Random Rantings and Ravings from a Slow-Poke Runner in the Heart of the South. (A Weeekly (sort of) Blog about running and just about anything else)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

New Shoes!!!!


I had planned a trip to “Mempho” (the armpit of Tennessee) this weekend for some new shoes since we don’t have a specialty running store in the area but decided to look one more place before making the trek. After my Monday easy run I decided I didn’t need to take another running step in my old shoes. They had 440 miles on them but I felt the cushioning was long gone and my lower legs ached even on the easy runs.

We have an awesome store in the area called “Trails and Treads” that is an outdoorsy type store that carries products similar to what you might find at REI. I have been in there several times looking at the road bikes (which I plan to purchase this weekend – WOO HOO!) but I have never paid much attention to the shoes they carry. Plus, I didn’t know if anyone there is knowledgeable about the different types of shoes (stability, motion-control, cushioning). As you all know, the folks in department stores or most of those chains like Foot Locker have NO clue whatsoever. You might as well be speaking French when you mention words like “stability shoe”. “uhhh, yesssir, all of our shoes are pretty stabile”.

I was fortunate that I caught the owner/manager of the store, Harris, who was, in fact, very knowledgeable about the type of shoe I needed. He didn’t watch me run because I told him the folks at Fleet Feet (which he knows pretty well) determined I have minimum motion and would do best in a stability shoe. He did measure my foot and look at my arch. I told him that the Brooks Axiom I had been using never seemed to have enough cushioning because I have experienced a lot of lower leg problems.

He confirmed what I thought – that the Axiom didn’t provide enough support for the mileage I am putting in. He said it doesn’t really make a good trainer because it is so light. (I have to confess that I may have moved the guy at Fleet Feet this direction because I loved the lighter shoes I tried.) But after trying several shoes at Trail and Treads, I picked a shoe that was in my budget at $95. I went with the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 6. I liked the Brooks Trance a bit better but $130 is just too much for a shoe I plan to replace in three months.

I went on my first run in the new shoes this morning. Off the bat the left shoe seemed hard and I felt I was slapping my foot on the pavement. Once I got going and the shoe was broken in a bit, I was fine and they felt comfortable. The BEST part is - I am feeling NO lower leg pain this morning at all! None of that normal soreness below my calves, at my ankle, or underneath my foot! And today I ran mile intervals so it wasn’t a real easy day.

So I am hoping that this continues to be the case and this weekend’s long run is doable. The temps are going to be GREAT so I hope my legs will cooperate. I am going to see if I can reach at least 14, maybe 15. But if I am struggling at all I will cut short at 13. (Hopefully, not less than that.) I need to get on track so I can do this marathon in December. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Nature Called (and I made a call)

It had not happened during all of my long runs until this past Saturday. Yes, nature called. And when it called, I was in the middle of a residential area -- nowhere near a public restroom. “Uh, excuse me mam. I know I am sweaty and stink, and you don’t know who I am, but I REALLY got to go so would you mind me dropping a load….” Naaah, that wouldn’t work. Thankfully, I had my cell phone packed in my camelbak and gave my wife a call. I squeezed out another mile (pun intended), and met her at the 8-mile mark a few minutes later. She did her best imitation of the Fast and the Furious and got me home before any “accidents” occurred.

The main culprit here is the Outback entrée from the night before, but I have to be honest with myself: Before calling her, I was really struggling. It was a lot hotter than I had anticipated. I had gotten used to running in the mid-50’s earlier in the week but a warm front meant temps 30 degrees higher. In addition, my running shoes are WAY past due for replacement. I have a pair of Brooks Axioms and I have never been satisfied with the cushioning. Well, what WAS there is broken down now after 440 miles. The problem is, there are NO specialty running stores within 80 miles of my house! I plan to go to Memphis this weekend but, until then, I have to “make do”.

So at mile 6 ½ and 7, I was struggling. My lower legs were really hurting and I don’t know if I could have kept going if I did not have to stop for the potty break. It concerns me because I have little time to make up the difference, but I am hoping that, with new shoes, and lower temps, I can do better at this weekend’s long run, probably on Sunday morning. In the mean time, I am not going to do anything very strenuous so I can avoid injury. Oh, and yeah, I will probably need to avoid any similar meals the night before a big run!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

OOPS! Too much?

Man, it felt great this morning!

I mean - a BEE-UTIFUL day!

Clear sky, nice breeze, temps in the low 50's.

I had a 6-miler planned with a pace of about 9:15 a mile. I thought I might push it a bit more if I felt good and come in just under 55 minutes. But I wasn't going to extend myself at all.

I warmed up a mile or two and then felt SOOO good I ran 20 seconds faster than my goal pace. Oops! Need to slow down! But then my fourth mile was even a bit quicker at 8:46. So then I didn't want a positive split so I decided to maintain that pace. I did a heckuva job too, coming in at eactly 8:46 for my fifth mile. My final mile was actually my fastest at 8:35. It was a nice 6 miles at 53:37.

I just hope I didn't push too hard. I GOT to be careful to avoid injury as I crank up the mileage these next 11 weeks. I really need only one speedwork session a week and did not mean to make this a tempo run. I have an easy 4 miles tomorrow and will have to reign myself in so I don't overdo it before the 12 mile long run Saturday!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Marathon Plan

Where did my time go???

Actually, I know exactly where it went. I have always wanted to teach at the college level and was offered the opportunity to teach an online course at the local community college this fall. Thinking this may be a foot in the door, I jumped at the chance and, what started out as one course, quickly turned into three full sections (78 students) of one subject area.

It is both a blessing and a hindrance. It is a blessing because I am enjoying teaching in the online format and the money I earn will enable me to finally buy a nice road bicycle. (I’ve got my eye on the new Trek 1600). However, all of the hours it takes is making it a hindrance to my focus on training for the toughest task I have ever taken on in my life – marriage (no, just joking honey) – THE MARATHON. (It’s also seriously cutting into my blogging.)

The 14.2 miler race took a lot more out of me than I had planned. I only ran once the week after and took a few more days last week to get on schedule. I think the rest did me some good but my ankle and foot still don’t seem 100%. I can’t afford to take any more time off as I am already behind schedule. Hopefully, the mileage I got in for the 14.2 mile race will help as I jump up in the weekly totals. I’ll have to give it a shot if I am going to manage the distance of a marathon!

I ran just under 20 miles last week. With all the time off it seemed harder than normal. I went 7 ½ miles for the long run, which seemed more like 12. But there were not any added pains to my legs or feet and I am starting to fill motivation ease back in today. My marathon plan includes jumping up to 31 miles this week with a 12-mile long run on Saturday. I will work up to 35 miles and a 15-miler the next week and then start alternating long runs of a half-marathon distance with extended runs reaching 22 miles three weeks before the marathon.

I will try to post my marathon plan later tonight and hope some of you can give me some feedback. Lately, Blogger has not been letting me upload pictures or images of any kind. I don’t know if I am close to my limit in storage space or what. If it doesn’t work, I will type it in another blog entry later in the week. I have some speed work tomorrow and plan to blog much more about training for the first marathon in my life!

Monday, September 04, 2006

14.2 Miler Race Report

I started my taper a little earlier than planned for this weekend’s Tupelo 14.2-mile race. I discovered a couple of weeks ago that I wasn’t still out of the woods on the ankle. After an 8 and a quarter run on the 25th, my ankle was really bothering me and I felt like my plantar faciitis was starting to come back in the same foot. As a result, I only ran twice last week, both runs 3 miles or shorter. I felt like I had lost some enthusiasm in regards to running the race and you can probably tell by my lack of blogging. Interestingly enough, I received this month’s Runner’s World in the mail on Saturday and read an article called “Taper Traps”, which described some of the things I was feeling. Apparently, I am not the only one who goes through this in the weeks before a race.

I went and picked up my race packet on Saturday afternoon. Much like the race itself, it doesn’t contain any big frills. It had a Tupelo water bottle and a Tupelo notebook. But it did contain one of the most unique race t-shirts I have ever seen. If you like 70’s and tye-dye, you may travel some distance to get one of these.

I hope someone from the Tupelo Marathon and 14.2-mile race reads this blog because the race map has to be one of the crappiest I have ever witnessed. It is very difficult to read and several of the roads are labeled incorrectly. My wife convinced me to go for a drive Saturday night to check out the course. It was probably a mistake because we didn’t get back until 11 am. (It is a 5 am start). The course goes down country roads in a rural area. Using the crappy map we got made several wrong turns and got lost. However, one thing I noticed is the numerous rolling hills I had not accounted for in my training. I felt that feeling in the pit of my stomach, “Uh-oh.” Looks like 2:30 may even be a bit optimistic!

I set three different alarms to make sure I woke up in time. I set the regular alarm, my cell phone alarm that is capable of waking the dead, and my watch alarm, which is pretty useless but served as a “back-up”. Despite all of my worry, I popped out of bed as soon as my bedside alarm went off at 3:50 am. I ate half of a powerbar and drank some coffee. I made sure my playlist for the race transferred to my ipod correctly. I then got dressed and headed out with some Gatorade to sip on the way to the race, just 10 minutes from my house.

I don’t know what you do before races: stretch, meditate, chat with other racers. Essentially, I poop. Yes, it seems the nervousness before early morning races always gets to me and I need to make several trips to the stall before I feel like I have the “all clear”. I think it was a 3-count this race, not counting a few extra visits to the urinal – just to be sure.

During all of my back and forth treks I did not see anyone I knew so I pretty much kept to myself and thought about the race. I thought about my training, all of the weeks of preparation I had put in just for today. I reflected on disappointment because of the injury that seemed to slow me down but also on the satisfaction of knowing I would be able to complete the distance, something that would have been impossible two years ago. While I knew 2:15 was a long shot I vowed I was going to give it my best and leave it all out on the roads.

The start line was about a ¼ mile from the empty building that we all congregated in. At about 5 minutes to 5 am, everyone slowly mosied over to the line. A few guys were peeing on the side of the road but it was still pretty dark so no one seemed to care. I never heard the start officially go off but everyone started heading out so I started my ipod and went with them.

It was dark and, after a couple of miles, there were no more neighborhoods and the streetlights were spaced far apart. In some places, it was pitch black! I mean, you can’t see your hand in front of your face dark! I hardly ever run at night, much less in the middle of nowhere with nothing to light the way. But you know what, it was soooo fun! There were some people with flashlights and it was enough to stay on the road. The ground was really uneven and I think it would be easy for someone to sprain an ankle in this part of the race.

I couldn’t see any mile markers so I could not be sure how fast I was running. I assumed the first water station was at 3 miles because my watch read 28 minutes. I had decided before the race that I would walk through each water station but I only took a few seconds before I got going again. I was feeling pretty good, running a comfortable pace, and the temperature was perfect!

About 45 minutes into the run, the sun started coming out and a rooster crowed from a nearby farm. It was funny to see all the dogs on the side of the road watching the hundreds of runners go by. Some barked, but most looked at us with a confused look like, “what in the world?!” I paid little attention to scenery and listened to a podcast, trying to keep a steady pace. Every once in a while someone would pass me and I would try to stay with them a while. An hour into the race, I was still feeling good and could now make out mile markers. Sure enough, I was keeping a pace just better than 9:30 a mile.

I felt a twinge of pain in my left foot every once in a while. I tried to put it out of my mind and tell myself I didn’t feel it. It was now light outside and I had passed the 7 mile marker at just under 67 minutes. The next water station was at about 8 miles and walked a bit more through this one. I was now starting the section with all of the rolling hills and I was trying to tell myself that I was not slowing down. I told myself I only had a 10k to go but was not at all comforted by the thought! I picked someone 100 yards ahead that seemed to be at a similar pace and determined myself to catch him. A few minutes later I did. Then the hills started!

I was fortunate to catch a pack of runners when the hills started and I used many of them to pace me. My long run has exactly two hills of similar size on its course but I knew I would be attacking several more than that on this one. I used the pace of others around me and would not let anyone pass me. I passed several runners using this method and feel I kept my pace pretty well.

When I got to 11 miles I was starting to hurt. I had completed most of the hill section and was going through a neighborhood. I told myself I had a 5k to go and felt a bit better this time. Marathoners had started heading the other way and I waved to the race leaders. I checked my watch. I was keeping a steady pace but I could tell it had slowed a bit. I could now see that breaking 2:20 was definitely a possibility. But at mile 12, I was really hurting, pushing myself and telling myself not to walk. At the turnaround they told me to head the other way if I was running the marathon. I said, “Not today!” and took both a water and Gatorade. I knew this would probably be the last one before the finish so I took my time. Looking back, had I took a normal break here, I would have had a better chance to make my time. But I was pretty spent! Both feet and ankles were hurting, my legs were killing me, and my right toes were burning from apparent blisters.

I took a left and had the last big stretch before turning into the parking lot for the race finish. I tried to pick up the pace but I could tell 2:15 was probably out of reach. I resigned in my mind that I just wanted to finish under 2:17. When I made the final right and could see the clock I could see that I had done that. I crossed the line and the lady took off the tabs from my race number. She commented that I wasn’t sweating much at all and congratulated me. My official time was 2:15:55. A pace of 9:35 a mile.

My wife came for the finish and gave me a big hug at the end. My legs were heavy and I had to lean on her for support. Someone handed me a bottled water and my wife snapped a few pictures. She had some great words of encouragement and it started to sink in that I did it! I had completed a 14.2 mile race and at a time I was very satisfied with!

As I write this the day after, my legs are soooo sore! I have knots all in my calves and my quads are killing me! I have a pretty funny walk that has caught the attention of my two toddlers! I worked hard to keep a steady pace but I think the hills are the main culprit. The race was really hard and I can’t imagine running a marathon but, you know what? December 3rd I am going to do exactly that! Wednesday, I will start my training for the St. Jude Memphis Marathon in Memphis, Tennessee. I will be working on my race plan today and tomorrow and hope to have it up later this week.

Now that I have officially completed the race, it doesn’t even seem real. What seemed unreachable several months ago, only serves as a time that I want to better next year. That is what keeps me hitting the roads, running each and every day. It is a race, not against others, not even against some course. Some people say it is the race against the “fat guy” chasing them. But for me, it is even more than that. It is the race against myself. Leaving behind the self I want to avoid, and racing toward the one I want to become.

For some reason, I cannot get pictures to upload into blogger anymore. You can check out the pictures here:

Race Shirt Front

Race Shirt Back

Finishing stretch

I did it!!!