So It Begins Again…

Training has once again commenced. I struggled during the off season with my decision on whether to run the Marine Corps Marathon again, or frankly any marathon. My 2016 marathon started out with great expectations, a realistic PR and a well trained body. However Mother Nature had other plans for me-the nearly 20 degree rise in temperature in a short amount of time zapped my body and left me drained. I ended up finishing more than an hour past my goal time.

It was heart breaking. It was frustrating. Frustrating not only because I had put so much training into the race, but frustrating because non-runners replied with “At least you finished” or “I couldn’t run a mile if I had to” Also, their lack of comprehension about WHY I was so upset. It is hard to explain to people sometimes why I so desperately want to qualify for Boston. Why I crave this seemingly elusive finish time. My simple explanation of it’s my goal doesn’t seem to squash their confusion. I often wonder if they have ever had a long term goal, or a burning desire to achieve the seemingly unattainable; it is the only reason that I can fathom why so many can’t understand my desire to achieve such a lofty goal.

I spent the off season wracked with doubts and questions. Can I do it? Should I really be a runner? Am I truly a runner or just someone that looks the part? Am I good enough?

A friend of mine that I have known for over twenty years, a fellow runner and all around awesome human being, was diagnosed with ALS at the beginning of the year. It was shortly after his 60th birthday. However despite, or maybe because of, the diagnosis he continued on with his life. He would make the necessary tweaks to his day to day routine but he continues to go and do….and run.

He completed several more races as a runner before the ALS robbed him of the balance he needed to stay upright. Now he races in a wheelchair-pushed by his “Wing Bitches”. As I struggled with doubt, I looked at John. If he can continue on and keep pushing, then what right as a healthy person do I have to give up?

When the Semper Fi Fund opened up registration for the 2017 Marine Corps Marathon-I signed up. I signed up because I want to raise money for wounded veterans, many of whom are my age. I signed up because John did. I signed up because I can run-who the hell cares how fast or slow I go-I can run. I signed up because.

For the next 18 weeks I will be pounding the pavement. Who knows what the outcome of the 2017 Marine Corps Marathon but I do know that I will finish.

Persistent vs. Stubborn

Sunday’s sermon at church was about persistent vs. stubborn. It was a really great sermon, as many of Pastor Mark’s sermons do it spoke to real life issues. He has that knack of being able to speak about something that is ruminating in my brain without realizing it.

Being persistent usually has a positive connotation while being referred to as stubborn usually has a pejorative meaning. Interestingly the phrase has been used interchangeably to describe me throughout my life. I have worn the badge of stubbornness with pride.

The sermon was timely given that the day before I had done the practice fitness test to horrible results. My “sprint” was nothing more than a fast jog. My legs were heavy and I just couldn’t make my body go any faster. It literally hurt to move my legs any faster. My hip flexors were screaming at the strain and as a result my knee and hamstrings would not cooperate. It was beyond frustrating and bordered on heart breaking.

However, I suppose there is slight humor in the situation. For six years I have been forcing myself to move from a sprinters mentality to a distance runner mentality. It has been a true struggle to get my brain to stop thinking in meters and instead think in miles. Literally this year I finally get in the zone of being a distance runner and then suddenly find myself having to flip the switch back the other way….with less than two weeks before the marathon no less. It is definitely a crazy situation to be in.

I struggled the rest of the afternoon on Saturday, emotionally fighting and railing about how I have fought so hard to get here only to fall short of the physical requirements. I rambled off all my accomplishments and how it seemed patently unfair that I could get this far and fall short. I was angry that I had allowed my marathon training to take over my PFT training. I muttered about all the time I wasted “studying” or “sitting at the office.”

During what could really only be described as a pity party,  Jesi reminded me that I am persistent. I have never given up, in the five years I have working towards my dream goal of being a federal agent I have never given up. I always step back and regroup and then find another way. She reminded me that through it all I have never, ever given up or even thought about giving up so I shouldn’t start now.

Jesi’s reminder could also be applied to my running. Numerous times in my life I have been told that I would never physically be able to lead an active life or that I would never walk again. I have been told that running a marathon would not be in my best interest. Despite that I have continued to persevere and achieve that medal at the end of the race. Each successive race seems to have some improvement, maybe not necessarily finish time but something about the process improves.

I guess the sermon made me wonder am I persistent or am I stubborn? Or am I both? I have to be persistent in achieving my goals. I have to continue to fight and change those things that need improvement. And I have to be stubborn in my execution of that. Stubborn to the point of nearsightedness. Stubborn to the point of throwing caution and the naysayers to the wind.

On the persistent side I reached out to Regina and asked if we could do some sprinting practice in addition to some distance….low and behold with an adjusted mindset and some insight from Regina I managed to shave nearly 11 seconds off my  sprinting time. I kept chanting “sprinter” as I took the laps around the track.On the stubborn side, I refuse to give up until someone says that you are done. You can not go any further in this process.

Being persistent is great and despite the negative connotation that goes with being stubborn, I think there needs to be a grain of stubbornness included in the mix in order to achieve anything that you are striving for.

On an actually running/training note, I have been keeping up with my training plan. I have been juggling a crazy class schedule with training and have been so focused on that I often forget to blog. Well not often, I do forget to blog. During my runs I think of all the insightful things I will share when I boot up my computer but then I usually roll or hit the books and my blog thoughts go by the wayside.

I think that is a side effect of the taper. Things are going well but I am tired. My taper week will look a little different since I am now having to refocus on my PFT which occurs 48 hours before the marathon. It is an interesting exercise (literal and mental) in juggling two incredibly important things, the give and take has been a true test of my persistent stubbornness.

How is your training going? Leave a comment below and let me know!

Happy Running (or sprinting)!

Sunday Run Day

I still felt gnarly on Sunday. Not AS gnarly as Saturday but I still didn’t feel 100% better. But I pushed through choir (a heavy polyester robe is bad on a cool day but when the church is hot and I don’t feel well I was fanning myself like a little old church lady) and the task force meeting. Interestingly or ironically enough we had pizza at our meeting. Jesi and I giggled that we could have waited a few more hours and our pizza craving would have been fulfilled and with far superior pizza.

But despite not feeling the grandest of grand, I struck out on my run. The temperatures were cool and there was some sun but some clouds so it wasn’t a horribly warm day or particularly cool. It was like Baby Bear’s bed, just right.

One thing that I am finding most exciting about my long runs, or really my runs in generally, is that I am going for longer distances without stopping. I still have the desire to stop and walk but I find that I either slow my running pace down a little bit and push through or manage to walk for much shorter periods when running is no feels longer possible. It is exciting that I can go miles without stopping where I use to focus on minutes running versus walking.

I struck out on a different route towards the Mt. Olivet cemetery. I incorporated last weekend’s long run with the route Becky and I took on Thursday. It was a great course that mixed some flat spots and some increasing elevation. By the time I got to the cemetery I had almost half my run done, I stopped and tinkled and decided that I would go visit my friend Sara’s memorial marker.

One thing I did not share on my September 11th blog, was that this year also marked the one year anniversary of the passing of our best friend Sara. After a three year fight she lost  the battle with beast cancer. At 37 she was a force of positivity and love. She was a true hero and warrior, both as a cancer fighter and as a Sergeant in the sheriff’s department. Her loss has left a huge irreparable hole in the hearts of all that knew her, but especially the heart of her “best friend” Noah.

Noah is the son of Sara’s life long best friend, he always saw his Aunt Sara has an overly tall 3, 4 or 5 year old. He just assumed that Sara was his best friend and his age. The loss has been particularly hard on him because he doesn’t quite understand why Sara no longer comes over. He often asks when Sara will come back from heaven.Navigating grief is hard enough at any age, but it is especially hard for someone so young.

On the anniversary of Sara’s passing, Noah and his parents and younger brother made the trip to the cemetery. While Sara is not physically laid to rest at Mt. Olivet there is a memorial marker placed there. Noah picked out the most beautiful flowers he thought Aunt Sara would like; a fun and patriotic mix of red, white and blue flowers. He also picked out his most favorite photo of he and Sara together. Noah and his mom carefully put the photo in a couple of plastic bags to protect it from the elements and then carefully adhered it to the lower corner of the marker.

Tara (Noah’s mom) shared the story on Facebook. I replied that when I run I always visit Sara so I will always make sure that Noah’s photo is in place. Since this was the first day I had a true long run, it was the first time I had visited Sara in a few weeks. I was sadden to see that the flowers and picture were gone. And then angered when I found them in the trash. The photo crumbled in the bag and the tape removed. The flowers split apart.

I’m not quite sure what led me to the trash can, though in my heart I could hear Sara guiding me to save Noah’s carefully crafted offerings. Initially I thought it was the wind/Mother Nature. However knowing a bit of the back story of her familial dynamics and seeing the condition of the  items I had a hard time blaming  Mother Nature.

I put the flowers back as best I could and safely tucked the photo away in my running pouch. And for the 6 plus miles home I seethed. I was so angry that I actually texted Jesi, something I rarely do when running so that I can concentrate on training. I texted her a picture of the trash can and incredulously texted what I presumed had happened.

On my run home, I felt the anger bubble inside. I was angry that someone would be so callous towards a small child. I was angry that someone was attempting to control others outward expression of grief and love. I was angry that Sara had been taken far too soon.

Through the anger came the feeling of gratitude. I was grateful that I had decided to stop at Sara’s site. I was grateful that I had been lead to the trash can to retrieve Noah’s precious picture.

Grief comes at you strange ways and in strange moments. It rears it head at moments when you least expect it and in ways you never thought imaginable. And I was reminded that grief was part of the reason I began running. I was trying to figure out a way to work through my grief at losing the life I thought I had built with a woman who threw it all away. The life that I thought was waiting for me six years ago was merely an illusion at that moment in time. I am grateful for those moments of grief because it opened the way for something more beautiful and special. In that those moments spent thinking of grief and loss, I ended up running a negative split home.

I used the fire that burned to drive my legs home. The exhaustion and dread I felt early seemed to have evaporated. I felt lighter and more surefooted. My stride picked up and the miles home seem to melt away. I ended up running 12.25 miles in 2 hours and 30 minutes. I had hoped to finish a bit quicker, but taking into consideration how sick I felt Saturday and that I had a full stomach of food I don’t typically eat before a run I was pleased. Mostly I was pleased that I ran more than I walked and that my walk breaks really were just brief interludes designed to help me catch my breath, recenter myself and begin again in a more consistent stride.

After an email exchange with Noah’s mom, we decided that the best course of action was for me to carry Noah’s photo with me. Since I run by Sara’s memorial marker every week I promised to take Noah’s photo by for visit; while we are both trying desperately to convince ourselves that it was nature NOT something else we both feel that rehanging the photo is the best course of action. I have placed the precious photo securely in my hydration pack and will lovingly and protectively carry it with me.

This blog didn’t quite go the way I thought it would. But as with life I can plan my blog but I can’t always plan how it will turn out. My run on Sunday started out as a simple run but turned into a wacky, wild mess of emotions, thoughts and discovery. But that is running and I wouldn’t change a damn thing about it.

Happy Running!

 

 

Fall Has Arrived And Being A Germaphobic Runner

Fall has finally arrived in all it’s cool temperature glory! While it has been only slightly shy of monsooning yesterday, the low 60’s and breeze was perfect last night.

Becky and I struck out alone for a nice 4 miles. We did an entirely new route, we just struck out and started running until we got two miles and then just looped back. It was pretty straight forward with not too much elevation. Normally we do on five and I had thought of adding miles since Wednesday was a lost day with class. However, my legs are beginning to feel heavy from training and I had forgotten to roll; I felt that stopping at 4 when it was still a good feeling was the best solution.

I did have to laugh yesterday when I saw a rather humorous meme about tapering marathoners. While I’m not quite to the taper phase just yet, it perfectly describes how I always feel in the last month before a race.

14441033_10207460796179027_2601143735111063403_n.jpg

I never quite grew out of being cranky when I’m tired, and that seems to be intensified when I am training because I feel tired all the time AND I usually have some muscle soreness somewhere.

While I hate running in the pouring rain and freezing temperatures, I am usually not horribly weather obsessed. I am usually mindful so that I know what to wear so that I am comfortable and not reduced to being a clothes horse that has to carry half my running clothes drawer because I didn’t properly plan. (Writers edit: after reading that statement I realized that perhaps I am a bit weather obsessed.)

I think the statement that most applies to me is regarding being a germaphobic. I find that I am even more mindful of the potential for getting sick the closer I am to the marathon. I have what my pediatrician called an “infantile immune system.” Combine that with the residual impact of my various thyroid treatments and I will catch everything that comes my way.

  • Common cold-Check
  • Flu-Check
  • Ear infection-double check
  • Bubonic plaque-If it is going around the office I will get it

Next to injury my biggest fear is illness knocking me out near the end of training. Granted, I have finished a marathon with an undiagnosed under-active thyroid. I have finished a marathon with a sinus infection. But I have to admit that training and running a marathon sick, is a really miserable feeling. It makes things much harder than they need to be and it takes the joy out of the event.

I am usually teased for my careful nature when it comes to germs, but come October I am mocked for my “overly” careful behavior when it comes to avoiding cooties. With the exception of the sinus infection, I have thankfully avoided any sort of cootie incidences pre-race. Perhaps, being a germaphobe has it’s advantages.

How to you avoid the “cooties” close to race time? Are you mocked for your concern? Leave a comment below and let me know.

Happy Running!

 

 

 

Java-The Language Not The Beverage

Wednesday are suppose to be my moderately long distance runs. Typically between five to eight miles. However I forgot when I signed up for classes that taking another non-online course would mean one more day away from training.

Although, considering the amount of rain that we are now finally getting running probably would not have been an option. We are expected to get three to five inches of rain in the next couple days. I literally made it into the building before the sky opened up and the rain came down in blinding sheets.

My Wednesday night class is an object design class so I’ll be learning to write Java. I’m kind of excited despite having no computer science experience. My ultimate goal is to work in forensic accounting, in order to get there in addition to accounting I need some computer experience.

I am the only non-computer science major in the packed class. I am also the oldest person in the class, beside the professor. However the class thankfully is geared towards those with no programming experience. It was a really informative class. Personally, whenever I learn something new that I didn’t know anything about before I feel energized and excited. I found myself really excited about the prospect of learning a new skill set. It is the geeky part of the marathon runner.

While I am irked that class will interrupt my training but since class doesn’t start until 6:30 PM I can come home and run at least three miles and still have enough time to get showered and ready before class.

It’s not ideal BUT I am getting the consistency and training in that will make the marathon the most successful and well prepared marathon I have ever done. As flustered as I feel many days that real life gets in the way of training, I am excited to be embarking on a new academic endeavor while finding out how to balance all the things I love.

Happy Running!

 

 

Tax Law And Sore Quads

I got a B on my Tax Law exam, I’m irritated because I missed an A by 1 point…and I would have earned those points if I had more careful read the final question and realized I needed to include the deduction for the fictional persons work mileage. Oh well, on the upside I have an A in the class overall.

My quads are still a little sore from my Monday night late run that was so quickly after Sunday night’s training. I was relieved for the rest day. I spent some time rolling my legs, focusing not only on my quads but also on my ankles.

Thankfully the pain in my foot has dissipated as I have taken to rolling regularly.  Not only is there improvement in the pain but I also have found there to be an improvement in my running. It’s not 100% pain free but rolling has definitely reduced the issue. Also, as much as I love wearing flip flops I have all but eliminated wearing them except for short distances.

How has rolling impacted your running? Have you found an improvement in pain and form? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy Running!

 

Wait, 5 miles?!

I always look forward to Thursday runs with Regina and Becky. While I enjoy the solitude of my solo runs, it is nice to run with friends. We always manage to talk endlessly about everything from the mundane to the life altering. I think all three of us have found at various times that our chats have helped solve some internal issue that until Thursday can’t be resolved.

Typically on Thursday we do 4 miles. Becky, unlike Regina and I, is a solid 4 miler. She doesn’t care to go any further than 4. She feels there is no need to go any further than that. I totally respect that! However a couple weeks ago, Regina suggested making our runs 5 miles. Something that neither Becky nor I remembered. Normally I would have been ok with adding an extra mile but luck would have it that I decided to run two miles BEFORE running the supposed four miles. I needed to make up my miles from Wednesday so thought running to the Y and having Jesi pick me up after we run would be the perfect solution.

I ran a conservative two miles, I still managed to get there in slightly under 20 minutes, but I didn’t want to push too hard. Also, my legs were feeling heavy from Wednesday. My right quad was a little more sore than I would like but knowing that it was a muscle “thing”I decided that being mindful in my running wouldn’t result in any injuries.

Due to the muscle soreness, I would rate it about 3ish on the discomfort scale, I decided to to do a thorough rolling on my legs. In the long run I’m sure it will help but in those moments its was incredibly painful. But I stuck with it and in a few spots really sunk into the roller and bared down on a few sore spots.

Initially when I realized we were going to run an extra mile I was a little frustrated because my legs were already tired and I had so carefully planned things out. But then I realized that running with tired and heavy legs might be a good thing. Once I re-framed my perception, the run was really successful. It wasn’t incredibly fast, we were slightly over an hour for five miles. But I maintained a steady pace with just a couple walk breaks which came more of the heat then anything.

During the run we laughed and talked and enjoyed the camaraderie that we haven’t had in a couple weeks. I’m not sure how Becky felt about the five miles, she definitely grumbled a bit near the end; I know I grumbled but overall it was a good run with good friends.

Have you unexpectedly ended up for a little more mileage than you wanted? How did you frame the change in your mind to help you get through it? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Happy Running!

First Day Back Grind

First day back from vacation is ALWAYS challenging. Getting back into the routine of being at a desk and wearing dress clothes is a chore. Thankfully, my boss was on the road so I was able to get the key aspects of my job completed and could catch up at a little more relaxed pace than I had anticipated.

My first day back was a little more relaxed and low key than Jesi’s. Jesi was pulled in a multitude of directions to solve problems and issues. I’m not sure that she even had enough time to catch her breath between issues. In my attempt to remain positive about things and look at things with a more optimistically pragmatic approach I viewed the unexpected necessity to walk home from the office as a good thing.

Jesi was stuck at her job until 6 PM, which would have meant me being at the office until 6:30 PM or even 7 PM. I was frustrated because being at the office that late meant not only would I potentially be stuck in an alarmed building after a 12 hour day, but I ran the risk of not getting my training miles in.

After some consideration, I made the ultimate decision to walk home from the office. I was scheduled to do 4 miles that day and thought that a 5.25 mile walk with brief case and lunch box would be a sufficient substitute. I viewed it as a way to kill two birds with one stone…I get my training in and  I get to be home at reasonable hour.

Probably the only thing I would have changed was not walking home in the hot afternoon sun in a dark navy blue dress shirt. Also, I realized how shot my under the desk lunch sneakers were. I felt my shins twinge around mile 3, which could have been that I had to do some off the beaten path walking to avoid traffic.

I wouldn’t want to do the walk home on the regular, and certainly not with a brief case in tow, but occasionally and better planned out it’s a good way to end the day.

Have you ever had to get creative in how you smashed together training and commuting? What did you have to do?

Happy Running!

Tickets to Hogwarts Express

Another fun day at the parks. This time we ventured away from Disney and went to Universal Studios. My all time favorite reading series is Harry Potter. I started reading it in college, initially I thought it was a kids series but quickly became enthralled in the story. I typically reread the series once a year. I must admit that I haven’t seen the final installment of the movie, I saw the first half of the final movie but have yet to watch the final, final episode. Part of me feels that watching it somehow means the magic is over.

Jesi isn’t really a reader, she prefers lighter fare than my usual academic type books. The size of the books alone made her flee from Harry Potter for our five years together. However this year she decided to pick them up and quickly fell in love. Her newly found love of reading is adorable. Part of the decision to get a two park pass for Universal was so that we could experience all of the majesty that is Harry Potter.

It was amazing. We bought wands. We went on rides. We looked at windows and shops and all kinds of things. And we walked, not quite as many miles as yesterday but still walked over six miles.

While we didn’t fall asleep in the car on the way home, we were still wiped from the sun and adventure and walking of the day. While Friday is typically my rest day, I used the 6.75 miles towards my training miles for the week.

As a non-running aside, I ran into my ex. The heart break that resulted from that relationship started me on my fitness journey and eventually opened the way to my wife. It was incredibly jarring to run into someone you least expected to see, that you really never wanted to see again, in such a joyful and happy place. Her presence at the park did sit quietly in the back of my brain. Mostly because our paths kept crossing. We never actually interacted or spoke, but I would spot her and her family across a crowded shop or when exiting a ride.

For all of my irritation that she would be there, there was a small part of me that was glad that she saw me. Looking as healthy as I ever have. With a beautiful wife and having a good time with family. I don’t wish her any ill will, and truth be told I am now immensely grateful for her selfishness and dishonesty because without it I would not be where I am today.

I thought it was an interesting lesson to be presented with. I was gently reminded albeit in a slightly startling fashion that I have come a long way. That I have achieved much. That I have surpassed anyone, including my own, expectations of what was possible. And most importantly I found myself and a beautiful wife and best friend along the way.

Back to the regularly schedule running related blog…

While I didn’t get my miles in from running, I definitely got them in enjoying the adventure of Hogwarts. I promised Jesi that as soon as she finishes the books, we will go back so she can fully enjoy everything after having completed the total story. Not to mention we can take our wands with us and try them out, since we were total geeks and got the interactive “magic” wands.

How do you manage training on long vacations? What tips have you discovered for balancing vacation and training?

Happy Running!

Every Person Comes Out Tired

When I first went to EPCOT in 1990, I was told that EPCOT stood for Every Person Comes Out Tired…and boy did we. Being the geek that I have always been, I wanted to see all the things and learn all the technology. I must admit that 26 years later, little has changed.

We were up and out too early for my to start Thursday with a run. My intention was to run upon our return home from the park. However between the Florida sun, the 7 miles of walking and the thrill of the rides combined with falling asleep in the car on the way home, there was no running on Thursday.

I was frustrated and somewhat beating myself up for my lack of focus, but realized that I managed to get in 3 miles more than my plan called for. While I understand it’s not the same type of training and endurance, there is something to be said for being on your feet for 9 hours in the sun.

I tried instead of beating myself up to use Regina’s principle of time on your feet. Regina feels that while the mileage is important, it’s equally important to train your body to be up and moving for extended periods of time. I have got to admit, that EPCOT certainly qualifies for for that philosophy.

It was fun to explore and see things as an adult. The time roaming the park really brought back memories of my 10 year old self wandering around and  just taking in everything that so enamored me as a child. It was still just as magical. Plus I got to go on the rides that my grandparents weren’t as thrilled about letting a 10 year old try.

While I didn’t get my miles in, I definitely came out tired.

Happy Running!