Joy, then horror in Boston

Boston Marathon Finish LineAnger is an understatement. I cannot put into words how bitter I am right now. The events that unfolded in Boston yesterday afternoon left me somewhat in shock and disbelief. How one human can conceive of, then execute setting off bombs in a place as sacred to runners as the finish line of the Boston Marathon? The fact that runners, future runners, and spectators had mostly lower torso (leg) wounds makes it worse. You cannot run if you cannot walk.

I knew many running yesterday. All that I know were safe, either by finishing before 4:10 or by being diverted just shy of the finish line. A classmate of my daughter has an uncle that is currently in critical condition and being treated for his injuries. While I don’t know the names or conditions of anyone else, I know that the running community will pull together and help those injured or the families of those killed. Runners always help and always stick together. We are a family in that way, and a very determined one at that.

Running is a very personal sport. It’s your legs, your body, your will to start, your will to finish. Yesterday’s events made this much more public. It will certainly make many who may have a marathon in their future question if they should continue. So if this event changes your mind, reach out to your extended running family. We’ll get over this and move on, stronger for the challenge that lies before us.

Contemplating the Marathon

I have been thinking about running a marathon for a few years. With me hitting my 50’s a few years ago, the goal either needs to be to finish one soon or it’ll never happen. As my knees age, they are feeling the distance I am covering with each run, with each week, with each month more every time. The Jeff Galloway method has been a godsend. It has allowed further distances with less pain and much shorter recovery times. While the longest road distance I’ve covered so far with the Galloway method is just about a 10K. Living in New England and being a cold weather running wimp, I did it with little road training but many treadmill runs.

Logically, the only marathon that I would run would be my hometown one in Hartford, Connecticut. The marathon is fairly flat, runs partially through my town, and is early enough in October to bring typically cool weather without it being cold. October 12th is just 183 days from today. Six full months. Six short months. It’s all about perspective.

There are a few big questions about running a fall marathon that I need to consider:

  • Can I commit to getting to bed early every Friday for early Saturday long runs?
  • Do I train with a team or go this solo?
  • How serious can I get with this whole cross training thing?
  • Can I actually cross train and not feel guilty about not running?
  • How will I handle long runs in the heat of the summer?
  • Can I go from where I am in my training today to full marathon distance in 6 months?

Once I can answer these questions, I’ll have my goal set. For now, it’s time to investigate training plans and just get out there.

Outside, finally!

I have run outside just two times since Thanksgiving. We had spectacular weather three weeks ago where I ran a self-directed (almost) 10K. Today, the weather was about 50 degrees and sunny and since the markets are closed on Good Friday, my office was closed. After futzing around for a few hours, and after two cups of coffee, I got dressed and headed outside to run a bit over 4 1/2 miles.

The pace was relaxed, averaging close to 11 minute miles with a 3/1 run/walk ratio. I ran through my neighborhood, the loop around the adjoining neighborhood and a loop both around and through our local park. This was the first time I had been through our park in months – and many people and a bunch of runners joined me. The dogs were enjoying the weather in the bark park, and probably 10 others were running the loop on the exterior of the park. I’m pretty sure that everyone but me was having fun (I was – just in a different way)!

At one particular part of this loop, the path goes from the lowest elevation to the highest of the entire run in about a quarter mile. This has always been the most difficult part of the loop, sometimes making me run the opposite direction which gives me a gentle rise in elevation rather than the in your face one that my normal direction does. This nemesis will be overcome during the next few months and I’ll someday laugh at my current inability to take the hill on with a smile and the confidence knowing I can make it without walking. There was a hill similar to this in Richmond that was at the end of whatever run we took from the grocery store lot. This hill went from the light at the bottom of the hill to the parking lot entrance where we started and ended our runs. It took me a few months of running it several times per week until I succeeded once, then each and every time afterwards. I just need to think of this hill as my very own Richmond Hill and know that I will overcome and then laugh at the difficulty it now brings!

Old Goal, New Focus

My Injinji toe socks. While a pain in the butt to put on, once on correctly, they do an amazing job of protecting my overly sensitive feet.

My Injinji toe socks. While a pain in the butt to put on, once on correctly, they do an amazing job of protecting my overly sensitive feet.

One of the things that has been on my bucket list since I started running was finishing a marathon. I have toyed with this in the past, especially before running the past two half marathons. In the midst of actually running, I was positive I would never want to run further. Today, I am pretty sure that I have a full marathon in my future.

I have been running 3 miles at a minimum but mostly either 4 or 5 miles with each trip to the gym. It has all been treadmill mileage but 14 – 18 miles in a week have been adding up. If the week goes well, I run 5 miles on Sunday, 4 on Monday, 4 on Wednesday, and 4 – 5 on Fridays. So with the higher Friday run, that is 18 miles in all. This is what I did this week, except for the fact that I ran 5 on Friday morning and then again 5 today.

I’m still using the Galloway method, and the GymBoss as a timer to get my run/walk ratios down to a science. Mostly, I have been using a 3 to 1 ratio of running for three minutes, walking for one minute. My run intervals have been pushed faster after warm up, still retaining sub ten minute miles back to back. When I move my runs outside, it will be interesting to see what my speed is – but is sure to be slower than inside but less painful than it has ever been thanks to the walk breaks that have become an integral part to my current success.

Working on the Weight

This looks like every road in our neighborhood and on the drive to work. While pretty, it is a fast reminder that winter is still going strong and spring is at least a month or more away.

This looks like every road in our neighborhood and on the drive to work. While pretty, it is a fast reminder that winter is still going strong and spring is at least a month or more away.

The contest at work to lose five pounds in six weeks has just two weeks to go. I weighed in this week after a hard 4 1/2 mile treadmill run using my GymBoss and a 3/1 ratio. I knew that I had lost water weight, but generally have been feeling better since I’m working much harder on the treadmill. I was down a total of eight pounds since the contest began – success in any book. I attribute the loss to being somewhat more aware of what I am eating and significantly more aware of how hard I am working in the gym.

I’ve had my Nike+ Fuelband for over two months now and have made my daily goal with only a few exceptions. The funny thing is that if I work from home, I miss my goal each day. If I’m at work, I have to haul my butt down the 1/4 mile tunnel to the main building multiple times. I use that walk as an opportunity to get in a spurt of exercise – walking with conviction and not taking a leisurely stroll like most people do. One half mile later, I’m back from the main building (aka The Big House) with a bit more oxygen hitting my brain and a few more fuel added to my fuelband.

So success to date for the contest, and a few weeks more to hit it out of the park with a very successful completion. Time to run through the finish line and not come to a screeching halt at the end.

A Contest at Work

Last Friday, we got a bit of snow. The temperature was so cold that the snow crystals looked different. The temps were in the single digits and the snow was very, very light - so much that you could have used a snow blower to clear a driveway.

Last Friday, we got a bit of snow. The temperature was so cold that the snow crystals looked different. The temps were in the single digits and the snow was very, very light – so much that you could have used a snow blower to clear a driveway.

We are having a bit of a contest at work that should be, individually, easy to win. The contest is to lose just five pounds in six weeks. During this time, there are several holidays, the Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day, and six weekends. Being the motivator I am, I threw out another challenge to my work teammates to join together and provide camaraderie to help everyone make the goal. Of course, I am the team captain for the team. The company program will have a prize drawing for everyone losing the weight in 6 weeks – something like an iPod.

I work with a team of computer architects – very smart and very competitive. We have three such teams within my company, but only one other team is co-located with ours in a separate building. We work closely with that team but they have a different manager and are also highly competitive. So what better way to build team cooperation than to create a contest between their team and ours. They have a total of 12 individuals that make up their team and we have 11 that make up ours. While the real contest at work is for individuals to lose weight, we decided to make it, how can I say, interesting. Nothing like a little inter-team competition, right?

The winning team (that is to say the team that the most individuals meet the goal of the 5 pound loss in 6 weeks) will be served a healthy breakfast by the members of the losing team (again, the team that did NOT lose the weight). While there are more detailed rules, this pretty much covers the bases. There is an additional drawing that will be held at work three months after the initial 6 weeks for anyone who has kept the 5 pounds off (another iPod). So we are upping the ante one more time and having the prize of the healthy breakfast delivery happen again for the team that keeps the weight off for that period as well.

All in all, a healthy way to foster both team building and team competition at work.

Still Walking, But Running Faster

Jake and I finally visited the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame last weekend. The Hall is a tremendous tribute to basketball. Basketball was created in nearby Springfield College, less than a mile from where the Hall is located.

Jake and I finally visited the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame last weekend. The Hall is a tremendous tribute to basketball. Basketball was created in nearby Springfield College, less than a mile from where the Hall is located.

My 3-1 run-walk ratio has continued but with increasing success. I have been using my GymBoss Max for a couple of months now and have found that the 3/1 ratio has allowed me to slowly increase my speed on the run portions, knowing that I actually will recover on the walk portions. Yesterday, for example, I was running at 6.1 to start, then quickly increased to 6.3, 6.5, and 6.7 MPH on the run intervals. My walking remained at something over 4 MPH (4.1 – 4.2 mostly), even as my run intervals went faster and faster. By keeping an eye on the treadmill timer, I know where I am within my 3-minute run interval. One trick I have used is to start at say, 6.3MPH for a minute, then increase to 6.5 for the second minute, ending with a 6.7MPH final run minute. I’ve also been somewhat successful in just running at 6.5 or even 6.7 for the entire 3-minute interval. Towards the end, I was upping at least a minute at over 7 MPH and finishing the final 30 seconds with an 8 MPH sprint / fartlik.

While exhausted at the end of my five miles yesterday, I was able to deliver a solid 9:24 average pace including walking. A year or two ago, I couldn’t have ever thought to run that fast over five miles AND I walked for 25% of the time. The best part — my body wasn’t screaming at me either immediately following the run or later in the day. Sure, my knees were a bit stiff when I got up after sitting at my desk for an hour or two, but that would have happened if I had run or not. Overall, I am extremely excited about my progress and how well I can now run a five mile distance on the treadmill.

On a final note, I have loved keeping up with my Nike+ FuelBand. It pushes me further, makes me walk a bit more, and increases my knowledge of how non-sport specific activities count. Snow shoveling, taking the stairs over and over and over at home, and walking from my building to the main one at work several times each day (1/2 mile round trip) all count — and now I have proof. I just set a new month long goal of 21,000 NikeFuel points each week for four consecutive weeks. Here’s hoping to not mess up for an entire month.

A New Way to Measure

 

My new Nike+ Fuelband

My new Nike+ Fuelband

Late last week, I received my Nike+ Fuelband. After firing it up late Friday, I wore it yesterday to measure how far I walked, how many steps I took, and how much general activity I performed while not going to the gym. One of the things that I don’t generally give myself credit for is the stairs in the house and the general running around done over a weekend. The guidelines for activity are to set a daily goal of 2,000 NikeFuel for general, non-active or people with desk jobs. This was a great place to start to figure out what my activity should be.

Yesterday was my first full day of wearing it and I ended up with 2,550 for the day. Lots of stairs, some work outside, and a bunch of sitting. The one thing that I do like is the fact that it shows me the activity level on a continuous chart, plotting my peak active hour (4 – 5 PM), and when I hit my daily goal (6 PM). It also shows 4,000 steps, 986 calories burned, and just under 2 miles walked during the day. I don’t like to sit down much and apparently climb the stairs many times each day.

Today, I’m headed to the gym, so expect to blow away my numbers from yesterday. After a week or two of wearing it, I should be better able to know my daily activity and set a much more realistic daily goal. For now, I’m silently capturing metrics that will prove out to have some value down the road.

Running, Walking and Eating Turkey

Our popular dryer, mounted above the deep sinks in our laundry room. This is where I dry my workout clothes. This includes my Injinji toe socks that I’ve been wearing for all my long runs.

Our popular dryer, mounted above the deep sinks in our laundry room. This is where I dry my workout clothes. This includes my Injinji toe socks that I’ve been wearing for all my long runs.

On Thanksgiving morning, I decided to go for a run. I didn’t know it would be the longest run of the year.

Since starting the Jeff Galloway run/walk method of running with my GymBoss timer, I have only been using the treadmill. Thanksgiving morning weather was nice – not too cold, not too windy. My wife and daughter headed to the gym and I felt great so, to borrow a line from Forest Gump, I just decided to just go for a run.

I took off without much of an idea of how far I would go. Since this was the first run outside in several months and the first outside run with the GymBoss timer, I was totally playing this by ear. I figured I would run my normal 3 mile loop – out of my neighborhood, around the exterior loop of the adjoining neighborhood, through the path in the woods that hook into the park, the loop around the park, then back home.

A mile and a half into the run, I was feeling really good. The 3/1 ratio forced walk breaks were helping me significantly and I wasn’t tired at all. At this point, I was on the exterior loop of the adjoining neighborhood, with either the choice of either a left turn towards the park, or a right turn onto a long straight away heading away from my house. I decided to turn right and make a (significantly) longer run out of the excursion. This was a familiar route, one of my normal runs from my half marathon training days. It was a route that I took on multiple weekday mornings back then, and I knew exactly what was ahead of me. Depending on how to end the run, it was either a five or six mile loop. When training for my first half marathon in Virginia, we would run 10K Wednesdays. Six miles at night, through the only neighborhood that had street lights. I’d run this same 10K distance by myself in my half marathon training on Wednesday mornings before work. I was almost always late to work and almost always sore all day.

At the end of what is a five mile loop is the hill back into my neighborhood. While I know I have to cover that hill at some point, I wasn’t ready to stop. So I kept on running, finally taking a left turn into the park and heading home. The run ended up being six full miles, my longest in almost two years. At the end, my body felt pretty good. I wasn’t fast (10:55 average pace), but I wasn’t sore at all. I worked around the house all day without feeling like I just wanted to nap. The complete run is shown here if you’re interested. The 1000+ calories burned eliminated any fret over eating a fantastic, yet simple Thanksgiving meal. We had gingerbread for dessert, not pie – my waistline appreciates having a diabetic mother-in-law visiting. Lower calorie desserts are the norm at home, when we have them at all (yes, even at Thanksgiving).

I’m really liking this run/walk method and know that if I keep it up, I’ll be in better shape and my knees / legs won’t be screaming at me after a long run.

Running, or is it Walking?

In the Portland, Maine harbor. This was taken next to where we ate with our good friends the Jenkins from Richmond.

In the Portland, Maine harbor. This was taken next to where we ate with our good friends the Jenkins from Richmond.

A couple of weeks ago, I purchased a GymBoss Max timer. It basically allows me to set up intervals for a run/walk workout. So far, I’ve used it four times using a 3/1 run/walk ration. I run for 3 minutes, walk for 1 minute, then repeat up until my time or mileage is complete. While the first few minutes seems easy, by the end of 45 minutes, I cannot wait until the running is over and the walk breaks begin. Thus far, I’ve only used this on the treadmill but cannot wait to do this outside to see if my outside runs are a bit better using the run/walk method.

Yesterday was my best running workout in months. I used the 3/1 run/walk ratio on the treadmill. The treadmill at the YMCA doesn’t have a real interval setting that I can program, so I have to switch to running faster and walking slower manually. I decided that I wanted to go for 45 minutes so took off using the 6 MPH button for running and the 4 MPH button for walking. It seemed to work out okay for me. I’d run a bit faster than I wanted in the beginning, but then have to crank it up after warming up to push the running to 6.3 or 6.5 MPH during the last mile or two. Thirty minutes in, I was feeling great. I’d finish my walk period ready to run and ready to push the speed a few tenths higher than 6.0. I’m sure that the music I had cranking in my ears helped, but occasionally got a grin from the combination of the music and how great I was feeling running. Three minutes later, I was thankful for the walking period but ready to go just 60 seconds later.

Today, I am not stiff at all — very different from when I used to purely run (slog along) for 45 minutes. I used to feel guilty for taking walk breaks but now it’s just part of the program. My knees and the rest of my body seems to thank me. I am certainly feeling better at the end of the run than before so think there’s something to this new method!