Archive for October, 2012

Many marathon training plans, long-course triathlon training plans as well feature what are commonly referred to as “step-back” weeks.  Weeks that occur every three or four weeks where you reduce your workload, allow your body to absorb the increased training during the preceding weeks and adapt.  During that “step-back” week your body goes through changes, absorbs this increased intensity and grows stronger.  This process is critical to good health as the athlete can allow any small “nicks” that they have experienced to bounce back to full-strength for another push forward over the next 2-3 week period.  Allowing for even more miles and more intense training to continue to move the needle forward once again throughout the training cycle.

I agree with this philosophy 100% and have seen it work like a charm during my previous marathon cycles – allowing me to stay healthy while training hard and create the perfect situation where I reach the taper pretty much on fumes.  I then use those final 2-weeks before race day to recharge the batteries and on race morning I am ready to rumble.  The only problem I have always had with the “step-back” week was the name.  You really aren’t taking a step back, you are reloading to take a step forward.

Instead I refer to these weeks as “cut-back” weeks.  Where I cut back my mileage by 10-12 miles or so over the course of 7-days, in this case from 67 miles last week down to about 55 or so and then rebound back up to 70 miles the following week, then 75 the next.

The alternative would be to simply post weeks of 62, 67, 70, 72, 75 – but a schedule like that for a 45-year old marathoner is one that invites the possibility of not only injury but of overtraining.  The fact of the matter is that for adaptations to your muscles to take place, you have to let them rest and recover.  Last week featured 4 very challenging “Quality” workouts spread over my 6 runs.  My two easy workouts for the week were 10 recovery miles on Wednesday after a pair of runs on Tuesday less than 7 hours apart and my 20-mile long run on Sunday.  Keep in mind, those were the “easy” days.

So this week we will be running 55 miles +/-, if we need to cut back a little more than that by reducing our Saturday run from 10 miles down to 8, that will be fine too.

The key is to make sure that while you cut back on the mileage you keep some “intensity”.  You want to make sure you continue to work some tempo miles into your week, some hill work, some marathon goal-pace miles to keep the legs moving and the pace ticking over.  But make sure that you give yourself plenty of “easy” work also and allow those training miles from the previous two weeks to do their thing and build a stronger base moving forward.

This morning’s run of 10 miles was a good example of keeping the intensity level up, but not overdoing things.

After a warm-up mile that was steady effort (7:26), I locked in at Marathon Goal Pace Effort (6:52) but not necessarily Marathon Goal Pace on the watch.  I did this by wearing heavier trainers this morning – Brooks Ghost 5’s, which are about 3 ounces heavier than my marathon race shoes.  This difference in weight is the equivalent of :03 seconds per mile.  I took this run to the softer crushed granite trail system behind our home to reduce the pounding on my legs a bit, but also slowing down my speed by another :01-:03 seconds per mile.

This turns a 6:52 goal pace effort mile into one that shows up on the watch in the 6:55-6:58 range.

Miles 2-10 this morning came in at:

6:59, 6:58, 6:52, 6:58, 6:54, 6:59, 6:53, 6:50, 6:41.

Only over the last mile did I press the issue a bit to feel like I was working hard.  The other miles I just focused on even effort and let the hills on the trail dictate my pace on the watch.  Running smooth, even opening splits in Houston is what I worked on today, stopping my legs when they got a little carried away and wanted to start pushing pace towards the end of the run.  Only in the final mile did I let them take over.

Running a smooth opening 13 miles in Houston is going to go a long way toward our goal of breaking 3 hours in the marathon.  We will not “make” our time over the first 13 miles, but we certainly can “miss” it there if we are too fast and burn up too much energy and glycogen during the first half of the race.

So, just because you are cutting back your mileage – it doesn’t mean that you are not getting quality work in.  Marathon training is like trying to create the perfect stew.  You have to put all of the ingredients together, take great care in finding the perfect mixture and temperature, and then giving it the time to all come together.

No single workout or “ingredient” is going to make or break you.  It is the way that you put all the ingredients together that makes the difference.

75 days left to race day.  Things are just starting to heat up on the stove.  Happy Halloween everyone!

Landry’s Elmo Pumpkin – (Carving by Dad)

 

 

 

80 Training days remain before we drop off our dry bag pre-dawn in Houston, run a short, brisk warm-up, re-tie our race flats and tuck in to the starting area among the other marathoners who hope to run a time under 3:00 hours on January 13, 2013.

Last year on a cool, fast day for racing the leader of the 3 hour pace group finished in 2:59:40 which was good enough for 245th place overall.  The 22oth Male Finisher.  He is an Austin runner who I have met at a few races.  Marathon PR of 2:40.  He has paced 5 different marathon groups over the past few years and has come in just under goal time in each of them.

I’m not going to let him out of my site on race day.

Wednesday’s are my mid-week recovery workouts during a marathon training cycle.  They fall just 12 hours or so after my second of two runs on Tuesday and 24 hours before my hill-repeat workout on Thursday.  It is a run of 10-12 miles depending on the week where I just lock into whatever pace feels “comfortable” and cruise evenly up and down the rolling terrain of the hill route.  I run the hills so I can engage all of the different muscle groups, giving a rest to my hamstrings on the downhill sections, working my Quads and calves while I am climbing – essentially flushing out all of the soreness and fatigue from the previous two workouts and giving me the opportunity to reload a bit before going hard again on Thursday morning battling hill repeat after hill repeat.

The runs on Wednesday are not necessarily “difficult”, this week after running 16.5 miles over two workouts on Tuesday with half of those miles between 6:10 pace and 6:45, running a relaxed 7:48 pace over ten miles can feel kind of nice actually.  The challenge is actually in staying patient and not gradually running faster and faster as the miles tick by in an effort to “just wrap this up” or “get back to get some breakfast”.  Early on I would stay nice and smooth for 6 or 7 miles, but the last 3 I would find myself running close to race pace.  Not good.

On a day when I am supposed to be recovering from a tough workout and preparing for another one to follow – I was turning my recovery run into a pace run.

But lately, I have been much more restrained and patient on these recovery days and it has allowed me to run even harder on my hard days.  That is where the good stuff is.  Being able to really hammer away on the days that demand “hammering”.  Recovery days are just that, meant to build your aerobic base and endurance.  In some ways the slower the better as you are going to extend the run and spend more time on your feet.  All important when preparing for a marathon.

What is interesting to me is where my mind wanders on these runs.  When I am running intervals or speed work I really don’t have time to be distracted.  I’m firmly in the now.  But on a relaxed run I can allow myself to think about things other than running.  This morning I spent the first few miles of my run thinking about Dom’s children Sierra and Nico.  With Halloween right around the corner I wondered what they would be wearing to go Trick or Treating next week.  Or what they would be “Going As” which is how we referred to it growing up outside of Philadelphia.

I made a mental note that I needed to call Val this weekend to check-in on everybody and see what their plans were.  Dom in a lot of ways was just an overgrown kid.  Full of fun, laughter and an infectious mischievous side – even at age 39.  His kids are at the age now where Halloween and really all the holidays are a lot of fun.  I know they miss him as much as he misses them.

As I was climbing over the top of the dam around mile 6 I started to think about my strategy down in Houston.  How in my “best” races – and by that I mean when I ran as close to or better than what I thought my capabilities at that distance were at the time, how I had run even splits throughout.  Never more than :02-:05 faster or slower than my race average at the finish line.

IBM Uptown Classic, Austin Half-Marathon, NOCC Balance, Shamrock Half-Marathon, 3M, the Pittsburgh Marathon all races where I was “locked in” for the majority of the race and only over the final 10-15% of the race when things got difficult did I need to tap into the mental strength to keep the pedal down.  Keep pushing.  Not let the brain that was sending me signals that this was getting hard and wouldn’t it feel great to back off a bit right now actually take over.  I just set that thought to the side and realized that every stride I took was one stride closer to the end.  That is the only time relief totally comes anyway.  The finish line.  At some point it really doesn’t matter.  Fast or slow, it hurts just the same.

On top of the dam overlooking Brushy Creek Trail and the lake below, I shined my headlamp out in front of me and I could see the exact spot where I decided to run those two marathons in 13 days for Dom in 2010 as he battled stomach cancer.  Less than 4/10 of a mile from that bend in the trail my plan for the Houston Marathon came together.  80 days prior to race day.

I am going to line up slightly behind the 3 hour pace group and cross the start line a handful of seconds after they do.  Over the first mile I am going to keep them exactly in sight and gradually reel them in over the first three miles of the race.  At the 5K split I will pull alongside Brian the pace-leader and tuck in to the group.  :20 or so of “wiggle” room in my back pocket.

I will stay with them through 10K and through the half-way point.  Around mile 15 or 16 when the group starts to break up a bit, I am going to tuck in on Brian’s heels.

At mile 20 when there are even fewer of us remaining, I am going to fasten a string in my mind from Brian’s waist to mine.  I might let the string stretch a bit, but never break.  I will not no matter what let him get away from me.

The hardest miles in the marathon to hold pace are from 20-24.  It is at that point that your Glycogen stores have run out and you are now starting to burn fat as fuel.  It is much less efficient, and you have to work harder to hold the same pace.  Your legs are feeling heavy.  For me, the outside of my hips start to get sore and it is more difficult to raise my legs as high on my stride as I did just 15 minutes earlier.  It is the time when your brain starts telling you to back off, this is getting hard.

It is the point in the race where I ask myself the same question that I have posed at every “A” race I have ever competed in.

“How bad do you want this today?”

I know that if I can hold on to the pace group to mile 24 we are going to make it.

Mile 25 is going to hurt regardless, whether that mile is at 6:52 pace or 7:15 or 7:30.  I am going to disassociate from everything going on except the back of Brian’s singlet.  Don’t let that string snap.

Mile 26 is going to run itself.  I can do anything for one mile.

And when we make the final turn and only 400 meters remains we are going to kick like we have never kicked before.  I have always had a hard time visualizing what the end of a sub 3 hour marathon would be like.  Perhaps it is because I knew that I wasn’t quite ready before.  Or maybe it was because I wasn’t willing to pay the price of admission.

But on a dark trail 81 days prior to race day I could see every bit of it happening right in front of me.  With a glance I am going to thank Brian for the escort through the first 26~ miles of the race and then I am going to drop him like a bad habit.  It is going to be the most painful but at the time the most exhilarating 400 meters we have ever raced.  We’ll have plenty of time to recover when it’s over.

12 Weeks until Houston.  I am finally in the place that I want to be during marathon training.  Firmly in the now.  Not looking too far ahead and perhaps more importantly, not looking behind me.

Frank Shorter once famously said, “You should never run a marathon until you have forgotten your last one.”

There are a couple of ways to interpret Frank’s remark.  The first time I read it I thought that he must be talking about the fact that the marathon being such a unique race takes a tremendous amount of effort to prepare for, get mentally checked-in, race and then recover from.  It is such a draining experience for the athlete whose goal is not merely to finish, but to run the race as close as possible to their maximum potential, that you need to not only physically recover from the race, but you really have to get your mind right before you tee it up again.

I still believe that is the main point that Frank was trying to make.

Lately however I have found new meaning in Frank’s comment.  With the NYC Marathon now less than 2 weeks away I have continued to replay that race over in my mind on training runs over the last month or so.  Despite the fact that I finished Boston in April, I consider NYC to be my “last” marathon.  Yes, I earned a finisher’s medal in Boston for the second time in three years and covered every step of the storied course from Hopkinton to Boston.  But with race day temperatures reaching 87 degrees, I did not “race” Boston, I merely “ran” it.  Still an accomplishment, but never for one moment on April 16th did I feel the intensity of race day.  I simply left Hopkinton at a comfortable training run pace, dealt with the course, the heat, the need to hydrate and fuel to the best of my abilities, high-fived kids along the route, flirted briefly with the coeds at Wellesley and hung on through Brookline past Boston College to the finish.

NYC was my last Marathon and it was my best ever.

What I am realizing is that when you look back fondly on a great performance that can be a dangerous place to be preparing for a marathon.

The marathon is cruel.  The distance is significant.  The training is tough.  The race is tougher.

You have to not only put in the work prior to the event to put yourself in a position to be successful, but you have to prepare mentally for some of the toughest miles you will ever run.  If your “memory” of marathon glory is too fresh, if the only thing you can draw from is how exhilarating it felt to cross the finish line with a new PR in hand then you are not going to be in the right mindset to battle through the pain and fatigue it takes to get there.

I’m not sure if it has been the increased intensity of my run workouts over the past couple of weeks that have flipped the switch from Triathlete to Marathoner or not, but with each passing workout I feel like my mind is getting closer and closer to where I want it to be on race morning.  Tempo miles, hill repeats, long runs – it is all building toward a crescendo that on race morning down in Houston we are going to attack the marathon like none of the other 9 that have come before it.

All it really took to get me there was the look on Landry’s face as she was preparing for her first “Fire Truck” Race at her friend Levi’s Birthday party on Sunday.

Go Big or Go Home

If I have ever entertained the thought, “chip off the old block”, seeing that photograph brings it home.

In 5 Weeks we will be racing on Thanksgiving morning at the Thundercloud Subs 5-Miler.  16 days later the Ronald McDonald House Lights of Love 5K, 16 days after that the Shiner Half-Marathon and then 4 weeks after Shiner we will be in Houston.

4 races, 4 opportunities to leave it all out on the course and go after a PR in the 5-mile, 5K, half-marathon and marathon.  Approximately 5 hours and 14 minutes of racing where we need to be focused throughout, race with passion and determination and in a word, fearlessly.

Running that close to the ragged edge can be a bit scary.  It also has the potential to create a race where you go out too hard too early and fade badly at the finish.  Very true.

But I also know that failing to go all in and playing it safe is a recipe for the average to slightly above average performance more times than not.

Frankly, I’m not interested in that.

If we blow up down in Houston, miss our goal and struggle to finish the race, I’m prepared to pick-up the pieces after the race and figure out where we go from there.

The one thing I don’t think I can live with is driving back to Austin and looking Dawn and Landry in the eye knowing that I was too scared to go for it.  We’ve got 12-weeks to make sure that on race day we’re prepared for the toughest final 10 kilometers we have ever run.  We’ll be ready.

On Friday morning at 4:48 a.m. on a darkened street in Avery Ranch I pushed away from the driveway where I was stretching my hamstrings and calves to start my workout.  The temperature had dropped to an even 50 degrees overnight.  The flag on our house lay limp from the post.  Not a single breath of air to move it.  In a word the running weather was …. perfect.

I had a late night on Wednesday night this week due to some travel and I decided that instead of running my Thursday Hill Repeat Workout and resting on Friday, I would simply flip-flop my workout days, rest on Thursday and then run on Friday.  Usually a decision like that – putting something off into the future for personal/selfish reasons – comes back to bite you in the form of a thunderstorm, high temperatures, ungodly humidity, a flood, locusts …. you get the picture.  That decision for a runner never seems to pay dividends.

This time however, it paid of handsomely.  Shorts, Singlet, light gloves and my Boston Marathon Race shoes carried me up the long hill to the top of the neighborhood for my 3-mile warm-up.  The loop would deposit me at the bottom of the hill where we run our repeats on Thursdays.  3/10 of a mile long, 65 feet of climbing from the base to the top where we turn around under the street light and make a slow recovery jog back to the bottom to do it all over again.

Hill Repeats have become a staple in our training since the Austin Marathon in February of 2011.  It was famously described by Frank Shorter as “speedwork in disguise” as if the workout is run properly, you are essentially running at 5K effort up a steep incline for anywhere between 400 and 600 meters.  To run at that intensity uphill is akin to running at far below your 5K race pace approaching your lactate threshold.

The runner gets the same gains as doing repeats on a track – but at a far reduced injury risk as the stride is shortened by the incline and you are not navigating any turns at a high-speed.

It also taxes your climbing muscles which creates not only a faster athlete on hills, but a strong fast runner on the flats as well.

That is why although there is hardly a hill that is not manmade on the Houston Marathon Course (think overpasses only), we are preparing for the race as if it were as hilly as Boston, NYC or Pittsburgh.

When I started doing this workout a couple of years ago I would be able to crest the hill in 1 minute and 47 seconds.  Approximately 6:25 pace per mile.

As I stuck with the workout my times per repeat improved and I was suddenly running them between 1:42 and 1:44 all the way up to 10 repeats.  Approximately 6:10-6:15 pace per mile.

A funny thing happened to me this summer however as Triathlon Season started and I was spending more time swimming and biking.  I got faster.

Instead of the 1:44’s or 1:45’s that would occasionally pop up – I was now “living” in the 1:41-1:42 range.

On August 30th, the day after Landry’s birthday and the day before Dawn’s, I ran an opening repeat at 1:40.  6:02 pace for the first repeat and the thought entered my head.  “Could I actually run a repeat under 1:40?”.

I jogged slowly to the bottom, gathered myself, made the turn and blasted up to the top of the hill.  I pushed the last 100 meters as hard as I could, hit the watch to mark the top of the hill and looked at the dial.  1:39.  I would run the third and 9th repeats also in 1:39 that day and a new threshold had been reached.  All during the ramp-up to half-ironman.

This morning was the first hill repeat workout since Kerrville as I stayed away from the hill sessions in the two-week taper prior to race day and the two-week recovery period.  But today they were back.

Repeat 1: 1:40
Repeat 2: 1:38
Repeat 3: 1:36 **
Repeat 4: 1:38
Repeat 5: 1:36 **
Repeat 6: 1:37
Repeat 7: 1:37
Repeat 8: 1:37

1:40 which was only two months ago a huge barrier both physically and mentally for me to push through was this morning my “warm-up”.  Hitting 1:36 (5:53 pace) not once but twice – amazing.  But what made me the most happy as I exercised patience by only running 8 repeats this morning, 9 next week and then finally 10 the following as I want to build back to that intensity and duration gradually to err on the side of “recovering caution” post race – is that my final three repeats were rock solid at 1:37 each.  No drop off, no slowing down.  In a word.  Perfect.

Training is all about stressing your body to force adaptation, then giving it the room and recovery time it needs to adapt and grow stronger.

It would appear that the Triathlon training this summer that put us in a position to excel in Kerrville at the Half-Ironman distance has paid some other dividends.  We are stronger, faster and have more endurance than we have ever had at any time to this point.

13 weeks to Houston.  For the first time I am not thinking about whether or not we will break 3 hours in the marathon.  I’m starting to think about by how much.

 

The marathon is a serious race.  It demands a serious approach to training if you want to run well on race day.  It takes a serious effort to run to your potential.

For the 0.5% of the population who can claim to be a marathoner, describing the final 6.2 miles of the race as “serious” is a tremendous understatement.

For most of us however, we are running marathons for our own personal reasons.  Very few of the athletes who toe the line down in Houston this January are there because it is their “job”.  Sure some are there to chase prize money and awards, but for the vast majority of the field they are racing one of two people.

The marathoner they used to be – hoping to better their PR (personal record) at the distance or

The marathoner they think they have the potential to become.

For us that means racing the clock and breaking through the three hour barrier.

If I had my choice of winning an age group award in Houston and running a 3:02 marathon or finishing 25th in my age group with a time of 2:59:59 the choice is an easy one.  I am fortunate enough to have plenty of nick nacks, medals, trophys and ribbons from races in the past.  What I do not have however is a 2:59 finish to my credit.  Not for another 3 months anyway.

There are a few things that I have been trying to remind myself during this training cycle as I know it may be the last “serious” one for quite awhile.  I have been telling myself to focus my effort and my mind only on the workout in front of me.  Do not look ahead to bigger weeks, races, long runs or my highest mileage weeks.  Just look at the workout immediately in front of me and give 100% effort.

That does not mean that I am going to perfectly nail each one of the remaining 73 runs and 759.30 miles left to go.  In fact, I know for certain that I am not.  Training has a way of breaking you down to build you back up.  There are going to be quite a few times when my confidence is shaken by a “poor” workout.  But there will also be many times when I feel invincible after a workout that I really hammered away at.  The key is to take them one at a time and not get too high or too low.  The truth like most things in life is almost always in the middle.

I’ve also reminded myself to be humble and grateful for our good health.  We have been training hard now since April 2, 2011 with no injuries.  3,635 running miles without taking any serious time off due to a training injury.  The longest streak by far in our time as a runner.  Add another 2,962 in the saddle and more laps in the pool than I know how to count and I am enjoying quite a run of good luck and smart training.  I am going to treasure these next 759 miles on the way to Houston and enjoy all of them.  Hot, cold, wet, dark, windy, fast and slow.  They are all part of the story surrounding race day.  I am going to love them all equally.

But the one thing that I needed to be reminded of on Sunday night by my daughter Landry are two key lessons that every marathoner should remember.

1.     No matter how many times you get knocked down.  Keep getting back up.

2.     Remember to have fun.

If you want a visual of what I am talking about – click below to see Landry practicing her tumbling.

http://youtu.be/tmrcisak2w0

It is so easy to get caught up in your emotions on race day, especially when things don’t seem to be going your way.  Whether you catch a bad break with race-day weather, which has happened to us quite a bit actually when it comes to this distance, or things out on the course just don’t seem to be coming together for you.  You have to keep fighting.  The pain of missing a goal narrowly is going to stay with you much longer than any physical pain you are experiencing trying to hold on to race pace.  Don’t let the fact that you’ve gotten knocked down keep you there.  Gather yourself and keep trying, keep pushing, even when things seem impossible.

That describes just about every great success story.

More importantly however is that this is all “supposed” to be fun.  If it stops being fun, why on earth would we be teeing this race up for the 9th time in 6 years?  What else do we have to prove to anyone that we haven’t already?

I told myself after the Kerrville half-ironman that I would not get back on my bike until I felt like “I missed riding”.  I wanted my first post-race ride to be for the joy of it, not out of some kind of training obligation or duty.

On Monday afternoon on a beautiful Austin Fall day I saddled up and went out for a quick 20-mile ride over the hill route on Parmer Lane.  No real time goal or pace in mind – just a hard ride because I missed it.

Distance: 20.26 mi
Time: 55:59
Avg Pace: 2:45 min/mi
Avg Speed: 21.7 mph
Elevation Gain: 623 ft

Best training ride I’ve had in a long, long time – and the first thing I thought of when I hit the driveway at home and kicked out of my clips was, “Man, that was fun.”

I’m determined to remember that as I glance down at Dom’s initials on my Houston race flats and point to the sky as we cross the starting line at 7:00 a.m. on January 13th.  At 10:00 a.m. I am going to point skyward as well as a final thank you to Dom for helping put me in position for this moment, to go out and run the race of my life.

The only question that remains is whether or not we are pointing from the finishing chute or the race course.  The marathon is an unpredictable race.  I’m not entirely sure where we are going to be when we cast our eyes skyward, but I do know this.  It is going to be fun finding out.

Thank you Landry for the reminder on Sunday.  You are the best little girl any Daddy has ever had.

Daddy’s Girl carbing up

When I first started running marathons I spent most of my training time worrying about the physical aspects of the race.  How would I run 26.2 miles when I never ran further than 20 in training?  How could I run 50 miles in a week?  Would I be able to keep it together for up to 4 hours of racing?

Fast forward 6 years and I am still figuring things out when it comes to the marathon.  Oh what I would give to have my 39-year-old legs back knowing what I know now about training and racing.

That is the hard part about getting older.  With age comes wisdom, but we are often too old at that point to do much with it.  When I toe the starting line in Houston this January we will be 45 years, 5 months and 13 days old.  A far cry from Philadelphia in November, 2006 when as a 39-year-old we went head to head with the marathon for the first time.  The reality is for us to meet our goal in the marathon we are running against two clocks.  The one on the course and the one manned by Father Time.  I really don’t have too many more opportunities ahead of me to chase this one down.

After all this time and more than 12,000 miles run on roads and trails I have come to realize that I have acquired all of the physical ability and talent necessary to run a sub 3 hour marathon.  I have put in the work establishing my aerobic base, now instead of starting at a 50-mile training week wondering how we will ever run that much over 7 days I plot out 75 mile weeks.  Those 20 mile training runs are now nothing more than “running long” on Sundays.  I now top out at 22-23 miles at the peak of my marathon preparation.

Racing for up to 4 hours?  No problem, try a half-ironman on for size and racing for 5 hours, 6 minutes and 57 seconds.

There is of course work to do between now and January 13th.  That is the whole point when training for and especially “peaking” for an “A” race.  But when I look at our training plan below there is not a single workout or a single week that “scares” me.  We have been there before and know exactly what it is going to take to make it through to the taper.  This is perhaps the first time I have looked ahead to a marathon training schedule with nothing but respect for the amount of work we are going to have to put in, but not a bit of fear or reservation.

Houston Training Plan

There is something different this time.  I knew it as soon as I made it through the finisher’s chute in Kerrville.

The race is where I am going to be tested, not in my preparation.

The physical aspect of the race is going to be a challenge, this is something that after even one marathon you know quite well, let alone nine.  You are aware just how much it is going to hurt.  When it is going to start, how it will continue to get worse and worse as you push yourself on tired legs and depleted energy stores to hang on for just one more mile, one more hill, one more turn, one more straightaway until the pain gets to the point where even slowing down isn’t going to help.

Fast or slow, it hurts just the same at that point.  Time to dig in and push to the finish.

Oddly, for the first time ever, I am looking forward to that moment in Houston.

In previous marathons I have wanted to push that moment off as far into the future and as long into the race as possible.  This time, I am going to welcome it and as God is my witness, we are going to defeat it.

Someone told me recently that there are two kinds of people in the world – Cockroaches and Ants.  “When the lights come on, the cockroaches run.  The ants?  They just keep on working.”

I was rolling that thought around in my mind running along the Town Lake Trail last Wednesday when I passed a woman running with her Terrier.  Tiny, tiny dog who was running with a stick that was easily 4X the length of his body.  He was running, running, running with his tiny legs churning as fast as they could go with his stick hanging at least 10 inches out of each side of his mouth.  Not a care in the world, not wondering if he could make it all they way home, he just ran on fearlessly.

Ignorance is bliss I thought as I smiled and ran past him.

That’s when it occurred to me that we are finally in the perfect place when it comes to the marathon.  From this point forward it is going to be about sharpening our mental game and our approach to “racing the race” more than any of the physical tests we need to put our body through to prepare.

When the lights come on down in Houston there will indeed be a lot of runners who make like a cockroach and hide from the moment, but we are not going to be one of them.

When the lights come on we are going to stride across the mat, hopefully shoot a knowing look at our marathoner friend Dave who has generously agreed to pace us and we are going to channel our inner-ant and simply go to work.

Who has the right to tell us that the stick we want to carry to the finish is too big for us?  Screw ’em I say.  Let’s race.

 

It’s Friday which represents a much-needed and well-deserved rest day from our first week of marathon preparation for Houston.  We have been hitting it hard this week with quite a bit of mileage covered at much faster paces than we had been laying down preparing for the Kerrville Half Ironman.

Monday – 8 miles at 6:43 pace.

Tuesday – 13.2 miles at 7:12 pace.

Wednesday – 10.25 miles moderate pace – 7:24 pace.

Thursday – 10 Recovery miles – 7:31 pace.

The last two runs in summer-like 75 degree temperatures and turtorous 98% humidity.

That is 41.45 miles for those of you scoring at home before the sun went down on Thursday night.  With a weekend plan for 8 miles on Saturday morning and 16 more on Sunday we will top out at just over 65 miles this week.  A nice start on the road to Houston.  In fact our highest mileage weeks during the training cycle will reach just 10~ miles or so more than what we posted out of the chute.

But Friday also marks the return of Landry’s Mommy from California this week.  Superwife was out in Anaheim for work which made things a little bit more “complicated” for this Dadathoner.

Early morning runs which are our M.O. were replaced by getting Landry up, diaper changed, teeth brushed, dressed for school and even her hair up in bows.  Our evenings were also filled with dog walks, dinner, a community shower, PJ’s, Legos, bed time stories and about 30 minutes of “movie night” in bed with Dad before heading upstairs to sleep tucked in with Minnie Mouse, Monchichi and her other friends.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights were Toy Story 2, followed by The Lorax on Thursday.

Which means that training would have to take place downtown after we made our way in to work.  A later morning run or a lunchtime run was necessary to make everything fit.  This allowed for a nice change of pace in our running routes as we got a chance to run on the town lake trail in Austin, something that I only do a handful of times each year.  That coupled with cooler temperatures at the start of the week provided us with some great training opportunities.

But the highlight of the week was spending Sunday through Friday one-on-one with Landry.  We did some shopping, watched some football and then played in the mornings and evenings before and after school.

She even hopped up on the TRI bike to check out how being in the Aero position felt.  I think we may have a future Triathlete on our hands.

Landry on Daddy’s TRI Bike

Landry shopping for Legos at Toys R Us

Landry and her new friend Minnie Mouse

Of course the box is always fun too ….

Landry shooting Dad “The Look” – perfected at age 25 months, 8 days.

Pretty great week for Dad and Landry.  Hopefully the next 13 will be just as fun and productive on the road to Houston.

This will be the first marathon where when we come through the chute I won’t have Dawn there to greet me and the first one since Austin in 2011 where Landry is not there as well.  My hugs will be waiting for me back in Austin after driving home after the race.  Hopefully we’ll be coming home a sub 3-hour guy.  But if not, those hugs are going to feel pretty great all the same.