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ORN: Today, just for grins and g ...

Posted Nov 04 2009 10:02pm

ORN: Today, just for grins and giggles, I ran 2.12 miles in 18'12".  Why the odd number?  Because in my journal, I had written down that I have run 898.88 miles in 2009.  Now, I have run a nice even 901 miles.  See what I did there?  I took care of the decimal.  That's the kind of nerd I am.
In other news, I have run 901 miles this year!  Not only is that a personal record all by itself, but it means I am poised to break the 1,000-mile mark for 2009.  I guess that's what I get for training for two marathons. 
That's about all I have time to write because today I am busier than a one-armed paper hanger.

ORN: Today, I ran a speedy four miles in 37'22".  I felt great physically and mentally, pushing comfortably hard, yet easy enough to think and daydream and enjoy being outside on such a grey, damp, but still lovely fall day.  Strange how fall can make a cool, rain-soaked day lovely.  It must be the gold and red leaves everywhere.  There were old guys fishing down on the river, drinking beer and watching the barges go by.  I wanted to join them.
I've not run since Friday night, when I did an easy three at home [28'24"].  Without a big race hanging over my head, my natural laziness gets the better of me.  That, and I suppose I still need some time off from the marathon thing.  I haven't been sore or burned out, at least in any overt way of which I am conscious, but lately I've enjoyed blowing off runs at least as much as I have enjoyed running. 
For example, on Saturday, I planned on doing eight or ten slow miles, and I was even on the road, running, 0.2 miles into it, when I stopped and turned around.  I was hung over and my ankles were feeling a little creaky and my yard needed mowing.  So I blew off my long run, and now my yard looks good for Halloween.  I can live with it.
But I know I have to get back into the swing of things to maintain my base.  Plus my belly is getting jiggly again.  Ugh.  I'll continue to do the best I can this week, and then I'll get back on the FIRST plan with a 6x800 next week.  Promise.

ORN:  Last night, I ran three easy miles in 28'24".  I say it was easy, but the run also had fartlek elements as I would speed up and relax.  I wasn't trying to do a speed workout, but I wanted to burn off some energy when I felt my legs could manage it.  But mostly these were junk miles, ran just to have them under my belt. 

Sunday, I debating whether to do eight or ten.

OK, so maybe rest and recovery are good things.  After doing all those squats and lunges on Monday and running four miles on Tuesday, I spent Wednesday walking around like some 1950s b-movie robot.  My hamstrings are not accustomed to being misused in that way.  Therefore, yesterday, I blew off cross training, and today I'm taking it easy too.  I may run later this evening, but just an easy three or something.  Nothing hard.  My legs still need babying, it seems.

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ORN: Today, I couldn't stand it anymore, so I ran four miles in 37'35".  I had intended to take two full weeks off after the marathon to rest, because that's what I always heard you should do after a marathon, but I kept asking myself, "Why?"  I was itching to go run.  After my first marathon, I was defeated, physically and emotionally.  My feet got plantar fasciitis, and my spirit took a nosedive.  Between the hard weeks of endless training and the brutal, awful, miserable race, I felt like I was finished as a runner.  My experience after this marathon was so much different.  After Chicago, I felt like I had run a mother of a long run, but that's all.  I had conquered.  I was pleased with my performance, and I didn't hurt anywhere.  By the end of last week, I wondered what I was waiting for.  I know rest is important, but I wanted to run!
Then yesterday, to ease back into things, I did my first cross-training workout since the race.  Everything felt fine.  I did 45 hard minutes on a bike, and then I did some FIRST-brand calisthenics.  It wasn't easy, but nothing snapped, broke, or fell off of me.  Encouraged, I packed my bag last night for a lunchtime run today.  Heck with it, I thought, I am a runner.
As good as I felt heading out to run today, I wondered what was going to happen.  I made the decision to take a two-week hiatus based on my previous bad experience as well as the advice of stuff I'd read in magazines, books, and blogs.  Everything I read said that rest and recovery was important after a marathon.  Take it easy.  Heal.  Was I opening myself up to injury by running so soon afterward?  I doubted it.  I mean, I feel great.  It's not like I was going to do a dozen mile repeats or something.  So, making excuses to myself on why I should run, off I went.  And I ran like crazy.  I ran my first mile in 9'23", feeling strong, and then blazed through my second mile in 8'57".  I felt myself working hard, but I wasn't red-lining by any means.  And nothing hurt.  I ran on, and  after the third mile, my legs got heavy so I eased up.  But that was it.  That was as bad as it got -- heavy legs.  I finished the final mile easy, took a shower, and went back to my cubicle.  Maybe I should have just done three, but I did four miles and didn't die.  Knock on wood: nothing bad has happened to me because I ran four miles a week after running a marathon.
I repeat, nothing bad happened.  The running gods did not smite me.  Nothing hurts, and I am planning the runs for the rest of the week.  I'm back, people.  I ran the marathon and survived. 
Moving on.

ORN: {}  I'm resting.
It's been a few days since the Chicago Marathon, and I have had time to collect my thoughts.  I've thought about how the race went, how training went, what went right, what went wrong.  I decided I might benefit from writing down some of these lessons learned.
First, I am proud of myself.  Before I start criticizing, I want to make it plain how happy I am about how I ran the race.  Dare I say it?  I ran a fun marathon.  One of the first spectator posters I saw, and one I frequently saw throughout the race, said words to the effect of "Your feet are hurting because you are kicking so much asphalt."  That is true.  I ran well.  I smiled most of the way.  I interacted with the crowd, drawing strength from them and giving back my gratitude.  I know I did the best I could have done on that day.  The criticism below should be read with all that in mind. 
Still, I didn't do as well as I had hoped.  Before the race, I wrote an unpublished blog post about my goals for the race.  In it, I specified three levels of goals.  My bronze medal goal was merely to finish.  My silver medal goal was to beat my last marathon time by 15 minutes.  I did that.  My gold medal goal was to beat my last marathon time by an hour, which would have meant a 4:25 finish.  Surely, this was a stretch goal, but not one that was out of reach.  Why did I fail to make this goal?
Honestly, the big reason is that I did not fully do the FIRST marathon training plan.  I didn't do the weight training component more than a few times, and sometimes I played free and loose with the cross training.  And I skipped some runs, either due to laziness or illness.  And I almost never ran my long runs at the correct pace; I ran them too slow.  Of all these mistakes, the last one was most critical.  But I don't know what I can do about it.  I've noticed I can run a 10-minute-mile pace for only so long.  Six miles?  Easy.  Ten?  Tough, but I've done it.  Thirteen or more?  Looking back at the data, I have never been able to maintain a 10-minute-mile pace beyond 12 miles.  That seems to be my most urgent training challenge.  Since I have not been able to run at marathon pace [9'19"] for any distance approaching a marathon, or even a half marathon, it's no wonder I fell short of my beyond-my-wildest-dreams goal.  Until I can, I'm stuck with the silver.  I have to dig deeper on my long runs.
Still, the 20 minute improvement over my last marathon should be credited to the FIRST plan.  Without all that speed-work, I never would have run as fast as I did Sunday.  Those long intervals and long tempo runs were the key.  Thanks to them, I was still [inconsistently] running 10'30" miles up until mile 14. 
So I need to renew my commitment to the FIRST plan -- the strength training, speed-work, race-pace long runs, stretching, all of it -- as I look forward to training for my next race, the Kentucky Derby Festival Mini-Marathon on April 24, 2010. 
But the big failure of the marathon was Rudy.  The buildings and tunnels wreaked havoc on my poor little Garmin Forerunner 305.  My data is totally whacked.  Somehow, in Chicago, I managed a 6,888 foot elevation gain!  I teleported through the Sears Tower, weaving around like a drunken sailor, even doubling back on the course several times.  What's up with that?  Also, check out that loop-de-loop I ran in Lincoln Park.  That's where I watered a tree.
One last thing.  If I had the ability to bend over in the last miles of the race, I could have cleaned up on personal electronics.  I saw at least one iPhone or iPod Touch, a Blackberry, and a brand new iPod Nano.  All of these items had been dropped along the course by some unlucky marathoner, and I'm serious, if my hamstrings weren't tighter than piano strings, I would be like Batman with the gadgetry.

ORN:  Yesterday, I ran 26.2 miles in a personal-best 5:05'17".


Wifey and I went to Chicago with Chris and Helga, staying in the Congress Plaza Hotel.  We were right across from Grant Park, perfectly situated to get from my bed to the starting line.  We arrived Friday night, however, in plenty of time to see some of the city.  On Saturday, we went to the Expo and got bags full of free swag.  I started to get excited.  Sadly, many fellow bloggers hit the Expo on Friday, so I missed out on meeting some people I would have liked to have met.  Oh well.  Let's skip ahead.

 The night before the big race, the four of us met up with Trish and Fletch, fellow Louisvillians, and hit the town.  We ate at the Italian Village.  I had the stereotypical spaghetti and marinara sauce because I didn't want to eat anything too heavy.  I wish I had ordered the pumpkin ravioli, but I still enjoyed my meal.  [We had dessert there Friday night, and I had the best Limoncello.  Alas, no hooch the night before the marathon.]  Afterward, we went to the hotel and got to bed as soon as we could, near midnight.

Race Day

Up at 6:15, I geared up, gobbled down a bagel, lathered up my tenders with Bodyglide, and headed to the lobby with my entourage.  It was pandemonium down there.  Even in the hotel lobby, there were tons of people milling about, headed this way and that -- stretching, dressing, undressing.  Outside, we encountered the hordes.  Tens if not hundreds of thousands of people were all descending on Grant Park, either to run [33,419 official finishers] or to support the runners.  We fought the crowds to get my bag, filled with after-race clothes and junk, to the American Cancer Society tent in the Charity Village.  Unfortunately, we soon lost Wifey in the throng, and I got anxious that I'd not be able to kiss her one last time before the start.  Time was running out.  After much fruitless searching and calling on the celly, no joy. She was lost.  Chris and I had to make it to the starting corral.  Once we found a spot to stand, I had to pee.  Of course.

He was injured with terrible plantar fasciitis, so he was just going to cross the start and drop out.  We stood around, packed like sardines for about 30 minutes until we could begin shuffling toward the starting line.  Chris and I exchanged words, I handed him my sweatshirt, and then I took off.

Start - 10K

The first section of the race was me trying to stay slow.  I tried to keep my pace right at 11 minutes per mile, and it wasn't difficult, especially since it was wall-to-wall humans all around.   The crowds of spectators were AWESOME the whole way, and I spent as much time gawking at all the people as I did gawking at the city and watching Rudy, my Garmin, to keep my pace in check.

Even though I had used the bathroom several times before the race, as I said, I had to pee from before the starting gun.  Every water station had portable toilets, but they were all packed.  Finally, when we made it to Lincoln Park, I noticed people -- men and women -- using the trees, so I did the same.  I watered a tree for what seemed like a couple minutes, and then ran relieved for the first time in an hour.

Still, at this point I felt great and was having a great time.

10K - Halfway

This portion of the race is a blur to me.  I felt great, and I was having so much fun watching the crowds that I can't even recall many specifics.  All I know is that I decided after 6 miles I was sufficiently warmed up, and I had started off slow, and it was time to turn up the heat.  I picked up the pace to between 10 and 10:30 per mile.  I started passing people.

My hydration/gel plan was working.  I started to feel hungry about mile 10 and popped a gel.  I instantly felt better.  The water/gatorade stations were perfectly distanced, and the volunteers handed out just a mouthful of liquid at a time.  Perfect for me.  Things were looking good.

13 miles - 20 miles

This is where things started going downhill for me.  I started getting tired. I started having trouble maintaining a 10:30 pace, even.  Still, I was feeling good.  I wasn't hurting anywhere.  I was just getting tired.  I ran into my entourage at mile 16.  Chris ran out and patted me on the back.  I quickly handed him my hat, thanked him, said hi to Wifey, all in a span of seconds as I ran by.  It was great seeing them and did a wonders for my mood.  I picked up the pace and ran on.

I think around mile 18, some people were handing out small cups of Negro Modelo [beer].  I took a couple mouthfuls and did not regret it.  It was refreshing, but it did sit heavily on my stomach.  Beer is beer, though.  I love beer.  It made me happy at a time when I needed it.  Thanks people at mile 18!

On I ran, and on and on.  The first time I felt like crying was at the 20 mile mark.  I felt tears welling in my eyes as I passed that mark, but I kept it in check.  20 miles.  Just a 10K to go.  20.  20.

Wrapping it all up

Somewhere between 24 and 25, I think, I ran past a section where there was a group of people blasting an Obama speech with a phat hip-hop beat behind it.  It was a speech where he talked about his grandfather and father, how they came from Kenya to America and built their life.  Like many of Obama's best speeches, it was incredibly inspiring and motivational.  This was the second time I nearly lost it to weeping.  After that, it seemed like the last two miles, as I plodded up Michigan Avenue, crept by.  So slowly, I creeped toward the finish.  But the crowds were going nuts, encouraging us, telling us we looked great, urging us forward.  Pure will was driving the bus at this point, because I was exhausted.

As I made the last turn into Grant Park, at the 26 mile mark, I caught sight of the finish line.  And then, looking left, I saw some bleachers.  And in them, I saw my wife and my friends all cheering for me.  Wifey was smiling and yelling.  I looked like this:

The smiling is joy at seeing my wife and friends and being within a couple hundred feet of being able to stop running.  I was done.

I finished in a respectable time of 5:05'17", which was 20 minutes faster than my last marathon.  I wanted to go under 5 hours, but you always wish you had done better.  Those five minutes were easily the stretch breaks, the walk breaks, the pee breaks, but you know what?  I needed those.  I don't regret a thing.  I had a tremendous day.  I had a fun marathon.

Post race

I turned in my chip, got my medal, grabbed a beer and got on with my day.  I inteded to go to the Cancer Society tent and get my free massage, but the place was a madhouse.  I just wanted to go home.  I wanted to get my crap and go.  I was done with crowds.  I needed a shower and a fresh set of clothes.

I limped back to the hotel and got those things.  In short order, we packed and loaded the car and left.  We drove from Chicago to Louisville in 5+ hours, then collected Little One from the grandparents.  I finally got to bed way too late, but I slept like the dead.

Today, we've been taking it easy.  We've had doughnuts and lots of TV.  Wifey got me an hour-long massage, and then I took a hot bath.  I am amazed at how good I feel.  Stiff as I am, I have nothing to complain about.  I feel great.

More post-race thoughts later on.  Time for more spaghetti.

ORN:  This morning, I ran my last taper run -- three miles in 27'04".  That's a result to brag about, if you're me, but I was supposed to run it at marathon pace [9'19"].  Oops.  For the first time all season, I ran a tempo run nearly 20 seconds per mile too fast.  Oh well.  I am done: done with running until Sunday.  That's my fun day.  My I-have-to-run-all-morning day.
What remains for me to do is pack and keep my mood up.  Since yesterday, I have been pampering myself in order to keep my spirits high.  For example, rather than listening to DJ Nano on random shuffle, I am only listening to a play-list of my most highly rated songs.  Also, last night, I treated myself to some St. Bernardus Abt 12 as I did my chores.  I figure, at this point, I cannot do anything else to physically prepare for the race.  I'm as fit as I am going to get.  What I can do now is focus and keep the blues away for the big day.  If I can go into the race confident, stress-free, and happy, then I think I will have a much better time.  If I go into it depressed and fretting, as I am prone to doing, then I won't have nearly as much fun.
Sure, I've been fretting some.  I have worried over my goals, which I am keeping to myself, but I've decided it's foolish to spend too much mental energy on my finishing time.  I'm not going to win the race.  I have no intention of running another marathon.  I couldn't do much worse than my last one, so I am almost certainly going to do better.  I may as well go out there and enjoy the experience, enjoy the crowds, enjoy Chicago.  There will be hundreds of thousands of people, music, cheers squads, and of course, Chicago itself in all its glory.  I'll be entertained through all 26.2 miles, that's for sure.  Maybe I should view the race as a sight-seeing tour in which I run through the city instead of taking a bus or a guided walking tour?
In any case, I am done with training, and I couldn't be happier about that.  Next post:  my Chicago Marathon race report.  See you on the flip side.

ORN:  This morning, I had a tough time staying out of bed once the alarm went off.  I was sorely tempted to sleep in and run during lunch, but my inner coach triumphed.  I made it to the track and ran a comfortably hard 6x400 workout.  Total mileage:  5.82 in 58'58".  I felt fine throughout, but if I had to do more than just the six repeats, I would have been in trouble.  I was dog-tired by the end.  But you couldn't tell from these splits, which were so close to my target time of 1'51" that I think you all ought to buy me an ale.  Something spicy and seasonal, please.  Check it out:
  1. 1'52"
  2. 1'53"
  3. 1'53"
  4. 1'53"
  5. 1'55" <-- mulligan
  6. 1'52"
On to business.  The Federal Trade Commission has come down on hard on shifty-eyed, double-dealing bloggers like Yours Truly.  From what I gather, and I spent 3 whole minutes Googling this so I know what I'm talking about, I could be fined up to $11,000 for failing to disclose cash, freebies, or other swag I get for doing product reviews.  I was unaware that there was cash on the table for writing this fluff, but in the interest of staying out of trouble, let's set the record straight. 
The majority of the product reviews I have written on this site have been for products sent to me for free with the expectation that I review them.  I make no pretensions of being an objective journalist with ethics and stuff, at least not here.  I'm a cheapskate who likes freebies, so doing these reviews makes good sense for me.  And the companies that send me stuff make out alright, too.  They get the worldwide audience of millions this blog attracts.  It's a win-win.  As I have written these reviews, I've tried to disclose in plain language how I've obtained the items.  If it's ever unclear, let me know in comments before you go running off to the FTC.  I don't want you to think I'm both on-the-take and hiding it.  Still, I call them like I see them, giving props to good products and slamming things that I think are garbage.  I'm shamelessly on-the-take, but I try to be honest. 
Having said all this, I am disappointed that I have not been inundated with more free shoes, gadgets, and other gear.  Sure, I've gotten some socks, a crappy GPS watch, and a book once, but I'm sure there's lots more stuff I could write about.  Running gear manufacturers, in case you didn't get the memo, I am open for business.  Don't be shy.  [I'm looking at you, Stick people.]  I have, no exaggeration, more than twelve regular readers.  That's at least 24 additional eyeballs you could be reaching!  Send your freebies my way, and I will write about them honestly, giving you ounces of free publicity [or grams if you're a foreigner].  Include cash [really, some bloggers get paid to review swag? Inconceivable! ] and I will write about them promptly and even use spell-check before I publesh.  I'm standing by. 
But readers, rest assured, I will always disclose what's going on.  This blog post was brought to you in Disney 3D by Garmin, Runners World Magazine, Burt's Bees, and John Conti Coffee.
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