Sunday, September 28, 2014

Running Isn't All There Is

Yesterday, I ran 13.9 miles.  I was supposed to run 14 but I hit 13.9 as I ran by my house, and I just didn’t feel the need to do another 0.1 yesterday.  Much last last weekend, I wasn’t feeling it.  I wouldn’t say, “Felt like crap”.  (Although if I had run another 6 miles maybe I would have.)  Instead, it just was not an inspired 14.

But that is okay.  Not every 14 has to be an inspired 14.

And if I look at the crazy week I have had, it is probably not so bad.

First, I had the trip to Ireland to sit on a dissertation final defense in which I left work around 1:45 on Tuesday, was on a plane to Boston at 4:05 for a connecting flight to Dublin.  Arrived in Ireland slightly before 8 AM on Wednesday morning.  Had a nice breakfast with a colleague and then was the external examiner for the defense which ended around 12:30.  Had lunch at a south Asian place in Dublin.  Then went back to the airport and was on a plane by 4:15 to return to the US.  I was home and getting ready for bed around 10:10 my own time. 

Went to work on Thursday.  Made it through a day that included a 9 mile track workout on the treadmill (uncooperative mother nature) and dinner at my boss’s house.  Had a personnel issue that rocked that day.

Then Friday was also a long day at work (personnel issues mostly resolved).  And I had to be up really early for the 13.9 mile run this morning.  When I hit the six mile mark and saw my pace and then flipped through to see the actual time, it was only 5:01 (AM!).  

Life lesson—there are only so many hours and sometimes only so many things can fit in.  Especially fit in and do well.  

Hope—while I don’t often take inspiration from Jimmy Buffet songs, “come Monday, it’ll be alright.”  (And I'm looking forward to Monday as today is an off day for running.)  

Regardless—13.9 miles at an 8:10 pace is not bad.  I have not missed significantly on any speed work.  I have missed two weekends in a row on long runs.

We will see what this all leads to.  As I said last weekend—all this work is really about one thing—minimizing the chance that I will not succeed at my goal of a PR marathon time.  But all I can do is minimize it. Life brings no guarantees.  

Other realization which I am coming to more and more as I talk with people about this fall’s Philly marathon—for the foreseeable future, this will be the last time I train this hard.  I can keep running the 5K’s and 10K’s.  I can run halves and even fulls.  But training myself to where I’m accumulating 60 miles a week to really improve my time has gotta be put on the back burner for a while. Maybe forever.

As for my virtual piligrimage, total1638.  Still working my wife to Truth or Consequences.  Still on US 54. 

As for more than running, yesterday after the run I had the opportunity to go to a faculty summit for the business school and then attend the wedding of a cousin on my dad’s side.  All good.  Nice to be with family.  Even if the amount of my dad’s side of the family was quite small when all was said and done.  Best thing was a picture of the five men who are blood related in two generations on that side.  It was a nice shot.  And thinking about the life stories of the five men in this picture, it speaks worlds about the variety of experiences that we can have, the ways to raise kids, and the ways that we can make it in a satisfying life.  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Going from "Felt Like Crap" to "Kick Ass"

Two days ago, I ran a 20 miler that I describe immediately afterwards as "felt like crap".

Contrast that with today.  It was 48 degrees with no humidity when I left home rather than 63 with high humidity.  That alone made this a much more likely to be happy afterwards run.

I was given a plan that told me to begin with an 8 minute mile, then run faster by 15 seconds each mile through mile 7.  These progression runs are simple enough to do when I am running on a treadmill.  Effort--yes.  But ultimately can I do it--yes.

Running these outdoors has proven to be a real chore.

Two weeks ago, I had a long one that I didn't quite get.

Last week I had a long one that I did manage to get--although it started at 8:04 and went down to 6:44 rather than starting at 8:15 and going down to 6:30.

Then there was today.

Here is my run:

I started by running across Lake and down Bellona.  Despite all efforts not to go too fast, I ran a 7:44 opening mile.  Given how I often meander up the hill from my house to Lake and then down and up Lake before crossing York, this was a surprisingly fast mile.  It felt great.  I had to slow it down to end at 7:44.

Continuing down Bellona and heading to Northern Parkway where I turned toward and eventually onto Charles and headed up Charles to Melrose, I ran the second mile in 7:36.  So far so good.  Still a little fast but a definite acceleration from mile 1 to mile 2.  And I chose to make a strategic choice to do some repetition today that kept the course flatter than in previous weeks.  That was good.  I could focus on the speed rather than worrying about the hills.

I continued across Melrose back to Bellona and this time turned north toward Stevenson.  Hit three miles before I hit Stevenson.  Ran past the pharmacy and Pinehurst beer, wine, and liquor and then past the Villa for retired nuns.  Third mile in 7:26.  Almost right on.  Still speeding up.

Then, I continued up to Stevenson, turned west back toward Charles, and ran down Charles.  Hit 4 just a little north of Gittings.  Time--7:14.  Right on!

Then, continued south to Northern Parkway again and headed back toward York Rd.  Thought I was going to be forced out onto the street at one point but was not as what used to be overgrown bushes just east of Bellona had been cut back at some point since the last time I checked (years ago).  Mile 5 hit before York Rd in a time of 7:00.  Could not ask for better.

Then, I continued across Northern.  Had to dodge some people getting off the number 36 bus and walking toward me taking up the entire sidewalk.  Continued along past the Buddhist temple, and hit 6 just before turning north on Chinquapin--6:46.

There had been slight hills up and slight hills down throughout. The last mile, leading home, was full of hills.  Up Chinqapinn.  Up Lake.  Up Northwood.  Across Cedarcroft.  Up Cedarcroft.  Then across Yorkshire, down Highwood, and back up to get my 7.0 in.  Final mile 6:44.

Performance overall: very close to spot on.  Might I have had it in me to run that last mile closer to 6:30 if the first two were more on appropriate times?  Maybe.  But then again maybe not.

The key is that it felt just right.  It felt in control

I had tried to get myself ready to go early enough so that I could drive to the Y and run on the treadmill.

In the end, as I finished, I looked up to the sky (where I envision God to be, although I realize that if God exists the supreme being is everywhere and not just mythically in the heavens) and said "thank you."  In the end, it was such a great day for running outside, that the overall experience had been wonderful and had been better than any treadmill based experience ever could have been.

So what began as a day on which I expected to have a well controlled indoor run, I ended up with one of the best outdoor runs ever.

Still, reflecting on Sunday, I completed 20 miles and 7 miles.  And whether I had run them at record fast or record slow pace, I would still have completed the same number of miles.  The reward is in how I perceive the experience.  My log says "27 miles added" regardless.  The reward is intrinsic while the extrinsic note is the same.  The intertwining of the lack of control that led me to do a worout differnet from what I'd planned with control that I felt on the run is an amazing combination.

And at present, on my virtual pilgrimage, I find myself on Farm to Market 694 just to the side of US 54 just outside Dalhart, TX.        

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Run (Not) to Remember

Today, I ran 20.1 miles.  So, that put me at 1,600 miles for the year total.  At the start of the year I never would have guessed that I would reach 1,600 miles a full week before the end of September.  This is good.

It was a crazy week.  Since I last wrote, I ran a very intense progression outdoors in which I started with a mile at 8:04 and worked my way down to a 6:44.  That was great.

I was supposed to run a track workout that included 9x600 at 2:14.  That didn't happen because my son was in the ER on Thursday night and I was in no shape to run on Friday morning.

Saturday, I ran 5.9 miles just to get my legs going.

Then, there was this morning.

The goal was to have a run similar to what I did last Sunday--run the first 14 easily and then pick up the last six.  The extra 0.1 was just to bring myself to 1,600 after the missed run on Friday.

So, I left the house.  It was warmer and more humid than it had been in a while.

It was foggy at 5:55.

I ran the first mile headed out to and south on York Rd in 8:28.  Not the fastest start, but I had run this type of pace for the first mile and then sped up on more than one occasion.  So, I didn't think much of it.

Mile 2 continued down York Rd--I ran an 8:04.  That put me closer to the 8:00 miles I was hoping to run for the first 14 miles, but it was still not perfect.  Mile 3 continuing down to 34th and Greenmount--8:05.  Something was a bit unusual about not being able to get myself going faster.  I continued across 33rd street to Trivoly--8:06.  Mile 5 took me part way around Lake Montebello--8:01.  Continuing around the Lake and heading back past Trivoly--7:58.  So, it was already clear that I was going to have to work a lot harder than I usually did to get a better pace going.

I ran across 33rd all the way to St. Paul and then down to 32nd, over to Charles, and down to 29th.  Mile 7--8:06.  Mile 8 was around and toward Druid Hill Park--7:59.  Mile 9 was basically the 9th mile of the old Baltimore 10 Miler course--7:59 again.  Mile 10 took me to the zoo entrance--7:50.  Something was finally falling into place.  Heading back toward Druid Lake, I ran a 7:47.  Mile 12 was then 7:43.  Mile 13 coming off the Lake was a 7:36.  But that was the best I would get this day.  Mile 14 was a 7:45.  Mile 15 leading back to Greenmount and 34th was 8:04.  The next four miles were between 8:15 and 8:25.  I finished with an 8:02.

I was frustrated but I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about it.  Why not? Mostly because in the next 20 minutes, I needed to be ready to leave for Sunday school.

But also, because I had known for quite a bit of the run that my legs were feeling like they did at the end of Boston 2013.

I had realized long before I was done that I would only be able to finish today rather than to run my goal.  I had come to grips with that.

And over time, I have gone from being truly upset every time I missed a goal to just taking it in and figuring out what the lesson was.

So, let me pull a few things together.

I am now in Dalhart, TX.  The Catholic church in this town is St. Anthony's.  St. Anthony is expected to help people find things.  Today, I needed to find a reason for what happened.

I thought about reasons.  Too much sun yesterday.  Still dealing with stress/tiredness of last week.  Too much wine yesterday.  Too much stress this coming week.  Too many work tasks undone.  Not the right combination of nutrition and hydration.  The weather.  Running too many miles alone.

Plenty of possible explanations.

But when all was said and done, I had a distance I needed to go, and I did it.

How did St. Anthony help me to find meaning?

In today's gospel reading--Matthew 20:1-16A.  It is the reading in which the land owner pays the same amount to all the workers regardless of when they started.  It goes with the theme from the first reading of our not understanding God's ways.

I am not about to say that God wanted me to run slowly.  I am not even going to say that it was somehow fate or a higher force that led to my running slowly.  

What I am going to say is that there are certainly things that I just don't understand.  And sometimes I just have to accept that. And I always tell my fellow runners that when all is said and done, we all start at the same starting line and cross the same finish line.  So, today's workout would have been and ended at my house with 20.1 miles in between regardless of how quickly I went.  On Nov 23, the race in Philadelphia will have the same start and finish regardless of how long it takes to get from the start to the finish.

So, sometimes I just have to accept that that is all I could manage.  Getting from the start to the finish.

And that is good enough.

All finishers get a medal in the marathon.

I get credit for getting from the start to the finish.

The parable leaves it at that.

But if we were to think about what else might happen--would there be a lesson learned from showing up earlier.  Is there a lesson to be learned for being prepared?  Other parables tell of such things.

And that is what training is all about.  While I can accept that all I could do was get from start to finish, I also should be cognizant of what training is for.  It is to minimize the number of days when I have to say "Felt like crap" as the only description I give.  And to minimize the chance that my bad day will come on race day.

There is a lot here.  It is still somewhat jumbled.  I will make more sense of it over time.

But the key is to accept what I ran.  To recognize that sometimes it is just about getting from point A to point B.  And that sometimes there are things that I will never understand, but I must take in and prepare for the next time. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Maturity in Running

So today I ran a simple 6 mile run.  Puts me up to 1558 total.  Still on US 54 in Oklahoma.

Today, as on the past several days when I have run, I noticed one very important thing.  Sometimes training is about being fast.  Sometimes training is about running hard.  Sometimes training is about running a target pace over and over again.  And sometimes running is just about being out there at a reasonable speed, being on my feet, and putting in the time.  Yesterday and today were days like that.

Not particularly fast.

Approximately 45 minute workout yesterday.  Approximately 51 minutes today.  And just moving along.

But sometimes that is a part of being a runner.

More importantly, sometimes that is part of being a mature runner. I would say that this is the year my adult running move out of its adolescence.  In the adolescence of my running, I thought everything had to be fast.  Not true.  Not true at all.  And in fact that is probably a good way to get injured and not be able to run as much as I’d like in the long term.    

On Sunday evening, after I wrote my last entry but before I posted it, I attended a confirmation information meeting for my middle son.  Some starting videos made the comment that was something like “don’t get confirmed—be confirmed.”  As a variation on the theme, I believe that “Live confirmed” was also mentioned.

For running, I have reached a point at which I don’t just “run a marathon”.  I live the life of a marathoner.

Eat moderately well.

Sleep kind of enough.

Run a lot.

Focus on running.

Focus on doing the workouts that are planned.

Focus on a plan to execute on race day.

Carry this over into the rest of my life.

Even mentoring.

In mentoring I share both personal and professional insights into what makes the world go around and how I work.  And how I succeed.  And how I balance life and work.  Although when I was talking with someone I formerly mentored today, I mentioned that I don’t think of it just as work-life balance.  Rather I think of it as balancing work with multiple parts of life.  Personal pursuits.  Marriage.  Kids.  (I could add spiritual pursuits to the list.)  That makes at least four things.

Sometimes even without work it would be hard to balance personal pursuits, marriage, and kids.  What makes me go around?  What makes my marriage go around?  What makes my kids go around?  And how much do they overlap or conflict?  And how much can I do it all?

The simple answer is that I cannot do it all.  But I recognize that sometimes I do a lot and sometimes a little.  Sometimes I focus on one elemtns and sometimes on another.  In the same way that I have many different workouts, I also have many different things on which to focus in my life. 

And I hope that by taking the time to focus on each in turn and as appropriate, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and life will be good.  Just like my running. 

Monday, September 15, 2014


(Written Sunday.  Today there is not much to say other than that I ran 5 miles at a pace just above 9 minutes per mile.  Total miles on virtual pilgrimage: 1552.)

This weekend, those who knew NyAnn were asked to post a picture of themselves running.  So, I don’t usually take as any pictures of myself as some other running bloggers do while I am running (or have friends who take pictures of me as much), but today I stopped in three places for pictures.  

On my run, I consumed a Gu and I left my home and ran up York Rd, around the Towson by pass, and back onto York Rd to go up to the Charm City Run store in Timonium/Lutherville.  

I stopped once before I got to the store in front of a church that has an electronic sign that shows the time and temperature.  That was to show that it was actually a wonderful 53 degrees this morning when I was 4.3 miles into my run.  

Then, I took a picture in front of Charm City Run—my favorite running store.  I passed a Dunkin' Donuts along the way--never smelled so good.  At that point, I turned more or less back toward home.  Run over to Charmuth and took it all the way to Dulaney.  The hill as Charmuth ends at Dulaney is coming easier now.  Down Dulaney to Goucher.  To Joppa.  To Loch Raven.   

Going down Loch Raven I had to make a pit stop.  It has been a LONG time since I have had to make such a stop.  But at 12.25 miles, I was not going to make it another 5.75 without stopping.  Consumed my Stinger.  Ran past the IHOP--more amazing smells.  And much to my surprise (and delight) I was able to get myself back to my target speed (which was faster than I had run so far).  I had not always been able to do that in the past.  Then, at mile 16 I hit a major hill and slowed own but was able to get going again for miles 17 and 18 to be my fastest. 

What did my splits look like? 

8:19, 7:57, 8:01, 7:49, 7:46, 7:59,
7:39, 7:57, 7:52, 7:45, 7:33, 7:37
7:28, 7:28, 7:26, 7:49, 7:22, 7:22

I have thought a lot about why I run over the past few weeks.  It is clearly a very important part of my life.  It is clear that I care a lot about it.  It is clear that it helps to keep me goal driven.  It is clear that it shows my dedication and focus and drive and commitment that I like to think characterizes me in general.  My work. My parenting.  My marriage.  Sometimes, I feel that the pressures to be as dedicated and focused and driven at everything make this tough.  But it is the goal.  Sometimes I fear it doesn’t shoe in other things as it shows in my running.  But I try.

The fact that I was able to overcome a stop and a hill to go fast again shows that something has fundamentally changed for me.  Maybe it is mental.  Maybe it has to do with thinking about NyAnn and how hard she ran and the fact that she can never run again. And appreciating that I can run.  Maybe it has to do with my primary running partner for three years and thinking about how hard it will be for her to come back to running at some point and appreciating that I can still run. 

Maybe it is spiritual. A greater connection with my tattoo than ever.  St. Sebastian never gave up.  He just kept going and was essentially martyred twice.  I write a lot about the women in the tattoo.  She in many ways seems primary as the tattoo was designed.  The area covered by her dress and the single color dominates the scene.  That was be design and it is fine.  But the base is St. Sebastian.  He was the one who was ultimately martyred.  I do not associate what I am doing  with martyrdom, but I do relate to the fact that he kept going despite understanding the expected consequences of continuing on his path.  Nothing could stop him.  Why should I let anything stop me in my goal to reach a marathon time?  Wherever I draw strength from it is there. 

And maybe it is physical.  That my training is being guided by a new plan.  A harder plan.  A more difficulty plan.  A plan with more miles at higher speeds that makes a difference.  I can get over the hill and not feel like I have lost the battle when I get to the top.  No, I have won the battle and now it is time to press on for more.  To go for the win!  (To quote my boss.)  Whatever the combination, it is fundamentally different than in the past and it bodes well for the marathon in Philly. 

I have not commented on the virtual pilgrimage aspect in a while.  I am now at 1547 miles on my pilgrimage.  I am in Oklahoma.  The last major town I would have passed is Guymon, Oklahoma.  The Catholic church there is St. Peters.  I have commented on St. Peter before.  What does he bring to mind today?  Leadership.  He was the first head of the church, after all.  And I think about being a leader.  I think about the many different ways of being a leader.  I think about the roles of leadership.  Teaching a class is leading.  Raising kids is leading.  Organizing an informal running group is leading.  My job is leading.  I look for more opportunities.  To prepare for leadership, Peter followed Jesus and was given an assignment that he may or may not have been looking for.  I know that I am looking for more leadership opportunities moving forward.  I hope that I will be good a them.  And I hope that all the lessons I take from running—dedication, focus, drive, commitment, going for the win—show up in my leadership too. 

One more quick reflection.  In yesterday's readings for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (explained in detail by Fr. Sam) he talked about power coming from knowing the people--downward mobility as he called it.  I hope that if I ever get to be Dean or Provost, I don't forget that I was one of the people.