning, he was pretty damn proud of me, and that’s better than any finisher’s medal.

Hill Repeat Thursday - Mission Accomplished