Monday, May 28, 2012

Running Goals or Running Goal; What is it That I Want?

The other day I got all caught up in setting running goals for myself for the rest of the year. After the goals were set, I found myself starting to worry about how I was going to reach them. Wondering if there would be time to sufficiently prepare for them all. My goals were to run a 5k in under 20 minutes, to run a half marathon in 1:25 minutes and qualify for and run in the Boston marathon in 2014. At first, I thought that setting and meeting these goals would make me a more serious runner. In fact, I thought that to be the "serious" runner I want to be that I needed these goals.

However, while I was running the other morning I realized that first of all, I was thinking about how to shift my training to meet my 5k goal. Then I began thinking about the right approach to a 1:25 half while training to qualify for Boston in a full marathon a month later. That is when I realized that the ancillary goals were starting to consume my focus and quite possibly interfere with the big goal. I also realized that the ancillary goals would quite possibly manifest without focusing on them through the course of preparing and pursuing the real goal.

So, after some reflection I realized that while it would be nice to have a sub 20 minute 5k in my list of achievements it really isn't something that I care about in terms of running. Even the half marathon in 1:25 isn't really something that I care about. I have run a half marathon 3 times now and I have run each faster than the last. My goals  no longer need to be restrained to distances I have already covered and times that my natural progression show I will hit anyway. I need to shift my focus to bigger things. What I really want in terms of running is to run Boston in 2014.

So now I have one goal that I can totally focus on and the difference is that by dropping the goals for a 5k and a half marathon I no longer need to feel like I have to worry about them. I don't have to worry about finding a 5k at the right time. Even if I do find the perfect 5k to run in, I don't need to worry about shifting focus to prepare for it. The same goes for the half marathon goal. While, I intend to run at least one more half before my target race, I don't need to worry about it and more importantly, I won't have to interrupt my marathon training to focus on hitting a goal in that half marathon.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Book Review: Running Ahead of the Sun by Greg Strosaker


Initially I bought this book because I have really enjoyed the author, Greg Strosaker’s, blog and following his training on DM(dailymile), a workout journal and social networking site for athletes. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect but I didn’t think that I would be getting a book that I would put down and look forward to picking back up, but that is exactly what I got. In other words, knowing the book was a compilation of training entries from dailymile and blog posts I was expecting an enjoyable read but nothing that would really grab and hold my attention. I soon found out that the book would be one that I was eager to get back to.

In the prolog you get an overview of the injury that would bring Greg’s previous season to an early end and the treatment he went through to get back to running. This really sets up the book nicely and puts you in Greg’s corner wishing him the best as he begins running again after a season ending injury. Once through the prolog you are taken along on his journey through an 18 week marathon training program as he chases ambitious running goals in the middle of his “real” life as a father, husband, and employee.

I have been following Greg on DM and his blog predawn runner for about 6 months. I know that his entries on DM always provide inspiration and insight. I also know that his blog posts are always worth reading and I can usually apply something from them to my own running. I was surprised how this was amplified in the book. I suppose that is because instead of the entries being separated by a day or two I was able to read through an entire week, or more, and see them not so much individually but in a more connected way.

The DM entries when read straight through in this manner allowed the continuity of the complete training cycle to be much more visible. Being connected to Greg’s training like this only amplified my desire to see him succeed.

Adding to the uninterrupted stream, the blog posts were interspersed and addressed a running theme or sub-theme in the DM posts. As I said, posts on predawnrunner.com are always worth the read but the way Greg fit the posts into the book around the training cycle served to enhance not only the story itself but the points being made and the insights of the posts.

However, the most surprising part of this book was the climax. It’s essentially an autobiography told through a training log. What kind of climax do you expect really? If you thought not much of one, you would be like me, dead wrong. The climax of this book comes in the form of the author’s experience running the 2011 Towpath marathon. At this point you are rooting for Greg from all the setup of the book. He details the race from start to finish. I was taken completely by surprise at the personal excitement and satisfaction I got through the author’s telling of the final leg of the race.

This is an excellent book. The reading is light but valuable, the story is compelling and if you are like me and have aspirations to run at a little higher level than your "average Joe" there is certainly much inspiration to be found. The book is available through amazon both in paperback and kindle editions here. Go get it an treat yourself to a nice summer read.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Alleluia!

If there is one characteristic of worship during Easter that I would point to as something that I truly enjoy and look forward to more and more it is the frequency with which we pronounce "Alleluia". The word certainly is not restricted in use to only the Easter season but during this season we use it a lot. In addition, this word is familiar to nearly every single person regardless of their faith. In fact, the word seems so common place that its significance sometime seems lost. But when you stop and take a minute to look at this word, which the Church seems so intent on saying during the main celebration of the Christian faith, its significance is striking.

As this article in the Catholic Encyclopedia points out, the word Alleluia comes to us from several places in scripture, most notably in the Psalms and in Revelations and is the worship-word of Creation. The word means "All hail to Him Who is!"

I like to keep this significance in mind  at Mass when we proclaim Alleluia because it helps remind me what I am doing at Mass or rather what is being done for me at Mass. Understanding the significance of the word makes it a great short prayer that can be said anytime anywhere. Proclaiming "Alleluia" with an understanding of the word, what it means and where it comes from, allows me to turn any moment into a profound prayer.

I'd like to share a couple of my favorite uses of the word. The first is from the hymn for Evening Prayer from April 30th this year. The second is a quote from Pope John Paul II, which is often attributed to and may very well have originated with St. Augustine (I just can't solidly verify that).

Vain the stone, the watch, the seal: alleluia!
Christ has burst the gates of hell; alleluia!
Death in vain forbids his rise; alleluia!
Christ has opened Paradise; alleluia!
Lives again our glorious King; alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Dying once, he all doth save; alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!
Soar we now where Christ has led; alleluia!
Following our exalted Head; alleluia!
Made like him, like him we rise; alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies; alleluia!

"We are Easter people and alleluia is our song!" -- Pope John Paul II

Monday, May 7, 2012

One America 500 Festival Mini Marathon 2012 Race Report

A year of anticipation. A year of preparation. 12 weeks of intense, focused training. 3 weeks of competitive banter with a dailymile running friend. All of this led to a 1:32:39 13.1 mile PR effort at the One America 500 Festival Mini Marathon on 5/5/2012.

I ran my first half marathon here a year ago and I was hooked on racing. I knew when I crossed the finish line in 2011 that I would be running more races. I knew that I would be back for the 2012 running of this race. What I didn't know is how much faster and how much more competitive I would be. In other words, I have been looking forward to this race for a year. It has been a primary focus of my life for the last 12 weeks as I went from my regular running to an intense focus on preparing for this race.

The mini is the largest half marathon in the country. 35,000 people run the half marathon and another 5000 run the accompanying  5k for a total of 40,000 participants. Factor in these people's family and other spectators and downtown Indianapolis gets swamped with people. Furthermore, we live about an hour and a half from downtown Indy with no traffic. For these reasons, we put out the money for a hotel room right downtown on the start line. Lesson learned from last year, arrive downtown in plenty of time to deal with traffic, get checked in, deal with the wait for dinner and still make the expo in time for packet pickup without stressing. We got to our hotel and checked in by 2:00 PM.

First we visited the expo got our packets and browsed through the various vendors.  Downtown Indianapolis is well laid out with almost everything with in walking distance. We walked from the expo to the Spaghetti Factory for a traditional pasta dinner. After dinner we made our way back to the hotel for a good night's sleep.


Spaghetti Factory spaghetti. This is alone worth all of the training!

Hannah and me getting ready to crush some carbs!

It was a family affair this year. My wife and oldest daughter ran the 5k while my youngest daughter and I ran the half. 5k participants had to be lined up by 6:45 AM for a 7:00 AM start. The alarm went off at 5:15 AM  and the streets were already coming to life with news crews and some participants. We made our way out to the starting area. My uncle and a close family friend came all the way from Cleveland and Columbus OH respectively to support us in our race. They made it just after the 5k participants lined up so we walked around and met up with them for a few minutes before we had to line up. It was great to know that we had such support.


2012 Indianapolis Mini Marathon Start Corrals
A great thing about this race is everything goes off like clockwork. a 7:00 AM start is a 7:00 AM start, not a 7:10 AM start. When your starting corrals look like this, you had better be organized. 

If you are still with me you must be really interested, so I will get onto the details of my race. I was feeling very confident going into this race. I had trained hard. I was prepared. I was starting pretty close to the front. The Indianapolis Mini Marathon is a great race for the big race experience. That being said, if you are starting anywhere but upfront it can be very congested at the start and in the Speedway. But, if you have done well enough in a previous race to start near the front, you get the big race experience with out the frustration of the congestion that necessarily comes with it. Luckily, I had run a good enough effort last fall to be seeded in corral B and I didn't have to deal with the congestion. Finally, this was it, we were starting. I made the Sign of the Cross and offered the run as a prayer.

Almost immediately it looked like it might all go bad. Before the first mile was up, my breathing was labored, my quads were on fire and my shins felt tight and uncomfortable. What the heck? This is not how it was supposed to be. However it seems that it may have just been nerves because at some point it all went away.

I settled into a pace and got into a running groove. I began to enjoy the entertainment which was, in the first half of the race, almost non-stop. But more so, I enjoyed all of the people who come out to cheer on the runners. What a smile many of them brought to my face with their cheers of encouragement. Great people in Indianapolis!

Before I knew it we were approaching the Indianapolis Speedway. This is a pivotal point in the race. You go into the speedway at about mile 6 and come out at about mile 9. As you are coming in you can see the runners who are exiting the track. What I saw exiting the track was the lead car and a group of about 5 runners behind it. This means I was only about 2.5 miles behind the leaders. It was probably the single most exciting thing that I have seen while running.

Once out of the speedway, there is just about 4 miles left in the race. I had been challenged on dailymile by a childhood teammate, Brian Vinson to a virtual race. While I was running in Indy, he was running in the Capital City Half in Columbus OH. The competition provided a lot of fun and extra incentive leading up to the race. I had been running at or a little below a 7:00 minute/mile pace for 9 miles already. I was getting tired but the competition was now in the forefront of my mind and helped me to maintain close to that pace for the final 4 miles.

As I was making my way down victory mile it didn't even dawn on me that there might be the slightest chance that I would finish in the top 500. But as I crossed the finish line A volunteer handed me a medal and said "Congratulations, you finished in the top 500!" As exhausted as I was I couldn't help but feel another surge of adrenaline. I finished in the top 500, out of 35,000 (see the image above!).

Me crossing the finish line. If you are a runner you know what I am doing. For those of you who are not runners the single most important thing to do while crossing the finish line is "pause the watch!"

Running, at my house it's a family thing.

My time official time was 1:32:39 a PR by about 4 minutes and nearly 18 minutes faster than last year. It was 2 minutes and 40 seconds over my goal of 1:29:59 but all in all a great run. The rest of my family did great as well. My Oldest daughter finished the 5k in 29:45, my wife, on  a bad knee, finished the 5k in 30:40 and my youngest daughter finished her first half-marathon in 2:19:41.