Archive for November 21, 2010

Several times last year when I was training for the Run for Dom double, I caught myself looking ahead a bit too far down the road.  Instead of thinking about the next training run, rest day or cycling workout, I would catch myself thinking about the 12 days of rest between Boston and Pittsburgh.

How would I feel?  What kind of running would I be able to do?  Would my shin pain return?  What kind of race would I be able to run at the Pittsburgh Marathon after taking on Boston?

I learned a lot of very important lessons last spring.  Some were lessons about running, many about friendship, a lot about courage and even more about determination.  One of those lessons I keep trying to remind myself of during this ramp up to Austin is the virtue of patience.  About how necessary it is to live in the moment, or you risk missing out on some really wonderful things along the way.

As tempting as it was to look past Sunday’s 12-mile training run as just a “short, long-run” if there is such a thing.  I was determined when I hopped out of bed to really enjoy everything that was about to unfold in front of me over the next hour and a half or so.

Run for the Water 10-Miler

Step Back weeks are part of my marathon training plan, which are weeks where the distance I run and to some extent the intensity of those workouts is reduced so that you can allow your body a chance to regroup from the previous two weeks of tough training.

As I was saying earlier this week, training without recovery weeks is just like training every day without an “off-day”.  All you are doing is breaking down your body and their muscles, without allowing them the opportunity to adapt to the increased workload and grow stronger.  Rest and recovery is just as important as any “tough workout” you can throw at yourself if you are trying to improve as a runner.

But there is a difference between a reduction in training intensity and “mailing in” a workout.  Sunday’s 12-mile training run was an opportunity.  An opportunity to work on things, to prepare for a variable or two that Lady Marathon may decide to throw our way on February 20, 2011.

If my last four marathons are any indication, race day is going to have some surprises.

Philly 2006 – Injury, inexperience

Pittsburgh 2009 – Rain, wind.

Boston 2010 – Unprepared for downhill start, race time effected nutrition.

Pittsburgh 2010 – Heat, humidity, rain, 12 days between marathons.

So what will it be on Sunday, February 20th?  No telling.  But the more prepared we are for all of the various possibilities, the better our chances are to deliver on a promise I made not only to Dom, but one that I made to myself on May 2nd.

So as I stretched against the garage door, working some tightness out of my right calf muscle, I glanced up at the University of South Carolina Flag above my head.

It was flapping wildly due north – stiff, standing at attention.


I had not had the opportunity to run into a stiff headwind in quite some time.  Especially on a pseudo-long run where I was trying to hold a fast pace.


A good friend of mine and tremendous distance runner whenever faced with conditions that are less than “optimal” will say:

“If you don’t train in it, you can’t race in it.”

I thought about which 12-mile route to take as I waited for my GPS to synch up with the satellites overhead.  I could head out onto the “hill course” which would take us not only over the toughest inclines available, but also directly into the headwind for the first 6 miles.

On the other hand, I could choose the “Boston Course” which has rolling hills, both up and down and ends up on the Brushy Creek Trail.  A bit softer surface and due to the winding nature of that route, I would be alternating between a headwind and tailwind throughout the run.

The Hill Course was the obvious choice.

I hit start on my watch and headed uphill into the wind. 

After the first mile I left our neighborhood and turned right onto Avery Ranch Road.  A major four lane road that runs through our master planned community, but at 5:45 a.m., I have the road basically all to myself.

I like to run streets for a large portion of my long runs, at least ½ to ¾ as again, if you are training for a road race of 26.2 miles, you need to log some of those miles on the road.  As much as I love running on our trail system and it’s more forgiving surface of crushed stone – it is important for me during marathon training to “train in race conditions” and running surface streets is a great way to simulate race day.

The first six miles of the run ticked by quickly, but I noticed that I really had to push on the climbs into the wind to hold pace.  My breathing was quickening, I was having to use my arm swing to propel me forward, more so than a run on flat ground in light winds.

This was good I thought to myself, no surprises on race day should a stiff South wind be blowing into the marathoners faces from miles 7-17, climbing to the top of the Austin Marathon Course.

I hit the 6 mile turnaround under a street lamp and hit my right water bottle that was filled with Grape Gatorade.  As soon as I hit my stride heading back North the wind which had been howling over my ear buds quieted.

It felt as if the temperature had increased 10 degrees, and now I was feeling every bit of the 67 degree temperature and 90% humidity.

Irony struck a blow to me as just by turning around and heading a different direction, “the run” had completely changed.  Instead of managing hills and wind, I was now managing heat and humidity.  A new opportunity presented itself.  Another experience to lean on during the late stages of Austin when things get a little more “complicated” on race day.

As I began my ascent over mile 8 back under Highway 183 I caught a glimpse of the first hints of sunrise out to the East.  Tomorrow morning I’ll be on an airplane headed that direction I thought, heading back to Pittsburgh for the first time since Dom’s Memorial Service in August.

Dom and Val’s daughter Sierra just celebrated her 4th birthday this past week.  The first of many that she will have without her Daddy.

Sierra - 4 Years old this week


On Saturday my baby girl Landry went on her very first airplane ride as she and Dawn traveled up to Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving a couple days earlier than I will due to work.  Landry was upgraded to 1st class on both flights yesterday – which speaks volumes about the kind of pampering she is going to be looking for when she gets older I’m sure.

Over the last four miles I thought a lot about what this week will be like.  Dawn and I will be meeting up with Val, Sierra and little Nico at our friend’s Jason and Melissa’s house.  Six young children in all running around, all of us sharing stories about our little ones, what is happening in our lives, all the while wishing that there was one more person there with us.

As I cranked up the pace and the intensity over the last few miles, I found myself again revisiting all of the ups and downs of Dom’s treatment.  What if only a few things had gone differently would we be sharing Thanksgiving with him this year also?  Would he have been there to see Sierra open her birthday presents and blow out her candles?

Would he tease me about changing dirty diapers and how my daughter already has me eating out of the palm of her hand.  Probably.  Actually, most definitely.

I glanced down at my watch as I hit mile 11 and saw that I posted a 6:37 mile.  Time to go to work I thought as this will be great practice to push one final mile hard on tired legs to see just how much we have left in the tank.

We will be racing on Thursday morning at the 1st Annual Hopewell, PA Turkey Trot.  The race will start and end at Dom’s old High School Football Field.  I thought about racing there, visualizing the closing stretch of the 5 kilometer race.  It will be my wife’s very first 5K on Thursday, great stuff.

I hit the driveway at the 12-mile mark in 1:23:48 – 6:59 pace.

Sunday 12-Miler

Miles 1-6:

7:03, 7:10, 7:05, 7:15, 7:09, 7:10

Miles 7-12:

7:05, 7:06, 6:54, 6:52, 6:37, 6:17

Pretty solid way to close out a solid week of training and a great training run.

The next 5 weeks are going to be tough ones as the miles and workout intensity continues to build.

The only thing tougher than the next 5 weeks, will be the five weeks that follow them leading up to the Marathon taper and then on to race day.

It’s tempting to look ahead to the taper and how great it will feel to come through the chute at the 3M Half-Marathon, with only a few weeks to go until the Austin Marathon.

But I know better.  I’ve learned my lesson.  I need to focus on this week, and especially enjoying time with our close friends and family at Thanksgiving.  I know that’s what our boy Dom would be looking forward to this week.

I’m pretty sure he still is.  Miss you Dominic.