Archives for posts with tag: Marine Corps Marathon

So the Marine Corps Marathon, my 11th race over 26.2 miles, is done, dusted and will go into the books as definitely one of my better and more enjoyable marathon experiences.

For the record, my time was 3:42:21 and was my best time in 2 years, and my 4th best time to date. It was significant improvement over the dismal 4:15 I ran in Seattle in June, although perhaps my time in DC was more a reflection of how bad that Seattle run was, as much as how good the DC time ended up being.

Without a doubt, I would say I was as well trained as I’ve ever been for a marathon, and on reflection, probably ended up finishing with a little left in the tank at the end, which is OK, and good to know for future races where I’m really pushing for a stretch time goal. Here are a few observations on how the race went for me, maybe you’ll recognize some of these things, or find them useful reference points for the future:

Training doesn’t lie. The training is actually something I’m really proud of. 101 runs and over 900 miles covered including the race itself. Over 130 hours of effort, focus and discipline over 18 weeks. I learned to properly incorporate speed and strength runs, tempo runs, and learned the importance of easy runs in building aerobic fitness. I went into the race with some confidence that I could run a good race, because I knew I’d put the effort in.

Day 1 to the race itself. The numbers behind the run.

Day 1 to the race itself. The numbers behind the run.

I had a good race strategy. I studied the course, knew by and large what to expect and when to expect it, and figured out where I wanted to attack, and where I wanted to hold. I didn’t panic when I got stuck behind slower runners at the start and was able to run negative splits – my fastest mile was actually a 7:59 at mile 24. Like I said, I probably finished with a little left in the tank, which was fine.

I fueled properly, and to plan. Having studied more about a body’s nutritional requirements during endurance activity, I was way, way smarter about it than I’ve ever been. My pre-race fueling was spot on, and during the race itself I took my fuel when and where I wanted to. Hard to believe I’ve completed races with little to know in-race nutrition in the past, and totally helps explain some of my poorer efforts of the past.

The extra-curricular and peripheral activities were well managed. We got into DC 3 days ahead of the race, which definitely helped from a body clock standpoint, and I was careful to rest up the day before, rather than spending the day on my feet sightseeing (and God knows I’ve made that mistake before). No thanks to the race organizers (see below) I got to the start in good time and was able to do the bag drop, porta-potty and warmup thing without any stress. Any one of these things is small on its own, but added up, they can contribute to making the race itself a less than happy experience if you’re not careful. Put it another way, what a shame to undermine 18 weeks of training by not paying attention to some of these details on race weekend itself.

So what about the Marine Corps Marathon itself? Did it live up to it’s billing as ‘The People’s Marathon’ and one of the US’s biggest races?

First off, DC was a brilliant place to visit and for me this is a ‘must-do’ marathon if you are in to the idea of destination marathons. I’d never been to the nation’s capital before and I was not disappointed. So much history, great art, fantastic monuments and museums – I’ll definitely go back and spend more time there, no doubt, and for that reason alone I highly recommend the MCM.

Secondly, the course was, by and large, a great course. Apart from the first two miles and a few rollers later on, the course was reasonably flat and fun to run. The course was generally scenic, and took us through some parks and past some of the great monuments (although I’d be lying to say I paid much attention to them while I was running!). There are quite a few twists and turns in the course, and I got some solid advice from my fellow blogger ishouldrun who advised me to take care to run the tangents, so consider those wise words shared.

Leaving the Capitol Building behind at around mile 19

Leaving the Capitol Building behind at around mile 19

The crowds were fantastic and super encouraging, and the ‘Blue Mile’ where there were pictures of fallen Marines  lining the route was incredibly moving, and brought tears to my eyes. Being able to finish in the shadow of the Iwo Jima statue and have my (awesome) medal presented to me by a Marine were also absolute highlights. So lots of positives.

Loved getting my medal by this incredible memorial

Loved getting my medal by this incredible memorial

That said, there were a few well documented missteps in organization that the race directors and sponsors really do need to iron out going forward, a couple of which were really surprising given this was the race’s 40th anniversary.

Expo lines. Personally I’m always grateful for the sponsors who put their money into the staging of these events, especially a great Seattle HQ’d company like Brooks. No doubt it was unfortunate that the credit card machines went down (at least I think that is what happened) but it didn’t look like there was much of a Plan B in place, and the lines to buy race branded merchandise were horrendous. I figure it must have cost Brooks six figures in lost retail sales, not to mention some brand frustration.

Security lines on race morning. Especially after what happened in Boston, the MCM is always going to be a high profile event requiring some thought around security, and as a participant I’m grateful for every measure put in place to keep me, my fellow runners, the spectators, volunteers and emergency services safe. That said, the level of traffic flowing into the runners village was entirely predictable in terms of volume (they knew how many people planned to run the race) and timing (they knew when they planned to start the event), so the entirely inadequate number of security check points and metal detectors (which were eventually turned off anyway) was completely inexcusable in my book.

Why were spectators allowed into the Runners Village at the start? This was just crazy, and added to the general confusion and mounting frustration at the start. There were people with strollers and rucksacks etc, etc, all trying to jam through the same number of checkpoints as the runners themselves, and if you think I’m over-reacting, think about this next time you are running late for a flight, and you get to the security line only to find that everybody who came to drop off departing passengers were also going through security to wave them off at the gate. I know of a number of people ended up starting 15-20 mins late despite arriving the requested 2 hours ahead of the scheduled start – not good enough.

Lack of structured corral management. Some races do this very well, and with good reason – it makes total sense for the fastest runners to start first, with progressively slower runners starting behind them, so that people do not have to expend precious energy dodging and weaving through traffic so that they can run at their own pace. This didn’t happen in DC – it was entirely voluntary, which resulted in a ton of slower runners starting ahead, jamming up the course for people who wanted to run faster. Again, it might seem like a small thing, but if you’ve trained hard, and are seeking a personal record or BQ, losing precious minutes at the start to an entirely avoidable issue is a big deal.

Finishers and family meet-up area. This wasn’t an issue for me, but I read a number of complaints about how narrow the area was where runners exited the course and met up with their family and friends. Looking at the geography of the area, it wasn’t clear to me exactly how else this could have been done, and to my it seems a small price to pay for the honor of finishing by the Marine Corps Memorial.

Happy to see these guys at the end. Never underestimate the value of your support team!

Happy to see these guys at the end. Never underestimate the value of your support team!

The good news is that any one of these gripes are easily solved by better planning and forethought, and ultimately none of them ruined my experience at all. Doesn’t mean it could not have been organized better, and I’m sharing these things with you now more as a heads up to anyone planning to run the MCM next year. Whatever the problems mentioned above, I unreservedly recommend running it, both for the experience of the race itself, and the great time you can have staying in DC.

What about you? If you ran the race, what did you think of it? Did it live up to your expectations and would you do it again?

That’s all for now folks. I’ve had a week off and am now just enjoying getting out on a few easy runs and thinking about what I’m going to do next. In the meantime, lets all keep moving.

T- 9 hours and counting on the road to DC and the Marine Corps Marathon.

So this is it. A fitful few hours of sleep and I’ll be off to the start of my 11th marathon. The training runs have been done, the expo has been explored, and the carbs have been loaded. All that remains is for the race to be run.

Yoko, Ken and Rob -

Yoko, Ken and Rob – ‘preparing to launch’

I can’t speak for any of my fellow marathon runners, but even after having done ten of these, I still get nervous (or should that be ‘excited’?) as hell before each and every one of these.

It’s definitely become a ‘thing’, this running habit of mine, something I often underestimate during the long months of training that have gotten me to this point. I couldn’t have imagined even just a few years ago that I would call myself a runner, yet it’s become something so integral to my way of life today that it’s hard to believe it was just 5 1/2 years ago that I crossed my first marathon start line.

I’m grateful I found this ‘thing’ in my life, and whatever time I manage to complete the course in tomorrow, there is no doubt in my mind that I’m a better person for having made the commitment to do it.

Speaking of gratitude:

Thank you Jo – for the years of love, support, encouragement and dare I say tolerance of my habit. Without you I don’t ever make it to the start line xxx.

Thank you to my girls – my inspiration for each and every step.

Thank you to Yoko, Adam and family. My extended running family since the very first race, and here with us yet again.

Thank you to Ken for his wonderful hospitality and generosity to us on this visit. Amazing.

Thank you to all my friends and family, runners and non-runners alike. So many of you have inspired and encouraged me in ways you won’t even realize, whether through your own achievements and dedication to your own passions, or just even a friendly acknowledgment of what I’m up to here.

Finally, thank-you to The Marines, to whom this marathon is dedicated. Us runners make some small personal sacrifices along the way to achieve a goal of running of 26.2 miles. As I run tomorrow I shall do my very best to keep these efforts in proper perspective and remember all that you, and your brothers and sisters in arms do and have done, all too often paying the ultimate price, in defense of the rest of us, without question or debate. It will truly be an honor to ‘Run With The Marines’.

Goodnight, and good luck tomorrow everyone.

Rob

16 weeks down and 2 to go on the road to DC.

Whenever I talk to non-runners about marathon running, one of the comments I almost invariably hear (other than “you’re crazy”), is “I could never run 26 miles”. Of course this palpably isn’t true Read the rest of this entry »

5 weeks to DC

A small golf clap to myself for setting a new personal benchmark. I ran 61 miles in the past week, the first time ever that I’ve taken my weekly running total over the 60 miles threshold.

There is no special significance to this other than the fact that I set out to achieve it as part of this training cycle and that I did it. It isn’t close to an elite distance (it’s about half of what an elite athlete might run in a week), and no doubt tens of thousands of other recreational runners ran more than that this week, but somehow 60 feels good, and worthy of note.

I know how hard it was for me to train to this point, and it felt really good as I ran the last couple of miles of my long run today, knowing I was going past the 60 mile barrier for the first time (and feeling strong at the same time).

There are still five weeks to race day and i’m glad for that time. There are still things I need to work on, and many more miles I need to run before I can line up at the start feeling confident and ready.

So, for now, “yay, 60 miles!”, and lets keep moving.

The breakdown of the 60 mile week:

week 13

Cumulative training to date:

week 13_cuml

8 weeks to DC.

Last week was a good great week. The kind of week that makes you think you’ve cracked this running thing, that all the bleeding nipples, sweat and tears have been worth it, and that maybe things are clicking into place. A week to stop, smell the roses, and then get on with the remaining 8 weeks of training.

So what does a good week look like to me? Well, it goes something like this:

Monday | Easy Run | 6.25 Miles

This is the easiest, hardest, most important run of the week. Easy, because it’s only 6 miles and at an intentionally slow pace. My training plan says I should be running these at about a 9:27 pace, which is pretty slow for me, but I’m bringing them in around the 9:05 pace, which is comfortable. Hard, because it’s actually tough to slow down and run at a slow pace. Hard because it’s usually the day after my long run, when my legs are still sore from a 16 or 18 miler on Sunday, and when even dragging my ass round a 6 mile loop in the neighborhood can really seem like a chore. Most important, because you just have to get your week off to a good start. Miss Monday and you are playing catch up all week. Miss Monday and everything is off balance. You can’t hit the ground running if you miss Monday.

Tuesday | Strength Run | 6 x 1 Mile Repeats (+400m jog intervals + 1 mile warm up / cool down)

Speed and strength training are key (according to the books I read!) to improving race pace, and running faster for longer. This type of training is brand new to me in 2015, and something that has added some interesting and really challenging variety to my training. Earlier in my plan I was doing speed workouts at the track, and now I’m back out on the road and trails with longer distance repeats. Last week I went around Greenlake under some mean and moody skies, dodging the debris of the prior weekend’s windstorm, and hoping I got finished before the heavens opened. It’s also the kind of run that tests your self motivation – it’s just you vs. your stopwatch with target paces that are designed to be challenging, and specifically faster than your goal marathon pace. If you’re not tired at the end of these runs you’re not pushing yourself hard enough.

Wednesday | Rest Day

I don’t think you can underestimate the value of a rest day. This isn’t just about doing nothing, it’s about letting your body and mind soak up the exertions of previous days and take profit from the work you have been putting in. I believe they are key to reducing the risk of injury, and key to helping to keep your spirits up when things are becoming a bit of a slog, which inevitably they can, even with something you are passionate about. All running and no rest make Rob a sore boy. I love me some Wednesday.

Thursday | Tempo Run | 8 Miles (+1 mile warm up and cool down)

The purpose of a tempo run is to practice running ever increasing distances at your target race pace, and for me, this is one of the best barometers of how my training is going. I mean, if I’m completely knackered running 8 miles at my target pace (8:23 for the record), then good luck to me getting through 26.2 at a similar pace.  Last week I blew the doors off it. I don’t know why, but I just felt really good, and I let it go, running sub 8’s on all but one mile. I usually wouldn’t do this – the purpose is to practice running at a specific pace – but last week I felt good and just decided to open up and let go.

Friday | Easy Run | 8 Miles

It was relaxed, it was 8 miles, it was fun. I ran it too quickly (and I really need to watch that).

Saturday | Long Run | 16 Miles

View from Fremont Bridge

Towards Lake Union from Fremont Bridge. Just one of great views I enjoy running around Seattle

Typically I’ve been running long on Sundays, but this week my schedule had me move the long run to Saturday. The weather was perfect; sunny, but about 10 degrees cooler than it has been of late, and I had a real determination to follow up the prior weekend’s 18 miler with a strong 16.

Generally I love long runs. They can be a real test of will (especially when it’s blowing a gale or hammering down with rain), and, unlike say a 6 mile easy run which you can just lace up and go on, they are something you need to prepare for. You need to watch what you eat and drink the night before and the morning of, you need to consider clothing, and you need to think about how you will hydrate and feed yourself on the 2 – 3 hours you’ll be on your feet, not to mention thinking about the route. I’m always aware of route planning for long runs, and I take care to think about where I’ll be at my furthest point from ‘home’, be that my actual home or where I parked my car. Measuring distance is a refined art, because the online mapping tools don’t always get it spot on and there is nothing more frustrating than reaching your intended finish point after a grueling 16 miler only to find you still have another 3/4 miles to go according to your GPS. Ultimately the long training run is pretty much like preparing for an actual marathon, which I guess is the point!

Over the years I’ve had good long runs and bad ones. I’ve finished dead on my feet, and finished with energy to burn. Whisper it, but a couple of times I’ve had to call in a ride home because I’ve miscalculated something and ran out of juice before getting home.

In keeping with this particularly awesome week, all I can say is I really enjoyed this run. I decided to repeat the same course as two weeks prior when I’d had such a bad time of it, figuring that it would be a good measure of progress. I’m pleased to say it went very well. Although my overall pace was similar across the two runs, I ran negative splits this time (which I was delighted with), and at the end, despite tripping and falling (embarrassing and not a little painful) at around mile 14, I finished the run feeling like I had a lot more gas in the tank, as opposed to the totally beat feeling I had running the same course two weeks ago. A real confidence booster.

Sunday | Easy Run | 6.4 Miles

Rob & Yoko

Can’t beat running with old friends

The best thing about what otherwise would have been a perfunctory two laps of Greenlake was that it was the first time in literally months that I was able to run with my longtime training partner and dear friend Yoko. This year, for a multitude of reasons, our schedules, fitness levels, training goals and even desire to run have not been in synch, so it was an absolute treat to get out and catch up. Yoko is also running in DC, so hopefully we’ll get a couple more runs in together before the main event.

So why was this week such a good week? I mean it was the 10th week of 18, nothing special from that point of view, and not a point in previous training cycles where I’d had any kind of breakthrough.

I attribute it to a combination of factors:

  • The training is beginning to work
  • The weather has cooled off a bit
  • I took one (the first!) unscheduled rest day the previous week
  • The stars just happened to align

Whatever the reason, It’s important to recognize those moments along the way when everything just goes right, as opposed to always lamenting and accenting the negatives. I think a positive frame of mind can go a long way, and if nothing else, hopefully helps to put a smile on other peoples faces. Long may it continue, and even if the next week, or the one after that don’t quite go as planned, I’ll be looking forward and expecting that the next great week is just around the corner.

My numbers for the week and my training to date are below. Keep moving, and keep smiling my friends.

Last week’s awesome numbers looked like this:

week10

And for my training to date:

week 10 cumulative

Half-way to DC

I have now happily blown past the official half-way point in my 18 week journey to the Marine Corps Marathon start line. The mid-point of any kind of project or activity (especially one that is sustained over several months, like a marathon training plan) is always an interesting moment in time. If things are going well, it can put a spring in your step and fire you into the second half in good spirits. Alternatively it can breed over-confidence and actually cause a dip in the effort required, by tricking your mind into thinking all the hard work has already been done.

On the other hand, if your training has not gone as expected (and that can be for any number of reasons; health, pressures of real life, motivation or whatever), then half-time is an opportunity to reset, refocus and redouble your efforts to get on track. With 9 weeks to go (and assuming you’ve been doing some training, maybe just not enough, or just not the right training) I think you still have time to get to the start line in some kind of shape. It may be that you need to modify your goals and expectations for your target race, but at half-way all is not completely lost – you still have time to get your shit together.

So how about me? I think overall, I’ll give myself a solid B grade. Some things are going really well and I am hitting my marks, whereas hand on heart, in some other categories, I know I have room for improvement.

Here is the breakdown so far:

Progress Against Plan:

I’m really happy with this. In the 9 weeks of training (which ended Aug 23rd) I was batting 1.000 on scheduled workouts. 53 training runs planned and 53 workouts run. I’m going to tell you this is not as easy as it looks. Pressure of time, weather (and remarkably in Seattle this summer that has meant ‘too hot’, not ‘too wet’), motivation, and in some cases straight up fatigue have all been my enemies in getting it done. But get it done I have.

I’ve been to the track for my speed interval sessions, run my weekly tempo runs, and in every case I have hit my time marks (some with more room to spare than others). I’m doing all my long runs, and although I’m not blowing away my time goals, I’m hitting them, and that is what counts.

What could I do better here? Well, I could still run my ‘easy’ runs slower and I’m worried that over the course of the plan this is actually detrimental to my overall effort. More on ‘easy’ running another time. I’m also not thrilled with the quality of my long runs. I’ve been up to 16 miles twice so far, once was fine (and by fine I mean I ran at or just above target long run pace, and felt like I had juice in the tank at the end), and once I totally bonked and could not have run another step once my watch beeped me at 16 miles. I’m not sure why, but the key with bad runs as I’ve learned along the way is not to dwell on them. If there is something obvious to fix, then fix it, otherwise just put them behind you and move on. 

Body:

Hmmm. Man I am tired. And more than a little achy. The massages continue to help me, no doubt about that, but the cumulative effect of 53 runs in 9 weeks, and 50+ miles a week on the road and track are leaving me sore. I’m going to dial back a little on the overall volume (not the intensity) for a couple of weeks to see if that helps. My Achilles tendons are definitely letting me know they are not happy with me right now and all up I think I just need a bit more rest.

Nearly all the conventional wisdom in training is that it is better to be under-trained than over-trained, and I think I’m building a good enough base to handle a few less miles for a couple of weeks. 

ComparisonI compared my stats for the first half of this 18 week cycle with the full cycle of training I did when I ran my best ever marathon (a 3:30 in Victoria in 2011), and on nearly every count I’m blowing those numbers up, hence my confidence in giving myself a slight break on running volume for a couple of weeks.

Spirit:

OK. I’m still waiting for that breakthrough moment in training when you push through the tiredness and soreness and come out the other side. When everything clicks into place and you are running smooth and easy. The running equivalent of pinging a tee shot right down the middle of the fairway or catching a soccer ball sweetly on the half-volley, and rippling the net. I’m not there yet. But I will get there. 

More to the point, I am really excited about going to DC. Never been before, and it’s going to be great.

Other stuff:

I’m doing better on the long run hydration, still figuring out the in-run nutrition, and as per my last post, have some great new running shoes, so all is good on that front. My overall diet is still all over the shop however, and I have some reading and research lined up to see what I can learn about improving on this front. 

That’s it for now. Whatever you are working on, and whatever stage of progress you are at, take a moment to celebrate where you are, how far you’ve come, and keep your eyes on the objective ahead of you. It’s not done, till it’s done. For me, that is the start line in DC. Can’t wait.

Keep on moving.

Week 7: Putting a new spring in my step on the road to DC

Growing up as I did with three sisters, and now being the proud father of three daughters, I am well versed in what I shall call, ‘the magic of new shoes’. My sisters, but especially it seems, my daughters, love buying shoes. In fact one of the moments I officially realized I had become my father was when my then 16 year old came downstairs in the heeliest pair of high heels, and I heard myself uttering the words “you’re not going out in those” (of course, she did).

I would go as far to say as that in my house, the best indicator that the seasons are beginning to turn, is the inevitable delivery of a large box from Nordstrom, replete with this year’s new winter boots for Mrs. G. Were this a scene from Game of Thrones, I could picture myself holding said box aloft and saying, ‘Winter is coming Jon Snow, the Gods have sent us a message and the boots have arrived.’

But here’s the thing, as a runner, I get it. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE getting new running shoes. What is admittedly a little weird about this love of the new shoe is that unlike my daughters (with their high heels, ballet flats, wedges, sandals, trainers, Birkenstocks, Converse, I could go on but I won’t….), I almost always just buy new pairs of what I’ve already got. They are not new models, or different brands or styles, it’s just “can I have two pairs of exactly the same thing I bought last time?”

Happy Feet

Happy Feet

There are of course some very practical considerations. Running shoes are to most runners, the single most essential piece of kit we own, and we spend many hours (and if I’m honest about this after 6 years of running, several thousand dollars), finding the best type of shoe for our feet, weight, running style and type of running. Once we’ve found the perfect shoe, we tend to stick with it come hell or high water, not wanting to change what we have found to work for us. More than once I’ve made the mistake of changing brand and type of running shoe, and have found myself injured and uncomfortable pretty much every time. So when I find a winning shoe, I stay with it, and I can tell you, there is nothing worse than hearing that the model of shoe you have grown to love is being ‘discontinued’.

If you are reading this and are new to running, do yourself a favor and spend the time getting a good pair of shoes that are fitted well. If you plan to run regularly it really does matter, and can make the difference between a happy, uninterrupted start to your running career or discomfort and maybe a more debilitating injury that will slow you down. There is a great guide to finding your ideal type of running shoe here at runnersworld.com, and beyond that, I strongly advise going to your local specialty running store and having yourself fitted for shoes by an expert.

Beyond the practical stuff, I have to say there is also something quite zen-like about the act of pulling on a new pair of running shoes. Given that I put upwards of 300 miles on every pair of shoes, I always find value in taking a moment to pause and to wonder about the places I’ll go, the things I’ll see, the thoughts I’ll have and the problems I’ll solve when I’m out on the road. To think about the improvements I can make in my fitness, the calories I’ll burn, the pounds I might lose and the stamina I’ll gain. To imagine the changes that might incur in my wider life, what job I might be doing, how my oldest will get on at college, how my wife’s new job might pan out, and wonder if Arsenal will actually win a few games. There is something quite renewing and hopeful even about new shoes, and I would say that they literally, and metaphorically, put a real spring in my step.

As for my old shoes, well they always go to a good home either at Goodwill, or to a charity collection point that are found at most marathon expos. They go with my thanks for taking care of me through the miles of training and racing, and for propelling me from my past to my future.

For the record, I run to the moon wearing Adidas Energy Boost running shoes, which you can read about here, and I can assure you (and I say this with genuine regret) that absolutely no promotional consideration has been paid to me by the manufacturer for mentioning their product in this post.

Finally, and in defense of myself and no doubt many other runners who have to deal with questions at home like “why the hell do you need so many pairs of running shoes?” I will leave you with the words of wisdom from the Queen of Shoes, Imelda Marcos:

“I did not have three thousand pairs of shoes, I had one thousand and sixty.”

Lace up and keep moving people.

For the record, last week I did this:

wk7

And through 7 weeks of training I’ve done this:

wk7_cum

Week 6: Drinking from the fountain of youth on the road to DC.

I’m going to start this post with a (true) story.

One of the truly greatest memories of my running life to date came in my very first half marathon, back in 2009, when I was completely and utterly schooled in the art of race pacing by someone comfortably 10-15 years my senior.

Picture the scene – I’m in the starting corral, all fired up, nervous as hell about my first ‘proper’ race, but feeling good about the training I’ve done and ready to come in under the 2:00hr time limit I set as my race goal. I get chatting with this lovely lady, probably in her mid to late 50’s who has run a couple of full and a few half marathons and is also shooting for a sub-two hour finish. Now I remember this lady well as she was wearing a very distinctive pink singlet and black gloves, and as I bombed off at the start, I thought I’d never see her again because, being the cocky, over-confident bloke that I was back before a few races had roundly kicked my ass, there was no way this diminutive older woman could possibly run faster than me.

Now let’s wind the clock forward about 1 hour and 50 minutes. Having gone out way too fast and at this point running on fumes and moving my legs forward purely from memory, I am in serious risk of missing my goal. The finish line is about a 3/4 mile in the distance (for those with long memories, this was the inaugural RnR race in Seattle that finished by the stadiums), and I am seriously doubting whether I can cover the remaining distance in ten minutes. At this point, padding past me, clippity-clop, like the goddam Energizer Bunny, came the lovely lady from the start line. Left, right, left, right, steady as she goes. Past me, and on to the finish line. To this day I swear you could have offered me a million bucks to catch up with her and I don’t think I could’ve done it.

In the end I made my goal, finishing in 1:57:08, but the moral of the story was not the hard lessons learned about race pacing and bunch of other stuff I should have done differently, but rather that age as a barrier to physical ability and achievement is as much in the mind as it is in the body. It was what convinced me that I was not going to let the inevitable passage of time deter me from pushing on, getting fitter, and trying to run further and faster. I’m inspired by people who take on feats of physical intensity at ages that some of us (me included), might have considered in the past to be ‘old’ and I hope to inspire others myself with what is possible as I get older.

In fact, staying young in body and mind cuts to the heart of one of the main reasons that I love to run. Stand in the middle of any crowd, it could be a shopping mall, sporting event, or any place with lots of people, and I guarantee one of the things you can see is people who seem to be getting old before their time. People who look older than they really are. Tired, overweight, lacking in energy, I could go on.

Now…I don’t want to go on a rant about how people could and should live their lives. Everyone is different, everyone makes their choices, has their journey and their story. Individuals are responsible for themselves, their bodies and their lifestyles. I really don’t want to judge, and I am certainly not a paragon of virtue in all areas of fitness and diet. BUT, I just don’t want to look and much more importantly ‘be’ older than I really am. I don’t want to be that guy who is out of breath climbing the stairs or chasing after the kids. I don’t want to get old before my time. People sometimes joke and ask me a la Forrest Gump, “what are you running from?” I guess the answer to that question is i’m running from ‘that guy’. The tired, lacking in energy guy. I’d like to live a long and productive life, and it is for these reasons, among many more, that I run.

I have some extra motivation in that history is not on my side – my Mum and Dad have both long since gone, sadly taken by illness much, much too soon, and with three kids of my own, it is absolutely incumbent on me to do whatever is within my control to stay fit and healthy, so I can hopefully be around as long as possible, to enjoy my life, and be around to see what my kids begin to make of theirs. Not only that, but one of the best things I can do as a father is set a good example, and encourage the girls to get out and be active. I’d love it if they picked up the running bug like I have, but whatever they do, as long as they are active, and taking care of their bodies then that is fine with me.

I was encouraged recently by an article by Gretchen Reynolds in the New York Times which pointed to some research conducted by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology that suggested that older athletes have remarkably younger ‘fitness’ ages than their more sedentary peers. Although some of you may say “so what?” to this, one of the findings of this research is that those people whose ‘fitness age’ is just 15% lower than the norm for their age, have an 82% higher risk of dying early. Sobering? Maybe, but the good news is that a poor fitness age result is easily reversed – you just have to start exercising.

If you are curious to find out your fitness age, you can take the simple, 6 question test, at the link i’ve posted here.

I was feeling quite smug about the fact that the calculator told me I had a fitness age of 23 (less than half my actual age), but I was quickly brought back down to earth by calculating my BMI (Body Mass Index) and discovering I needed to lose ten pounds. Truthfully, I could have got that insight from a simple look in the mirror, but there is nothing like an online calculator to rub it in with cold, hard numbers. Anyway, like I said, I’m far from perfect when it comes to all matters of health and fitness, and I have many things to work on, weight just being one of them.

If you need more inspiration then please give me five more minutes of your time and check out these amazing athletes, all ultra-marathoners aged 70 and above. Truly incredible, and achieving things today, that I, many years their junior, can only aspire to.

Have fun and keep moving.

My numbers for the week:

wk6

And cumulatively for 6 weeks of training to date:

wk6_cum

Week 4: Establishing the ground game on the road to the Marine Corps Marathon.

I’m now almost 25% of the way through my training for DC, and now seemed as good a time as any to take a quick pause and review how things are going. 

So, without further ado:

Progress Against Plan:

Following the disappointment of the Seattle Rock and Roll Marathon, I had a choice between sticking with the Hansons Marathon Method I had been following for the first time, try something else, or revert to what had gotten me through my first 9 marathons. In the end, I decided to persevere with the Hanson plan. I really like the thinking and science behind it, and in any case,  it was me and not the plan that ran a poor race. I’ve put in a few tweaks and modifications, and with nearly 180 miles under my belt in month 1, and some speed and tempo work on-going, I’m feeling strong. More on the plan in a later post.

Body:

It’s hard to run 6 days a week (especially at my advanced age ;)) without feeling a few aches and pains – soreness and twinges are to be expected. The good news is that so far (and I know this can change with literally one wrong step), nothing more sinister has reared its head. I’m getting a bi-weekly runners focused massage which is so good I cannot believe I ran for nearly 6 years before I wised-up to how awesome it is. It’s really helping keep me loose and my muscles ‘juicy’ as my therapist Leah would say. Love it.

Spirit:

As I indicated in a previous post, I was more than a little naffed off after my last marathon, so it was important for me to get back into my groove quickly, and with a positive and upbeat frame of mind. I think I’ve achieved that so far, which is important, because if you can’t be positive and upbeat at the beginning of an 18 week training cycle, then it’s a pretty sure bet you’re going to struggle when things start to get tough around weeks 12 and 13. I’m just concentrating on training well, and enjoying my running again. All good things can flow from that.

The Rest:

There are definitely a few things I could do with tightening up. I have still not cracked the early morning running I talked about in this post, and I know I could do a better job of stuff like post run icing and stretching. My diet could also be better. On the plus side, I’m paying more attention to in-run hydration and nutrition, which is going to be helpful when it comes to showtime in October. I’ve never really cracked the best way to stay fed and watered on race day, so I’m definitely focused on trying to figure that out for once and all.

At the end of the day, the purpose of this update is just to say that I really wanted to get off to a solid start and (no pun intended), hit the ground running. Committing to an 18 week training program is one of the funnest, hardest, most challenging and most rewarding things about running marathons, and I’m glad to have you along for the ride.

Let’s all keep moving.

My numbers for last week:

w/e_Jul19

And for my plan to date:

wk4_cum

Week 3: Getting inspired on the road to the Marine Corps Marathon

What a great morning I had today.

For six years my long suffering wife Jo, a runner’s widow by any measure, has tracked me around the country, (well, the continent to be accurate), from Vancouver BC, to Phoenix, New York and Bellingham, with some Victoria and Seattle thrown in for good measure. Always a sight for sore eyes (and legs!), cheering me on, giving me that extra boost of motivation just when I need it most. One time I actually correlated my pace per mile with times I’d seen my family on the course, and perhaps to no surprise, I’d nearly always find myself running faster right around those times they popped up in the crowd.

Well today I was able to make a tiny repayment on that debt of gratitude by cheering Jo on through her first ever half marathon.

If you’ve never been to watch a race, I highly recommend it. Maybe I get more from it having completed so many races in recent years, and being able to really put myself in the shoes of those runners, but there is something so powerful, raw and honest about seeing people from all walks of life, of all body types, and from a vast spectrum of age and ability, putting themselves on the line to complete a strenuous physical goal.

Every one of them had their reasons to be there, be it a competitive goal, a fitness goal, raising money for charity or in memory of a loved one. Maybe they were doing it just because they could. Whatever the reason, those runners set their sights on a goal and got it done. The time for talking or debating about whether this was a good idea had long since passed, replaced by a bias for action and a resolve to do what they set out to do.

For me, this is one of the most impressive and motivating aspects of endurance running (and endurance sports in general). Of course the training is hard, and there are inevitable sacrifices to be made in order to be ready to compete – trust me, I am very familiar with this aspect of the sport. But sometimes, and especially for a first timer, the single hardest step to take in the whole process is that first one you take in your head, when you make that commitment to say “yes, I’m going to get this done”.

So Jo – congratulations sweetheart. Congratulations for the 13.1 miles, but most of all, congratulations for being such a good role model to the kids, for inspiring us all and for doing what you said you would do by making it to the start line. Everything else from there is (as they say in some parts of the world I have inhabited), gravy.

Jo finishing the See Jane Run Half Marathon

Jo finishing the See Jane Run Half Marathon

While this is on my mind, I thought I’d leave you with this rather wonderful quote from Hugh Laurie, that rather sums up what I feel about this:

“It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There’s almost no such thing as ready. There’s only now. And you may as well do it now. I mean, I say that confidently as if I’m about to go bungee jumping or something – I’m not. I’m not a crazed risk taker. But I do think that, generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.” (Hugh Laurie).

Whatever is on your waiting to be ready list, I think soon, is now.

Keep moving my friends.

My numbers for the week:

Numbers for week 3

And cumulatively for 3 weeks:

numbers through week 3

*with a h/t to the incomparable Smiths.

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