Archive for March 2011
Mike – it was a good week running – did my runs at the beginning and end of the week due to work schedule and business dinners. The 8 mile long run went very well – I just need to work on going out slower and doing ” negative splits” – where you run the first half of the run slower than the second half. I’m also going to look at doing my mid-week runs during my lunch hour - I found out that we have a locker room in the basement of my building that I could use to shower/change.
The biggest occurrence this week was the opportunity to attend a Galloway Running School in Flint, MI. It was a long drive (12 hrs round trip) for a 2 hr seminar but it was really worth it. Not only was it helpful to reinforce the Galloway method (I will talk more about this in a separate post this week) but was just simply motivating that we can do this. A lot of good tips and advice on nutrition, pace and mental preparedness.
Julie- This was a bit tougher for me than the last few. I didn’t feel so hot most of the week, and because of various things I only got two runs in during the week. One of those runs was on a treadmill, which can get super boring even when watchig Eat Pray Love on Netflix, and I started feeling discouraged, thinking that there is no way I’ll be able to run 26 miles in a few months. Howeer, I pushed through, and had a great 8 mile run yesterday morning. My only real struggle is that I’m getting alot of knee pain, appearing to be runner’s knee. Not sure yet what to do to correct the situation, so any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Julie and I have been really encouraged about how we have progressed as runners. That isn’t being cocky – we know we have a long way to go before the marathon – but compared to where we were even a month ago, we are ecstatic.
We got a healthy dose of reality this week when looking at the recent results from the New York City Half Marathon ….The men’s winner, Mo Farah, completed 13.1 miles in 1 hr, 23 sec and the woman’s winner, Caroline Rotich finished in 1 hr, 8 min…That is insane! Julie and I were happy with doing 6 miles in 1 hr 10 min and these athletes are running twice the distance in less time!
Many times, I have a tendency to compare myself against the “elite” of something I am attempting….and quickly become discouraged and want to give up. Whether it is playing golf or guitar, I want to be like the best – golf like Phil Mikelson or play guitar like Joe Satriani. An admiral goal but I also got to realize the reality – they have talent and they have time. The professionals that I compare myself to devote thousands of hours to their craft and perfecting it. We don’t typically see the hundreds of thousands of hours that they spend preparing for a sports event or concert. At this point in my life, I squeeze hobbies in where appropriate. And that is because I have bigger priorities than my hobbies – I have a great wife and three wonderful little guys that are more important than pursuing my interests.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m also a realist – even if I devoted myself multiple hours a day to something, I don’t think I would ever get into this elite professional category – and I need to be ok with that. We are going to talk about goals a lot in future posts but I think personally, I first need to accept “normal” and see that as a success in life and not as failure. From there, realistic goals can be set without becoming too discouraged. I’m all about challenging oneself but not going overboard.
My biggest challenge may be the question - “What is NORMAL?”
Almost three months ago, 11 weeks to be exact, I gave birth to my third adorable little boy. Unfortunately, it was also my third C-section in four years.
I have a terrible time trying to sit still for the period advised by doctors after giving birth by C-section, and this third go around was no exception. But really, when one has a 21 month old and a three year old, sitting around for 4-6 weeks with no climbing stairs, vacuming, or heavy lifting is completely unrealistic. I think I took about a day and a half off and then it was back to life as usual.
Then, 2 weeks after my doctor gave me the go ahead to start exercising, Mike and I decided ot train for a marathon. This was actually quite an undertaking because for the 10 months of my pregnancy, other than chasing my kids around and doing housework, my idea of exercise was sitting in front of The Biggest Loser enjoying a bowl of ice cream while I watched everyone else sweat.
Mike’s request for me to train with him has really been a great incentive for me to push past the initial wall that comes with exercising after having a baby. It got me up and out the door, on my way to burning off the last 15 pounds of weight I need to lose, and running sure helps with flattening the awful C-section belly that is a beast to get rid of.
The unfortunate part of exercising so hard core right now is that I can no longer pull the pregnancy card and gripe and whine about being tired, or justify eating alot of junk that calls my name. However, striving for such a big postpartum goal will ensure that I get back to my healthy self and fight the complacency in looking after one’s self that comes when you are constantly looking after your family.
Seeking to fully live,
One of the first things I learned as I started this running endeavor was the importance of pace…how fast am I going? I know that going out to fast is why I was huffing and puffing on my previous attempts at running – I burned out quickly. I know there are basic techniques out there to judge pace – the “talk test” – can you carry on a conversation while you are running or others say “listen to your body”. But for me, I’m a terrible judge of my body – and how fast I’m going. I used to have the same issue when I did a lot of cycling – go out too fast and burn out.
The first tool that was helpful for me was starting out on a treadmill – I know that a lot of serious runners don’t like treadmills but it was helpful for the first couple of weeks to be able to “dial in” a specific MPH pace. I was quickly encouraged that if I picked a reasonable running pace (I started at 5 mph or 12 min/mile), I wasn’t dying and might be able to get the hang of running.
When I moved outdoors, I was a bit scared of running because I wouldn’t know how fast I was running. Being the engineer, I chose to go with a gadget – a GPS watch – that shows my overall and lap pace. I’m not telling everyone to go out and invest in a fancy watch but for me it works. For example, during yesterday’s run, I felt great and looked at my watch and I was running an 8 min/mile – while encouraging that my fitness is improving, this is not a pace that I can carry on for a length of time. It’s also motivating when I get a bit sluggish and back off pace too much. Maybe as I progress in my running, I will not be so reliant on gadgets to tell me how I am doing.
As I was reflecting the other day, I realized a parallel to my approach to marriage. When Julie and I got married in 2005, I approached our marriage at 100 mph. I tried (key word is TRIED) to do all the right things – spend as much time as I could with her, give her lots of things and try to fix all the problems. While that may seem admirable, it didn’t work well – I didn’t give her enough space, bought her a bunch of stuff that she didn’t want or need and often created more issues by trying to play Mr FixIt. But there was an even bigger issue that I wasn’t thinking about — burnout. A few years into our marriage, I “burned out” on trying – I didn’t stop loving my wife and family. I just didn’t have the energy to try very hard – I hadn’t paced myself very well for the long haul.
I realize that I approach the rest of my marriage that I need to try hard but not burn myself out…I’m not sure exactly what that looks like practically – I wish there was a GPS watch for marriage – but I think being aware of pace is the first step.
Mike- not much stood out about this week’s training – I am still tending to increase my pace (which is good) but I also got more winded in doing that so I quickly tried to back off some. I am still fighting congestion which didn’t help. We are continuing to experiment with different fuels – gels and solids. It’s become clear that not only do you need to pick a brand but flavors that you can individually tolerate. Last week, I loved a coffee flavor of one brand but about threw up when I tried one of the fruit flavors from the same company. Interestingly, Julie was ok with fruit flavor gel
I’m growing more worried about our average pace times – I know they will improve over time but I’m a bit paranoid about the time limit on the Mad Marathon – which is 6.5 hrs. Initially, this seems like a lot of time – it averages out to be just under 15:00 min/mile – and we are typically average 11 – 12 min/mile now with our run/walk intervals. However, we haven’t gotten into double digit distances yet so I have concerns that we could maintain 12 min/mile for marathon distance. I know that I need to relax at this point but it is one of the main concerns I have.
Julie-I was thrilled with this week’s training. First of all, I got new shoes because my old pair was getting up in miles since I bought them four years ago, and weren’t doing anything for my runner’s knee. The new shoes were amazing and made a huge difference in the way my runs felt. I managed to up my pace quite a bit this week and didn’t feel any more tired afterwards. On my six mile run Saturday I knocked 10 minutes off my time compared to 2 weeks ago.
My only real struggle this week was that a lady who is going to be making our kids’ birthday cakes next month sent home a dozen AWESOME chocolate blueberry cupcakes for my birthday for free with my husband and…..well……OK, I’ll just be honest – I had three today. I figure the quicker I eat them the quicker our house will be rid of tempting, unhealthy food again. Mike always loves my logic.
I’m a huge fan of the use of metaphor to understand life experiences, and believe people need to learn to view the mundane and surface occurrences of daily life in such a way that they can see the sacred in them.
Running, and running marathons in particular, is not different. It is a great analogy for the institution of marriage and what it takes to make a marriage succeed. Forgive me if I take the idea of marathoning as a metaphor for marriage a bit far, but I think there are some pretty clear parallels.
When starting out in marriage or training for an event like a marathon, it is so easy to be over idealistic. We dream of the romance and glory of the undertaking. We envision ourselves succeeding even when others failed, believing that all we need is love, all we need is just to start running and we’ll hit the finish line.
I entered marriage with these grand notions; I think I was a bit prideful and looked down on people who just ‘gave up’ and got divorced. Then reality slapped me in the face and I realized that marriage is HARD. Living with someone on a daily basis who is completely opposite in temperament and personality is HARD. Being made completely aware of your own brokenness is HARD.
Running starts out easy…” I can do this, no problem,”‘I think to myself. But then my knee starts hurting, and it gets hot, and the miles seem to creep by, and then a side stitch sets in…..
And I’m forced to make a decision…give up on running or marriage, saying it’s too hard, or find techniques to help me succeed, consult with those wiser than me on how to make it through the pain and the tough times.
Mike got the rough end of the deal in marrying me. He didn’t just get a stubborn, impulsive, random wife – he got one who inherited that lovely illness called depression, passed down through family genes. I hate describing depression as mental illness; I”d rather describe it as chronic brain farts, but whatever the nomenclature, it can wreak havoc on a relationship. It did ours. But Mike is my hero. Every time he saw me lagging in our run through life together, he would run back to get me and pull me along, sometimes dragging me, but refusing to let me give up on us.
Now after years of work, Mike and I seem to finally be getting our stride down. We’ve hit wall after wall in our marriage but with God’s help and that of close friends and advisers have been able to break through them.
We’ve only just started this marathon relationship, and have a long way to go, but hopefully at the end of our lives we can look back and say that we succeeded. We didn’t limp through life, just trying to hold it together to fall across the finish line. We are determined to break the ribbon with more momentum and grace than when we started.
And so for me, training for this marathon in Vermont is analogy for my marriage. It is bringing us together to work for a common goal, it causes us to encourage and inspire each other, and it helping us know each other a little bit better every day.
Seeking to fully live,
Mike – this was a challenging week for me as I had a massive head/chest cold for most of the week. I got my Monday run in and then I got hit hard. It became an interesting decision – should I gut my way through the training or rest and hope that it went away? My concern was that sometimes these kind of illness can stick with me for a couple of weeks and the thought of the impact to my training was discouraging. I ended up choosing rest and lots of cold medicine and was fortunately able to shake it by Saturday. I ended up doing a 45 min training run on Saturday with the Blue Mile Running store training group. The other unique thing about this run is that I experimented with running on an empty stomach – I had listened to a podcast that suggested if you couldn’t eat 3 hrs before the run then to start on an empty stomach and fuel through the race. It seemed to work well.
The Saturday run was below my planned long run distance so I decided to take the risk and run a long run on Sunday without a day of rest. I took it easy – did the 3/1 ratio and ran a 7 mile run. I felt great throughout the run and afterward. Without trying to, my running pace is picking up – my natural easy running pace used to be around 12 min/mile and now a 10:30 pace doesn’t wind me. I also started to experiment this week with different “fueling” products including gels, electrolyte chews and recovery drinks – more on these later.
Julie – This was a good but tough week for me, too. Besides Mike being sick, two of our little boys, including our 9 week old, were sick. I was only able to fit my runs in by handing the crying baby to Mike to console when he got home from work, and let them crash on the couch while I ran and our other two boys trashed our basement with their toys.
My seven mile run on Saturday was a huge confidence builder for me….finishing that distance really proved to me that I can do this running thing. The only drawback is that I’m quickly developing runner’s knee in both knees. Hopefully this is do to my old running shoes, and my new shoes will make a huge difference. Hobbling down the stairs holding two kids can be a challenge, so I need the pain to subside a bit.
I was also encouraged this week by discovering that my outdoor running pace is equal to or faster than my treadmill pace. I was afraid that when the weather cleared and I started running outside my times would increase dramatically, but thankfully, my pace stayed right on target for my two outdoor runs this week.
You may be wondering why a couple from Indiana would pick a new marathon over 900 miles away in a small town as their first marathon? When I was reading John Bingham’s “Marathoning for Mortals”, he spoke of the importance of making your first race special. When I was looking for half-marathons (my original goal), the obvious choice is the Indianapolis “Mini” Marathon in May – but it has been sold out for a while and also has 20,000+ people. I was also surprised to find that there are two full marathons in Indianapolis in Oct and Nov – nothing against these races - but driving across town still didn’t have that special feel to me….Thus I turned to the state of Vermont…
Vermont?? What’s in Vermont? Not a whole lot besides trees, maples syrup, cheese and a handful of really nice people A little trivia - there are more people in metropolitan Indianapolis than in the whole state of Vermont! Last year, Julie issued the edict that we were going on vacation and we better find a spot to rest and relax. Instead of heading to the normal family tourist traps (aka theme parks), we looked at New England and I then suggested we focus on Vermont.
I had been through the state as a kid and remembered the beautiful Green Mountains, quaint towns and great pancakes. Next, we decided to be even more unique and do a series of “farm stays” – where you stay on full size or hobby farm and interact with the animals…Think of it as a bed and breakfast down on the farm (sorry Bob Evans!).
The kids had a blast, mom and dad got to relax – my Blackberry didn’t work most of the time – and it was one of the most memorable vacations I can recall.One of the areas that we liked was the little town of Waitsfield which is settled in the Mad River Valley and is one of the main ski areas for the state. We spent a couple of days there and fell in love with the area and the people so much that we re-did some of our travel plans and came back to stay with the same family again. (I am still trying to figure out how we could permanently move to Waitsfield and make a living – but that is a story in itself.)
So I’m searching for marathons and was pleasantly surprised to see that Waitsfield was sponsoring the first annual Mad Marathon in July 2011. I started reading more and I was excited – a small marathon – limited to 1200 people (compared to Chicago Marathon which has 45,000), running through areas familiar to us, part of a multi-day festival …it sounded too good to be true…But July? That was insane – I had only been running a short time…but I kept coming back and looking at the site. On a whim, I sent an inquiry email to Dori Ingalls, the head of the Marathon…that one email has now spawned an almost daily conversation between Dori and I around the marathon, running and family…and I was hooked on the Mad Marathon as my target. Julie probably thought I was a bit nuts but she was supportive of travelling out to take care of kids and watch me run….I didn’t have to twist her arm too hard to go back to Vermont!
But that isn’t the end….a couple of days later while on a training run, the light bulb went off inside my brain (it happens once in a while) – why don’t we get Julie’s friend in Boston to come over to help with the kids and then Julie can do the run with me! Then the goal of a half marathon turned into a full marathon…and then this idea about blogging about running and marriage…
And my new friend Dori – did I mention she is amazing? She has been a source of encouragement to us as we start this endevour, forwarded our blog to people (including Bart Yasso of Runners World!) and even offered to find us childcare if Julie’s friend can’t make it out to help us. I’m guessing that the organizers of the big city marathons wouldn’t do that for it’s runners! It just reinforces our decision to focus on Waitsfield in July.
Check out the links on the “Our Goal” tab to find out more about the Mad Marathon and some of our vacation pics from last year.
I wanted to suggest some books that were helpful to us in preparing ourselves for a marathon. All the books cover a variety of running basics, nutrition and training plans.
Marathoning For Mortals – Bingham/Hadfield
The title says it all – this book is written for the non-competitive athletes who want to accomplish a long distance race. Bingham’s book “No Need For Speed” is a classic for the couch-potato to runner. Bingham is known as the Penguin because he was in terrible physical shape when he started running and runs like a Penguin. I like his books because they are more realistic / practical than other books written for the super-athlete. They offer a number of training plans for half and full marathons.
Jeff Galloway – Various Titles including “Marathon – You Can Do It” and “Running:Getting Started”
Galloway is a former Olympian distance runner and the inventor of the Run-Walk-Run method that Julie and I are using in our training. He has over 18 books – many of the basic topics are covered in all the books and then each book gets into the specifics. I would suggest the Marathon book because it gets more in-depth and encompasses multiple training plans. If you order from his website, the books are autographed.
An interesting book written by college professors who developed a “marathon class” for predominately non-runners and were very successful with a high % of students completing a marathon. The training plan is 16 weeks – yes, pretty aggressive – with their long runs constantly building with longer distances. Galloway and Bingham do more of a “stair-step” on long runs – increase one week and then back off and then increase, etc.