Saturday, March 26, 2011


That's the word to describe today's run. I am still in awe of it. I'm going to bask in the glory of it for another day and then get back to the reality of training. The race is still 1 month and 5 days away according to my nifty counter :)

My prep for this began last night. Well really two days before. I've been thinking about it and picturing the route and thinking about strategy. Knowing that I was going to do two Valley Forge loops I felt like I had to think about and psyche myself up for it. You'd think this was the race for all the checking and double checking I did on my gear, gus, endurolytes and water. With a forecast of 29 and sunny to start, I put out layers for the run and warm clothes to change into. I commented to Dave that I think I packed less for my weekend to Houston a few weeks ago. I was in bed by 10; not asleep but this forced me to turn off the computer and stop watching TV. I was up at 6:30 for breakfast and on the road by 7:15. I'm not sure where my head was at exactly as I headed west on 422. I went past the Valley Forge exit. Fortunately, I noticed it before Trooper road so I could get off and turn around. And fortunately this was not an omen for the day.

At the vistor's center I  met up with Brenda, Marjorie, Jeff, Craig and Roy. I got a fist bump from Roy before he and Craig headed off to do their thing and the rest of us headed to the loop round 1. I started with my 3 and 1's right from the start. Jeff ran off to do his own thing and Marjorie and Brenda were content to do 3 and 1's with me. The first loop was all about just getting through it and trying not to go too fast. I don't like looking at my watch though so this was done by feel. I wore the watch because it would beep out the miles for me and help with the final 2-3 miles which would be over unmarked or unmeasured ground. I wanted to focus too on not taking my walk breaks too slow. I know that's hindered me in the past. The transition then to running takes too long. I finished the loop on it's downhill ignoring the walk break that came in the middle of it.

I continued run/walking back to the car. There, I topped my water bottles and grabbed my gloves. I had taken an endurolyte at the 4 mile mark and now, as I headed over to the Betzwood trail, I took a gu. As I went up the hill and over the creepy bridge I thought about my first season with Phillyfit. Going up that hill killled me back then (I dreaded it) and now I was just doing it. I still don't like the creepy bridge but it's a necessary evil to get from the visitor's center to the river trail.

On the river trail I set my focus on my posture. I tend to slump and that makes me tired quicker. (I also need to put more focus on my core and I'm determined to get a routine for that after Gettysburg) So the faster walk breaks and focus on posture kept my mind busy out to the Pawlings Road end of the river trail. Once there I stopped to shake gravel out of my shoes and retie them. I also took the opportunity to stretch my legs out a bit and began the return trip. On random walk breaks I did this goofy walking thing that was a combination of something I learned at the USAFit conference and twisting my upper body. When I do it I can feel the tension release in my back and hips. It probably looks really weird but it works.

About a half mile into the return trip, Kristie called. I was expecting her to call as she said she might try to meet up with me. She said she would meet me at the visitor's center to take me on the final 7-8 miles. This was great news to me!  When we chatted earlier in the week she had planned to meet me at Betzwood. And while this would have been nice I was secretly wishing she could meet me for the loop since I knew I would be much more tired. I didn't want to ask her to do that though. She was taking time out of her Saturday to run at my pace (considerably slower than her norm) so I was just happy that I would see her at all. My wish being answered though put an extra lift in my step.

Shortly after the call from Kristie I looked up and saw a blue and orange figure heading my way. That could be no one other than John Carre. He had met Pete White at Oaks to run some miles and heard I was doing 20 today and came over to meet me after finishing with Pete. Awesome! Phillyfitters are the friendliest, most supportive folks ever! So with John's company and chatter I finshed the river trail comfortably. We kept up a good conversation and John didn't even laugh at my crazy walking thing.

So at the end of the river trail I took another gu on a walk break and continued back over the creepy bridge to the visitors center. I said thank you and goodbye to John, topped off my water bottles again and off Kristie and I went. Kristie kept up a steady chatter which was awesome. She was also very good at breaking her train of thought to coach me when I needed it. She also put up with a moment of crankiness from me. When we had 5 miles left she commented something like "That's nothing you can do this!" to which I replied "Tell that to my legs". Sorry Kristie.

At this same point, 15 miles into the day (near the arch) I also commented that this is where I usually wonder why I signed up to do a marathon. It was different this time though. My feet hurt and my legs were tired but I didn't feel like stopping. I think I thought about 5 miles left and had a knee jerk panic attack. So we continued around to 'the hill' that no one likes. Here is where I almost faltered and Kristie coached me out of it. To this point I had faithfully stuck to my 3 and 1's (except for the skipped walk break down the end of the loop hill earlier). I seriously labored up this hill and came close to quitting at least twice. I was breathing so hard I had snot coming out my nose and I was making whiny noises. Kristie talked me through it.

That was a  major turning point. There was only one yukky hill (the rest were rolling) and I managed that one by riding the downhill into the uphill. We got to the final downhill and once again I skipped the walk break. My feet and legs hurt more than the first time around but gravity is a wonderful thing and this meant getting to 20 just a tad faster. At the bottom we were at 18.5 miles. I decided to go out the County Line Road to 20 and then turn around to walk back to the parking lot. I was amazed at how 'good' I felt. Good is relative of course. I was tired but I was not in the least bit ready to quit.

Ok folks, if you dont know this already, County Line Road past the parking lot goes uphill. I cheated 40 sceonds off one run interval (my only cheat of the day I'm proud to say) and when we came to another hill, I said "No, I'm not doing that". So we turned around and ended up going back out to route 23 and turning around again. We arrived at the parking lot with .2 left and so ran around until my watch ran out the 20. I announced this milestone loudly. Kristie took in all in stride and high fived me.

I had taken another endurolyte about mile 17 because I felt my heart beating too fast. I probably should have taken one sooner. I only had two gus on the day when I usually have three. I don't think that hurt me although the last half mile I suddenly felt hungry. I will have to be careful of that in the race. I had a slight intestinal thing about mile 19 but it went away quickly so I'm not concerned. I was good with my water. For the most part taking sips every walk break and more with the gus.

I came home and did not feel an overwhelming need to take a nap. That was a pretty good feeling too. So like I said, this run was a WOW!

I have a second 20 miler before race. This second one is on April 9th. I'm treating myself to Forbidden Drive for that one. I'll do more hills runs in the coming weeks too but I'll do them on either the VF loop or the Media 5 mile loop on weekdays. I'm really excited about the race now.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Thoughts before a 20 miler

So I never did make it out Wednesday or Thursday. Wednesday it did rain and it was cold (I'd rather run in snow) and Thursday I was too tired. A poor excuse but it is what it is. Still I'm looking forward (more or less) to my 20 miler on Saturday (tomorrow).

The weather is still cool but no precipitation in the forecast. I do well in the cooler weather so I'm ok with that but I do have to wonder what weather will be like on Marathon day, May 1st. Hopefully my second 20 miler will be warmer so I can have a training run in cool and warm. There's really no telling what May 1st will actually be like.

So the math in my previous post about tomorrow's 20 miler was inaccurate. It didn't sound right when I posted it but I didn't stop to think it over until now. I will do the loop (5 miles) then the river trail (6 miles) then the loop again (5 miles). Including the over and back between loop and the river trail that wil be approximately 17 miles. Then I'll have to decide how to make up the last 3 miles. Likely I'll go out 1.5 miles on the loop and back. Or I could head over toward the river trail and come back. Either way it's hilly so it really doesn't matter.

Stay tuned. I'll post the results tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Much better

I went out for 4.5 miles today with Kristie, Susan and Julius. Felt great! I feel better now that Sunday was just a blip on the radar.

Tomorrow and Thursday are looking yukky weather - wise; including some snow in the forecast. I'm packed to run tomorrow after work but I'll decide when the time comes. If it's not pouring and above freezing I may go out anyway. We'll see.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

In the interest of full disclosure....

I have to post my crummy runs as well as my good ones. Today was in the latter category for sure. I went to the Art Museum area to cheer the folks running and walking in the Get Your Rear In Gear run. There were close to 4000. It was an awesome turnout. After that I met up with Julius for 5 miles together. Then I'd do 8 on my own (one loop around MLK/Kelly Drive).... or so I thought.

We began and almost immediately I felt stiff and off kilter. I chalked it up to not running in over ten days and hoped I'd loosen up soon. Julius was a step or two ahead of me the whole way. We were doing 3 and 1's and I was so grateful for the 1's. I was distracted from the stress by our chatter; we hadn't run together in quite awhile so we had a lot to catch up on as well as talk about the upcoming season for Phillyfit and our coachign duties. We ran through the crowds gathered for a high school rowing regatta and at 2.5 miles we turned around and headed back to Lloyd Hall.

I forgot to pack gus this morning (not sure where my head was at) but I had some granola bars in the car so I ate one of those while we walked around the front of the Art Museum and then I headed off to finish my miles. At MLK I decided to head left on the path along the river bank hoping that the change of scenery would perk up my run. It didn't. My legs felt stiff and heavy. I stopped to stretch them out but the relief was short lived. By the time I got back to the Art Museum area I was at about 7.5 miles and the pain in my legs from hip to ankle on both sides was just too much. I felt like I had run 20 not 7! I bailed on the rest of the miles and headed back to the car for a total of just over 8 miles.

So what are the reasons? Could be any number of things. I haven't run in 10 days. We did have that ATP workout at the organzier confernce but there wasn't much running in that; although we did a fair amount of other work. Still I've missed time before and not felt this bad getting back. I haven't been feeling well or eating well and the travel has probably put me off as well. Still the difference between how I felt today and how I felt after my 15 miles on the VF loop is strange. I was tired after the 15 but the muscle tiredness in my legs was nowhere near what I felt today. It's discouraging.

I have to focus now on knowing there are still 6 weeks left before Gettysburg. I have 20 planned for next Saturday and if I don't recover enough to manage that I still have more more chance at 20 on April 9. The weather this week is for cooler temps and possible precipitation but i'll just have to ignore that and get out on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Keep smiling and keep moving.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Course comparisons

When I initially signed up for Gettysburg I remember reading something from the race director that the course was no worse elevation wise than Philly. So the other night I went to and compared the two course elevations. Lo and behold it's actually true. Gettysburg has more ups and downs but the climbs are generally no worse than Philly in terms of steepness. It will be a more tiring course for all the ups and downs; and the ups are longer in mileage... but still my confidence is renewed.

Training update: I bailed on today's meeting with the Phillyfit gang. Just too tired. I woke up just before the alarm (6:30) turned it off, turned over and next thing it was 8:00. My plan now is to run tomorrow along Kelly Drive. A bunch of us are getting together down there to cheer on the "Get Your Rear In Gear" 5k/10k participants and Maggi suggested a run along Kelly Drive after.

I hope to get out at least 3 days this week. The weather forecast is weird though; actually calling for snow. At least it is DST so there is a chance of having company some of the time.

The first 20 miler of this training schedule is next weekend (March 26). The group is meeting at Valley Forge. I plan to do the loop then cross over to Betzwood and then the loop again. That should be about 16-17 so I'll run the final 3-4 either going back toward Betzwood or If I'm really feeling brave back up on the loop.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

At least nobody threw up...

That was the comment of one of the group after our participation demonstration of the ATP (Advanced Training Program) at the USAFit Organzier conference today. Judging from the strangled laughter that followed that remark I think many of us were thinking something similar.

The ATP sessions combine a series of calistenic and strength and balance exercises followed by short fast bursts of running. It kicked most of our butts. The idea is to train your body to run tired. In the 'real' training program the group runs for 4 -6 miles after. We skipped that part today.

I found it a tremendously humbling experience. Here I've been  feeling pretty good having comleted 3 marathons and currently prepaing for my fouth. I know I have neglected core and strength work; today I found out just how much I had done so.

*Sigh* at least I wasn't the only one.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Changing Course

Email from the race director for the Gettysburg Marathon informs me that due to logistical and safety issues with the local municipalities there will be only one course on Marathon day. Instead of running north vs south everyone will run the same course. And the course they dumped was the South course the one the folks from the North were slated to run. So my plan is now officially meaningless. Hey, a marathon is still 26.2 miles whichever course it's on. 3 and 1's all the way for this one.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Confidence buster

There is nothing like the Valley Forge Loop to smash a hole in the enthusiasm balloon. That's what I was thinking through mile 1 of the third time around the loop. What was I thinking signing up for a Spring marathon let alone one in Gettysburg? My 'plan' for the race suddenly seemed like a pipe dream.

With 1.5 miles to go I recovered however. It's the Valley Forge Loop (I told myself) and YOU are not superwoman so it's going to hurt on the third time around. And this is training afterall; hopfeully I was stretching my limits.

So here is how it went.

Lap #1: I arrived at the Visitor's Center parking lot at 7 and took off for round 1. It was drizzling off and on and very quiet. I passed only a handful of people going the other way (including Pete who had been out since 6:30 and was hoping to meet some running company back at the Visitor's Center at 7:30). I was passed by the gentleman who was in the only other car in the parking lot. He 'congratulated' me for being out on such a day. I returned the greeting although I wasn't sure "congratulations" was exactly the right word; it's the thought that counts. I ran 3 and 1's the entire way up to the last hill going down. There I skipped the walk breaks and cut off the corner (across the grass). Kristen was going to be waiting for me in the parking lot and it was already 8. I called her quickly to let her know I was almost there. Given my rep for starting on time I didn't want her to think I had left without her.

Lap #2: I asked Kristen if we could do the second lap in reverse rotation. I was sure that if I did all three in the same direction it would just make me crazy. This way I would do the last lap in the direction I was used to. She agreed and off we went. Ok that hill going back up is really not fun; but we did it. We ran 3 and 1's the entire way around and I could feel my legs getting angry but my head was still in the game. Coming around the Arch my shoe lace had worked itself loose and I had to stop to retie. My foot was starting to move around in my shoe. I retied it but did so too tight. By the time we got back to the parking lot my toes were starting to go numb but I didn't want to stop again we were amost there. We skipped the walk breaks down the hill on the opposite side and met up with Pete in the parking lot.

Lap #3: I needed more water but the bathrooms were closed. I knew that from earlier weeks. I should have brought extra with me. Thanks to Pete I was able to refill with a bottle he had in his car. Pete wished us well and headed home. I retied my shoe and off we (Kristen and I) went. One more lap. My legs burned on the first hill. I had to walk before the walk break. That pissed me off and as I wrote at the beginning of this post I went into a mental tailspin. At the Arch again I told Kristen that I would totally understand if she wanted to move on without me. She didn't. We weren't side by side the whole way but she stayed close. We didn't talk as much this lap but she silently kept me going. Don't ever let anyone discount the power of the group or even just having one other person with you. I 'cheated' on the walk break one more time before the end and there were times when it was a stretch to call what I was doing uphills 'running' but as we came around to the chapel again I felt like I was on remote control. My legs hurt but I wasn't quite so focused on that anymore. I was moving and that's all that mattered. And as I said before, this is where I remembered where I was and who I wasn't.

So Gettysburg is still on. I may re-evaluate my thought to skip the walk breaks between miles 6 and 13. Although if water stops are every 2 miles as promised there is likely 2 or 3 in that span soooooo. Fortunately I have time to give this more thought.

I'm giving myself tomorrow off and then going to try for at least an hour Tues, Wed, and Thurs. I'll be travelling Fri-Sun and although I'll bring my running gear, I'm not sure I'll whether I'll get out or not. 13 miles the week after that and then the first of my two 20 milers.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The course

So here is a link to the Gettysburg Marathon course for the Northern runners; of which I am one. The key (I think) will be to go out slow with consistent 3 and 1's through mile 6. Since it will be a gradual uphill climb through this distance it should not be difficult to hold back and stick with that. My hill practice around Media and the VF Loop and RCSP I'm hoping will give me the strength to maintain pace on run portions up the hill. Then I have a decision to make. Mile 6 to 13 is more or less all downhill. I don't want to go too fast but I wonder if I could skip the walk intervals and just take advantage of gravity. Just walk through water stops. Then pick up 3 and 1's again for the next ten miles - at least - through mile 23. At this point (likely before this point) I'll be tired but the last 3.2 is more or less down hill too. I'm not sure I could run the whole distance given how tired I will be but perhaps I can increase to 4 or 5 and 1's again taking advantage of gravity.

I'm not really looking for a time goal per se. But to finish in any time quicker than my previous three marathons would certainly bode well for my mental state at the end. I'll have to give this more thought. Just under 2 months to go :)