Aug 25, 2007

Self-Transcendence Marathon, August 24th 2007. 6:20:04

This is what I look like after running a marathon

From a review posted on
The STM is produced by Sri Chimnoy, a self-proclaimed spiritual guru whose practice includes lots of meditation and singing, and focuses on achieving self-transcendence through striving to reach higher goals. Or something like that. The Sri Chimnoy Marathon Team sponsors regular fun runs for his followers in places as far away as Australia. For those who really want to guarantee self-transcendence they hold a 3,100 mile race. Runners do 5,649 laps on a half-mile course in 51 days!

About 800 runners lined up at the start and we set off to run 8 loops plus 2.7 miles around the 2.9 mile lake in Rockland Lake State Park. The course is very flat with a wide asphalt path. A dirt path runs along the asphalt one. There were three aid stations along the three-mile loop, all very well-stocked with water, sports drink, Coke, juice, and food like water melon, bread, gummies, and seaweed (I didn't ask). Volunteers were plentiful.

Before I did this marathon, I had a hard time believing I could run a loop 9 times and not go insane. But it was wonderful. After the first loop, I knew what to expect on the course, and what to expect at every aid station. Most of the path followed the lake, where swans floated along, ducks swam, reeds waved in the mist - beautiful scenery. The course was well marked with mile/lap markers, which were at first a little tricky to figure out but I got the hang of it.

I was impressed with the variety of people at this race. First, it had a very international flavor to it, since many Sri Chimnoy followers are in other countries. I heard runners speaking German, Russian, French, Czech, and some Indian languages. Second, there were many different running types. A fair number of the lean, fast marathoners, also quite a few older runners. One man who looked well into his 70s had run 908 marathons. Many heavier types. But everybody looked very focused and committed when they ran (and when you run a 3 mile loop for 26 miles, you see everybody).

Such was my impression of this thing when I showed up at 6:30 for the running of the Sri Chinmoy Self-transcendence marathon. I had been interested in running this thing for a year, because it involves 9 laps around my favorite 3-mile course. When I realized I could fit the Friday-morning marathon it in my schedule, I eagerly registered, even though I knew I would have to work in the afternoon.

At the time,I was thinking that it would be good training for the 50K ultramarathon that I had been planning on running in September. Unfortunately, I found out after I finished that the promoters of that race had cancelled it!! Arg!!

Anyway, I was blissfully unaware of this fact when I showed up to the starting line at 7am, among about 800 other people, the vast majority being followers of Sri Chinmoy, who was to make a personal appearance. Eager to get a view of him, some people stood on fence posts, while others got as close to the front as they could. When he arrived, nobody spoke except the buzzing of insects - it was pretty quiet. Confined to a wheelchair, he sat on a stage for a few minutes before saying some almost-incomprehensible words about special blessings and love. When he finished, the race started.

By the way, I was sick. My wife and son were both home from work/school with Pinkeye and fevers. I myself had a sore throat and congestion. While some people advised me not to run the marathon, the conventional wisdom and majority of people used the "below the neck" rule - as long as symptoms are not below the neck (stomach, fever, chest pain, etc.), you're ok to run.

So since I was treating this as a training run and only a training run, and because my longest run of the season so far has been 14 miles, and since I was sick, I ran as slow as I possibly could - sub-13 minute miles. I would have been thrilled to finish in 5:30, but I wasn't setting any goals other than to finish under the 7-hour cutoff.

Normally, a 13-minute pace would result in a heart rate between 130 and 135, which I could sustain for at least 8 miles. Instead, my heart rate was about 145-150 in the first mile, and it never dropped. I mentioned this to a medical doctor after the race and he told me that was a symptom of the underlying illness. And by the time I got to the half-marathon, I was dying out there. Even at 13 minutes a mile, the heart rate was up above 165 at that point, and I couldn't even jog anymore. I started walking at the mile 14 marker, and monitored my heart rate afterwards. It took a while for it to drop below 130, but when it eventually did, I decided to keep walking. A brief jog ensued at about mile 17 but it didn't last long. I jogged the entire mile 19 just to prove I can do it, but walked pretty much everything else until mile 25.5, where I kicked to finish.

Yes, I did finish, but for a long time it seemed like I wasn't going to. One of the things about this marathon in particular is that it involves 9 laps around a relatively small course - 9 times I got to run right past my car, and 9 3-mile intervals where I was left with my thoughts about how much longer the race was. For a while, it seemed impossibly long. At lap 4, I couldn't imagine the fact that I wasn't even halfway done yet. At lap 5, it seemed really bad that I had to do 4 more of these. At lap 6, the weight of 9 miles crushed me. Even at lap 7, the 20 mile mark with 10k to go, it seemed like a long time and I doubted my ability to stick with it. I didn't have to - to most coaches, running marathons as LSDs is ill-advised. I told myself that since it was just a training run, I should be ok with DNFing at mile 20. Plus I was sick! But a couple of things kept me going. One - the 50k that isn't happening though I didn't know it at the time. If I couldn't finish a marathon, then that would be a crushing blow to my moral about the 50k. Another was the fact that I knew I could do it, even though I didn't want to believe it. Podcasts on a borrowed Ipod helped distract me from the pain. And, of course, starting at lap 4, I saw people wearing finisher's medals every time I went by the finish area. I wanted a medal. For some reason that became a powerful inspiration.

Anyway, the finish was interesting because I beat out 4 people who I was with. During my walking periods, I spent a lot of time trying to "powerwalk", and actually had one or two 15-minute miles in which I walked the entire thing. Even doing this, I was getting pretty tired towards the end, but my competitive nature kicked in with about a mile to go. I saw four people in front of me, and I decided that I wanted to beat all four of them (but didn't believe that I could.) I really kicked my powerwalking and passed all but one of them, a tall slender woman about my age. She and I were in the same position for a few hundred yards when, at the southern extreme of the lake with a half-mile to go, I decided to start my kick for the last half-mile. I knew that she intended to beat me, too, because as soon as I started into my 13-minute pace, she started running too - faster than me. She surged ahead about 50 feet and started walking again, when I quickly catched her on my 13-minute slog. As I passed, I'm sure she thought that I wasn't too much of a threat, even ahead of her, and she let me go as she continued walking. A little bit later, I sped up a bit - probably to a 10k pace. I had no idea where she was, and to be honest with you, I completely forgot that she was there. I maintained the 10k pace for about 400 meters, and my only thought was "how strange that this seems easy at the end of a marathon" - I guess the muscles used for fast running were 1.) different than the muscles used for running slow and 2.) pretty much rested at this point. When the finish line came into view, I kicked into a 5K pace, and finished very strong.

The scorer told me to move quickly through the empty chute.. and I wondered why. I kind of stumbled through - I remember leaning to the left as though I was about to fall over. When I got to the end and received my medal, I looked behind me and saw the woman right there. She had tried to beat me - but couldn't and instead finished a few seconds behind.

Well, it was my second marathon, and I finished in 6:20:04. I am not particularly happy with it, but given the circumstances I suppose I shouldn't complain too much. Also, I have a new PR - my only other marathon - Las Vegas, was something like 6:47. But I really would have liked to have been able to jog the whole thing.

Today is the seventh day after the marathon and I've had some time to think about it. One thing that I should point out is that I was hit with a violent fever the night after the marathon - I thought I was going to die. Aspirin got me through the night and I felt better the next day, but had a sore throat that still affects me now, even a week later. I was advised to rest until the sickness completely leaves me and that's what I'm doing, even though after a week, I'm getting tired of not running at all. Still, as I type this, there is a scratch in my throat and I know I'm not there yet. I'll need to start running again very soon so I don't start losing my fitness, but I suppose it doesn't hurt to allow my legs 100% recovery. Even though they feel 100% recovered now, I know that they're not and too much too soon will aggravate them a bit.

But, that's it. I went home after the marathon and went to work. It wasn't bad.

Aug 19, 2007


wo hop

today's post isn't going to be long, but in case anybody wants to know - yes, i completed the 21 days of consecutive running challenge. i even unofficially ran on day 22 - when I took joey to mohonk and we did some trail running together. really! it was a blast! and - cool weather - leaves changing color already - i'm psyched!!

or at least i was psyched until today.

yesterday was great.. today - what a drag.
We got to church and found out that a guy who goes to our church - a rugby player who was injured in a game - died last night. he has a two kids, aged 4 and 10. it really was a drag, and kind of put me in a crummy mood.

we got home and i was just in a funk.. so i laid down and took a nap. when i woke up, i had a ping on instant messenger - news that another friend of mine - who is fighting cancer - got some REALLY bad news today. the outlook does not look good.

anyway, today was not fun. i didn't feel like running or doing anything, really. i felt bad because joey wanted to play and i just didn't have the energy.

in other news, i am signing up for a marathon next friday morning. i'll post more details about it later.


Aug 15, 2007

a tad overtrained, or something else?

Aspen, Colorado - March 25, 2007. That was a fun run.

Well, since it's been five days since my last post with actual content, let's get this logging stuff over with really quick:
Friday: Anticipating Saturday's Long Run, I only ran one mile, but I ran it as fast as I could. 8:30, the fastest mile in my adult life. 14 consecutive days running, 7 to go.
Saturday: Went out to Long Island and ran from Aquebogue to Southhold - about 14 miles. There's a lot I could write about this run. 15 down, 6 to go.
Sunday: Recovering from Saturday's long run, I ran just one mile, four times around a block. It sucked. 16 down, 5 to go.
Monday: Still feeling a little tired from Saturday, I ran just 2½ miles. It was ok. 17 down, 4 to go.
Tuesday: Still feeling a little tired, I ran a mile and a half, but at a good pace. 18 down, 3 to go.

Last night when I got home from work, I told my wife that I was feeling a tad overtrained. My heart rate still felt a little fast, even though I wasn't actually measuring it. I've been generally sluggish. But most of all, my legs were still feeling the effects of Saturday's long run.

She suggested that I skip a day, forget the streak. I opted to run, but just run a mile to keep it short.

Am I overtrained? It's possible.. let's not forget -
I've suddenly gone from the dreaded "inconsistent" state to "consitent" (that's the whole purpose behind this 21 day thing)
in doing so, I ramped up my weekly mileage from "whatever" (0-15 miles, depending on how consistent I was that week) to over 30.
I've suddenly started running long distances again, going from a maximum length of about 5-6 miles to 12, then to 14.

So if I'm not overtrained, I'm certainly asking for to be.

On the other hand, here's the arguments for the contrary -
I am seeing remarkable improvement in my endurance, speed, and heart rate management.
When I actually do run, it feels good. check that - it feels awesome. I don't want to stop at 1 mile.
Yesterday, as overtrained as I felt before the run, I was on pace to run a 31 minute 5K (that would be a personal best) when I stopped at 2.5K and I felt like I could run three times as much at that speed. And, most importantly, I felt awesome after the run.

But, most importantly, I think my feelings of sluggishness, the unusually slow recovery times (for me), and maybe even my attitude immediately before a run might be attributed to the diet I've had for these 18 days. I have gone from a plant-based diet to a stereotypical american diet - lots of pizza, red meat, processed foods - and a lack of healthy alternatives. And in the last week, I've slacked on some supplements I take - especially greens-style multivitamin powder & fish oil pills.

Consider this - my weight has been fluctuating between 285 and 290 for two months now. And even with this running routine with remarkable improvements in speed and endurance, I've lost little to nothing. Clearly, I am running to eat, not eating to run.

Now, just for a second - let's forget ultrarunning or weight loss goals. Let's talk simply about a healthy lifesytle, which as we all know, includes BOTH exercise and proper nutrition, not one or the other. While I'm so focused on establishing exercise habits, I feel like I'm neglecting and reversing proper diet habits.. habits that I've worked hard to establish over the last 6 months. Yes, I have goals to complete ultras. I have goals to lose another 60-70 lbs. But I also have goals to just simply be healthy - to have energy to have a great day-to-day lifestyle, to reduce my risk of disease, and to enjoy a long happy healthy life. And to do that, I really need to change my mindset as far as what I fuel my body with.

Coming full circle here, I beg the question - am I fueling my body with what it needs to handle from this sudden increase in training? I should wonder why I'm feeling like I need a day off right now.

What I'm going to do is this - eat right for the rest of the week, run lightly (between 1 and 3 miles per day) on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday to complete my 21-day streak, take saturday off, and do my weekend long run on Sunday. Hopefully, I'll be able to significantly increase my long run distance, because that's what I really need to do for the 50K on September 22.


Aug 13, 2007

if you like my blog, you MUST READ THIS

I volunteered at the Taftsville Aide Station - Mile 15 of the Vermont 100 mile endurance run


First of all, the good news - YOU'RE ALREADY READING THE NEW FEED. The information below was posted to the old feed, and is presented here for entertainment purposes only. You might still need to make a change (like update your RSS reader).

I am switching from Livejournal to Blogger.
I have already copied all of my posts over there.

Some of you might have to make a quick change if you want to keep reading my blog.

There are three ways you could be reading my blog:

1.) You visit

2.) You subscribe to the blog's RSS feed.
If you don't know how, I can help you do this, just send me a note.

3.) You visit it on Livejournal.

There will be no more content on Livejournal, but I might post another message just like this one, just to make sure nobody missed it.

As far as real content, my streak is still going. 1 mile Friday, 14 miles Saturday, 1 mile Sunday, 2.5 miles today. 17 days down, 4 to go. I'll post all about that tomorrow, I hope.


exploration and running

On the course of the Hardrock 100 Mile Endurance Run in Southwestern Colorado. Photo taken by Blake Wood.
I have a crack-smokin'-induced dream to run the hardrock 100 some day - it has 33,000 feet (not a typo) of gain over the 100 miles.

well, i don't know if it was the 91º heat that i ran over 5 miles in yesterday, the monster hill in the 5 mile run, the fact that I had run 12 consecutive days, or the fact that i've suddenly upped my weekly mileage to something well over 30, but i was feeling like i needed a day off today. really, my body was saying, "DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT RUNNING TODAY."

that's why i planned to run only 1 mile.

i was going to make sure i ran only one mile, by looking on google satellite pictures, finding something interesting a half-mile from my house, running to it, checking it out, and running home.

once again, i didn't bother with the heart rate monitor.

so i headed out the door, noticed it was much cooler, and took off at a pretty good pace, because - i was only going to run 1 mile!

the interesting thing i was checking out was an abandoned bridge over the ramapo river - long since closed to traffic, i was interested if i could still cross it by foot, because it would serve as a convenient way of crossing the ramapo river to access the trails of ramapo state park in NJ. it's so silly - in order for a pedestrian to get from most of mahwah and all of suffern to this park, they'd have to cross the ramapo river. but the only legal way to do is is in hillburn, 3½ miles to the north of suffern, or on polo lane, a private road 3½ miles south. there is a very unsafe highway crossing in between. getting to the entrance to the south wouldn't be too bad but the busy stretch of 202 that i'd have to run on to get to it is unsafe with no shoulder and heavy traffic. but if this old, condemned bridge, a mere ½ mile away, was passable on foot, I'd have relatively safe access to the trails of ramapo state park.

large signs in front of the bridge said "no trespassing" and "unsafe", but it was obvious by the path through the high vegetation that had grown on the bridge itself that it was commonly used - and when i treaded lightly across, a commuter on a bicycle was coming back across the other direction. when i crossed, i had completed my planned trip, time to turn around - and yet found myself succumbing to the irresistible urge to explore the area that i had come upon - an abandoned railroad right-of-way, the tracks long since ripped out. I ran all the way to the aforementioned highway and back, and enjoyed almost two miles of solitary running without seeing anyone since the dude on the bicycle. no cars, either. back across the bridge and back home - my 1 mile run turned into a 5k.

this old abandoned bridge gives me a portal to explore the trails of a place that could really develop my potential as an ultrarunner. it has a tremendous amount of potential, complete with plenty of hills, pipeline right-of-ways, jeep roads, and single-track hiking trails. Physically, I'm not quite to the point where i can really take advantage of this stuff, but the running scenarios going through my noodle right now are pretty exciting.

oh, and regarding my body begging me not to run today, it feels fine now. better and more rested than before the run. funny how that works.

Log of today's run

By the way, over the next few days i'll be transitioning back from livejournal to blogger. it's just a matter of copying the 199 entries i've made here. This is the 200th post to my livejournal blog! it's also one of the last! most of you will notice little difference, but those of you who read this thing from an rss feed (god bless you), will have to update your reader with the new url. i'll post more details next week.

Aug 8, 2007

the body is willing, but the spirit is weak

Elevation profile of today's run - check out that goofy little speedbump

Well, on today's run I did a lot of thinking. And right now, I'm too tired to remember any of it. But the point is that running is a great way to get some thinking done. (:

Heard an interesting concept on phedippidations today. Basically here's the idea - we've all heard (or spoken) at some point the following quote: "The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." Well, the idea proposed is that the actual truth is exactly the opposite of this. And that is why you'll hear a lot of ultra-runners say things in the context of 100-mile races like "it's more of a mental game than a physical one."

What a great point. And it really powered me through my run today, which had a goofy little hill on it. (:

I actually drove down that hill on day last week and thought, "Boy, wouldn't it be great to run a course that includes ascending that hill?" It wasn't something that I thought possible at that point in my training, but I immediately decided that I was setting that hill as a goal.

Well, today when I set out to run, I wasn't planning on running the hill. Instead, there is a smaller loop including a shorter hill that I was going to run. Upon walking out the door, I immediately felt the blast of 91º heat.. after being in air conditioning all day long, I was a little surprised to see how hot it was, especially after the severe rainfall we had this morning. Humidity, however, wasn't too bad - just under 50%.

I headed out onto Orange Ave towards the New Jersey state line and was feeling pretty crummy. Combination of the heat and constant training, I guessed - I had run 4 miles yesterday, 3 miles each of the two days prior, and 12 miles on the day prior to those. Perhaps it was all catching up to me? The idea that today would be somewhat easy despite the relatively small hill I was planning to ascend was nice. So I just chugged along at a nice slow pace.

Of course, when I was about to make the left turn to ascend the smaller hill, something inside of me kept nagging me to do the big hill. And, of course, I succumbed. I went straight when I probably should have turned left. And I was heading towards the hill.

The thing about this hill is not that it's particularly big (we are talking about new jersey, after all), nor is it particularly long (about a mile) - but it's steep. Probably about 15%. My car's gas mileage going up that hill drops below 5MPG, according to my meter. It's a nasty place to run.

So when I turned and started up it, the mantra "the body is willing but the spirit is weak" came to my mind. And the idea that I might have a weak spirit if I don't RUN up this entire thing was motivating me to keep going. And so I ascended, and ascended. Believe it or not, it went by rather quickly, but with a lot of effort. A false summit was a bit of a downer, but that mantra was ringing through my head constantly and I wasn't about to let it win.

When I finally made it to the top, I pumped my fists in the air and my mantra changed to something like "the body is willing and the spirit is strong!" - and that thing stuck in my head for about the next two miles.

About mile 4, the heat, fatigue, constant running without a rest day, or some combination thereof, hit me pretty hard and I kind of crashed. I didn't stop running, but I really got a taste of some of the things I personally go through during a good effort at a longer race - but without the race setting. It is a hard thing to describe, but it does include a sense of despair, of imminent failure, and of self-doubt. It is induced by exhaustion, and is not a very pleasant feeling. I felt it right at mile 4 of today's run, and it lasted a few minutes as I ran through it, ironically passing the emergency room of a hospital. I felt it again, more intensely, at mile 5, a few hundred feet from home. I finished the run, drank about a half-gallon of water, and laid down.

The crash had me a little worried about my 50k, but when I put it in perspective, I really am pretty psyched. I've run an average of 5½ miles a day over the last five days, with a minimum mileage of almost 3. The temps were wicked hot, and I had just run a hill that I thought was impossible for me just one week ago. Crazy that I'd think I'm doing badly, but I guess it's just my mind's natural tendency to look for something negative among all the positive results I've been enjoying.

At any rate, 12 days down, 9 to go. Log of today's run.

Aug 7, 2007

day 11, over the hump

I used to be fat. I still am, but I used to be, too! (with apologies to mitch hedberg)

Well, with today's 4-miler, I am officially more than half-way done with my quest to run 21 consecutive days.
I still have some sort of infection bothering me - it may be the result of some sort of dental thing. The inside of my mouth, rear on the left side feels a little swollen and tender (maybe I bit it?) and, interestingly, the thyroid gland on that side is swollen, but not the right. The whole thing is making me feel generally crummy, but not sick. It doesn't appear to affect my running, only my motivation to do so, as the last few days have been a project to get out of the house. Today I had an excuse, my son was going to a friend's place to play with his kids, so I decided to jog over there while my wife drove him. It was hot, humid, and the run wasn't particularly great - and the road I was running on was very busy without much of a shoulder. I kind of slogged through it - but I was strong when I did it.

Yesterday my "generally crummy" feeling was much worse, and getting out the door simply sucked. It was dark, so I wore my reflective vest and carried a flashlight - and that only served to decrease the motivation. My wife, worried about my condition, suggested I take a day and restart the 21-day challenge (fat chance). Since the sole reason I was out there was to keep the streak alive, I didn't bother with the heart rate monitor. I brought the GPS watch just to make sure I ran 1 mile (which is my personal minimum for the streak), and went out. Predictably, the first few hundred yards sucked.

But it's funny, and this happened on sunday, too: no matter how crummy feel before and during the first few minutes of a run, i always feel good by mile 1. I ended up running just under 3 miles on both yesterday and sunday, even though both runs were planned to be just a mile.

running every day, just to keep a streak alive, has had an amazing result - besides the theoretical beginning of a theoretical habit. i've noticed an amazing endurance and (dare i say it?) speed gain in just 11 consecutive days of running. With a couple of exceptions, I've planned to keep the workouts easy to promote recovery from consecutive hammerin', but most of the easy workouts have turned out harder than planned because i'd decide to go an extra mile, or i'd see a hill and say "screw it, i'm going for it." the hard workouts have been amazing, too - I felt so good after the trail-run up bear mountain that I did a 3½ mile easy jog afterwards. I felt so good after 9 miles of a 12-mile long run that I did the last 3 miles 90 seconds/mile faster than the first 9, and finished strong. I keep exceeding my own expectations.. and my confidence is building as a result.

Frankly, given the streak of great runs I've had, I was a little disappointed that today's run only went good. Pretty funny.

GPS logs: Today's Run Yesterday's Run


Aug 5, 2007

running with ipods

Yosemite Falls - I'm the ugly one

Today's run was simply fan-tabulous. I was a little concerned going into it because the effects of yesterday's 12-mile LSD were really being felt in my legs. As a result, I procrastinated. I started it only because I wanted to keep the streak going, otherwise I would have blown it off. I figured I'd only run a mile, maybe a mile and a half. So I ran away from Alex and Joey, who were at a playground, and at first it was really slow. My legs were tight. Then, a short hill really got the best of me, it felt like mt. everest. It was when I turned left onto a flat bicycle path when I started to feel a little better, and by the time I had circled around back to alex and joey (which was 1 mile, my original planned course), I decided to go up that hill again. It felt like an anthill the second time, and I turned right this time onto the bike path, not knowing exactly where it was going to lead me, because I was feeling very good. Ended up going all the way down into downtown ramsey before turning around and heading back towards the playground. Finished very strong, three times my original intended length. And at a pretty good pace (for me), too - sub-11 minute miles.


Yesterday I linked a great article written by the guy in charge of the boston marathon, about running with music. Based on his observations, about 90% of the people who were on his running path the day he was watching were listing to some sort of MP3 player or other music-listening device. His results are consistent with another informal survey that I did during yesterday's 12-miler - almost everyone had some sort of music device, from the cheap radio-headphones-combo-with-a-dorky-antenna-sticking-out from the early-90s, to the ipod.

The problem with these things is that they're not liked by law-enforcement people, because people who are vulnerable to crime become more vulnerable. They're not particularly liked by emergency medical types as well, because being less aware of surroundings sometimes leads to unfortunate encounters with cars, bicycles, and wildlife. But both groups understand that most people understand the risk and take it anyway. I am one of those people.

The issue arises with a governing organization of runners - USA Track & Field. They've recently added a rule that events sanctioned by the USATF must ban headphones. Most major running events (including marathons) and a lot of minor ones are sanctioned by the USATF, and are therefore obligated to follow their rules. The official rule states that headphones and portable music players are considered aid, but Dave McGillivray in the article provides a little insight to another reason - insurance. You see, one of the benefits race directors receive when they get their event USATF-sanctioned is USATF insurance, which, as you can imagine, is quite important. Apparently, the underwriters of the insurance are requiring it.

Ok. I hate this rule with a violent passion, though I hated this rule a lot more before McGillivray's article clarified the reason (headphones might be considered aid, but who cares?) But, since rules are rules, since I want to run in USATF-sanctioned events, I've got to go along with them.

I used to be a part of the 90%-that-wears-headphones crowd, but now I'm not. It was great, it added a bit of intensity to my speed workouts, and it got me caught up in podcasts/sermons on the longer workouts. I feel, now that I run without one, that sometimes my workouts aren't as intense as they used to be. Yesterday's LSD got really long and even a little boring. But - and this is a big but - I'm still adjusting to the idea of not running with an ipod. You see, there was a lot missing from my workouts, and my longer runs were a lot more boring, when I first tried running without the music. But, as with anything, the more running I did without it, the more I got used to it's absence. And it's not bad now, really. Running without music can be boring, but it does give me a little time to think and be alone with myself. That's pretty cool, and sometimes I'm glad I've learned to do it that way. Other times, I'd rather have the iPod. But I definitely don't need it anymore.

Which may be the bottom line here- as much as I like running with an iPod, I don't want to be dependent on that iPod so I could run. It potentially adds another excuse to NOT run, and I don't need any more excuses. I need reasons to go out.

Of course, there are INCREDIBLE podcasts out there, designed for listening to while running! Phedippidations, which I've mentioned here, is an example. Podrunner, which plays music at x beats per minute so you can pick one according to the type of workout you intend to do, is another. I listen to these wishing that I was running.. but I really have no choice but to avoid relying on these.

Now, once I'm completely weened off the idea of running with music (which I pretty much am already), I might add it back in to my workouts on a limited basis.. maybe to listen to during speedwork, or maybe to listen to for the last hour of a 3-hour long run. The idea is to gain the benefit of having this device, without developing the dependency on it. We'll see.

9 consecutive days down, 12 to go. Log of today's run.

Aug 4, 2007

aggressive training goals


My 12-mile LSD today could not possibly have gone any better. Seeing as it was about 8 miles longer than any distance I've continuously run since the 2006 LV marathon, I was a little skeptical going into it. Turns out that I felt so good after 9 miles that I took the last lap about 90 seconds/mile faster than the first three.

This was my test - if it went horribly wrong, I would not sign up for a 50k next month. If it was hard but ok, I would sign up.

It wasn't even hard.. so... anyone going to be in Hartford CT for a little ultramarathon on Sept 22?

Yesterday's run was trails in Campgaw mountain state park. Worried about today's LSD, I kept it really easy by jogging 1.75 miles nice and slow. Was working from home so I did it during lunch during the hottest part of a heatwave day. Tried to avoid hills as much as possible but trail running is trail running. I was done in 22 minutes. It was my seventh consecutive day running.

Thursday's was another easy run. I meant to take it very easy because of the heat, but since it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, I added another mile. The interesting thing about it was that I was really craving food&water during the last half-mile. I probably allowed myself to get dehydrated. I admit that I binged a little that night after the run, but hey, 6 consecutive days of running. I deserved it.

And as of right now, I'm 8 days down, 13 to go.

GPS logs:
Today's 12-miler Friday's trail run Thursday's

Since it's saturday, my weekly total, including today's run, is 25.58 miles.

So, that's the news.
I am feeling very confident in my running these days. I've never felt so strong on the hills, and I also don't think my endurance was ever this high, even at the peak of last year's marathon training. I don't know why. I mean, I know I've lost a lot of weight, but I'm still 285lbs. As far as training, I went months without any running at all, and even up until this last week, I've not been consistent with my training. I kind of feel like I don't deserve the endurance and strength that I do have. But since I have it, I'm going to use and develop it. I've also decided that I'm going to take advantage of my ability to recover quickly, and do long LSDs every weekend until I can taper for the 50k next month. I've spent a lot of time listening to coaches and reading literature, and it keeps occurring to me that anything published like that is written conservatively such that people who are particularly susceptible to injury can avoid it. I have decided that I'll be more aggressive with my training than most coaches recommend, because I am not susceptible to injury.

For example, nearly everything I've read says "don't add more than 10% per week to your LSD or weekly distances." That is one piece of advice that I'm not going to follow, because my schedule is not going to allow it. My LSD next week will probably be 15 miles or more, and that represents a 25% increase over this week's LSD.

Now, a lot of you (probably all 3 of you) are thinking that I'm stupid and taking unnecessary risks. You're probably right. But last year I tried it your way. I followed a published training schedule. When I experienced chest pain that I knew was due to windpipe irritation, I followed well-intentioned (and sound) advice went to a cardiologist (which caused a 3-week delay in my training, because that was the soonest appointment I could get.) The first thing the cardiologist, who knew why I was there, said when she met me is, "Steve, you're 30 years old. what the hell are you doing in my office?" She was saying a lot in those two sentences. But more significantly, I just got bored with it. Right now, for the first time, I'm really excited about my training because I'm seeing such dramatic improvements.

You're probably still thinking "Steve, you shouldn't add so much to a training schedule so quickly." To which I respond, "I shouldn't be running a 50-mile or even a 50-k ultramarathon either! Nobody should be running those!" You see, my aggressive goals warrant an aggressive training schedule.

Well, I know I still haven't convinced you, but that's ok because you are following a training schedule that works for you. I am doing one that works for me. You probably shouldn't be doing what I am doing, but your life, your interests, your goals, your values, your tolerance for risk, and your drive is not the same as mine. It's not better or worse, more or less. It's just different. And whatever you do, exercise-related or not, is a reflection of that. In my case, the bottom line is I'm slow to get injured, quick to recover, and young - and it won't always be this way. So I'm going to take advantage of it. I am more likely to get injured than if I followed the more conservative training plants, but that's the risk I'm willing to take.

ok, enough of that.

Read a very interesting article this week about running with iPods. It was written by Dave McGillivray, who is the race director of the Boston Marathon. I'll post some thoughts about this controversial issue in my next post. This one is already too long.

Until tomorrow,

Aug 2, 2007

Wait, what?!? Recognition?!

I am a ring bearer. I bear rings.

The host of "Phedippidations - Thoughts, Opinions, Observations, and Rambling Diatribes Composed During Distance Long Runs", repeatedly refers his podcast and himself as "goofy." Today, he proved just how goofy he is by making my silly blog his "featured blog of the week." I mean, what was he thinking??

Seriously.. SteveRunner, thanks for the recognition. I know you don't think you deserve it, but I really look up to you, and it means a lot to me that you'd even read my blog, much less feature it on your podcast. Who knows, as a result of this, I might increase my number of concerned readers to 3! wow!

Everyone who doesn't know about Phedippidations ought to go to and give it a listen. It certainly is better than anything on TV these days, which, I know, is not saying much. But give it a try, maybe you'll like it too.


50k time limit

the third-best "ah-beets" in new haven probably is at modern apizza, very good and without the lines.

I just visited the web site of the North Face's Endurance 50k Challenge and came across some very, very good news. The time limits seem to have been extended, or maybe I'm just dumb and miscalculated it the first time I saw it. Either way, I don't have a 7-hour limit, but a 9-hour. That is fantastic news and I may just go ahead and sign up for it now, because I'm pretty sure that I can finish in nine hours. My marathon in Las Vegas last year was about 6:45, but I really didn't train in the two months prior to it - I knew that had the marathon occurred about a month and a half earlier, I probably could have pulled a sub-6-hour finish time. I'll be at least at that level of endurance by September 22. Still, I am about 40lbs lighter than I was in December 06 (325lbs then, 285 now), and hopefully will be almost 70lbs lighter come 50k date. Bottom line, I was taking a lot of time wondering if I could pull off a 7-hour finish.

But 9 hours? no problem. That's averaging a 17:24 pace. Even if I had to walk the last 20 miles of it (I probably won't), I could still pull a 9-hour finish. It'll be a test of my mental toughness, but that's why I want to do ultras in the first place. How am I going to do this? I've really got to go long on my long runs, and make them weekly instead of every other week. Spend a lot of time focusing on recovery and injury prevention. Attempt to lose as much weight as possible (which counters the whole recovery thing. nobody said it would be easy.) And maybe, just maybe - do a marathon two weeks prior to the event. DOH. let me check an online marathon calendar and see what's going on........ newark, delaware. looks like a fun race and the price is right, but too far. nothing going on 3 weeks prior either. oh well.

as a final test, before i register, i am going to attempt to "yo-yo" the 6-mile saddle river county park bike path in NJ. it is an asphalt paved road with lots of runners and a couple of short hills, at least one of them steep. my confidence is really high right now, because i've never been this strong a runner, especially on hills - but i also haven't done a whole lot of long runs. so how I finish and recover from a 12 mile run this weekend will be the test I need to see if I am capable of training for this thing. I'll do my best to take it low and slow, slow and low, and assess myself the next day (I know that immediately at the end of it, i'll say NO WAY I CAN DO THAT 2 1/2 MORE TIMES, so I'll wait till the next day to assess myself.)

if that goes well, i might try to trail-run mount marcy, the highest point in new york, in three weekends. that, at this point, is a vaguely-conceived idea though - so don't count on that. but it is possible.

ok, enough of that.
here's another excellent study from amby burfoot's peak performance blog:
To Lose Weight, Get On Scales Every Day: There Are No Psychological Problems
Several studies have shown that daily weigh-ins help people lose weight. But there have also been arguments that such a strict routine could lead to psychological problems. A Brown University team studied this issue, and came up with no evidence of psychological harm. Rather they found that daily weighing helped weight-loss efforts, reduced bingeing episodes, and decreased depression scores. Source: Journal Of Consulting And Clinical Psychology. More

Today's run is going to be short and sweet. Looks like it'll be the hottest day of the year - well over 90º - so I'm probably just going to go a mile or two nice and easy. I'm thinking I'll work from home on Friday and do an easy trail run of a mile or two. Then, on saturday, yo-yo the entire saddle river trail in the heat.

Until next time,


Aug 1, 2007

being happy for what i have

Barry Bonds' dog

Three bad pieces of news in three days.
1.) A guest at our wedding, who admittedly we haven't kept in touch with since she broke up with her boyfriend, died in her sleep a couple of days ago. She was 35 years old and 8 months pregnant. They found her the next morning. Alex is particularly disturbed about this.
2.) A good friend of mine is going in for emergency surgery today (actually he should be out of it by now). He's been fighting cancer since 2003, and it's been a very long and hard battle for him. He's still strong, and maybe it's just me, but today's news hit me hard. a tumor in his spine caused a disc to collapse, so that's what his surgery is for. What is making it hard for me is the fact that if he knew about a lump in his spine, he hadn't mentioned it - it has been lung cancer which has spread to his liver (i think.) he's about my age.
3.) The church we've been attending for about a month and a half has a member who was very seriously injured in a rugby accident. Internal bleeding, kidney and other organ failure. He was not expected to make it through Monday, but he's surprised everybody and is responding to treatment (praise god.) However, he is still in critical condition. His ten-year old boy is apparently extremely upset and hasn't been eating. He also has a 4-year old, who's probably too young to understand the magnitude of the situation. I've never met this person, but being a former rugby player, and this being relatively small church, this, too is hitting me hard.

I think today's run is going to be easy. I'm going to put on my brand-new trail running shoes and run a short out-and-back, flat course at harriman. And while I normally consider statements like what i'm about to say to be hopelessly cheesy even if authentic, I will try to appreciate the fact that I can go out and do a run in a beautiful place on a beautiful day...

going out now.

ok i'm back..
i'm surprised. i remember this trail being flat.. and in fact i gained ~260 feet in about 9/10ths of a mile. not super-steep, but making a supposed "recovery-run" fun. took it nice and easy, practiced running on rocks and roots, tried out my new trail runners, had some fun, and enjoyed the scenery and, believe it or not, solitude - proving that there is such a thing in harriman state park, even on the pine meadow lake trail - but if you want to be alone, you have to take it on a weekday.

i'm calling this a trail recovery fun run, and calling yesterday's run a fartlek/hill run.. because that is kind of what it was.

5 days down, 16 to go. motionbased log