Archive for August, 2014

There is a level of “certainty” in an uncertain world that draws a particular type of person to our sport.

I spent quite a bit of time thinking about this on my “easy 8” this morning on the trail, counting off the things that I love about running instead of miles.

When you draw a pair of lines in the ground or on the road, set a clock to all zeros and fire the starter’s pistol the sport becomes extraordinarily simple.  Attempt to move your body across both sets of lines in the least amount of time possible.  Everything else is just noise.

My mind wandered from city to city, race to race.  Boston to Denver, Austin to Virginia Beach, New York to Dallas, Charleston to Pittsburgh, Philly to Houston.  5K’s to half-marathons, 10 K’s and 10-milers to Marathons and I was able to visualize the final stretch to the finish line of literally dozens and dozens of events.  Some performances were epic.  Some quite ordinary.  But all of them weave the very fabric of the runner that I have become.

The thing that struck me along the darkened trail, absent even a sliver of moon this morning is that my mind was completely free.  Never once did I think about how far I had run to that point, how far I had to go, whether I was on pace, slightly ahead or slightly behind.  My mind was 100% free from those thoughts and it was one of the more enjoyable summer runs in the Texas heat I can remember.

The reason my mind was so clear is that I was enjoying another “naked” run.  Now before your mind leaps to a bad place, we’ve covered this before on the blog, by “naked” I simply mean watchless.  I still had my runderwear, shorts, socks and Kinvara’s on.  Just no timing device and of course no shirt, which will remain that way pretty much up until late October or early November.

When I started my Pre-Austin Marathon training schedule, a simple 10-week ramp up to October 14 when we log our first training miles for Austin, I decided that I would run without my Garmin 610 GPS watch ever single mile until the end of September.  So far so good as I’ve logged just shy of 100 miles without really “counting” any of them.

A few weeks before marathon training truly begins I will head to the track and start to sprinkle in some speed work, which of course will require measured distances and pace.  To prepare for battle on race day in Austin on February 15th I will absolutely need to “know” that I can tick off 12 400’s in 1:21 on 100 meters rest just as I will need to “know” that I can hold a 12-mile tempo run sub 6:40 if I hope to reach my potential on race day.

There is plenty of time for all of that.

But for now, I’m simply lacing up the shoes on my run days with an assigned distance to make sure I am building my base properly and I’m hitting my known routes to tick off the miles.

One of the things I am enjoying most these days is deciding on the run whether I want to add a particular turn, section of the trail or neighborhood loop to my runs.  Do I want to run a few extra hills this morning?  Would I rather run the flats and push effort a bit to work on turnover?  Should I tack on the climb over the dam or just loop back through the lower trail back home?

All of these decisions are made on the fly.  So what if my 7 miler becomes 7.34?  Or if I decide that I’m going to run 8 today and 6 tomorrow instead of the 7 and 7 on my schedule?  I am making choices now that I would rarely if ever decide to make during a training cycle?  I mean what kind of type-A, borderline obsessive/compulsive marathoner would finish a run with an extra .34 miles on his or her watch?  We would absolutely stretch it out to .50 miles at a bare minimum.  Anyone worth their salt of course would run the full .66 additional miles to end with a nice neat round number in their training log.

See where I’m going with this?

If you need to recharge your batteries a bit and fall back in love with running.  Leave the watch on the counter for a week and see how it feels.

Better yet, try it for 2. I have to tell you it took some getting used to, but I am rediscovering my love for running just for the sake of it.  For climbing hills because they are there and for running fast because I feel like it.

When it is time to flip the switch in October, make no mistake, that switch will be flipped.  The only difference is I am going to be mentally recharged and ready to count each and every last one of those 946.60 miles that will take us through the finish line on February 15th.

And I plan on crushing every last one of them.

Run on people.

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Dom –

I am having a very hard time wrapping my head around the fact that we lost you to cancer 4 years ago today.  I can remember the last time we spoke by phone like it was yesterday.  I remember where I was sitting, what I was wearing and what you told me about how amazing it was going to be to be a little girl’s Daddy.  Here we are four years later, Landry is now just about the same age that Sierra was when we last spoke that summer and I have a walking, talking, hugging, smiling and sometimes challenging reminder of everything you told me.  Being a Dad is everything you said it was going to be Dom and more.

You didn’t warn me about the Princess stuff though.  I could have used a few pointers there, but I’ll let that one slide as I know you had a lot going on at that point with your own little girl and your son Nico.

On Sunday I was in the kitchen going through one of my rituals before any training cycle, making gravy.

You know the drill, meatballs, Italian sausage, beef, pork, braciole and enough gravy to last me between 10 and 12 pasta dinners that will take us through all of our long run workouts and race day.

So I’m in the kitchen, stirring the pot to keep the sauce from burning and keeping all the meat and vegetables from sticking to the bottom and Landry comes into the kitchen.  She looks at my shirt and says, “What’s that Daddy” and I was wearing my “Run for Dom” T-shirt that Howie’s company made for us back in 2010.

Where do you start a story like that one I thought.  So I knelt down, gave her a big hug and told her that the shirt reminded me of a good friend of mine who is in Heaven now and that when she got a little older I would tell her stories about him.

I’ve got to tell you Dom, we are still missing you like crazy down here.  I’m still lacing up the shoes in the morning, ticking off the miles and not a single run goes by without me thinking about you.  Wednesday morning a gift showed up on my doorstep with a 66 degree morning, no wind and close to a full moon.  I tacked on an extra mile for you at the end of the run, thinking about 8/15 as well as how much ground we have to cover before we are ready to kick-off Austin Marathon training on October 14.

This morning I was in Atlanta for work and even though it was technically a rest day, I took the stems out for a little tour of downtown Atlanta.

It’s been awhile Dom since I’ve been this excited about a training cycle.

Probably Houston or Big Cottonwood and we know how those races went – or didn’t go actually as we had to pull out due to injury.

But I’ve got a feeling that we’re doing all the right things this time Dom and getting back to basics:

1.  A long base building period.

2.  5 Run days per week, 2 complete rest days.

3.  Quality over quantity like we did for our races in Boston, NYC, Austin and Pittsburgh in previous years.

Come February Dom we are going to be ready to eat lightning and crap thunder.  I learned a lot about myself at Ironman Texas – and most of those lessons spell bad news for the Austin Marathon.

On a day where I feel a little bit lost and the questions far outnumber the answers – it was really nice to have you out there with me as the sun was coming up in Georgia pointing me the way.

Thank you Dom, we love and miss you.

 

 

A few of my athlete friends told me in the weeks leading up to Ironman Texas that after that race, you would never be the same again.

That after Ironman, I was going to feel different, look at challenges differently, have a shift in focus, refined clarity.

After 2 months of enjoying some downtime in June and July, running when I felt like it, riding the bike a bit, a couple of easy swims I have reached that point.

What I have realized is that at the end of the day, I’m a marathoner.

I might not necessarily be a great one.  And in fact, there is strong evidence that I am a much better middle distance runner (10K, 10M, half-marathon), but at the end of the day, that is who I am.

With the four-year anniversary of us losing Dom staring me in the face – (8/15/10 – RIP) – I decided that I wanted to get back to basics, set aside the distractions of being a part-time triathlete/Ironman and get ready to train in a serious way for this year’s hometown Austin Marathon.austin-marathon-600x399

Specificity and consistency are the two things that build a strong runner in my view.  It has always been that way for me.  When I have been able to stay injury free and stick to my schedule of Monday off, Tuesday Easy, Wednesday Hard, Thursday Easy, Friday off, Saturday Quality, Sunday Long I have been a very dangerous runner on race day.

So we’re going to go back into the shop for the rest of August and September.  Get back to our 5 run day, 2 off day schedule and build our base back to the point where we are bullet-proof heading into the 18 week training cycle for Austin.

I haven’t worn my watch all week on my runs and I am not going to put it on until after Labor Day.  I’m running entirely by feel, covering my known routes where I do not need to track each individual mile.  I’ve worn ruts in the streets and trails around our home in Austin.  I know exactly which routes are 5 miles, 6.2 miles, 8.3 miles, 10, 12 and 16.  The combination of those routes provides me with every single distance necessary to complete marathon training from 10 kilometer threshold runs, 8 mile easy days, mid-week medium-long runs and Sunday long days all the way up to 22 miles.

I spent the last few days putting together my training plan and have the 90 workouts aligned in our calendar that will take us from October 14th up to race day on the 15th of February.  There are some rather big days sprinkled throughout that cycle and realizing that we are now in our 47th year on the planet, recovery and rest is going to be more critical than ever to staying healthy and toeing the line at the Freescale Marathon 100% ready to rumble.  It is going to require the occasional vacation day from work to recover after a hard mid-week threshold workout of 12-14 miles at 6:39 pace, but that is just fine.  We’ll make the time.

The question looming out there is can we throw down a best-ever marathon time 8 1/2 years after our first one?  It will be 4 years since we ran Austin back in 2011 and a little more than 3 years since we ran our current PR in NYC.

The answer as of today is, I’m not really sure.  In the coming months that picture is going to come into focus.  I do know this, if we are able to put together a solid cycle, stay healthy and remain determined to put ourselves in the best possible position on race day – the results will be there.

If we get a nice cool morning and no wind, maybe even that elusive sub 3 hour marathon is out there in front of us.  If not, can we PR?  I’d be pretty darn happy with that.  An Austin Marathon course PR which would require a 3:15 flat?  That would be fine.  A Boston time of sub 3:25:00?  Barring a disastrous race, we should be able to throw that down fairly comfortably .

But that’s the thing about going for it in the marathon vs. other race distances.  A small miscalculation in a 10K may cost you :30 seconds.  In a half-marathon, you may fade late and lose a minute to a minute and a half.  The difference between running to your potential in the marathon and finishing :20 minutes behind your goal time is actually razor-thin.  Those last 10 kilometers after mile 20 is when the marathon actually begins.

How you get to mile 20 will define your race more than every other variable.

Fitness, health, nutrition, hydration, your mental toughness, course conditions, the weather – it all comes together in a perfect storm on marathon day.

That’s what makes it such a remarkable event.  That’s what makes it worth going back to.

That’s what makes me a marathoner.

I know that we have one more great race in us.  Time to prove it.