Chasing After...


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This weekend I'll be heading home to Franklin, TN for a family reunion and the opportunity to see my grandfather after his recent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from outside of his colon. I should be a great time to see a few cousins, visit with my aunt, but most importantly, to see him.
To get the point, my grandfather is my hero, the reason that I do so much of what I do. He embodies gentle strength.  Prior to college he served in Army, stationed in South Carolina.  After getting out he became a coach (for baseball and football, although he also served as a track coach when needed and started the wrestling program at Franklin High School, for which is was honored with induction into their sports Hall of Fame earlier this year). Coaches and drill sergeants tend to give full vent to their anger, but I have NEVER seen my grandfather yell at anyone. He has always seemed to lead by example.
I lived at my grandparents' house for about 2 years when I was 13-14. During that time I learned a lot, simply by watching him live.  Through middle school and high school my grandparents attended almost every sporting event I was ever involved in.  In middle school I ran track, and he came out to teach me and a friend how to do the high jump and run hurdles. I came to almost every school soccer game I ever played (from middle school-high school) even though he probably still can't explain offsides or many of the other rules.  He even traveled to cross-country meets, some that were a couple of hours from home. Why, to watch the number 5 or 6 runner from BGA make his way through the 3.1 mile course.
It's dedication, its love, its pride. It's what makes me a runner. I hope I have what it takes to chase after him.

What Do You Believe is Possible?


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Last night I saw the movie Inception (quite a treat for me since the last movie I saw in a theater was Star Trek- the one from last year, not the ones from the 80's). Great movie! Since I was trained as a therapist and had class dealing with creative choice (ie. hypnosis) I really loved the concept of this movie, but the part I what to focus on today is a quote from Mal to her husband Cobb.  She says, 
"You keep telling yourself what you know. But what do you believe? What do you feel?"

As a runner, her is what I know. I run consistently at an 8:30 pace. There are times when I run faster, days when I have been really in the zone, the weather is perfect, I got enough sleep, etc. and I run faster. But if you look at my weekly average, I run at 8:30. This is what I know.

What I believe is that I can be faster.  Earlier in the summer I set the goal of qualifying for Boston at the marathon in December.  For my age group that means I have to run a 3:10 (or 7:10 pace). I believe it is possible. I'm 20 weeks out and this week I will have run 32 miles (if everything goes well with the 9 miler tomorrow morning). Last year, for my first marathon I didn't break 30 miles until week 10 or so.

What I feel is...uncertain.  I don't think I will know the realistic possibility of the goal until I run the half marathon in October. It's the uncertainty that drives me. I feel like I can do this, however, at the moment the evidence indicates that it is unlikely I'll be ready by December, so do I follow what I "know" or what I believe?

Additional motivation for today: "You're going to fail eventually, why fail at something mediocre?" -David Duchemin
(thanks @bellphotog and @ShootRunTri for posting this on Twitter)

Plan a Workout with Your Garmin


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Photo by AA7JC
It has taken me a year, but I have learned a new (and valuable) way to use my Garmin 205.
Plan my workouts for the week.

When I first got the watch I simply wanted to know my distance and time, which would give me my pace.  At the time any pace was good because I hadn't been running in about 10 years.  Now, as I try to improve my running I am looking for ways to get the most out the tools I am using.

Earlier this year I started creating some custom workouts that I could download to my watch, but I didn't realize that I could plan into the future with it.
Here's what you do:
1. Take one of the pre-programed or custom workouts from your workout tab in Garmin Training Center.
2. After you left-click on it, drag it to the date when you want to do the workout.
3. Sync your watch with the Garmin Training Center (Go to "File" and click "Send to device").
4. Now when your watch is on hit the mode button and go to "Training," next go to "Workouts" then "Advanced."  On the Advanced screen you can choose "Today's" or select from the list by going to "View All."

Knowing about this feature would have really helped last week when I selected the wrong workout on Thursday.  I was 10 minutes into the run before I realized that something was wrong. If had simply set up the training for each day all I would have needed to do would be to select "Today" and I would be set.
This is a really great feature to have, especially for those of us who are still half asleep when we head out for that early morning run!

Brain Training for Runners


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Over the last month or so I have become a big fan of Matt Fitzgerald's approach to training.  I started when I checked out The Runner's Edge from the library (a title a quickly went I bought for myself a week later).  Since then I have added Matt's Racing Weight and Brain Training for Runners to my running library.
Matt style is every straight forward and easy to read.  I love that in the second chapter of Brain Training for Runners entitled "The Running Brain" he tells readers to skip most of the chapter if they aren't interested in reading about the more detailed physiological aspects of the brain.  Brain Training is based on the idea that it is really your brain, not your muscles, that limit your performance.  Your brain will not allow you to go the point of complete exhaustion.  Therefore you must train in way that syncs the mind and body for optimal performance.
In order to achieve this Matt provides a running plan that looks quite different from anything I have seen, here's part of his rationale:

1. Develop objective performance goals for each workout. This stimulates the brain to allow higher levels of muscle output.
2. Gather objective feedback.
3. Pursue key workout pace targets which increase as you move closer to your peak race.

Matt's plans for marathons feature recovery runs and 3 key workouts each week (hill work or intervals, fartlek or intervals and long runs). The 3 types of workouts are found in the majority marathon plans one can find online (Hal Higdon, Jeff Galloway, Runner's World, etc. although in some cases not until you get to the advanced). There are however a few key differences:
1. Information regrading pacing.  One of the draw backs I have found to many other plans is that the author will say, "at an easy pace" or "marathon pace." When I was preparing for my first marathon I had no idea what my marathon pace would be and easy could mean walking 14 minute miles! Since running 14 minute miles would not really help improve my times I needed something more objective in order to help me improve as a runner.  In Brain Training, Matt provides the reader with a chart based on previous performances to help determine the pace for runs during training (The Runner's Edge provides and more detailed chart).  Therefore when a run says "base pace" I know exactly the range I need to running at during this phase of training.
2. Specific resistance workouts. I love adding other types of workouts to my training besides running.  However, I have found that I can easily over work my body during these workouts and not be ready for running the next day.  Also, since lifting weights is the main source of training aside from running, I need to be careful not to bulk up.  The resistance workouts for each week are specific to runners, can easily be done at home (with no equipment), and help improve running economy.
3. Finally, each week you focus on a specific proprioceptive cue.  These cues are connected to your running form.  While Matt is not try to remake your entire form, there some subtle changes that can be made that will make you a better runner.

In preparation for the St. Jude Marathon this year I have switched to Matt's Level 2 Marathon Plan. Unfortunately I am a little behind.  The marathon plans call for 24 weeks of training. By the time I got the book I was a week behind, no problem, then I messed a week and a half due to injury, only a slight problem. Hopefully it will be smooth sailing from here on out.
Obviously you can keep track of my training here or at DailyMile.

Running Mantras


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There are countless reasons why I run without an iPod, but my number one is:
running is my time to clear my head.That doesn't mean that I'm not thinking while I am out on my runs. In fact, running sans music means that I am typically thinking clearly more than any other time in day. It would be rather easy for me to simply let my thoughts flow, but I know the outcome would be a poor running. So when I run I have to think about running.
No, I don't think about moving, breathing or any of the other things that making up the running motion, rather I have to think about my motivation for running. And so I have a mantra.  It changes from time to time, but for every training phase I have gone through I have had a mantra.

For my first marathon it was: "Just get through this."
For the hilly, Music City Half it was: "Hills for Breakfast, Mountains for Dinner."
Now, I all of my workouts (strength training, running, cross-training, even waking up) begin with: "Only I can defeat the Voice."
The Voice is that part of me that wants to sleep in, take it easy, not push the pace. The Voice is the part of me that wants to give up and declare my goals to be unobtainable. The Voice wants me to be a loser. The Voice affects other areas of my life as well, so everything is a battle.  But each time I hit my goals it like I am telling the Voice to "shut up."
I realize my mantra may not be for everyone, and you may not want people thinking that you are hearing voices in your head. However, it connects with me.  

What mantra has connected with you?

Here are some other favorites:
Relax and Flow
You're a runner, this is what you do.
Pain is temporary. Quit is forever.
Harder, Faster, Better, Stronger.
Tenacity. Ferocity. velocity

Here are a couple of forums on running mantras:

Road ID Contest


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I wanted to pass on a contest that I found on another blog that I follow: Beyond Fatigue, Pain and ACTN3.
The prize is an item of choice from Road ID.
Go check out the blog, its great stuff focused on ultra running and living green.

Looking Injuries in the... Foot


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Photo by Pizzo Calabro (note this is not my foot)
This week I faced the fact that there was something seriously wrong with my foot.  For two weeks now I have dealt with a injury to my right heel.  At first I thought it was simply my Achilles tendon tightening up on me after a hard 8 mile run.  I pushed it out of mind, thinking that an old football injury from senior year of high school was coming back to haunt me.
My intentional thoughts in regard to training were to simply press on. It would continue to run, but not try to push the pace until my foot felt better. I had fallen into the trap that many runners succumb to:
Sticking with the plan, even when your body says to do something different. 

You see, my plan said to run, so ran. This mentality has been with me forever.  For example from the time of pre-K until graduation of high school I missed exactly one day of school (3rd grade- food poisoning, I still can't eat roast beef sandwiches from on fast-food chain). I even took 3 exams in isolation because I had chicken pox my junior year!
But after 2 weeks of running, and no improvement I figured it was time to give it a rest and hope that it heals quickly. (I should add that it took some prompting from my fabulous wife to actually get me to stop running for a few days).
Then I had to promptly diagnose my condition in order to know how to treat it. Fortunately I have couple of close friends that are PAs and they talked with me about...PLANTAR FISCIITIS.  NOOOOOOOOOOO!
This has been described by Christopher McDougall as the "vampire bite" for runners.
So what is plantar fisciitis?
Basically it is pain in the heel of your foot.  It can be caused by adding too many miles, too quickly, wearing the wrong shoes or running too fast.
I believe mine was caused by the combination of factors:
1. Wearing the wrong shoes.  Earlier this spring I was at a running expo for the Little Rock Marathon and I found a great deal on some New Balance shoes.  I thought I was buying the 769 which has been great for me (a stability shoe, for those with normal arches) instead I bought the 1063 (a neutral cushion shoe, for those with high arches).
2. The speed work plan where I was trying to push myself everyday.  I have learned that there is a reason to have recovery days. Planning to get faster as fast as possible led me to the (wrong) conclusion that I had to faster at every workout.  Taking a day to do a recovery run so that I can back the next with greater intensity would have been a better approach (it also might have kept me injury free).

As far is treatment goes, I would follow the plan from Runner's World. I have been using it the past 2 days and I feel a ton better.
Hopefully I'll be ready to run again this weekend.  Today I got on the elliptical for 30 minutes and didn't have any issues, although it doesn't create the same pounding sensation you get from running.

Good luck to all the runners out there. I hope you stay injury free, but if you do get injured, remember to take some time off! Trust me, you'll be okay!

Side Note: You get some strange photos when you search for images of foot injuries!

When Results are Lacking...


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The last two weeks I have felt stuck.  I haven't seen much improvement in my running.  Maybe I am being too critical, too impatient, too stressed out to push it like I know I should, too hurt (although not willing to take a break for fear of losing more fitness).
Over the last two weeks I have been dealing with some type of ankle injury. At first I thought it was my Achilles tendon that was just sore, so I tried treating it with ice, rest and ibuprofen.  A week later I still feel the soreness when I get up in the morning, but usually within an hour its gone.  However, if I sit with it elevated for too long I get the same soreness when I start walking again.  This makes my early morning workouts (a necessity in this heat) quite difficult. I've also noticed that its not the tendon that appears to be hurting, rather its something in the space between the tendon and the ball of my ankle.
It has also resulted in me being more cautious about pushing my pace. I simply don't won't to do more damage. However, I want to see progress. I am wondering if I was pushing too hard, and that's what caused this pain. And now I am beginning to stress because I had my plan for speed work developed so that I could try to qualify for Boston in December.  I'm not sure that it was a realistic plan, but it was a least a plan. Now, if two weeks of lackluster results, I'm wondering if I can recover.
The good thing is my best form of stress management is... to run.
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