Archive for February, 2013

If you are an endurance athlete and like to push the limits on race day, there really aren’t too many places better than good old 512 – ATX.  Almost on a weekly basis you can strap ’em on, clip ’em in or pull down that cap down tight, slap on the goggles and do a little racin’.

We have two incredible 1 mile races each spring.  More 5K’s than you could seriously count, a couple of top notch 10K’s each year – The fifth largest 10K in the nation in April, a smokin’ fast 10K in the IBM Uptown Classic each October, 10 mile races, several half-marathons throughout the year and of course the Austin Marathon each February.

What Austin was missing was an urban, ultra-marathon.  An endurance event not on a trail, but featuring a road-course that tested athletes past the 26.2 mile distance.

Until now that is.

On May 11th and 12th at Camp Mabry – the first running of the Ace Cash Express Back on My Feet in24 Race Challenge will be held.

It is a 4 event race that features:

Lone Ranger Ultra-Marathon This race is for the true endurance athlete who wants to test their mental toughness and see how many miles they can run in 24 hours. The record from Philadelphia is 152.7 for males and 135.2 for females.

5-Person Relay Challenge Gather four friends and choose one of four categories ranging from 5 miles to 30 miles per teammate.

Sunset Run 7 p.m. on Saturday, you will run one 5-mile loop. Stick around after and enjoy music and cheer on the other runners.

Pajama Loop Run 7 a.m. Sunday, runners will jump out of bed to run the 5-mile loop in their favorite pair of pj’s…if you sleep in the nude, skivvies are strongly recommended.

Registration is now OPEN 

There is something for every type of athlete that weekend where more than 1,000 Austin athletes will be competing across the four events.

In addition to the races, the parade ground at Camp Mabry will be transformed into an Athletes village for the Ultra-Marathoners and their crew.  There will be music on the course, food vendors in place essentially a 24 hour party that will benefit Back on My Feet Austin – a national nonprofit organization that uses running to help those experiencing homelessness transform their own lives and achieve employment and independent living.

I’ve got something special for the first 10 people who register for one of the events here from the blog (Just comment on the post after you get your registration confirmation) – your very own Back on My Feet Austin Brooks Running Shirt. – Just let me know your size and if you would like a Men’s or Women’s Shirt in the comments.shirt

Run on people!  May 11th and 12th – Boom goes the dynamite.

I think one of the hardest things about coming back from an injury is knowing when you can “trust” your recovering body part to hold up to the rigors of a tough workout or a race.  It is almost one of those things where you have to get close enough where you feel more or less confident, but until you cut it loose, there is always going to be a doubt in your mind.

Part of the problem is that the fear of re-aggravating the recovering area means more time away from the sport – and after a layoff of 5 weeks in my case, that is something I have basically no interest in for a long, long time.

But the other problem is that we forget that very rarely as runners do we feel “perfect” before a tough workout or race.  Truth be told, more times than not there is some part of my body that I am monitoring.  Sometimes for months on end.  A strained abdominal muscle was the most recent example where I trained all summer long with the condition and even raced the Kerrville Half-Ironman with it.

I simply learned that there was a difference between “pain” and “injury” and knew my limits in pushing the former and not the latter.

Right now I would say that my Achilles strain is 95% recovered.  There is the occasional tightness after a run, a little bit in the morning, but if I had not had a full-on sprain in December and January, I would not even notice these symptoms right now.  I would just go about my day as an amateur endurance athlete and train on.

But right now I need that one workout or that one race to let me know that I am back.  That I can turn it loose and there will be no reprisals.  I might not be hitting my splits right now and I might not be in PR shape – but the only way I really know to do that is to race.

So, I’m going to hop into a local 5K on March 2nd – the Texas Independence Day 5K downtown where the Back on My Feet Team Members will be racing in their first organized event.  We’ll then tee it up again on three weeks later at the Thin Mint Spring 5K on March 23rd and compare our performances.

If we are anywhere near 18:30 by then, it will be a huge win, albeit far short of our 18:02 we posted in December.  We still will know going into the Cooper River Bridge Run on April 6th that we are healthy and pretty close to our previous fitness level.  At that point our Achilles strain should be firmly in the past tense and we can move forward and race fearlessly.

So to help me get excited about the prospect of racing again, and not fearful of the endeavor – we received inspiration in a box from the good folks at Brooks.

A shiny new pair of Brooks T7 Racers – in our favorite optic yellow and black.  All that is left to do is write D.V.D. 8-15-10 on each instep in honor of our boy Dom and we will be ready to give it our best shot in a couple of weeks.T7's

I’m not sure “Boom goes the dynamite” is the right phrase right now, but there might be a little snap, crackle and pop in store on Texas Independence Day.

I can’t remember when I heard it first, the comment that runners know to be one of the truest in the sport and non-runners know that it just HAS to be fiction. But in the years since I must have said it myself more than 1,000 times.

“Running is more mental than physical.”

I know it comes off as trite and can sometimes add to the view that runners are an egotistical, elitist group – looking down on those who do not participate in or see the value in our sport. But I also know that it is simply a fact. After you reach a baseline of physical fitness, being able to move your body forward for 20 minutes at a time without stopping, bending over out of breath or having to break up the exercise into running portions and walking portions – once you reach that point everything beyond that is mental.

It is simply finding the will to run up that next hill and then the next one. Running an extra mile on tired legs when a previous version of yourself thought that would be impossible. Fearlessly running 5 miles away from home on your first 10 miler, knowing the only way back is to retrace those 5 miles.

And lastly, when it comes to racing, there comes a day when you charge across the mat at a pace that a year ago, two years ago or 5 years ago you would have simply been scared to death. But instead of letting the numbers on your watch tell you that you are going too fast, you listen to your inner-self, that tuning fork inside of you that says, just keep the pace here for another mile and see what happens. Then you run another mile, and another, and another and a funny thing happens to you that day.

You start to believe in yourself like you never have before. You now “know” what you are capable of and you realize that it is much, much more than you have ever given yourself credit for. You cross over some magical line, one that when it is in your rear view mirror, you may never see it again.

That is when a mile is more than a mile.

But the runner psyche is a delicate one. A poor workout, a poor race or God forbid an injury can rob us of that confidence. The only cure I know for it is to keep pushing, keep seeking, keep looking for that mile again.

For me, coming back from this nasty Achilles strain robbed me of a lot of confidence. For a runner that as late as December 16th felt more confident than he ever has in his life when it comes to running – coming off back to back PR’s in short distance (5K) and Medium, long distance (half-marathon) within 8 days – I knew we were in a word “perfect”.

Now the thought of a single mile under 7:00 minute pace scared the daylights out of me – let alone 26 of them.

But feeling healthy for the last week I decided to push things on Sunday. A 6-mile progression workout over the hill route.

Each mile faster than the one before, up and down hills to test that Achilles in a real way – not just flat, easy miles.

Mile 1: 7:45 – just a nice warm-up mile straight uphill 125 feet of climbing.

Mile 2: 7:25 – a rolling mile – dropping the pace a bit to tick the legs.

Mile 3: 7:19 – another rolling mile up and down inclines with my breathing starting to find rhythm.

Mile 4: 7:09 – for the first time in weeks I was focusing on form, my foot strike and not my Achilles.

Mile 5: 7:03 – I started preparing for the turn back into the neighborhood and the final mile.

Mile 6: 6:34 – I felt ….. like me again.Watch

 

I cooled down with a nice walk down to the end of the block. No limp, no favoring anything, just a runner getting ready for Sunday morning breakfast. In that one mile, just 6 minutes and 34 seconds long I came to a powerful realization.

We’re back.

For all you guys training for the Cooper River Bridge Run out in the Low Country of South Carolina. You better spend these next 6 weeks sharpening your game. It is often said about this sport that “Somewhere out there another runner is training when you are not. When you race him, he will beat you.”

Well guess what? I’m back to being that runner.

For those of you who do not know my wife and I are proud parents of a precocious 27 1/2 month old girl.  Every parent out there believes that their child is abnormally cute, bright, talented, smart and destined for greatness.Landry Swinging

So few of us however are right – I of course am one of the lucky ones where it happens to be true 🙂

With knowledge of course comes great responsibility, and as I find myself spending time with my uber-aware daughter Landry I find myself constantly “checking myself” making sure that I am setting the right example.  Trying to not only say the right things, but to also do the right things as one of the many advantages children have over the rest of us is that they have a built in bull-sh#% detector.

They like animals can see right through all that stuff, and know exactly the type of person you are.  Not just the one you want people to see.

When it comes to running I am by no means an expert.  I’m also not all that talented in the grand scheme of things.

I happen to love the sport, I work hard at it and like many of you out there I set goals with great purpose and then chase them down trying to stretch my reach to the utmost ends of my abilities.

I’m faster than some, slower than others, but I like to think that I work as hard as anyone else out there and that is what allows me to compete for age group awards at races.  The funny thing is, I really don’t care too much about that.  I really focus on running MY best race and MY best time.  If someone else is faster, so be it.  That is always going to be the case.

But the one thing I have realized ever since Run for Dom got legs and runners of all shapes, sizes, colors, creeds and abilities have supported and visited this blog over the past several years is that people do look to me for advice, guidance, support, encouragement and shockingly – even inspiration at times.

The comments that are posted after I write a race report are always supportive.  Especially when things don’t necessarily go my way.  The e-mails I get at joe-rundordom@austin.rr.com are much the same – usually just a bit more personal.  I tell you all that because I want to first say “Thank You”.

Secondly I want to share with you two observations I made during my down-time from my strained Achilles tendon that kept me from chasing my 2012/2013 “A” goal of a 2:59:00 marathon.  A goal by the way that I spent close to 3,000 running miles and over a year preparing for.

1.     Injuries are not always anyone’s fault.

In the past I have assigned blame to my injuries.  Usually they occurred because I was doing something stupid.  My IT Band issues were due to me ramping up my mileage too quickly without paying attention to strengthening the muscles in my calves, quads and core.  I was running 50-55 mile weeks on a runner’s system that was new to the sport.  I wasn’t ready for the load and I paid the price.  Inexperienced.

My Shin Splint Issue occurred because I decided to vigorously train on the hills in Valley Forge Park preparing for the Boston marathon without acclimating to the change in my workout routine gradually.  I over-trained that week, returned to Austin with a calf-strain, trained through it which put more pressure on the sheath around my right shin and I had a full-blown case of shin splints to show for it.  Foolish.

My left knee inflammation was a result of deciding that 6 days after running my “At the time” Marathon PR of 3:15:01 I would run in a 24-hour team relay event from Wickenburg, AZ to Tempe.  3 runs in less than 20 hours and I had a knee injury.  Stupidity.

My Achilles strain occurred because I mis-stepped in a half-marathon four weeks before Houston – a race where I PR’d in 1:23:30 by the way.  Bad Luck.

I did nothing “wrong” leading up to Houston.  I ramped up my mileage to 80 miles a week carefully, rested, cross-trained, took my step back weeks and during intense training managed to run PR’s in the 5-mile, 5K and half-marathon with no taper.

I was rock-solid and the most fit I have ever been in my life.  And I still got hurt.  Sad, but true.

So the lesson here is – sometimes it doesn’t matter how careful you are.  Runners get hurt.  Then they get better.  Then they run again.  So the next time you suffer an injury, do not beat yourself up.  Just evaluate the situation.  See a professional.  Do not ask your “runner buddies” for a timeline as to when you can or should come back to the sport.

Injuries occur at the most inopportune times very frequently.  They also heal on their own schedule.  Not ours.

Patience is what we need most when we are trying to fight our way back to running.

2.     EVERY race is JUST a race.

Yep, you heard me.  At one time or another countless races were “The most important race I’ll ever run”.

Pittsburgh 2009, Boston 2010, Pittsburgh 2010, Austin 2011, Denver Half-Marathon 2011, New York 2011, Kerrville Half-Ironman 2012, Shamrock 2012, Boston 2012 and of course Houston 2013.

With the exception of the back to back marathons I ran for Dom 13 days apart in 2010 – all the others ended up just being “a race”.

Listen, I’m not going all zen-master on you after all this running and racing, training and focus.  I’m still that guy.  And the next time you line up next to me in Austin, Charleston, SC, Kerrville, Miami, FL, New York or Boston – you better bring your “A” game if you plan on hanging with me.

But I’m not going to get too worked up about an individual race when I am preparing for it and assign too much value.  The fact of the matter is that for a truly special performance to take place you have to have multiple variables in your favor, and you don’t really have control over too many of them.

Fitness.

Focus.

Rest.

Health.

Weather.

Course.

Competition.

“It”.

You have to be fit, focused, well rested and have full-health or damn close to it.  The weather has to cooperate, the course has to be fair and fast.  You have to be blessed to have competition running with you that is going to bring out the best in you.  Someone to chase through the lonely portions of the race or at least somebody on your heels to push you and finally you have to “have it” that day.

Some days your body, mind and spirit all align and you lay down a performance that is truly special.  Pittsburgh in 2009, IBM in 2011, Shamrock in 2012, Kerrville, Lights of Love and Shiner last year.

Those are the days where for whatever reason it all comes together and you run the race of your life.

You can’t plan them in advance, they just happen.

So go easy on yourself, put in the work and when you show up to race day, be ready to run the best possible race that you can.  But if for some reason things don’t go exactly the way that you planned – sometimes you have to just remember that in this sport, just like life, sh#% happens.

Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try your best the next time.

If my daughter never learns another lesson from her Daddy – I hope she learns that one.

Run on people.

 

 

February 1st – Here we go

Posted: February 1, 2013 in Training

When I realized that our Achilles strain was not going to be a short-term setback and the Houston Marathon came and went without any improvement, I needed to pick a new goal and that became a full return to pain-free running by February 1st.

With 4.5 pain-free miles on Wednesday, followed by another 5.5 on Friday, it looks like we made it.

The satisfaction was not as rewarding as it would have been running our 2:59:00 down in Houston, but it is important to continue to put goals out in front of yourself.  Even small goals help you realize that even though you might have been knocked down, you still have what it takes keep getting back up.

So here we are.  A runner once again.

The last time we really “pushed it” out there we ran a new half-marathon PR in 1:23:30.  13.1 miles at 6:22 pace.

I’m not sure we could hit that pace for even 2 miles right now, but again, that is not the goal.  Not right now anyway.

Next week we are going to run on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday – somewhere around 25, all 7:20-7:50 pace.

The following wee we are going to run Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday – 35 miles dropping the last two miles on Sunday under 7:00 for the first time since December.

Without any setbacks to that point we will resume our usual, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday routine and start adding in specific workouts.  Off-Ons, Hill Repeats and we will start to build a training program that will let us peak for the Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston, SC on April 6th.

Race Start - Cooper River Bridge Run

Race Start – Cooper River Bridge Run

It is not exactly the Chevron Houston Marathon, but the Cooper River Bridge Run is the third largest 10K in the nation.  It features a tough course and we will be seeded among the elite amateurs compliments of our 37:30 qualifying time.  It is not a PR course, not by a longshot with a several hundred foot climb up to the top of the Bridge – but we are going to be as prepared as possible to let it all hang out and push things to the limit.

The climb

The climb

They say that it takes 2 days to regain your fitness for every day that you miss to injury.

We missed 35 days, meaning it will take us 70 days to get it all back.

We have 65 days until race day in Charleston …. I’ve always been somewhat of an overachiever.

April 6th – Boom goes the dynamite.