Monday, November 30, 2009

Day Sixty - "Last Day of November"

“He who has health, has hope. And he who has hope, has everything.”

The last day of another month is upon us. We have sailed through Halloween and right past Thanksgiving. The days continue to speed ahead as the days of your life continue to grow longer. The Christmas Holiday is approaching at warp speed. This upcoming month brings with it not only the signs of tidings and cheer but hopeful accomplishments at the end of a season and the hopeful beginnings of a season to start.

The morning was a late one after having a few days off for the Thanksgiving Day Holiday. I was awoke by my youngest daughter at 6:05AM. This is her regular morning time to wake up and prepare her day for school. I was going to spend the day working from home today due to the doctor's appointments lined up for this issue with the ticker that was discovered two weeks ago.

I went to Johns Creek LTF to run my mid-tempo run on the treadmill. I saw Carmelo in the locker room who just completed IM-Arizona. He was excited that he finished and he proceeded to tell me how well organized the event was put together. This was Carmelo's second Ironman after being away from the sport for a couple of years. I was glad he accomplished a goal that he set out to achieve.

Upstairs at LTF was sparse. I must of hit the changing of the workers to the stay at home parents who just sent the kids off to school. I started out the workout at 8:34's for a warm up and after 1.3 miles turned the pace up to 7:00/mile. I needed about 10 minutes to warm up from the Half on Thursday so I took my time until I felt warm and then settled into a 6:41 pace. I ran this pace for 4.5 miles and then eased off to a 8:34 pace to cool down.

There Turkey Day Half still lingered in the legs after the tempo. Did a good stretch and headed home.

Starting December 1st the countdown for Boston Training begins. It will be bitter sweet for me. Great that I am training for my second consecutive Boston appearance but bitter that I will be there alone without my wife and friends.

Tomorrow is swim after a week's absence. I hope the desire is still there for the pool.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Day Fifty Nine - End of Thanksgiving Holiday

I had as many doubts as anyone else. Standing on the starting line, we're all cowards.

-- Alberto Salazar

Over the Thanksgiving Holiday, I have been devoid from the blog. With the holidays I focus on family and friends and leave the normal traces of life behind.
Wednesday through Sunday sailed by with the family having a lot of fun along the way.
Tuesday night Sarah and I brought the girls and headed down to Buckhead to the Atlanta Expo to pick up our bib number and shirt. I was also there to have my picture taken for the sponsor that fronted a little cash and a few shirts for me to run the race. The new TV show, “Men of a Certain Age” on TNT was the sponsor. This photo shoot was a little messed up with the picture being taken with the group early making me miss the group shot but I had a picture taken with my youngest daughter with her and I sporting the shirts the TV show gave me. After the expo we headed over to Buckhead Pizza and had an awesome dinner with lively conversation with the girls.
My parents headed down from North Carolina on Wednesday to join us for the festivities.
When my parents come down to our home they easily fold into our lives. Wednesday night was of a course the pre-race dinner prior to the Atlanta Half Marathon. The dinner was loaded with carbs, protein and veggie’s. I always enjoy making the meal of Chicken Alfredo, salad and bread for Sarah and myself, but now I had more company to join us. Not only does the dinner serve as a loading prior to a long run or race, but also it covers the areas of comfort food for guest.
Sarah and I turned in early in order for us to get plenty of sleep for the half marathon. Tomorrow’s annual half marathon is serving two purposes for Sarah and I. For Sarah, at the end of week 14 she had a 13 miler at race pace. The Atlanta Half Marathon is the perfect venue for Sarah to control her pace and achieve her 13-mile training run at race pace. For me, it was a race. I wanted to break the 1:30:00 mark for a half marathon. Since Augusta, I have not had a set training program, but with the workouts I have had, I knew that there was some untapped power in me to achieve this goal.
Turkey Day morning both Sarah and I woke prior to 5AM. Our plan was to pick up Wren at 5:35AM in her neighborhood and head down to the Chamblee MARTA station near the start of the Half Marathon.
We picked Wren up and made a smooth ride down 141 to Chamblee. We unloaded our bags at the transport trucks and I kissed my wife and wished her good luck. I hugged Wren and wished her a good run and I headed off to do a 10-minute warm up prior to the race.
The warm up was uneventful down a side road into a neighborhood where I could not help but thinking that most of these residences of this community are still sleeping while less than quarter mile away from them 10,000 runners were congregating.
As I made my way to the Start Line and Corral #1 I ran into Les. I have known Les for the last 7 years. I met him at the local Y in Alpharetta and have been friends every since. Les is a great guy who in fact was one triathlete who stopped to give me a CO-2 cartridge on the Augusta bike route. Les and I chatted about family and his progress in running. He was looking for a PR on this course (he finished in 1:37:00) and told me his current coach was Kona Jerry. As we made our way to the corrals I saw the 1:30:00 pace group. I wished Les the best of runs and told him I may see him at the finish.
I walked up to Corral #1 there were a number of runners piling into the corral. I found the pace group and hung out with about 8 minutes prior to the start. The coolness of the air settled on the crowd of runners as the runners mostly strangers to all huddled close together to keep the body warmth in the corral.
A few moments later the announcer came over the loud speaker thanking the volunteers, then the Anthem and we were off!
I was about 4 runners deep from the start and with a few steps I was over the start line heading down Peachtree for 13.1 miles. Jamie, our pace group leader had decided to run a positive split on this course. The first 7 miles are downhill with 4.0 miles up then less than 2 miles downhill to Turner Field.
The route was start toward the town of Atlanta. With the 10-minute warm up I was able to settle into a steady pace on the first mile. The group was 6:25 on the first with 6:14 on the second mile. I heard a few complaints from some of the runners but after I explained the plan they settled into the idea and we made our way down PT.
The next 2-3 miles we eased back and had a 10 second per mile cushion going into the middle of the course. I passed under the 6.5 ”Men of a Certain Age” banner draped across the road. I expected to see a large contingency of supporters for the TV Show but it was only two guys. A spotter and a camera guy. The thought that ran through my head was, lame. I expected more, but my goal was not to be greeted by the banner but to finish this race.
As I rounded the 7 mile marker I stripped the Tech Shirt and wore the racing tee I had under the black sponsor shirt. The temp was increasing to the mid-40’s by this point and with a large amount of hill facing me, I wanted to make sure my core was cool and ready for the challenges.
The group at this point started to thin out. A few “runners” moved ahead and more fell behind. I was comfortable in my pace and wanted to attack the hills with Jamie to insure I maintained pace. By the first hill we were 1:40 ahead of total pace which left us a nice reserve for the hills. The hills came fast and steep. For the next 4 miles we lost 20 seconds per mile on grades and averaged 6:50’s. I held back and followed the leader since he knew where the next hill was and when we needed to prepare for it.
After the last of the hills the course gradually changed to a downhill again. At this point I knew I was at mile 11 and started to increase the pace and broke from the group. I followed a few lone runners to Capital Hill here I knew the short steep road would hit the quads hard and furious. The hill was in front of me as I lowered my head leaned into the hill shortened my step and increased the cadence. I could feel gravity slowing me down as I made it up and over the last of the hills before I could see the Olympic Rings leading to Turner Field.
Taking the time to catch my breath I focused on the Rings and increased the pace. There was one small grad up and over 75/85 and took this with no problem. After that it was smooth sailing. The heart rate and breathing increased as the crowds grew closer to Turner Field. On the left a quarter mile from the Finish I saw Susan and Mike taking pictures. Susan yelled and I gave them the thumbs up as I sailed down Hank Aaron to the end. A moment later I passed a runner on the left and I felt him catch my right shoulder to draft off me to the end. 100 meters further I heard a snap and the runner dropping off. He started to scream as I turned to see that he had hit a pot hole and twisted his ankle less than 250 meters from the end of the 13.1 miles. His swearing was loud until the distance took over between us and the loudness of his cursing was muffled by the cheers of the crowd.
I kicked it one more time thinking of the track and the acceleration I do at the last turn of a 400 and crossed the line at 1:28:46. This time gets me an automatic entrance into the New York Marathon.
I had accomplished the goal I had set out. I felt awesome. Was not winded, was not sore, was not in pain, just elated. I saw a few of the group runners I had shared over an hour of my life with. I congratulated them on their accomplishments and headed towards the medal stands. I was adorn in a medal and walked to the water and food stations.
After gathering some post race recovery fuel I got my clothing bag, I had dropped off 2 hours earlier and changed in the parking lot. The next goal was to meet up with my friends then Sarah and Wren.
Here are the shots from the race. Everyone had accomplished their task. With all of the runners actually running faster than the pace they were to hold for this run. Sarah finished at 1:48:46, 3 minutes too fast but she felt fine and looked good. Wren knocked out a 1:48:03, again fast. The bet I had with Ann Marie has made me a rich man. AM finished at 1:41:28, almost 7 minutes excessively fast! AM owes me $42.00. Cha-ching! If I stuck to the original bet AM would be ponying up $425 clams. I couldn't do that to her for a great run even though it was too fast for a training run.

Ann Marie, Michele, Susan, Amy and Amy's Bro

Michele, Seth and Les

Michele, Seth & Me

Sarah and Wren

Sarah & I (I am very proud of her)

Thanksgiving Dinner with my family was very special to us. We are truly thankful for our health, family, friends, jobs, abilities and love we have for each other. My youngest made us Indian hats to celebrate the first Turkey Day in America.

The Family on Turkey Day

The rest of the holiday was spent with the grandparents playing board games, going downtown to Dialogue in the Dark (which I highly recommend) making pizza’s, breakfast and watching a few DVD’s. My parents left on Saturday morning.
Sarah and Wren had left Friday afternoon with Courtney to support her in her first marathon. Courtney ran a trail marathon in Milledgeville, Georgia on Saturday. Courtney accomplished her first marathon in less than 5 hours. It ended up being a tough technical course where the mileage was not correct, but her desire and dedication to accomplishing 26.2 miles was her determination. After the last loop of the course, Courtney headed out for 2 more miles to knock out the FULL MARATHON. We are all very proud of her.

Courtney and her Marathon Prize, yes a Ginger Bread Man, along with the Race Director

The girls and I were on a roll instead of ginger bread on Saturday. We went Christmas shopping and in one trip got 4 out 7 cousin's Christmas presents. Not as tough as a marathon, but I would rather run 26.2 then shop any day!
Sitting here on Sunday evening before the start of a new week, I am reflect on the last 5 days and would not change a thing. The half marathoners had an awesome race, the full “hard core” trail marathoner finished her first long race, we all had a great time with family and my 8 year old is currently making homemade sugar cookies all by herself. Man! “What a great week!”
Tomorrow is a long tempo run and a visit to the cardiologist. As I age, I am getting faster but this comes with more doctors and prescription drugs.
Everyone in my circle had awesome races and runs. None of these athletes are cowards but I understand what Alberto is saying, when we are at the start the nerves kick in and we loose the faith in our abilities. I think this is true, but with the support of family and great friends you overcome this sense of cowardness and we roar like lions.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Day Fifty Four - "Atlanta Half Marathon Week"

Sunshine is delicious,
Rain is refreshing,
Wind braces us up,
Snow is exhilarating,
There's really no such thing as bad weather,
Only different kinds of good weather."

This week the kids are off from school for the whole week. It is always a challenge to find activities for them to do so they are not vegging out in front of the Boob Tube all day long. Both Sarah and I are working on and off during this week which adds to the challenges. After a few appointments I have lined up I am heading home to hang with the girls and do most of my work from the dining room table in between breaks.

Last night we had “Family Game Night”. This is a tradition that comes and goes in our home depending on the level of extracurricular activities the girls have during the week. The game on the table last night was Clue. I enjoy this type of game. The goal is not only to win but you need to strategize on “who done it” but not give away any “clues” you have as to who the killer is. During the game last night, Sarah asked me a question on my move and without thinking, I gave away the killer and the weapon. I was kicking myself and she knew that I had slipped which she used to her advantage and won the game.

Even board games brings out a healthily dose of competitiveness in all of us.

The night was short and the morning came fast at 4:55AM. Today is swim, the last swim workout for the week.

Coach Mike’s Swim Workout:

200M Warm up
150M Non-Free
100M Kicks
Main Set
4 X 300M @ 5:15
4 X 100M @ 1:40
4 X 200M @ 3:30
50M EZ
100M Side Kick
6 X 25M Power Kicks underwater
100M Zipper Drill
12 X 50M 25M All Out/25M EZ
200M EZ
100M Kick

The swim was not easy this Tuesday morning. It was a combination of a sore right shoulder and Seth and Jeremiah sporadic in their swimming in the lane. Each of the swimmers were not on their game and were continually stopping and jumping into a set. This made the outside lane choppy to swim in. I made the intervals but did not feel my mojo at all during this swim. Seth also stated he met a guy at the Sports Factory who knew me. I instantly said, "Was it Lou?" Seth said, "Yeah it was!". Seth then told me that Lou stated that I was one fast dude. Thanks for the kind but overstated words Lou.

Sat in the hot tub after the swim to heat the shoulder. A bunch of the swimmers jumped in as well and we talked about the half marathon on Thursday. Michele stated that the weather was going to be cold. I tend not to worry about the weather since it is one of the only things you cannot control on race day. On race day, there is no bad weather the weather is what you make of it. You either embrace the environment and focus on your race or focus on the weather and your race will be affected.

This is a busy day at work prior to starting the holiday week with having a few days off.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Day Fifty Three - "Atlanta Half Marathon Week"

"Having a true faith is the most difficult thing in the world. Many will try to take it from you."

Sunday was an awesome day even though the rains came and the temperature was on the cold side. We got a lot accomplished yesterday and were able to watch the Patriots beat the Jets at Gillette Stadium with a big huge Rib-Eye steak. Life is great…

The upcoming week is Thanksgiving. Traditionally work starts to peter out after Monday. This time is good time to take advantage of all the little projects that I have been procrastinating on over the last couple of months. This week is also the start of tapering for the Atlanta Half Marathon on Thursday as well. I have only 2 runs scheduled prior to Thursday. A track workout and a 3-mile EZ run. I also have been fortunate to be picked to be a running sponsor for “Men of a Certain Age” that will be airing on TNT in the couple of weeks for the Atlanta Half. With this sponsorship I receive a technical running shirt, 5 T-shirts (with “Men of a Certain Age” logo) a $75.00 AMEX gift card (pays for my entry into the race) and I am getting my picture professional taken on Tuesday night down at the Expo.

The sponsorship for this particular TV show is bitter sweet. It is great that I the opportunity was extended to sponsor a TV show, but one of the qualifications for being picked is that you have to be 40-49 years old. We all get older as the years fly by, but when you are singled out because of the age you are really makes you think that the years are flying by.

Though the years are adding up, I have nothing to be sorry for in my life. My family is healthily, I have good friends, I am stronger than when I was in my 30’s and my health is okay. We will find out how well next week.

Monday morning came quick. I had a lot of tossing and turning throughout the night, mostly about nothing. No bad dreams, no worries but just a little pain from the memory foam that we put on the bed last week. I like a firm bed, Sarah likes a soft bed. After a couple of years of having the bed firm, Sarah wanted to “soften” it up and she went out to purchase a memory form. I am not the biggest fan of it, but it makes Sarah happy and well…

Ann Marie last week requested that we run the track workout on Monday in order to rest up for the Half on Thursday. In my mind, this is the signs of a race for her which it should not be. This is a simulated race at marathon pace only and in order for her to stick to the plan I am going to make a wager with her. AM is shooting for a 3:40:00 Huntsville time. This equates to an 8:23 minute pace. For the Half AM needs to pace herself for a 1:49:49 race. The wager will be (with a 10-second variance on both ends) for every 10 seconds under this time she owes me a monetary amount (T.B.A.). I am banking that this will hold her to her pace with a friendly wager in place. Sarah and Wren are also running the Half but I am not as concerned with their pacing. I think they are truly seeing this as a “mock race” and hold true to the time of 1:54:50 half. This is going to be a good race and a good time with Sarah, Wren, Ann Marie, Chris, Susan, Stacy and anyone else we see at the race.

As for the track workout this morning. The group was smaller than normal but Jay, Bob, Susan A., Ann Marie and myself. The majority of the group was hitting 8 X 800’s (a shorter rendition of the Yasso 800’s) as I was running 6 X 400’s.
As we left the parking lot we were stopped by a guy who was trying to find Verizon’s Head Quarters. The four of them kept running across Northpoint and I stopped to give him directions to the facility. I sensed that the group thought it was weird that a guy was asking directions at 5:45AM in the morning, but he seemed harmless enough. Heading down Webb Bridge the wind started to pick up where we all knew it would have an impact on the timing around the track. The run would need to be pushed a little more in order to hit the marks. Ann Marie was apprehensive on her ability to make the 3:23 time for her 800’s. Susan, Bob & Jay seemed to be unfazed by their times and wanted to get the 800’s going. I gave AM a dose of encouragement and we all started out track.
Bob & Jay were consistent around the oval with Bob being the pacesetter. I could tell from Bob’s form and stride he was pacing well. Jay, tended to start out too fast instead of building to a pace. Overall the paces were dead on at 3:12’s. Ann Marie and Susan were even more consistent on achieving the 3:23’s for their times. Even with the doubts looming in her head, AM’s physical toughness shows on her workouts. Susan is the quite horse. She just runs without a peep and achieves her times consistently week and week out.

As for me, I was the variable in the mix with my 400’s. I timed my 400’s and recovery in order to finish around the same time as the group. My time for the last workout before the Half was: 1:18, 1:16, 1:17, 1:16, 1:16, 1:15. The pace for my 400’s was 1:17. I was a little fast on a few but with a longer than usual recovery in between the 400’s I was not taxed at 100%.

After the workout and heading back, we talked about Yasso’s theory of 10 X 800’s. Bob wanted to hit two more 800’s to see if he could stay on pace. No problem for Bob or Jay for that fact. In short, Bart Yasso’s theory states if you can maintain 10 X 800M’s at a consistent pace that pace will dictate your marathon pace. If the 800’s are run at 0:03:23’s then you should be able to run a 3:23:00 marathon. Susan tested this theory last year and it worked for her. We all have some doubts especially when I trained last year on all my 800’s at 0:02:51’s.

Bart Yasso will be at Huntsville on Friday giving a seminar. I plan to attend his seminar to hear what he has to say. Maybe if I buy into his belief than I will be able to take some of Yasso’s belief and apply it to a faster time at Boston in 2010.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Day Fifty One - "Off Season"

Real athletes run others just play games

The runners have finished their past 20-mile run of this training program. Sarah & Wren ran Thursday morning, Bob & Jay ran Thursday night, Tracey ran with her friend, Kellie in Dallas and Ann Marie ran with a group at the Columns. These athletes have proven that dedication and devotion to running pays off.

After work on Friday, I met Bob for a couple of beers at Taco Mac in Alpharetta. Bob is looking ready to achieve the goal of qualifying. I could have sworn he looked “jacked” enough to run the marathon today! I am glad that he is the zone and understands the importance of everything he does has a major impact on his run.

After a few pops with Bob, I called Sarah and met her and Grace at the Taco Mac by our house. We had a nice dinner and talked about our week and the night that was about to come. Sarah and Grace along with Grace’s friend purchased tickets to the movie “New Moon” for later that night. The show starts at 10PM, which is too late for me.

Saturday morning I slept in until 7AM. I planned on traveling down to the Columns to run a portion of Ann Marie’s 20 miler with her since I had ran with everyone else on this plan (except for Tracey).

I arrived at the Columns at 9:10AM. I was amazed at the number of runners and bikers along Columns Drive. The parking lot was full and I had to wait 5 minutes until someone pulled out for me to get a spot to park.

I paid my $3.00 parking fee and decided to head in the opposite direction on the trail which loops around the park area in hopes of coming up on Ann Marie and the gang. Almost a mile into my tracking down run I came up on Ann Marie, Susan, Chris and Stacy. They were approximately 11 miles into the 20 and all four of them looked strong.

We ran back the direction I once came and headed out onto Column Drive out & back for 5 miles. 1.5 miles in I dropped back and ran with Stacy for a couple of miles since her pace was little slower than the rest. At the turnaround, Stacy said I could run ahead and catch up to the runners ahead. I stayed with Stacy for another mile and then decided to kick it and make my up to the front group.

Once I caught up to Ann Marie, Chris & Susan we were less than a mile from the park entrance. When we approached the entrance, everyone headed to his or her cars to restock their fluids and we were off. This portion of the run was the last 3.4 miles of the run.

At the end of the run every looked strong, finished strong and had completed the last of their 20 miler.

This distance of 20 miles is not only a physical challenge but mental as well. Each one of these runners has conquered the mental aspect of the run and are ready physically to attack Huntsville.

Jonathan, Ann Marie, Me, Susan, Stacy & Chris

Friday, November 20, 2009

Day Fifty -"Off Season"

"Running is a mental sport...and we're all insane!"
I am recycling the quote from yesterday. The reason for the repeat of words has to do with the next paragraph I am about to write.

It started yesterday at 4:30AM. I was not a wake just yet but my friend, Jay was. Jay is a “routine” guy. Wakes up at the same time, eats the same breakfast, gets to LTF at the same time, takes close to the same locker, you get my point. Yesterday about mid morning I sent Bob an email inquiring on his and Jay’s trip to Huntsville today to run 20 miles of the course. Bob responded and stated that due to work conflicts they were not going to Huntsville but instead were going to run their 20 miles tonight at 10PM. 10PM!? I thought. That’s crazy! Why on Earth would they run that late at night especially when they both were up before 5AM and swam a hard workout, went to work, came home, ate dinner, put the kids to bed and then run? Bob tends to have irregular sleeping patterns but Jay, Mr. Does Not Deviate From His Schedule is in bed with the lights out at the time they would be hitting the pavement.

Through the tough swim on Thursday morning & the stresses of work, the Dynamic Duo took flight at 10PM to conquer the last 20-mile run on the plan as Sarah & I finished assisting Grace with her homework and headed to bed.

I slept in the morning knowing that I was going to work from home this morning. I got up at 6AM while I heard Ellie stirring in her bed. I headed downstairs in the running gear to the tempo run for today. Logging into my computer while the coffee was brewing I saw 2 emails from Bob. One was from 1:27AM stating that they had completed the run. There were some issues with Jay along the way, but all-in-all it was a good run and they kept an average pace of 8:14’s. I could sense from the email that Bob was “jacked” that he accomplished the 20 miler and felt good. Jay was not so good, but who could blame him. He jumped out of his skin to run at 10PM after being awake for 19.5 hours, working out and working hard. Just like Bob, Jay finished at the same pace. Bob was the pacer on this run and I know that helped Jay accomplish his goal.

The second email from Bob was at 5:15AM stating he was wide awake. Irregular sleep patterns…

I helped Ellie with making her breakfast and her lunch. We chatted about stuff that spilled off her brain as I prepared my stuff to my tempo run. My daughter has two sides to her. Her home side, which is a 180 from her “public” side. At home, she is outgoing, very energetic and carries on conversations from the time she wakes to the time she falls asleep. When she is at school or out in “public” she is shy and reserved. She is a very smart girl (of course she is, she gets her smarts from Mom) and I know the pendulum will swing into a happy medium as she grows.

After the task of prepping Ell’s for school was complete we had 25 minutes before the bus. Sarah had made her way down from upstairs and was not walking too well. The Osteitis Pubis injury flared up and was causing some discomfort during the night. I wish I had a cure for her but in researching the injury the only fix is rest. Sarah plans on running in Huntsville, but she has come to the realization that a 3:50:00 may not be there this year. I still have faith in her and her abilities to push through. No matter what happens I will be there for her on the run during the last 13 miles of her journey.

I headed to LTF-Johns Creek this morning to hit the hamster wheel for the tempo. The ride and gym were uneventful at 7AM. I ran the workout: 2 miles EZ, 3 miles at 6:30/mile pace, 1 mile EZ. The run was good. I did not feel taxed or labored throughout the run except for the first mile. Every time I would look at the mile counter I swore it was not moving. It usually takes me about 10 minutes to get the blood moving not only in the legs but the head as well. After 10 I am good to go.

I was home this morning waiting on a Jetta TDI to be delivered for my test driving. This is a new vehicle in my fleet of 51 cars and I wanted to drive the car to see how it handled and how roomy it is. My employees do not take to change well so this will help me sell a big change from a Toyota Camry to a Jetta diesel.
As for the rest of the runners, my sister, Tracey is running her 20 miles on Saturday. This is her last 20 as well before the Dallas Marathon. Ann Marie is also running her 20 on Saturday at the Columns.

An update on all the 20’s will be published after these two runner complete their last 20 milers.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Day Forty Nine - "Off Season"

"Running is a mental sport...and we're all insane!"

The training for the Boston Qualifiers is coming to a pinnacle point in their training this week. This is the last 20 miler on the plan. After this last run, there is 3 weeks of tapering until Huntsville & Dallas on December 12th & 13th. The last long run is at marathon pace + 15. Sarah & Wren are currently running their 20 miler at the Columns as I write. My sister Tracey might have already run her 20 miler and I need to follow up on her. Bob & Jay, The Dynamic Duo, are hitting the streets of Alpharetta at 3:45AM Friday morning to complete their long run. Ann Marie will be running her 20 miler on Saturday at the Columns as well.

I cannot say this enough of the fortitude that each one of these athletes has endured over the last 15 weeks has been amazing. Each one of them had their doubts on their abilities to accomplish this training at the start, but over the past couple of months, I have seen this doubt turn to assurance in their abilities to run at these speeds. Week and week out every one of these runners has learned and appreciated that running at this level is just not a physical attribute but a mental one as well.

Once the run reports start to come in I will update the blog on the marathoner’s achievements on the last 20 miler.

Last night was the pre-20 miler dinner for Sarah. Sarah and Grace had a meeting at the church at 6:45PM so dinner needed to be prepared, we needed to eat and clear the table so they could get to the church. The meal was a balance of protein, carbs, grains and veggies. Whole Wheat Pasta, Sauce, Grilled chicken, Herb Bread, Spinach Salad and of course a glass of wine.
After dinner and when the two ladies took off for the meeting, I promised Ellie that we would play a game after she took her shower. Ellie and I sat down for a mean game of “Rat-A-Tat-Cat”. It is a fast-paced card game utilizing your memory and math skills in order to score the least amount of point per game. We both enjoy a healthy dose of competition as we battled back and forth on winning hands. After seven consecutive games, we called an end to the event and we both headed up to prepare for the night.

Ellie reads for 20-30 minutes every evening before bed while I organize my “stuff” for the next morning. We are both creatures of habits on schedules, she likes to start to read at 8:00PM, and I like to have all my “stuff” laid out and ready to go by 9:00PM.
The night ended with Sarah, Grace and I watching one of their favorite shows, “Glee”. I have to admit it is a good show. The characters are good and the singing is entertaining. However, I would give up watching Glee for a action, blood and guts movie any day of the week. I do not get to watch too many of those kinds of shows with 3 females in the house.
The morning brought another day in the pool. The swimmers were sparse this morning with a number of the regulars M.I.A. Jeff has been very sporadic in the pool but I attribute his lack of pool time for sleep time these days.

Coach Mike’s workouts have been lower in distance the past couple of weeks. This morning was:

300M Warm up
150M Non Free
150M Drills
4 X 500M’s on the 8:45’s broken up into:
200M Fins with Paddles
100M Fins
200M Freestyle
8 X 25M’s all out with a 10 second RI
200M Cool down
I knocked out the first 500M with over 1 minute of rest. I decided to trim the time to 8:30’s, which is not fast, but less rest time. My motivation was I needed to head home to drive Grace to a Student Council meeting since Sarah had to meet Wren for the run.

If running is insane, then I ask, “what is all of this car-pooling called”? Is this a sign of getting older. As I wait in the drop off line at the school with Grace about 30 cars deep I just do not recall the amount of shuffling kids to school like this when I was young. Granted we have to drive Grace once a week to school, the other days she takes the bus. As a kid you took the bus and if you missed it you rode your bike or walked and if that was not going to work you went nervously to your parents and asked for ride. After the scolding, they would take you, swearing this was the last time. There as many activites as back in the day, why all the picking up and dropping off? I was active in school and I do not remember my mother or my father driving us all over Timbuktu morning, afternoon and night. Are kids these days allergic to buses?

The running must be messing with my mental facilities because I am converting to an Old Dude, stating, “when I was a kid”… We all have been there.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Day Forty Eight - "Off Season"

“You cannot propel yourself forward by patting yourself on the back.”

Every day that goes by, I am enjoying life more and more. For some, the opposite occurs. The thought of getting old, loosing hair, gaining weight, loosing people you love or even retirement plague individuals to the point there are more negatives in their lives than positives. This thinking or worrying will only shorten your time and you will miss the little things in life that unbelievably can be just as important.

Over the last year, I have developed a lot of new friends and acquaintances and strengthened my bonds with family and old friends. For me, my athletic nature has opened the door for new people to be a part of my everyday life and I welcome the times I am able to spend with them.
This outlook on life has had a positive impact on my health and the relationships I have with my wife and daughters as well. Stress that creeps into our lives daily is easily diffused and the bond I had with my daughters has become stronger than before. By “not sweating the small stuff” I can spend the little amount of time we have between work, training, their schooling, the activities and their friends with little outside disturbances. Quality of time is the key to our family life and by making the time meaningful for all gives us a balance.

This morning is Bob’s favorite day of the week: Track Workout. This morning we had a crew of runners heading out to the track for our weekly ritual of tearing up the oval at AHS. The group consisted of, Jay, Bob, Ann Marie, Susan, Swimmer Susan, Stacy, Chris and I. The plan for 75% of the runners was 10 X 400M’s with a 400M RI in between. The remaining had longer sets to accomplish between 600M’s and 1200M’s.

The weather was cooperating with us after a downpour last night. A few times on the drive over to LTF, the rain started up but quickly ended. The temperature and wind was ideal for a morning of consecutive loops of 400M’s around.

Upon arriving at the track I could tell Bob & Jay were eager to snap these 400M’s off. We all did our 400M scout of the track marking the 200M split on the back end near the visiting section of the bleachers. I was a little concerned with the amount of track participants that the oval was going to become congested but figured it would work out if the spacing were adequate.

At the end of the scouting run, we prepped ourselves by tearing off the extra layers we ran over in to lighten the load. Bob & Jay stuck to themselves and took off for the first 400. Ann Marie and Susan followed them. I gave a 10-second head start for Bob & Jay and then took off. Since we all have, a set time for the 400M’s Anyone ahead or behind was no consequence. The goal was to stay focused and achieve the marks, which for Bob & Jay were 1:35’s, Ann Marie, and Susan, 1:39’s and my time was 1:20.

After each 400M, we took a 400M recovery run around the track. Chris and Swimmer Susan were well into their sets and Stacy who was having some groin issues was trailing the pack of 400 runners. Stacy was taking it a little easy not too aggravate the pull anymore.

During each 400M the Dynamic Duo (Bob & Jay) feel into a rhythm while they continued to hit their mark. I passed them on a couple of occasions due to the time differences on the 400’s, but decided that I would stagger myself and allow them to “do their thing”. The Duo are two highly competitive athletes and I know for at least Bob he would like to have “shown me up” by kicking it up. This would not have done them any good in their goal so I fell back with Ann Marie and Susan and let the boys have their fun.

Everyone was hitting their times at the half way point and maintained this consistency to the end. The Dynamic Duo were a few seconds fast with one 400M being knocked off at 1:22! Ann Marie & Susan were very consistent coming in 1:36’s or so. I had decided on my 400M’s last night to increase the pace a by a few seconds to 1:20’s. For my 400M’s: 1:19, 1:20, 1:20, 1:18, 1:18, 1:20, 1:15, 1:17, 1:18, 1:18. Fast I know but the laboring was about 90% of max. I felt good and could have gone a few seconds faster on each one, but decided to hang at this effort for the 10.

Chris, Swimmer Susan and Stacy completed their sets early and took off back to LTF. The remaining runners finished and cooled down with one more 400M before making our way back to the LTF as well.

It is glad to see the Dynamic Duo, Ann Marie & Susan though disappointed about the closing of Boston, focusing on their goal for Huntsville. The strength and determination in Sarah and Wren are showing as well. They are not letting this setback deter them from the objective. I need to contact my sister, Tracey today to see how she is fairing with the news.

The runners I surround myself with are strong, motivated and determined individuals who propel themselves through life by not telling about their greatness, they just show it. I am there to give them the support and encouragement with a pat on the back for a good job.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Day Forty Seven - "Off Season"

“The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire; the size of your dream; and how you handle disappointment along the way.”
Robert Kiyosaki

Yesterday brought disappointment to a lot of runners that were trying to get to Boston in November, December & January. The 2010 Boston Marathon has filled to capacity of 25,000 runners and registration is now closed. This is a sad day not only for the runners in my circle but also for me. I am not usually selfish, but in this case, I will be. I did not want to run this race solo again. It was awesome to have Sarah waiting at the end for me, but the pre-race event in Hopkinton was a bit lonesome. I knew a few people that would be at the race but not as well as the group of runners that will now need to wait until 2011 for the “Big One”.

Today was Master’s Swim-Tuesday. I woke at 4:55AM after almost 8 hours of good sleep. The Sunday Night Game wore me out and I was in bed with the lights out drifting into slumber at 9PM. The bed was warm, the air cool as it was Monday morning and I was tempted to stay in bed for another hour.

Landing at LTF I saw Ann Marie quickly shuffling into the lobby and down the hall to the locker rooms. She paused as I followed her path and we discussed a little about the closing of registration for Boston. She seems to be taking it better than expected. Her drive and desire are strong for competition and I thought she would have some of the wind taken out of her sails, but she impressed me by her attitude towards the news.

There were a number of swimmers on the deck this morning. I counted at least 21-23 swimmers. I was glad to see Susan (Swimmer Susan) back in the water after a few months of M.I.A. I have to say it is remarkable to watch a natural athlete in the water. Susan has been absent from the pool for months and jumps in and is on the heels of Michele the whole workout.

Coach Mike’s Workout:
200M EZ
100M – Non Free
100M – Drills
8 X 300M on the 5:00:
The 300M was broken:
100M Free
100M Fins
100M Fins and Paddles
150M EZ
10 X 25M – All Out
Then, on the deck after each 25M
5 Push-ups
60 Second Plank
5 Push-ups
200 Cool Down
The 300M’s were tough but I kept coming in at 4:20 to 4:40.

After the swim a number of Swimmers hit the hot tub. I talked with Michele about the closing and the upcoming Half Marathon on Thanksgiving. She wants to hit a 1:40:00 and I suggested the pace groups. I will send her the information on the pace groups later. In talking with Chris in the hot tub he said that he was going to sit with Michele about nutrition. Chris said Michele built a plan for him on his food consumption and what he needs to eat to maintain a balance.

I sat and listen to Michele give Chris a 101 on nutrition for about 40 minutes. The information provided to Chris by Michele was not only helpful for him but it gave me a few pointers that I will take away for Sarah and I.

While leaving I ran into Hampton. Had not seen him in a couple of months. He swims Dynamo Masters with Sarah and Wren and is a Ironman and runner. I have been on a number of long rides with Hampton and have always enjoyed his company. He is a fierce competitor and a solid athlete. He suggested a ride in the Gaps this fall or winter, but I advised him that would require me to pull the bike down and I am not ready for that. I have felt like riding over the last couple of weeks since the weather has been perfect for a Saturday morning ride, but there are plenty of things to do around the house.

Tomorrow is track with only 9 days left to the Atlanta Half Marathon. I will be running with Ann Marie, Jay, Bob, Michele, Jeff, Chris and Stacy. The topic of Boston will come up but I will drive home to the ones trying to qualify that they need not worry about the current disappointment, but focus on the success they have had to this point in their running.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Day Forty Six - "Off Season"

“To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world.”
Brandi Snyder

I find as I run in attempt to meet a goal the deeper I get into the runs the more isolated I become. I understand that all my friends and me have different objectives when we run but the faster I run the lonelier I become.

Bob emailed on Sunday afternoon to ask me if I wanted to his tempo run with him this morning. Bob’s pace was 8 miles at an 8 minute pace. My objective for my run this morning was to be 10 miles at a 7 minute pace. I could have stuck with my plan and advised Bob that I was going longer and faster today and he would have to run it alone or, I could bag my objective and run with a friend. I choose the latter.

Sunday night was the Patriots vs. Colts at 8:30PM. I knew I do not have very many opportunities to watch my favorite football team play an 8-0 AFC rival. I decided to stay up and watch the game in its entirety. Well, at 11:35PM the Patriots lost to the dreaded Colts 35-34. Not only was I going to be sleep deprived but I ended up having a hard time falling asleep after that game.

4:55AM. The clock radio blared music that was incomprehensive to my brain. I lie there upon waking up in the same mood I had drifting to sleep last night about the game. I forced my arm over to turn off the clamorous sound that originated from the radio and got out of bed.
The room was cool as I shuffled across the bedroom to the closet. I felt a cool draft in the closet as I closed to the door to turn on the light not to awake Sarah. I knew the morning was going to call for layers of shirts, but until I went downstairs to let the dog out it was not apparent how many layers. The sky was atramentous with spots of tiny beams of light twinkling along its canvas. The air was still but there was an arctic feel on the deck that prompted me to gather more layers and a pair of gloves for the run.

Heading out the door with three thin layers of shirts, a pair of shorts and gloves on I made my way down the familiar paths of Suwanee and Alpharetta to LTF. Upon my arrival, I was astounded to see that the lot was populated with vehicles at 5:15AM. The coolness of Fall beckons the human spirit to remain in the confides of the warm sheets of the bed on days that bring a cool snap to morning. However, it seemed to be that the human spirit on a Monday morning was stronger than the warmth of the bed and people were up and out at the gym.

I met Bob in the lobby area as we set off into the dark, cold morning for his 8 mile tempo run. Right out of the parking lot we headed up Morris which is a light uphill. This portion of road jacks the heart rate up quickly and increases your breathing as you crest the first quarter mile before a decent into the MARTA parking lot. We were going too fast but with the chill in the air, I think we were concerned about warming up the core and we would settle in after the initial mile.

Rounding out of the MARTA lot and heading onto Northpoint then Windward we started to slow into a controlled pace as we made our way North. The next couple of miles were at or about the 8-minute mile pace that we needed to maintain as we headed towards the end of Windward to turn left onto HWY 9. Bob commented on this section of road as we ran up a slight grade turning right. He mentioned that this little stretch always seems difficult because you get into a pace on the flat portion of Windward, but to turn onto HWY 9 we need to head up a 2% grade for about 100 meters to turn left which has another 200 meters of incline to the light. I agreed with his opinion of this piece of road as we huffed and puffed up and over the mental obstacle.

Heading West on HWY 9 our paced dropped a few seconds as we sure stepped on the old sidewalks. The sidewalks had been shifted from tree roots making the run challenging especially when the street lit areas were covered by the shade of the trees. You footing has to maintain control due to the rises and holes scattered along the route.

Hitting the 4-mile mark I estimated that we were around 10-15 seconds off pace. I was not concerned because there are plenty of spots along the route to make up the time. At the junction of Academy and HWY 9 we took a right onto Academy and headed towards Old Milton HS. Bob had dropped two 10oz Gatorade bottles in a parking lot for us. We slowed picked up the bottles, took a few gulps of the refreshingly cold lemon-lime beverage and started the pace back up. We had some time to make up which would be achieved on Wills Road.

Turing left onto Wills the road flattened out and we increased the speed. The pace felt about 7:40’s but neither Bob nor myself were labored. We maintained this pace up Old Milton, down Canton and back onto Academy. By the time we hit Academy heading down we had about a 45-second cushion in our back pockets. I eased off a little to maintain form and cadence as we sailed down Academy. At the 7-mile mark, we still had 45 seconds in the bag and I attempted to hold the pace, but Bob was pushing a little faster than he had maintained. I figured we had a mile to go and he did want a negative split so I hung on his right shoulder as we finished Morris Road (yes start and finish going uphill) for a time of 1:03:02. The pace was 7:52’s, a little too fast but, Bob did look strong and I knew my presence would spur him to kick it a little more.

At the beginning of the run I advised Bob that I was going to complete 10 miles, but would do the remaining 2 on the hamster wheel upstairs. We headed into the lobby and I patted Bob on the back praising him for a good, decent run. As we parted, I headed for the mill to finish up.
I hopped on the treadmill and knocked the speed up to 6:53’s to finish the rest of the 10 miles I had planned. As I was running, Ann Marie came over to tell me about her run with Michele. The ran 8 as well at 8:19’s. I looked at her and gave her my status quo statement, “that was too fast!” Ann Marie’s goal was 8:25’s which is 6 seconds faster. I let it go since Bob and I ran 8 seconds faster than his prescribed pace. We chatted about her shoes she got over the weekend when I saw her at Fleet Feet. Ann Marie bought a pair of Brooks, in pink, at Totally Running on Saturday. When she went to put them on this morning, she said they felt odd. She inspected the sizes and one was a size 7 and the other a 7 ½! She ran in her old shoes this morning.

I need to get with Ann Marie and place a wager on the Half Marathon next week. I want Ann Marie to control her pace at her marathon pace of 8:23’s during the 13.1 race. I think with a little monetary wager on the table she will “try” to hold the pace she needs to hold. I think I will be a few bucks richer come Friday, the day after the Half.

I finished the 2 miles on the treadmill, which seemed longer than the 8 miles with Bob.

Lack of sleep, Pats loosing and a cold morning you would think that the morning was not pleasant, but with running with friends and conversing with friends before 7AM it is all worth it.

It makes my world complete to have friends that I can share their experiences with.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Day Forty Five - "Off Season"

Travel always disrupts your regular scheduled patterns. With being away from home Tuesday to Friday neglected items pile up. This is the first time in 43 days that I missed not only one day of the blog but two. In prioritizing my weekend it was more important to be a support at home and focus on items that needed my attention. Over the weekend a lot was accomplished:

The rest of Friday was workload that needed to be attended too.
1. Friday night was pizza & movie night.
2. Saturday morning was a 8 mile run at 7 minute miles.
3. We sent Ellie off on an overnight Girl Scout camp.
4. Fixed the Jeep’s electrical system.
5. Stabilized the Honda so Sarah could drive it while the Van was out of commission. The Van needs transmission repairs, which I think I will let an expert look at first.
6. Went to Fleet Feet to pick up some socks. To my surprise I saw my favorite 3:40 marathoner and Ironman, Ann Marie. We talked for a few minutes but we both had errands to run.
7. Pep Boys for remaining car parts
8. Whole Foods for the weeks meals
9. Finished up repairs on cars. 2 out of 3 are on the road.
10. Picked up a movie at Blockbuster.
11. Sarah, Grace & I brought take-out home. Five Guys: Dang good!
12. Church on Sunday
13. Trader Joes for T-Day Turkey and fixin’s.
14. Publix for a few left over items forgot.

15. Yard work

16. Washed and waxed the Jeep and Honda.
17. Cooking a whole chicken, acorn squash and spinach salad for dinner.
18. Just popped in Apple Crisp for Sunday Night’s dessert.

Tonight is the Pats vs. Colt on Sunday Night Football. I plan on staying up for the whole game. I have an appointment at 5:30AM with Bob to run 8 miles. Bob is running the 8 at 8 minute miles. It is a little slower than what my pace is supposed to be on my 10 miler but I opt’d to run with a friend than to worry about the pace. The morning will come fast and furious just like the weekend speed through was I write this at 4:22PM.

Tomorrow is a new week and 2 weeks before the Atlanta Half Marathon which I have my target set on. Both Sarah and I are going to trim a few pounds over the next 3 weeks and I have designed good healthy meals for us for the next week. We do not diet in our home but increase veggies, fruit, dairy and lean meats while curbing the carbs by 50% and attempting to eliminate processed food. That is the reason we had a last night of binging with Five Guys Burgers.

Updates on all my family and friends will be the focus next week as well as they are all hitting the last 20 mile run of the training program. We are 26 days out from the marathons and I am proud of each of them and where they stand on their runs. More to come on this…

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Day Forty Two - "Off Season"

I woke in the hotel at 6AM and ran on the treadmill in the fitness room. The goal was 1 mile EZ-5 Miles at 6:47 -1 mile EZ. The treadmill was of low quality and as I turned up the speed the mill started to shake tremendously. The fastest I could crank up the mill was to 6:51's and at this pace I was pushing the treadmill to the max. I only ran 4 miles at the 6:51. Just did not feel good on this machine. I cooled down at got off and stretch.

Finished up all the interviews for the day and made my way back to the Boston area. Currently in Newton, MA at a Marriott. Have an early flight back to Atlanta. Heard from Sarah, both the Van and the Jeep will not start. So she is strained at home. Can't believe we have 3 cars and two are dead. I guess I know what I am working on this weekend.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Day Forty One - "Off Season"

I am in Warwick, Rhode Island interviewing candidates for a position I have open in my line of business. We have 8 candidates to interview today. Better start the day with a good breakfast.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Day Forty - "Off Season"

Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn't people feel as free to delight in whatever remains to them?
Rose Kennedy

I am heading off to Providence, Rhode Island to interview candidates for a position in Southern New England.

Tropical Storm Ida has made landfall and we are getting a good heavy rain here in Suwanee, Georgia. Hope the flight this afternoon is not delayed.

Master’s Swim this morning. Coach Mike’s workout was:
200M Warm Up
150M Choice
100M Drills
5 X 200M on 3:35
100M EZ
4 X 200M on 3:35
(First 50M all out. 10 second RI then finish the remaining 150M on the interval.)
200M EZ
10 X 25M with 10 Wall Push-ups
6 X 25M with a 90 second Plank after each 25M
4 X 100M Kicks on 2:10 (I cut them to 1:50)
150 EZ
100 Kick

I conversed with Ann Marie in the hot tub. She told me about the Alpharetta Century Ride last Saturday. Weather was perfect, but the riders were not. A lot of crazy’s out there that did not know the rules. There were also 20 flats from someone throwing tacks on the road. Glad I went to run at Oglethorpe University instead.

Need to pack and head to the airport.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Day Thirty Nine - "Off Season"

“He alone is great and happy who requires neither to command nor to obey in order to secure his being of some importance in this world”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Sent out an request on Sunday for some company on a track workout. I needed to switch some of the workouts around to accommodate being out of town for most of the upcoming week. I was shot down by all. Looks like I am doing it solo.

Monday morning buzzed in at 4:45AM. I wanted to get an early start so I could get into the office around 7AM to complete some unfinished business I could not get to over the busy weekend.

I turned off the alarm and lay in bed contemplating if I should blow off the workout or go and get it done. Since I will be traveling, workouts are less intensive or non-existent depending on the circumstances. After a few turns of time, I decided I would get up-and-out.

The body struggled with the mind as I overcame the resistant to stay in bed and the sheets came off and I was out. Though the decision was made, the mind was cloudy as if the sheets were covering my head inhibiting my vision and my body took advantage of this and stiffened up as I shuffled across the room to the closet.

The daily morning rituals were melancholy as I arrived at LTF. The parking lot’s capacity was higher this Monday than most, indicating that there must have been a lot of weekend binging going on. The result is heavier traffic at the gym in attempt to shed those guilty pounds.
Making my way from the locker room after I secured my bag I ran into Michele. Michele was meeting Ann Marie for a tempo run at 5:30AM and was not going to the track. Michele just came back yesterday from Panama City where Ironman Florida took place on Saturday. Michele was one of the runners I asked about running track today. She had emailed me yesterday and said she was standing in line to register for IMFL in 2010. As of this morning she is a registrant for the 2010 event. “363 days to go”, I told her. Plenty of time. She is going to do well in this sport.

I headed upstairs as we parted to run a “warm up mile” on the treadmill before trekking down to the AHS track. When I completed my warm up I started to head down to the track from the parking lot and ran into Ann Marie and Michele as they were heading out. I heard Ann Marie say, “hey speedy” as I replied with “morning” while I motored ahead of them. I must have still had a little fogginess on the brain because Ann Marie said, “boy aren’t you un-social”. “Can’t you run with us a little?” I slowed down and we ran a few yards until we hit the corner of Northpoint. The two runners veered right while I needed to head straight. I wanted to hang with them and run since I knew it would be a heck of a lot nicer than a solo track workout. However, I was on a mission as they disappeared into the dark, as we grew further apart from each other.

Arriving at the track the sky was blanketed in a thin layer of clouds covering the moon and stars shine. My visual sight was less than 100 meters ahead of me. Being familiar with this track, I headed for the 50 yard line to drop my bottle and remove my sweat shirt. I proceeded to take a scouting run around the oval to clear debris. Hoses were removed, chairs were placed on the field and a bench was realigned parallel with the track.

Ending the clean up run I took a sip of water and I was off. The first speed workout was a 1600M @ 5:57. Doing a little homework last night I broke the 1600M into 200 splits which is approximately: 45 seconds for each 200M. The first 200M, 0:42, too fast. At the 400M mark, I was at 1:26. Again, fast. I slowed the pace and hit the mark of 0:45 on the 5-200M’s with the home stretch at 0:44. Time was 0:05:56. Unlike Bob, I did not feel this was at a pedestrian pace, but more of a control pace with a little effort used. Bob is just getting too fast and will be a force to reckon with in the near future.

I ran a 400M EZ and prepped for the next run, 1200M @ 4:22. I knew what the splits had to be along with the total time since I learned a trick from Chris. I wrote the times and splits on my arm which helped me remember what the next set goal was to be. The first 200M was at 0:42, again a few seconds too fast. I eased back and ran controlled at 0:44 the next 4-200’s. The last 200M I needed to push a little harder but my mind started to wander listening to the sound of the traffic increasing on Webb Bridge and I veered off the lane coming around the south end of the track increasing my distance and ending the 1200M at 0:04:24.

I took another trip easy around the oval trying to get my head back into the game. I was staring at the black track as I jogged around the north side curve and noticed how the track looked as if it had a thin layer of ice on it. Was I hallucinating? Was my eyesight going? I stopped and bent down to touch the track. The feel was rough as asphalt with dampness to it. The shine was the result of condensation from the morning dew that had settled.

The next run was an 800M @ 2:51. First split was 0:43 as was the next 2-200’s. I had some in the tank but decided to go off of feel knowing I only had to make up 1 second to his the time. Rounding the back north end side of the curve I kicked it just a little bringing me over the line in 2:51.
One more to go, 400M @ 1:23. The 400M easy run was a little faster than the previous ones. I wanted to finish and get the solitary workout in the dark morning over with. I did not stop when I completed the 400M EZ run. Approaching the start I hit my watch and left. This one I knew I would be able to come in at the mark so I did not look at my watch on the splits. I went by feel and propelled my body around the oval at a controlled pace hitting the finish at 1:21.

Though I was companionless on the track, which had been the first time since last March, I was able to hold may paces and not worry about passing or being passed by my friends and companions out on this track.

My singular world this morning was in my complete control and I am pleased with the results.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Day Thirty Eight - "Off Season"

I still need more healthy rest in order to work at my best. My health is the main capital I have and I want to administer it intelligently.
Ernest Hemingway

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Day Thirty Seven - "Pace Run Day"

Last night we went to the Half Time Grill for the football/cheerleading end of season party for Ellie’s team. The ratio to football players to cheerleaders was about 10 to 1. Ellie was excited about going and seeing a few of her cheer team mates and when she is delighted to be in a large social setting, we go.

The grill was jammed packed with players, cheerleaders and the parents. We ended up settling down at a table, grab a pitcher of beer and hung out talking and watching the crowds. After eating buffalo wings, fajita wrap and drinking 85% of the pitcher of beer it the party was winding down and it was time to go.

Saturday morning came slowly. With wakening Monday through Friday at 5AM the body’s internal clock does not turn off on Saturday. I tossed and turned from 4:45AM to 6:00AM when it was time to get up. I was running with a pace group at Oglethorpe University at 7:40AM this morning.

I arrived at Oglethorpe University around 7:30AM and expected to see a couple dozen runners milling around. To my surprise I only saw 4 runners but tons of cars in the field house parking lot. There was a bus pulling up with college women volleyball players getting off the bus. I thought the number of cars was for a volleyball game that was happening in the field house.

I followed one of the four runners I saw towards the field house. As we approached the door I heard the muffled roar of people chatting and when the door was open to my surprise the field house was jam packed with runners! I made my way into the field house and navigated around the sea of runners in attempt to find where the pace groups where. I asked a runner if they knew where the pace leaders where in the field house and they pointed over to the bleachers. As I made my way through the wall of technical shirts, vests, tights and hats of people I heard a voice say, “Okay runners, everyone out!” Right then the tides shifted and I was heading against the current of runners making my way to the bleachers. 20 steps later I arrived at the wooded seats that cascaded up to the ceiling. I saw a man holding a sign that said, “1:30 Pace Group” as the sea parted and an opening appeared as the man stood as an island alone. I walked up to him and asked him what time was this group leaving, with a quick glance in my direction he said, “let’s go now”. I fell in behind him as he was engulfed by the exiting runners heading for the door to the outside.

Once we hit the threshold the crowds thinned almost immediately and I was able to see the Pace Leader I had followed. He was about 6 feet tall, 40’ish, thin, brown hair and a goatee only on his chin. As he stood advertising the pace a few runners surfaced around the man with the sign. After a few minutes there were 7 runners hovering the pace sign. 3 women in their 20’s or 30’s. 4 men, 3 in their 40’s and one in his 20’s.

There was an announcement that the 2:30 to 2:00 pace groups were leaving. Once this was announced approximately 60% of the runners in the crowd headed to the end of the parking lot and headed out. About the same time the Pace Leader for the 1:30 said, “Well, this looks like this is it. Let’s take off.” As the group of 7 + the leader headed out of the parking lot, I introduced myself to the Leader. The Pace Leader’s name is, Jamie.

Jamie has run 15 marathons with a PR of 2:54:00 at Boston. He was on the Mizuno Racing Team and was currently training for the Memphis Half the weekend after the Thanksgiving Half.

The 1:30 pace group headed down the entrance road of Oglethorpe University and right on Peachtree Industrial. This is approximately 2 to 3 miles down the road from the start of the run course. The run was going to take us down the race course to a turnaround and back to the university.

The pace picked up quite quickly as we over came the 2:30 group, then the 2:15 group and finally the 2:00 pace group. Along the way about 2 dozen runners in these groups commented by saying, “here comes the fast runners” as we ran past the groups of runners.

The pace of our group settled in at 7:00 minute miles after mile 1. We cruised down Peachtree Industrial focusing in on downtown Atlanta. A short time later the 20 some man that was in the group peeled off and stopped. This left 6 runners and Jamie.

I settled in two steps behind Jamie and one of the female runners. The run picked up pace as the women started to have a conversation on the course. Each of them had run this race an average of 4 times. They asked me how many have I ran and I answered, “one”. They all looked at me as if I was an oddity with minimal experience on this course. The pace went up to 6:50’s.

At mile 4 the pack was the three female runners, Jamie and me. The other two men had slowed down but where within a few hundred meters behind the group. At this point I asked how far where we running. There was a 9 mile and 11 mile option and since we were coming up on 4.5 I was wondering who was turning. My plan called for 9 miles at 7 minute miles, so if someone was turning I was heading back with them.

Jamie indicated that the half way mark was coming up but all three female runners said that we passed the half way point a quarter mile back as they all looked at their Garmin watches. Jamie ran a few more steps and said he was turning. This was mile 4.75. Since 9 was in my sights I was turning with him. The women wanted to run 11 so they forged ahead. Jamie and I turned and headed back up Peachtree Industrial.

Within 5 minutes we passed the two other men that started out with us. Our pace started to increase as I asked him the time. Jamie indicated 6:45’s as a head wind started to kick up. The two runners passed the other groups we had passed in the beginning of the run. One of the runners commented, “Here comes some real runners!” I quickly responded, “we are all real runners if were out here!” That got a chuckle and a “you said it man” from deep in the passed running group.

Jamie and I continued our run retracing our steps out as the pace seemed to settle at comfortable pace. The road out was a light downhill and on the way back it was a long hard uphill. We held the stride in the headwind while the conversation picked up on marathons, family, sports and drinks. A drinks…We stopped at a water stop and refueled the bodies with Powerade and then we were off again. We ended stopping again for another drink about 2 miles out from the finish.

Jamie and I hit the last 1.25 miles of Peachtree Industrial which is up hill into the wind as the pace increased to make the average (with stops) of 6:52.

Hitting the parking lot the time stopped at 1:05:00. The pace was 6:50. This with at least 8 traffic stops on Peachtree and two water stops. Jamie paused his watch at the stops which was 6:12 minute miles, but I don't think this was truly accurate. Jamie and I were the first two in. Jamie and I high five as he told me he needed to take off and meet his wife at 9:30AM. He asked me if I was going to run with the group on Thanksgiving. I said I’ll be there as he went in one direction and me in another.

The run was a challenge with wings, fajita’s and beer from the night before. But I was surprised with this nutrition in my body I was able to knock off 6:50’s. It was a good pace group and I learned an important strategy from this group. This is a course that you need to run at a positive split. The start is downhill and the back half is hilly. This goes against my training, but the advise came from runners that have run this race many of times, so I will plan on that strategy for this race.

T-day will be interesting.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Day Thirty Six - "Off Season"

What is without periods of rest will not endure.

With breaking my own Cardinal Rule of Running yesterday, running two days back-to-back and swimming 3,300M+ today is a rest day.

No swims, no running, no weights, just rest.

Tomorrow I am off to run with the pace groups for 1:30-1:40-1:45 half marathon down at Oglethorpe Univeristy.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Day Thirty Five - "Off Season"

What has puzzled us before seems less mysterious, and the crooked paths look straighter as we approach the end.
Jean Paul Richter

Today’s journey actually started 10 weeks ago. Sarah’s dear friend Courtney wanted to set up “Mystery Runners” for Sarah and Wren on their quest for the Holy Grail. Courtney and I exchanged a number of emails and decided once the women got closer to the end of the 20 milers I would jump in as the “Mystery Runner”. This day has come and I am excited to share in the long run with my wife and her close friends.

Thursday came around 12:10AM for me. The demons that have plagued the mind of my oldest daughter from a movie days before, has seeped their evil doings into me. This is the third night of less than 2 hours of full sleep and it is taking its toll. Last night I wanted to hold a demon removal ritual in our home to help my daughter get past the thoughts that demons were summoned on our house from years prior to the house even being built by a pagan. My daughter was not interested in an exorcism of the demon that haunts her instead, she wanted to sleep in bed with me during the night. I would have rather tried the exorcism than be a part of another sleepless night, but if it was going to make her feel better, than that is what we will do. Sarah left our room around 10PM with her pillow in tow as she made her way to sleep alone in Grace’s room. I, as the guardian of the home stayed with my daughter in our bed to ward off the evil doers that manipulate her mind and put her at ease so she can finally get a night’s rest.

Sharing the same bed with a pre-teen who has slept alone for most of her life is less than restful. She tossed, she squirmed, she snored, she pulled the sheets off me and she kicked, jabbed and one point shared my very own pillow with me.

For 6 hours, this act of disturbance continued until at 4:21AM, I decided I had enough. Of course, I did not awake the slumbering child in the bed, instead, I got up and removed myself from the bed. I proceeded to dress, pack my stuff to head off to Master’s a little early, well half an hour early.

The ride over to LTF like the last week has been forgiving. The lack of sleep places me in a Zombie state of mind where I run on instinct driving to the gym. I cannot seem to shake October’s hallows that linger in our home.

The Master’s Swim was sparse this morning. There was about half the amount of swimmers than usual and I suspect that the upcoming holiday months will deter more swimmers from the Tues/Thurs class.

Coach Mike’s Swim:

300M Warm Up
200M Choice. I did paddles and buoy.
4 X 300M @ 5:30: Plenty of rest…45 seconds +
3 X 300M @ 5:20-Plenty of rest…25 seconds +
200M EZ
50M Fist Swim
150M Kick Left side, then right side
4 X 25M underwater Power Kicks (length of pool) with fins. Tough but made all 4 underwater.
6 X 50M All out. After each 50M we were on the deck doing core work. It was tough.

The rest of the swimmers started on kicks but I needed to part the pool to head home. Grace had a school council meeting at 8AM and Sarah was off to her 20-mile run. I was going to drive Grace to school and then head off to the Columns to meet the runners for a portion of their run as the “Mystery Runner”.

I dropped Grace off at school after making her a Chocolate Elvis and a bagel for breakfast. I am proud of my daughter for being elected by the teachers at her middle school to represent all the students on this council. This is a huge responsibility and she is up to the challenge of representing her student body. She is in for great things in her life and I am glad I am her father to witness her growth from a baby into a bright and intelligent girl.

After the car pool drop at the school, I started my voyage from Forsyth County to Sandy Springs just inside the Perimeter. At 8:15AM, I knew I was in for a load of bumper-to-bumper cars. Traffic is traffic not matter where you go.

At 9:30AM, I arrived at the Columns parking lot. I expected to see the Red Minivan parked in the dirt lot, but Sarah’s car was absent. I thought, “Did they change venues?” However, as I got out of the car and headed to the restrooms I saw the ladies coming my way. Quickly, I ducked into the men’s room and peaked through the crack in the door. All four of them, Sarah, Wren, Courtney and Susan were refueling at this point. As they gathered, their supplies for their next journey out I dodged between cars towards the Honda and prepared myself to meet up with them. Fuel belt, shoes, hat, glasses, check and $3.00 for the parking fee. As I headed to pay, I saw my cohort in the scheme that she had designed. Courtney quickly stated that they had headed down the path and I can catch them. I told her I would talk to her later and took off heading east on the Columns dirt path. I was hitting it hard to catch up to the three runners and as I crested a small hill, I saw them about 500M’s ahead of me. I settled into a good clip knowing that I would overcome them in a few minutes.

As I ran, I wondered what I would say. “Hello”? “Hey, what are you doing here”? “Sarah, is that you”? Well, as I approached on the dirt path with the gravel kicking up under my feet my wife, Sarah turned around and saw me just as I made my way up next to her.

The group was very surprised to see me, the Mystery Runner. A few laughs were exchanged as I caught my breath from the sprint and I settled in at their pace.

We ran the Columns loop as a group of four runners and I felt privilege to be running a long 20 miler with Sarah, Wren and Susan.

We chatted about the normal stuff athletes chat about, injuries, races, doctor visits, the upcoming marathon, Bart Yasso and Courtney. Courtney? Yes, of course, since she was heading right for us at this point running solo. Courtney is a good friend to Sarah and Wren and I am proud to know someone who is a giving person who thinks of their friends and organizes these runs for them even though she is running a 20 miler on the same day. Did I mention solo? Courtney is running her 20 solo for the fact that she is training for a trail marathon the weekend after Thanksgiving.

The group of four runners made the second 3.5 mile loop on the dirt trail and I asked Sarah if when we pass Courtney if I should split off from them and run the wood trails with Courtney. Sarah thought this was an excellent idea since Courtney has been running these runs solo for so long and heading off into the woods alone can be, well a little, scary.

After about 20 minutes after the idea, we saw Courtney heading towards us on the path and I advised Sarah that I would break off for a little while and run with Courtney into the wooded paths around the Columns.

As we approached the trail runner, I slowed and changed my direction 180 degrees away from Sarah, Wren and Susan and fell in stride with Courtney. Courtney said, was I going to be able to run this slow. I did not answer.

The two runners ran on the path and headed for the wooded trails ahead. As we approached the opening to the entrance of the wood, Courtney said, “after you”. My quick response was, “what?” “I am not here to lead you, but to follow, you lead us”. Now, Courtney has run the wooded trails around the Columns a number of times. As we progressed into the deep foliage of trees and bushes along the trail, I was amazed at her awareness of the area. We continued, up, down, across, over and through obstacles and all the way she pointed out every root, rock and hill along the interconnect paths.

We chatted about, this and that, but as I quickly learned while running trails is that the only way to carry on a conversation with a fellow runner is to look down. Every attempt to look at your partner in the run causes you to come across the root, rock or stick that Courtney knew had described to me. After the third “trip” I decided to focus on the route below and not on the person on the side of me.

Our adventure on the paths in the wood leads us to a small pond that Courtney had described to Sarah and Wren from past runs.

As we, crest a ridge the pond opens up in front of you. It is about 100M wide, by 75M long. The water is a welcoming sight on a fall day as the bright colored leaves from the trees dance reflections across the calmness of the pond’s waters. We made our way around the west end of the pond to the backside of the water’s edge. The path was narrow and technical but I felt as this was uncharted area and was interested in where the travel was to lead us. We ran the pond’s trail and almost came 360 degrees when Courtney stopped at a tree. She squatted down and dug a small whole with her hands at the base of a tree. She placed an object in the uncovered Earth and then covered the object up with the dirt that she had removed.

Leaving the pond Courtney told me that she had made a offering to the Pond for a few family members that are going through a difficult time. The gesture of the offering was for them and their well-being.

This act brought up the conversation on how fortunate we are as people, families and athletes to be blessed with great families and friends. There is nothing to be sorry for or complain about in our lives.

We made our way back into the thick woods and the trails. After 10 minutes, Courtney suggested she drop me off at a trail intersection in order for me to hook up with the runners below. We ran up the trail to a section that would drop me off at the 3.75 loop below. We “high fived” and she went back into the wood as I made my way to civilization.
I headed down the path at a fast pace wondering if I could keep this up for 26.2 miles of roots, mud, rock and leaves. It is a challenge I need to study more in the future but for now the goal was to hook back up the runners below.

After 15 minutes, I reached the end of the wooded trail as it dumped me out on the dirt loop that Sarah, Wren and Susan were continuously motoring around.

I decided to head the opposite direction in an attempt to come up on them on the path. Within 5 minutes, I saw Susan running towards me alone. 10 seconds later, here came Sarah and then Wren. Susan continued ahead as I passed her in the opposite direction heading for Sarah and Wren. In my absence, a few issues reared its ugly head on their journey as I let Sarah go ahead and I turned to run with Wren for a while. Sarah was looking strong and I thought I would hang with Wren for a while. Highs and lows had settled in and Wren was addressing the issues as she forged ahead. I kept pace with her to help her meet her goal of the full 20.

As we hit a curve and Susan and Sarah went left, Wren told me to catch up to Sarah. I decided to head towards Sarah knowing that a water fountain was ahead for a refill of my bottle.
Sarah ran around the parking lot as I refilled and I merged in with her as she passed me as we headed for the last 2 miles of the run. Ahead of us was Wren were I had split off from her and as I came up on her I offered her some fluid. She took the drink (1/4 Gatorade, ¾ H2O) and quenched her thirst as the three of us maintained the pace towards the end of 20.

Wren took in more fluids and it seemed the more she drank the better her pace was. I figured she was dehydrated and it was having an effect on her during the run.
We rounded the bend of the path and could see the parking lot, which was the finish of the 20 mile run for Sarah and Wren.

The three of us went for the cars to pull out recovery items, water, chips, sandwiches, Cokes and ice bags. During the recovery Courtney appeared to broadcast that she had a little more than 1 mile to go as she headed down the trail.

Here is a shot of Sarah and Wren stretching and icing at the end of the run.

Click to enlarge

We waited for Courtney to finish and reflected on the run. There were highs and lows during their adventures in and around the Columns on this day. In the end, everyone accomplished the goal of either maintaining the 20 at pace or just to finish 20 in the wooded trails of Sandy Springs.

The paths we each took this day was filled with turns and long endless straights of graveled pathe but in the end the mystery of whether they could achieve the challenge that lay ahead of them was accomplished.

These are three remarkable women on their quest for their Holy Grails.

Click to enlarge

Sarah is holding a charm that says, "Faith" that Courtney gave to Sarah and Wren.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Day Thirty Four - "Off Season"

My oldest daughter watched a movie on Friday night with demons; let us just say we have not been getting any sleep the last couple of nights…

I believe demons have taken over my alarm the last two nights as well. This morning the alarm went off at 5:00AM, but the volume was off. My internal clock woke me at 5:07AM. Plenty of time for me to get ready and head off to LTF.

As I let the dog out for her morning clearing of the backyard of animals and birds the moon’s brightness illuminating the deck on the back of the house. I stood outside for a brief moment to gauge the temperature for today’s track workout. The air was clear and crisp, but not the sub temperatures that would require winter running garb. I decided on layers on top and shorts as the dog ran up the stairs and darted into the warmth of the house.

The ride to the familiar sight Monday through Friday was melancholy. With lack of sleep, the brain and body barely had enough energy to muster up the drive through the moon reflected streets of the burbs.

I reached my destination and headed to the locker room. Unpacked the necessities of the day and carted my tired body upstairs to run a mile or so prior to heading off to the ALPHA HS track. I saw Michele hitting the treadmill a couple of rows away from the stairs. She looked though she had been running a while when I approached. Michele had a layer of sweat going and her stride indicated that she was into a groove. I jumped on the mill next to her to warm up. She had ear buds in listening to music so I decided to smile and just focus on my warm-up. After a half mile, Chris popped on the mill on the other side of me and we said our good mornings and discussed the workout that was going to commence in the next 10 minutes. The conversation died after the small talk as we both looked at the intense look on Michele’s face as she continued to plot along on the treadmill to nowhere. We both laughed a little getting her attention and she wondered what we had been laughing at. We proceeded to tell Michele that the face she was making while she ran. As she continued to run, Chris and I could see that she was concentrating on not making the face, but to no avail. We chuckled again as we finished the warm up, said good-bye to Michele, and headed to the rendezvous’ point to meet Bob and Jeff.
Bob and Jeff were in the lobby waiting and the four of us headed out for the track in a single file out the door into the refreshing morning towards the track.

The moon continued to shine brightly as we ran the .9 miles to the oval circle. Upon hitting the gate, we preceded our ritual run around to clear the track of debris. The track’s surface was alive with the moon’s rays that gave us a clear vision of the full oval. The white lines, numbers and bleachers were visible from all points of the stadium.

Each of us had their own workout to accomplish:

Chris was running 5 X 1000M’s @ 4:01’s
Jeff was running different sets of intervals
Bob was running his 5-mile tempo run. (He wanted points to measure to control his pace)
I was running 4 X 1000M’s @ 3:35’s.

We each took off at our own speeds and passed each other at different intervals on the track for the next 40 minutes of the workout. I kept to myself during this run and decided not to nag anyone on pace this day. I figured at this stage they know what to do, so they don’t need me bugging them continually that their paces are too fast.

The air before the dawn of the sun started to dip and the stadium became a still, cool arena for running as we continued to plot the course around the oval. My hands after each 1000M were numb from the cold so I placed them in a very warm place on my body to warm up as I did a recovery 400M run before the next set.

I ended the set at 3:38, 3:35, 3:35 and yes, too fast, 3:30. The last 400M cool down Bob went floating by me and I thought I would catch up to him and run the remaining ¾ mile left of his 5 miles with him. I started to increase my pace and as I continued to accelerate, I felt the pace was dipping below 7:30’s. His tempo was to be at 7:29’s and I knew from the speed I was increasing too I was at or around 7:15’s. Too fast for him and me. I decelerated to an 8-minute mile for a cool down thinking he did not need me being the nag on his last few repeats of the oval.
We all finished up within 5 minutes of each other and headed back to LTF. Chris and I talked bikes the outrageous prices and whether to buy used or new. This is a recapitulating conversation Chris and I will have over the winter. Bikes are very expensive and there is no justification for the purchase of a $3000-$4000 bike. Which is the average for a descent road or tri bike. It is sick to think that a piece a metal or carbon with no motor cost that much.
The four of us stretched and then went our separate ways to start our days. I was off to Marietta for some fieldwork that ends tomorrow.

I emailed Ann Marie during this entry and she ran her 20 miles at the Columns today. She and Susan averaged 8:39/mile, which is too fast, what else. They were to hit 14 seconds slower than this and I have already “nagged” Ann Marie by threatening to swim in her lane in the morning. I figured if she can go this fast on the run, I will have her shave 14 seconds off her swim intervals. Right? I have a feeling I will be ousted out of the lane in the morning.

Off to make the pre 20-mile dinner for Sarah so she may have the energy to ward off the 20 mile demons in the morning.