Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Family 5k

me, mom and carri (sister) ready to run

Just a short memorial day 5k recap.  Drove up to see my mom and sister this weekend and spend the long weekend enjoying some good barbecue and family time.  We had all decided a few months ago that we'd try to run a 5k together.  Both my mom and sister had started some training to get ready and we were all good to go for a nice run around some quiet neighborhoods of Irondequoit NY...for the Sunset House 5k.   We headed over early Saturday morning, took a few photos and started running.  I was told to keep an eye on our pace as both my mom and sister wanted avoid going too fast.  This was my job for the morning, to keep them in good spirits and from going too fast.  Turns out they did just fine on their own and it ended up being a nice group jog.  It would have made the old man smile I see us all running together.

After three miles under our feet, we came to the final turn all still feeling good.  I was really happy to see both my mom and sister do so well and we crossed the finish line together with smiles on our faces.  It was a great day and I was so thrilled to see both my mom and sister get new 5k PR's.  Pretty soon they'll be running 10k's.  (I'm going to be getting on you about that half-marathon too Carri!)  I'm so glad we decided to do this.

Otherwise, it was a really nice weekend just relaxing and enjoying good company.  Back to the ol' grind tomorrow and hopefully I will get out on the kayak some more this week.  Even though my longest run this past week was only 16 miles, somehow I managed almost 56 miles for the week.  I think this is in large part because of the morning "coffee runs".  I am hoping to get that up closer to 70 as I near the VT 100.

I head to Colorado in two weeks for a 17 day stint there.  I will definitely be getting in some high altitude mountain hiking/running while I'm there.  I've already got a few things planned, but nothing I'm officially listing yet.

That's it for now.  I hope everyone had a great weekend and as always....thank you to all of the servicemen and women who have served and are serving in the armed forces.  It is because of you and your sacrifices that we are all able to enjoy the freedoms that we have (and often take for granted).

Almost at the finish!

The Fegy Finishers!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Dusting off the Kayak and Memorial Day Weekend

Working my way up the Black Moshannon Headwaters

Last night I finally dusted off the kayak and took it out for a leisurely tour up at Black Moshannon.

A nasty storm had just rolled through and so the sky was still littered with spectacular clouds.  The sunlight had a fantastic way of peeking was really quite magical.  The water was calm, the bugs were at a minimum, and the Spring Peepers were in full song.  It was really nice to just float along on the water.  I made my way down to the end of the lake and started navigating my way through the twisting and winding corridor of the creek that feeds into it.  It was absolutely fanstastic.

On an unrelated note, this weekend is Memorial Day Weekend...which means a quick trip up to see the family in Rochester.  There'll be lots of barbecuing and all-out relaxing.  Tomorrow morning my sister, mother, and I are all running in a 5k.  This will be the first time we've ever done a race together.   I'm sure the old man is have a small chuckle over this.  Should be a lot of fun.

Other than that, not much else going on.  Been running...a lot.  Really trying to maintain my peak fitness for the upcoming trail races and ultras.  I have even been trying my luck at running twice a day.  I go out for usually 3 miles right when I get up as a kind of wake-up run.  I have affectionately been calling them my "coffee runs" as they sort of get my morning blood moving first thing in the morning.  Of course I still partake in my actual cup of coffee upon return....but that's another issue altogether.  Then, I go out like usual later in the evening once it gets cooler for a longer normal daily run.  We'll see how long it is until I get tired of that :-)  My first real trail run is next weekend, an 18 mile hilly/technical race in the mountains near State College.   Can't wait to try out my trail legs. to pack.   Here are some more Black Moshannon pics:

And a video:

...and for you map geeks like me: Black Moshannon Map

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Some Pocono Marathon Pics

About to start...

Ok, so first off, these are still watermarked and owned by VIP Studios.  I do plan on ordering a couple official copies in the next day or two.  This is what I could find for now, but they are still posting new pictures, so there may be more.

Checking pace-band coming in to mile 13

Feeling strong at Mile 13

Tucked in nicely at the half-way point.  It was here when I realized I was running too fast.  I clocked in here at 1:35:00

At the finish, I held up while this other runner crawled across the finish.  He qualified for Boston with 13 seconds to spare...and on his knees.  Now that's some determination.

Waiting patiently for him to finish...

And then I trotted across the finish.  Don't let the smile on my face fool you.  I was hurting pretty badly.

Monday, May 16, 2011

2011 Pocono Marathon Run for the Red - Full Race Report

Breathe in....breathe out.  Ok.

Now that I've had a day to take in yesterday's Pocono marathon and reflect upon my performance, I feel that I have a good grasp on what my strengths and weaknesses were during the race, and what led to my overall result; a result which put me less than 5 minutes away from a Boston Qualify time.

First the official details:
  1. Official Times are Posted HERE.  My official chip time is 3:20:47
  2. There are some pictures and videos already posted in the Pocono newspaper HERE.
  3. Bryan Morseman won the race for the third year in a row with a final time of 2:20:11
  4. Official race photos are not posted yet.
Finish note: I imagine my finish photo will be very awkward and/or strange as just as I was coming up to the finish, the runner ahead of me collapsed and had to crawl across the finish.  Everyone was cheering for him to finish and I didn't know whether to run by him, stop to help him, or simply stop and let him finish.  I decided to hold up for a few seconds while he crawled across, and then finish.  When I crossed the finish, people must have thought I was someone that simply ran out to help the other guy (and had finished earlier). I don't think they photographed me, and I had to ask for a medal.  When I did, the woman actually asked me, "Wait...are you a finisher?".  It was all very awkward.  Long story short, had I just ran through, I probably would have finished about 8 seconds faster, and gotten a photo.

So...on to the race:
This was my 3rd Pocono Marathon.  As I stated in the previous post, I ran the race very evenly, and very strongly...until mile 22.  I was able to maintain an almost mathematical pace until about mile 20, with every mile being right to the second.  Between 20 and 22, I had slowed a slight amount, but still felt ok.  At mile 22, I looked at my watch and somehow had lost almost 30 seconds.   This is when the bonk hit.  Combined with the morally deflating fact that I was losing time on my splits with only 4 miles to go, my muscles had also run out of precious fuel.  The last four miles were very difficult and I was passed by well over 20-30 people.  I was in very rough shape and even walked through the aid station after mile 24 (I had run through every aid station all day).  I had mentally given up on 3:15 and knew I would still PR, so I convinced myself that I was content.  There was no way I was going to run 7:28 miles for the last 3 miles, let alone 7:15 or whatever I would have to to make back up the time I had lost in mile 23 and 24.  It was a devastating moral blow to have a Boston Qualifying time be so close, and then in an instant be so out of reach with the finish less than 4 miles away.  4 miles....a short run around my neighborhood....seemed like an impossible distance.

The new course was fantastic.  Right up to the mile 13, the course was different from the one I ran in both '08 and '09.   It was absolutely more enjoyable, more flat and downhills, more running on curvy back roads and less running on big state routes.  At the half way point, the course met up with where it ran in previous years and the back 13 were the same as always.

Before the was raining.  Miserably.  Everyone was gloomy and worried that the race was going to be sloppy.  When we arrived by bus at the start, the rain had stopped but it was still "misting".  With the early morning temps, and the wet air, many of us (myself included) began shivering.  It was damn cold.  Huddling around the start, everyone was cold and ready to start running, if only just to heat up a bit.  The start was densely packed.  Over 800 of use crammed into a corner behind Tobyhanna elementary school.  It took me almost 10 seconds just to get to the start when the horn sounded.  I started out at an assertive pace, but not an aggressive one.  I kept a vigilant eye on my heart-rate for the first 2 miles to make sure I stayed steady.  I hit the first mile in 7:15, which was a bit fast, but not alarmingly.  My heart rate had not gone over 164, so I wasn't worried.  From mile 1 to mile 13, I ran with a group of 4 runners that all had crazy GPS running watches that told them their active pace.  This kept me moving at an exact pace, but as I found out after the half-way point that it was NOT the right pace (more on that later).   I hit the half-way point at exactly 1:35:00.  Following the old standby of "doubling your half time and adding 5", this would put me right at 3:15:00 for a finish.  Miles 14-20 were a little lackluster.  I could feel myself starting to hurt a small bit.  This section winds its way through a nice wooded area, but there are a number of annoying ups-and-downs that really kicked my butt.  Still, I kept my pace.  I had a printed out wristband with three different paces on it (3:15, 3:30, 3:39) and every mile I kept coming up exactly on pace.  I wasn't losing time and was maintaing a ~7:28 tempo.    As I crossed the bridge just before mile 21, I noticed that I had lost a little time....but not much, maybe 10 seconds.  And then it hit.   After the infamous climb from mile 21-22, I checked my watch again and was now down almost a minute.  This is when I had to make a decision.  I told myself to fight for it.  I got angry and tried to push...I wasn't going to give up.  I turned up my music, tried to find my zen place, and just "pound them out".  My body did not respond.  I put down gatorade and water at the next help.    I stopped and walked at mile 24 aid station, didn't help.   This is when I knew, after already losing almost three minutes, that I was not going to make 3:15:59....the absolute highest time to Boston qualify for my age group.  I hobbled the last couple of miles towards the stadium.  As if I wasn't deflated enough, just before entering the stadium for the last 0.2 miles, the 3:20 pacer (the fastest pacer in the race) passed me and said, "you're going to let me pass you now?".  I wanted to punch him...but instead just shrugged and said, "meh".  Talk about a slap in the face though.  So that's how it went.  I was killing it until my bonk.  I was strong and confident until my bonk.  In the end though, I still shattered my previous PR by almost 19 minutes...and this is what makes me smile.  I may not have BQ'd, but I achieved both of my goals, and had a great race.  I never would have believed I could have run a marathon in sub-8 minute mile pace.  Yesterday I ran 7:40.  Crazy.

I've thought a lot about why I crashed so hard at 22.  My first year at pocono in '08, I had a similar experience.  I hit a good wall around mile 18.  In 2009 though, I ran the entire race strong and never bonked.  I crossed the finish line smiling and feeling good.  So what changed this year that led to my epic crash?  Here is what I've come up with to explain it, in my non-professional opinion:

  • Wrong Pace for first 13 miles:  For the first 13 miles, I ran smoothly and confidently with a group of four guys.  They all had fancy GPS watches that allowed them to run at an exact pace.  I stopped looking at my watch vigilantly after about mile 3 and just ran with these guys.  I noticed that I was gaining some time on each split, but not a lot.  I figured these guys were running a pace for a 3:15 finish, but just building a small amount of cushion.  This was a big mistake on my part.  At mile 13 I finally asked the guy next to me, "So...shooting for 3:15 too eh?", to which he replied, "No...we're running for a 3:10 finish".   DOH!  It turns out that these guys were running a very steady and even pace for a 3:10 finish.  The early mile math was so small that I didn't realize this and thought they were just building a small cushion.  So in a nutshell, even though it is only 5 minutes faster than the 3:15 I was shooting for, that equates to about 10 seconds per mile faster.  So, instead of running an already brisk 7:28, I was running more like a 7:17.  This was just too fast for me for a marathon...and I didn't realize I was doing it.  I crossed the half-way point in exactly 1:35:00.  EXACTLY 1:35:00.  At a constant pace...this would mean a 3:10 finish, which is exactly what these guys were shooting for.   Running at this pace for the first 13 miles, definitely cost me precious fuel, as my body just wasn't adequately prepared for it.
  • Too high of a Heart Rate, for too long:  During the first few miles I was good about my heart-rate.  I tried to keep it around 160, but did let it go up to 165 a few times.  At training pace, 155 is my average, but at race pace 160-162 is closer to what I aim for.  It's ok to go over 162 here and there, and even go as high as 170-173...but never for too long.  This puts me well into anaerobic zones, and burns energy way to fast....and energy that can't be replaced quickly.  During the first 13 miles, for some reason, I chose to listen to my body rather than my heart-rate monitor.  I felt great!  So, I didn't pay too much attention to the fact that my heart-rate was constant at about 167-170.  This was a big problem and had I paid attention to this, might have figured out that I was running at the wrong pace.  But I got a little over-confident and chose to not think about it.  Letting my heart rate go above 167 for too long, on several occasions led to me prematurely running out of energy at mile 22.
  • Didn't drink enough water:  I did well with aid stations. I didn't walk a single one until mile 24. The mistake I made though was not enough water, and too much gatorade.  Sports drinks have their place, and are a good way to replenish electrolytes, but you need to drink water too.  I had a couple of salt tabs, so electrolytes weren't an issue....yet I always managed to grab the gatorade at the stations.  After about mile 17, I realized this and started focusing on water.  But I think it was too late at this point.   Drinking too much gatorade and not enough water, played a part in not keeping me properly hydrated.
  • Getting sloppy with gels, nutrition, and salt:  I'm usually very good about this.  I have my gels, salt-tabs, and whatever other nutrition/supplies I need.  For some reason, I was so focused on the race and the times, that I got sloppy about these things.  I quickly wolfed down gels when I was supposed to, often leaving a lot of gel still in the packet.  I only took one salt tab, when I probably should have taken 2 or 3, and I didn't eat enough before the race or during.  I had a small breakfast (usually I have a large one before a long run), and left the small bag of dates that I was going to bring with me for the race.  Putting down a couple of sweet dates during a long run gives me a nice boost of energy.  I had planned on brining some, but left them in my car.  Not handling my gels and nutrition properly, led to my lack of energy during the last few miles.
  • 10k last weekend:  As much as I told myself it wouldn't affect my performance yesterday, I think racing the 10k last weekend as hard as I did, DID affect my taper and my preparedness for the marathon.  The taper and rest leading up to a big race is absolutely critical and I abused this.  I probably should not have run the 10k at all as it most certainly affected my pre-marathon rest and taper.
  • Training long runs were too fast:  During my training, I think that I did my long runs too fast.  The point of weekend long runs is to train your body and muscles to function for long periods of time, NOT JUST over long distances.  Your body needs to learn to store enough glycogen in the muscles to support a 3-4 hour run.  I ran my long training runs too fast, and while I did the miles, I didn't do the time necessary to properly prepare my muscles for a race-pace marathon.  If you look at the split times for the elite runners for this race, you'll see that they basically had even splits for the entire race.  (i.e. 1:15 first half, 2:30 finish)

So there you have it.  Another successful race, and another successful PR!  It's funny how had I not cared about Boston, I would be ridiculously ecstatic about my time.  I never even thought I'd get close to qualifying, so I put it out of my mind.  As my confidence rose throughout my training though, I started to think......"maybe".  Because of this, it's turned what would otherwise be an achievement that I'm very pleased one I'm moderately disappointed with.

But...instead of beating myself up and beating the proverbial dead horse here, I will focus on the positives...and smile and think about how happy I am to have a new marathon PR of 3:20:47!  Now I get to take a few days off (woo hoo!) and start thinking about the trails.  I have a rather full docket of trail and ultra races this summer and I am super excited about it.

so hike on my friends,
keep on running,



Sunday, May 15, 2011

2011 Pocono Marathon Post-Race (short review)

(Full Review coming in a few days)

The short story:  I now have a new PR for the marathon distance:  3hrs 21mins (approx)!  I'm very excited about this result.  I was hoping to beat 3:39, and MAYBE 3:30.   Check...and Check!  Woohoo!

The slightly longer story:  I am also a bit disappointed.  I was on a strong and confident 3hrs 15min pace until mile 22.  I was actually looking to qualify for Boston (needed a 3hrs 15min 59sec).  Then I bonked really hard.....epic-ly hard....tragically hard.  A switch flipped...and I simply could not keep my pace, no matter how hard I tried.  I screamed at myself, yelled at the people next to me, and shouted various mantras, (i.e. "stay fierce", "..not to yield", "stay strong"), but I was simply out of glycogen.  There are several reasons for this, which I will go into in the full Race Review (to follow in a day or so).  I will say that I did NOT go out too fast....but rather various other small things led to me fuel running out a few miles too early.  Like I said, I'm moderately upset about this.  This was probably my best chance to qualify as the course is mostly downhill, the weather was cool and wet, and next year the qual times get chopped by 5 minutes....making it even harder.  Oh well.  It was not meant to be.

Like I said though, in spite of this, I'm super excited about the time.  I shaved 18 minutes off of my previous PR.  That's over 40 seconds per mile faster.

Longer review coming soon.... (going to rest now)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

2011 Pocono Marathon Pre-Race

And so it is upon me.  Just over three months of aggressive training comes down to 8:00 am tomorrow morning.  The best part though, is that it doesn't end tomorrow.  In fact, tomorrow is only my first big race of the season...a race that will herald in a season full of fun and exciting new trail races, as well as some familiar favourites.  I have trained hard for this marathon (see previous post), but I am still trying to stay level headed.   It's easy to get wrapped up in pace calculators and "what-ifs".  I can fairly confidently say that at an intermediate training level, I'm not sure I could have done a whole lot more to prepare myself.  I improved my diet, lost some unnecessary weight, cross-trainined, and never missed a single day of running.  The one downside to my training was that I started into the program about a month too late.  I missed the first 5 weeks, but still managed 13+ weeks of aggressive running.  While my running log doesn't show it, I also budgeted in pace/tempo days weekly.  Other than moving to an "advanced" training program (which I have no desire to do) that also incorporates intense hills, 4x800's, more tempo runs, more long runs, and a sixth day of running, I don't think I could realistically be more prepared.  

I'm sitting here now at the hotel, ridiculously anxious to get to some running.  I haven't done anything now in over two days and I'm fairly well carb-loaded.   I'm starting to spaz a bit.   Coming into the expo today I realized just how much my interests have steered away from road races and towards trails.  Don't get me wrong...I love this race, and I love that people are here to run.  Seeing people get excited about getting outdoors to do something fun is awesome.  The issue I have is with the mentality I seem to be now lacking.  I had a couple people start talking to me about various shoes, barefoot running, sport supplements, and gels just while wandering around.  All I could think of was how much I'd rather just be grabbing a grubby PB&J sandwich at a makeshift aid station buried deep in the woods of Vermont.   I have a hard time getting excited about road running gear and fads and feel that I've drifted quite a bit away from the whole "scene".   Three years ago, I was much more excited about the actual "running talk" with my fellow street running folks.  With all that said though, I'm still very happy to be here....albeit a bit over-energized right now.   (Nevermind the fact that the pasta dinner starts in 30 minutes).

The new course looks really awesome too.  Lots of new flat and downhill sections going through nice wooded areas of the Pocono Mtns.  I'm super excited about this.  Should be nice and fast.   Check it out HERE

Not much else to say.  Like I said in my last post...there's no second guessing now.  I'm ready, I'm fierce, and I will go into this race tomorrow with fervor and hold nothing back.   I know what to expect, I know what I'm getting myself into, I know not to try anything new, go out too fast, or wear new gear.  I am no longer the new guy at this.  So without further adieu, I shall stare it down, look it in the eyes....and say,

Bring It.

(As to breaking 3:39:00......wish me luck!)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

2011 Pocono Marathon Preview (& a Local 10k Review)

Me at the Pocono Marathon Start (2009)

Next weekend I will toe the line at my third "Run for the Red" Pocono Marathon.  This race has somewhat of a warm spot in my heart as it was my first marathon and still is where I hold my current marathon distance PR.  Back in 2008 when I decided to start running, after not having jogged more than a couple miles since high school cross country, I set my sights high on a marathon.  I decided to start an 18 week training program on January 1st and so began looking for races in early May that were somewhat close to central Pennsylvania.  Pocono sounded like a good first-timer course, and was only a few hours away.  I signed up after my 9th week of training.

...and the rest, as they say, is history.

While my running interests the past few years have shifted more to those trail-related, and while I generally enjoy a fun 50 mile ultra over a pavement pounding race, I still get excited about this Pocono road marathon.  I associate Winter and Spring training with running around the neighborhoods, parks, and gamelands of State College in preparation for this race and the start of the Summer running season.  I sincerely missed this race last year (despite being on an amazing trek along the PCT) and am very glad and eager to be back on the entrants list again.  

Some Course Updates:  
Apparently since 2009, the course has changed a bit....for the better.  Historically, the first 6 miles or so involved a rather unfavorable out-n-back portion.  According the website and course map, this has been changed so that it is more linear now with a slightly better elevation profile too!  Both welcome changes in my book.  Also, this year, there will be official pacers in the race for 5 minute intervals ranging from 3hrs 20 mins, to over 4 hours.

Training and Preparedness:
I have never in my life trained harder for a long distance race than I have for this year's Pocono marathon and upcoming season.  I still used a modified Hal Higdon style training program, but I stepped it up to a 5-day-a-week program (with one day a week cross training and cycling days).  My weekly mileages were on average 5-10 miles higher than any previous program I've used.  My running the past few months has been greatly improved over any previous season or year.  6 weeks ago, I tested out my racing legs by running in my first "official" race of the season part way through my training program.  I went out and ran a local 10 mile road run averaging 7:29 miles.  I could not believe that I ran this fast, but gladly accepted it.  During the past 13 weeks of training, I've never run what I consider to be "race pace" for my weekend long runs.  To me it's more important to run the miles, not the times.  Yet, with that said, I comfortably ran my 22 mile peak week long run two weeks ago averaging 8:25 miles.  This is the same pace that I PR'd at the Pocono Marathon two years ago...and I was not running anywhere near "race pace".    Over the past three months, I've watched as my average times have come down.  Starting my training, I was averaging 8:45 miles, just like usual, and now I am averaging almost a minute faster per mile on my shorter runs (~7:50-7:55)...and this is still not running what I consider a hard "race pace".

While I'm not running nearly as many miles as the elite or hard-core runners, I still managed close to two-hundred miles in both March and April.  I've also noticed that my heart-rates have been much improved.  At some point about half-way into my training, I noticed my average heart-rates had come down significantly.  Usually I averaged about 155 bpm on an normal run.  Now I'm averaging in the 140's, even when running 7:45 - 8:00 pace.  So why all of a sudden are my times so much better and why has my performance improved....especially since I'm not getting any younger?  Well I thought a lot about this and attribute it to a couple of things.  Here's what I've come up with in my unprofessional/non-medical opinion.
  • Adding in a 5th day of running every week.  Not only does this increase my mileage, and limit my rest days, but it adds a back-to-back component on the weekends and has me running the day right after my long runs.  I think this acts as sort of a kick start to my metabolism and performance.  This is sort of what I call the "hardening up" factor.  I equate it to hiking multiple long days in a row on a thru-hike.  Rather than run a long run and then vegetate the next day, I force my body to heal quickly and not get "too comfortable".  I am probably imagining this, but it just seems that it forces my body to keep functioning at a higher performance level.
  • Increased Mileage.  This goes along with the previous comment.  I think the simple act of increasing my mileage is generally a good thing for performance.  This is the first time that I used an "intermediate level" training program.  I felt it was time I graduated from novice.  So far it's paid off.  My peak week this year was 50 miles, 10 miles higher than previous years.  When ultra season begins in June, I'm hoping to up that to closer to 70 miles/week.
  • Pace Style Runs.  I really tried to "push" at least one run each week.  This was usually on one of my shorter Tuesday or Thursday runs.  I made a conscious effort to pick up the pace a bit.  I think that throwing in a day or two of higher intensity pace running each week has made a difference.  For me, a "pace run" isn't "race pace", but it's faster than my normal "comfortable pace".
  • Cross Training.  Historically I've treated the "cross training" day in the training program as a glorified rest day.  I would convince myself that walking around town constituted cross training.  Once in a while, I would do some strength training or go on a day hike, but usually I just sat on my ass.  This meant I basically took Sundays and Mondays my body too much time to sort of, re-sloth.  During my training this year, I've made a concerted effort to cross-train.  Back in March, I bought a new touring bike and have been taking it out at least once a week for long rides.  In addition, I've been riding into school at least 2 days a week and walking into school at least 3 days a week (4 miles round trip).  In general, I've made an effort to walk a lot more too.  Cycling still baffles me a bit as far as overall fitness.  Every friend I have here at school that is an active rider, is rail thin....yet a lot of runners I know, even those that run 40+ miles a week, still have a bit of body fat (myself included).  I've worn my heart-rate monitor while riding and my heart-rate is always much lower than when running, and I always burn less calories.  Generally I average about 130 bpm while riding.  This is certainly in the aerobic fat-burning zone, but even on a 25 mile ride, I burn way less calories than when I run, say, 13 miles.  In light of all of this, I don't really understand why cycling would make a person thinner than a runner...but there still seems to be some truth to it.  I think there is something fundamentally different about the way our bodies burn fat and use energy when cycling...over running.   I think that by adding in this component into my training, it's not only helped me become more fit and thin, but also improved my fitness level.
  • Diet.  For the past few years I've wanted to find a healthy diet that I'm happy with.  Since 2005,  I've become more aware about my genetic predisposition to the risks of heart disease and since tried to improve my overall diet and eating habits.  I tried the vegetarian thing for over a year, and I was pretty miserable.  In addition, it didn't help my cholesterol numbers come down at all.  I haven't really been able to settle in on anything that I've been truly happy and/or excited about.....until recently.   I decided about two months ago, that I wanted to try to shift a large portion of my overall food intake to fruits.  Who doesn't love fruit right?  In addition, I wanted to make an effort to increase my vegetable, and other raw food intake as well.  No, this does not mean I'm a vegan, or a fruitarian, or a raw-foodist.  I still eat fish, some chicken, and grains.  I am not trying a fad, or changing this based on some book I read or video I saw.  It just seemed to be common sense to me....fruits (and vegetables) grow out of the Earth in their natural form...and this is how our body should be fed.  How can eating an orange NOT be healthy?  So, I've been buying a lot of produce lately (mostly fruit) and try to snack on fruit all day.  I eat seeds and nuts too, but try to limit my snacks to good, raw fruits and veggies.  Don't get me wrong...I still eat a bowl of cereal for breakfast, still have a daily cup of coffee, and eat a piece of chicken once in a while.  Overall, I've been really happy with how this has worked and how it's made me feel.  It sounds cliche'...but I just feel better.  In addition to simply being healthier, eating more "raw" foods requires more energy for my body to digest.  Cooking food, in a sense, partially breaks it down before you eat it...meaning that your body has to work less.   There are some foods that I have also simply cut out or limited significantly.  In short here are a few notable changes I've made to my diet:
    • Lots of fruit - oranges, tomatoes, apples, plums, grapes, strawberries, lemons, cantaloupe
    • Cut out dairy almost completely.  Not sure why cheese is marketed as healthy because it's terrible for you.  I've cut it out completely as it's very high in fat.  Replaced milk with plain organic soy milk.  Other than a little ice cream treat once in a rare while, a little yogurt, and a little cream in coffee, I try not to do dairy anymore.
    • Replaced a lot of bad fats with good unsaturated fats.  Lots more cold-pressed olive oil, avacados, and raw peanut butter.  Lot less saturated fats in general.
    • Daily lunch salads (usually with lots of tomatoes! - I absolutely love tomatoes)
    • No alcohol.  OK...well almost.  I partake in a glass of wine here and there, and still have a beer rarely, but when I go out with others, I generally have a soda or water now.  In my mind, alcohol really is a sort-of poison for our bodies (especially our livers - mine of which is already at a genetic disadvantage) despite the benefits of a glass of red wine once in a while.  It's also a lot of empty calories.
    • Try to do healthy fish at least two times a week.  At least one serving of fresh sushi a week.
    • Smaller portions.  Not rocket science here....but it's amazing how much we try to cram in our stomachs.
  • Weight.  When I got back from Antarctica, I was in less than ideal shape.  Working in the cold down there made me notably more hungry than normal and I ended up eating quite a bit to stay warm.  It didn't help that the cooks there made us incredible food.  While my BMI value still said I was "normal" I was right up there at the high end.  For my height, a weight of 167lbs was nearly considered "overweight".  I still felt I looked "average", but I knew I needed to slim up a bit.  I wasn't worried though as I always put a few pounds on in the dead of winter and knew the running would burn that off.  Since I started running and have found a happy/healthy diet, I've shed nearly 13 lbs and am down to a much healthier weight of 154 lbs.  I would still like to shed a few more, but I'm not forcing it.  I think my body is coming into a sort of equilibrium.  This 13 pound shedding has certainly improved my running times.  Simple introductory physics tells us that it takes less energy to move less mass.  As I've leaned up, my fitness has improved.  A lot less stress on my joints too.
  • Training Run Variety.   Historically I have had my set training runs.  Set loops or out-n-backs for each distance.  I would look at my schedule to see what I was running that day, and do that particular run.  For this year, I've really tried to mix it up a lot.  Every day, I change my course so that I'm always running a different training run.  This has really helped to keep my runs fresh and exciting.  This has been a huge mental help and kept the long runs from being monotonous.  I think you always run a bit faster when you are simply "more into it".  This also gives me an excuse to play with google maps more....and you all know how much I LOVE playing with maps and geography in general (see "Seed is Planted" post).
  • Setting Goals and Short "Test Races".  Setting tangible goals for myself has always been a strong motivator.  I find it very hard to go out on weekly runs, when I don't have a race in my sights.  Signing up for many big races this year, and signing up early, has given me very real goals to work towards.  This has kept me focused, even during long and trying weeks of school work.  Throwing in a few "test races" along the way has also been a big help.  It makes the wait for the "big race" not so long.  Half way through my training I ran that 10 miler and did surprisingly well.  It felt good to just be running with others in race mode for a change.  This weekend, I ran my second running of a local 10k here as a last little race before the big run next weekend.  I completely shocked myself at how well I performed, and I ran over 5 minutes faster than in 2009 shattering my 10k PR time (see details below).
Well here it is.  I've never been bold in my race goals.  I generally set a conservative goal with a more hopeful secondary goal.  This year I'm taking a risk and setting the bar a bit higher for myself.  My goal for this upcoming Pocono race is to break my previous marathon PR time of 3:39....something I truly didn't think I'd be able to do.  As a secondary goal, I want to try to break 3:30.  This is a very lofty secondary goal, but I think I'm capable of it especially considering my training run times.
  1. Primary Goal:  Break Marathon PR Time of 3:39 (from 2009 Pocono)
  2. Secondary Goal: Break time of 3:30
Wish me luck!

I am adopting a strategy of famous US marathoner Ryan Hall this week...and that is to put the marathon completely out of my mind all week.  Starting Monday morning, I will do my best to not think of the marathon at all until Saturday when I'm finally driving to it.  I am ready to run, I have trained hard, and now I will simply wait and enjoy my last taper week.  When the weekend comes though, I will get fierce and ferocious.  I will hit this race hard and with fervor.  Bring it!

Biedleheimer Sidewinder 10k: A New PR! (Review)
As I mentioned above, I ran a 10k this weekend as a sort of last shakedown of my preparedness.  Being only 10k, I don't feel it was long enough to really negatively impact my marathon taper as I was supposed to run an 8 miler anyway (although some might argue).  I was a bit fired up for this race as I knew from running it in 2009 that it is a fast one.  It's a really fun course along fire roads near Tussey Mountain with an overall negative elevation profile.  The course is actually leg #4 of the Tussey Mountainback 50 miler that is held here in October.  My time from 2009 was 45:53, and I was just hoping to beat that by a minute or two.  When the race started, I headed out at what I thought was a good race pace.  My heart rate was high, but not obnoxious.  At about the half-way point I realized that I was actually in 3rd place overall (of over 50 runners).  I have never been in third place for any race it was pretty exciting...BUT, this is when I realized that I probably went out a bit too fast.  I had actually made the half-way mark in under 20 minutes.  I couldn't believe this.  For 3 years now I've been trying to break 20 minutes on a 5k, and I haven't.  My best 5k time is 20:10...yet today during a 10k, I passed the half-way point in 19:45.  Unreal.   By mile 4.5, I was I obviously went out too fast, and by mile 5, I was struggling quite a bit.  I forced my way through the last mile slowing down a fair amount, and inevitably got passed by a handful of people.  I didn't think that I had any chance of breaking 40 minutes so I eased to the finish once I realized there was no one close behind me.  Little did I know I'd be kicking myself later for that decision.  When the finish was in sight I saw the clock at a distance and it said 39:55.  DOH!  Had I pushed it a little harder at the end, I might have actually broken 40 minutes for a 10k.  Instead, I finished 8th place with a final time and new 10k PR of 40 minutes 32 seconds (40:32).  I still cannot believe this.  This equates to a 6:32 pace.  Needless to say, I was pretty ecstatic with this time, even if I could have maybe broken 40 minutes.  I cannot believe I basically ran my best 5k pace ever, on a 10k course.  According to my running log (, my VO2max for this race was actually 51.2.  I have never broken 50 on any race....ever.  So overall it was a huge success.  The atmosphere was one of a trail run.  Very fun, friendly, and non-comptetive type people....just out to have some fun.  I love this type of run.  Can't wait to do it again next year.

(PICS and official race details - They adjusted times based on age using the WAVA system.  This is why even though I finished 8th, I "placed" 13th.  It's weird, but I only care about my raw time)

Very happy that the running season has begun!


Monday, May 2, 2011

Reminiscing and the Big News

What an interesting week.  My little experiment to "unplug" was rather successful.  While I did cheat a couple of times to check weather and a few news bits, I held true to my goal of not surfing nor watching TV.  Last week I managed to get through quite a bit of school work and also spend more time with some hobbies that have been shelved as of late.  I would say in all honesty that I wasn't quite as productive as I'd hoped, but certainly more than I had been.  It was nice being able to sit at the coffee house with a book.  A real honest to goodness book....and just read.   I was the only one there without a laptop open.

Lots going on recently too.  Started my marathon taper, so my running schedule is finally easing up a little. Really looking forward to kicking off this year's running season in two weeks.  One of my biggest distractions this past week has been with trail reminiscing.  This past weekend was the Day-Zero PCT Kick-Off in Southern California.  All of the this year's aspiring thru-hikers were hanging out just as I was one year ago.  Thankfully, the organizers moved the kick-off back a week to help with the record snow this year.  I know a couple of people that were there and have since started their thru-hikes (Good luck Tommy!).  I had desperately wanted to attend again and catch up with some of my fellow class of 2010 hikers...but it just wasn't economically feasible  Add all of this to the fact that it was 4 years ago yesterday that I started my Appalachian Trail thru-hike and this marks the first year where I am dealing with two significant thru-hike anniversaries.  Needless to say my mind has been wandering a lot to thoughts of the trails.

and then...

Last night I decided to pop the TV on to see what kind of news I'd missed all week....and the bombshell dropped.  American Navy Seals had located and killed Osama bin Laden.  There were thousands of people in the streets here at Penn State screaming, chanting and I'm sure there were all over the country.

To be honest.  I'm not sure how I feel about that.   My very first thought when I heard this news was one of relief.  Finally this long chapter hanging over our heads can be closed.  The world is safer and a horrible and evil man will no longer be able to kill innocent people.  But to celebrate?  Celebrate what basically amounts to an assassination carried out by the US?  The whole eye for eye bit?  Don't get me wrong.  The man was as evil as they come, and surely deserved to be brought to justice.  Thousands of people around the world have died because of this man.  But to intentionally assassinate him, and then celebrate it openly seems a bit off to me.   Celebrating this will only make the extremists more angry and probably treat this act as one of martyrdom.  The 2nd in command person will simply be promoted and things could become even more heated.   Like I said, I'm just not sure how I feel about all this....but I'm sure some will read this post the wrong way.   Understand that I do love this country, and I do love the freedoms we are all allowed because of thousands of brave men and women.  I am aware of all the sacrifices that have been made.   I still vividly remember sitting in a meeting at my previous job on that Tuesday morning back in 2001...when the planes started hitting.  I remember how angry I was at that moment.  My only sense of uneasiness from all of this comes from the celebration of the death itself.  There is a very palpable sense of revenge, a very real sort of eye-for-an-eye, "take that" attitude I see from people concerning all of this....and to me this should not be the primary afterthought on our minds following such news.  What does that say about us?  Partying in the streets?  Really?  Today should be the day we dedicate to those who lost their lives because of this evil man, and day that we can finally let all of those truly rest in peace.


Think I will try to continue my moratorium on technology for a bit.  It will be hard, and I will still squeeze in a blog entry here or there, but for now I have lots to get done for school.

Happy trails class of 2011 thru-hikers....wish I could be out there with you.