Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My First Training Run of Half Marathon Distance... 13.1 miles.

The plan was to use the momentum from the last week's 12 mile race and go into this weekend's long run looking to reach 13 miles.  The week started out with great short runs of: 2 miles, 6 miles and 4 miles.  I knew that by Saturday, I was on track to have a high mileage week.  In fact, it would become the highest mileage week I've ever had.

The plan worked.  I woke up pretty jacked and ready to work towards my newest micro-goal.  My first half marathon, which is the ultimate goal, was less than 4 weeks away and I want to go into that race knowing that I've covered the distance at least once.  I decided to run my normal weekly route for the familiarity.  But then I continued running a few miles further to reach my half way point of 6.55 miles.  The furthest I'd ever run on this particular route was 3 miles out and then I'd turn around to come back.  So, this was even more of a new experience.

My first mile is never a good mile and this is understandable, because I’m running pretty cold at this point.  I do some light stretching of my hamstrings and quads, but other than that I don’t do any warm ups.  Some may say that this is not the best way to go, but, I haven’t gotten injured yet and I pray that I don’t in the future.  I’m all for whatever works for you.

After the first mile and a half, I began to settle down a bit and get in a good rhythm.  I felt strong and just kept working and progressing through my run.  Around mile 4, I was in an area that I’ve driven through many times before… But, I’ve never run through it.  It’s amazing how much you see while running that you don’t see driving.  I saw and took in so much more than I normally would, like the smell of the bacon from the neighborhood IHOP!!  Yummm....

I passed a high school, a few shopping centers and other restaurants between miles 4 -6.  As I got to mile 6, I came upon a pretty steep hill.  In order to reach the 6.55 mark, I had to climb.  I thought about changing directions or choosing a flatter option, but, it’s nothing like testing and pushing yourself in training runs.  I mean, that is why we train, right?

Frankly, I’ve noticed that hills don’t tend to bother me much and I seem to be able to climb them pretty easily.  So, I started trekking up the hill.  While I'm thinking about this right now, I’d like to make a suggestion about hills… The suggestion is: never look more than 5-7 feet in front of you while climbing a hill.  It provides the illusion of the road being flat and it changes the mental challenge of thinking you’re running up hill to a much easier challenge.

Now, back to the run...

I was able to get up the hill and I was reaching the halfway mark of my run.  At this point, I felt fine and didn’t have any major issues.  I had taken my nutrition at the proper times and was able to keep moving forward.

On my way back, I saw many runners who also had hydration vests/packs.  I remember thinking this must be a long run day for them too.  I actually had somewhat of a feeling of satisfaction, because they looked like they were beginning and I was more than half done.  The sun was out at this point and I knew that it would get tougher the longer they were out there.

Miles 8-11 passed right on schedule.  Nothing to report, outside of me trying the Margarita flavored Clif Shot Blocks.  My buddy, who is running the half marathon with me in a few weeks told me about them and gave them raving reviews.  These weren’t bad and came in handy, as I would tend to get little cramps around mile 10.  I took them at mile 8, so that they would already be in my system by mile 10 and didn’t have one cramp at all.  I kept sipping my water and continued my journey.

I didn’t forget to take my final energy gel to carry me through the end of my run.  This was a good thing.  Over the last few training distances of 10-12 miles and even the 12 mile race last week, I had forgotten to take my final energy gel and I always felt the effects of it too.

Just a gentle reminder... Always take your energy/nutrition at the proper times or it can throw your run off schedule.  Extremely important!

I took my final energy gel at mile 10 and was good through my finish.  I felt stronger than I ever have in a previous training run of 11+ miles.

I got back to my car and the distance was 13.01.  I said to myself, there is no way I will have run this 13 miles and not complete that last tenth of a mile.  I ran around the parking lot that my car was located in until I clicked over that 13.1 mile distance.  I had actually covered half-marathon distance!!

I felt so grateful, thankful and humbled that I just did something I’d never done before in my life!!  The feeling is fantastic!!  I’ve never felt this specific feeling of accomplishment before!!  I was confident, that I could definitely cover the distance of my first half marathon.  Now, it’s just a matter of staying focused and getting stronger.  I now need to incorporate some strength training in my schedule.  So, gym… here I come!!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Charles Street 12 Race Recap

My alarm goes off at 4:15 am.  I pop out of bed. It's race day.  My plan is to get to the start line by 6am.  I go down to the basement and hop on the computer to post on Twitter (@dzlrunner) about my excitement and that I'm ready to go!  I start to begin putting my gear on and I figured that I would allow my wife and daughter to sleep a little more.  (This may have been a mistake...  I started to hear my wife walk around upstairs at about 5:30am)  No big deal.  I figure a 45 minute drive to get to Towson from where we live wouldn't be too bad if we left between 6:00 and 6:10.  I mean, we'd still get there before 7am, since the race starts at 7:30.

We're all getting ready and I lose track of time!  I get a text from one of my running buddies, who's running the race with me.  The text asked if I was at the start line yet.  This is at 6:16 and I haven't left my house yet!  I responded that I just left the house.  (Technically, I wasn't quite in the car yet... I had to run back in the house to finish getting the rest of my things.  Oh, you've done it too. That time when you respond to someone about a future location of where you should be now or something that you should be doing now and you haven't quite gotten to doing it yet.  You're close, but not fully there... lol)

Well she said, "Geez... I hope you live in Towson!"  At this point, I knew I was in some trouble.  I don't live anywhere close to Towson.  I live in PG County, a good 30-35 miles from the start line.  I plugged the start location into my GPS and it said 58 minutes to reach my destination!! WHAT?!?!  At the rate I'm going, I'd get there in the middle of the National Anthem, if not after the race begins!!

I load my family in the car and we get going.  My wife and daughter are still pretty tired, so I knew I had to make time.  You can guess what I did... Once we got on the road and they were sleep, time had to be made up some way.  It was after 6:30am when I finally left my house.

I pull up to the starting location at 7:10am and I know I'm in the right place, because of the sea of neon colors in the street.  That's something I like about being a runner and running in races.  So many different colors, different outfits... so many different people! Such a beautiful thing!  I pull into a parking space, so my wife can switch to the driver's side.  I kiss the wife, kiss the baby and set out to look for my running buddy.  We haven't seen each other in a few years... So we catch up a little bit, talk about our training and shortly thereafter everyone's moving towards the starting line.

The National Anthem is sung, the starting gun sounds and we're off!  I wave to my wife and daughter and cross the starting mat.

I was prepared for the first third of the race to be tough.  The Course Information on the website stated that the course was downhill.  But, the elevation map on the website showed the first 3.5 - 4 miles being hilly.  I was mentally prepared for that.  I had already set my Garmin to run 12:30 miles, so I wasn't going to push my pace at all in the first quarter to first third of the race.  I was just going to keep steady and negotiate those hills as gently and as smoothly as possible.  (You can see my Pre-Race Strategy here)

Now these hills were not as bad as the hills I trained on, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville, NC.  No where close.  But, consistent rolling hills can take a toll on you.  Within the first quarter of the race, we ran thru some residential areas of Towson and passed Towson University.  The first aid station was around mile 1.5.  I didn't stop, because I had my trusty Camelbak hydration vest and it wasn't a part of the strategy to drink this early. I felt fine through this portion of the race and it was just a matter of sticking to the plan.  I have run 4 miles so many times before, this was no different.

The second third of the race, miles 4 - 8, was pretty tough.  This wasn't because of the few minor pains I began to feel.  I could deal with that.  But, it was mainly because, I like many other runners were thinking "downhill".  For some crazy reason, when I got to the bottom of a hill or the end of a flat portion of the course, I looked up and there was another incline.  I kept thinking that maybe I read the information wrong... Maybe it said that this was not a "downhill course" and I wanted it to be.  I don't know.  It just steadily frustrated me to think downhill and I am continuously climbing hills.  A pretty sick joke by the race directors, if I do say so myself.

Oh yeah... I didn't even mention the fact that my Garmin only had 2 bars.  In all my excitement, I failed to charge my GPS watch!! Unbelievable!!  At this point, I'm not as comfortable as I would've like to have been.  The race course was not what I mentally thought it would be and constantly hoping my Garmin wouldn't die on me was more than I wanted to be concerned with.  But, just like life, sometimes you've got to just roll with the punches and work through it the best way you can.  Everything won't always be exactly the way we want it... That's a fact.

Around mile 8, I had came up to a runner and said good job.  She was doing well and returned the pleasantries...  We ran about the same pace, so we stuck together until about the 8.75 mile mark, when she said "Ok, you brought me through... I'm gonna walk a little bit."  I bid her adieu and continued my trek.

The final third of the race was where the battle between mind and body began. I was coming up on territory that I wasn't as familiar with.  Sure, I'd run several 10 mile runs up until this point in my training, but only one 12 miler.  This is the place, where pace no longer mattered and I just wanted to finish.  This is the portion of the race where all mantras that have ever been thought of, begin to flood the mind.  Mantras like, "One foot in front of the other" and "a body in motion wants to stay in motion" and "trust your training" all begin coming to mind at once.  These thoughts mixed with the desire to stop, but the desire to finish were becoming annoying.  I remember thinking how much I wanted the finish line to just magically appear in front of me or right around the corner.

But, no... it wasn't going to be that easy.  I'd have to work to get to the finish line.  There were no shortcuts and no magic carpets to get me to the finish.  All there was, was my desire to finish and the training I had put in.  My Garmin, didn't even keep me company as it saved my run at mile 8.49 and showed a blank screen.

I resolved in my mind that I would, in fact, finish this race and I was finally able to quiet the unnecessarily loud noise of mind and body, when lyrics to "She'll be coming 'round the mountain when she comes" came to mind.  Eventually, those lyrics turned to "He'll be coming 'round the harbor when he comes".  The Baltimore Harbor was where the race ended and not a point sooner.

I was at about mile 9.5 and my new running buddy, that I met at mile 8 showed up again.  She said something like "I told you I'd catch up with you."  This was much needed company at the time.  We ran a little further, talked about our training and at about mile 10.3 or so, she needed to walk again.  I said my goodbyes and kept on trekking.

I knew that I was getting close to the finish.  There were several winding turns between mile 10 and 11 and we were in downtown Baltimore.  At this point, I was wondering why I didn't have much and I was running on fumes.  It hit me... I forgot to take my energy gel at mile 9!  That's why I felt like I was running on empty.  I took the hot Gatorade that they gave at the aid station for electrolytes, but it didn't seem to help.  I was already in a hole that I couldn't crawl out of.  Once again, I had to roll with the punches and work through it the best way I could.

At about mile 10.9, I was feeling like I needed a second wind.  So I decided that I would walk this last tenth of a mile to the 11 mile marker and I would run the rest of the way.  This was slightly disappointing, because in all of my training runs, I've never even walked a hundredth of a mile.  I usually run the entire distance.  But, that's the funny thing about races.  They make you do different things and feel different ways.  It was time to recommit.  I tapped mile marker 11 as I passed and got back on my horse.  I made the choice that I would run from this point to the finish line.  No stopping.

Finally, I could see the harbor.  I had reached the harbor and all there was to do was to get down the boardwalk, past the Maryland World Trade Center Building, past the Phillips and Barnes & Nobles and hang that left into the finisher's shoot.

As I ran down the boardwalk and saw other runners who had already received their medals, a feeling of hope came over me.  I was almost there!  I ran past the Spirit of Baltimore, past Ripley's Believe It or Not, past the USS Constellation, in between the Cheesecake Factory and the Baltimore World Trade Center.  I got to the finishing shoot and guess who's running towards me... My 2 year old daughter.  I couldn't have asked for a better finish to this race.  I picked her up and carried her through the finish line, with my family cheering me through!!  All the pain and lack of energy I had subsided for that short period of time.  It was one of the greatest feelings in the world!!

(Video of race route and footage of my personal finish, can be seen below...)

My official chip time was 2 hours 29 minutes and 19 seconds.  Thank you Charm City Run for a great challenge in the Inaugural Charles Street 12.  I will definitely come back to finish better and stronger next year!!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Pre-race Strategies and Goals for Inaugural Charles Street 12 Race

It's Friday morning, that I'm writing this post and I'm pretty amped up right now.  I've been thinking about this race all week.  It's actually been longer than that, but the pit of my stomach has been pounding with nervousness and excitement for the last five days or so.  It's my very first long distance race and I wanted to jot down my goals and strategies for the race.


1) I want to finish in 2:30 or better. - They say you shouldn't put a time goal on your first race, just cover the distance.  But, I'm always looking for a challenge or something to shoot for.  My training run of 12 miles was completed in 2:36.  I've had several 10 mile training runs that I was able to completed in less than 2 hours.  Races push the pace, so I feel if I can finish between 2:25 and 2:30 I'll be happy.  (Actually, I'll be happy when I cross the finish line... So, I'll be happy in any event.)

2) Finish with no injuries. - I'm thankful that I've been able to train up until this point with no significant injuries.  I hope to continue that streak with the help of the good Lord.  My first half marathon is planned for next month, so I've got to stay healthy in order to do well in that race.

3) Be in the moment at all times. - I want to experience this race fully, while running...  Enjoy the people around me, the atmosphere, the scenery.  This is the Inaugural running of the Charles Street 12 and I want to make sure that I'm not so focused on time and running strong that I don't take in the entire experience.


1) Start out slow. - I'm already going to be pumped and the juices are going to be flowing.  So, I need to make sure that I stay disciplined and run this race with patience.  I don't want to make the mistake of starting out too fast and burning myself out by mile 6.  I set my Garmin Virtual Pacer and intend to run at a 12:30 pace over the first half and dependent upon how I feel I'll pick my pace up.

2) Don't over hydrate and take nutrition at the proper times. - I've been hydrating all week and I'll be making sure to hydrate all day today.  I don't normally eat anything before my runs.  I may eat a Honey Stinger Waffle 15 minutes before the race begins.  Depending on the weather I normally don't start sipping water until about mile 3.  If it's warmer, I'll drink sooner.  I'll then take a gel or waffle around mile 6 and another around mile 9.  I shouldn't need anything after that, but, that'll be determined in the race.

3) Just be steady. - I know my limitations, I know my abilities and my training has gotten me to this point.  Stick with the plan and everything will be fine.

I'm just keeping it simple.  Nothing outrageous. I don't want to do too much and I want to stay focused on just finishing the race.

I'll see you after!!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Running Rules: The Dzlrunner's Guide to Road Races

I've run in a few shorter distance races to this point.  A couple of 5ks and my longest, being the Crofton Kiwanis 10k in June of this year.  I'm getting ready to embark on my longest race to date, The Charles Street 12, a 12 mile race down historic Charles Street in Baltimore, MD.

I've heard about there being certain rules to road racing that runners should follow.  I never paid attention to this for the shorter races, but I figured that I should for this longer distance.  So, I did a bit of research and here are some of the rules that I've found that will help me and possibly help you in your future road races.

1) You gotta pay to get in.
 When it comes to racing longer distances, such as the half marathon or full marathon, there is a term used to describe someone running without an officially registering for a race.  It's called "banditing".  There are many with varying opinions on banditing a race.

Some are more tolerant than others.  Some feel that it's harmless, others feel that it's one of the worse possible crimes that can be committed in the running world.  I tend to go with the moral side of things... If you didn't pay for it, you shouldn't partake.  But, if I happened to see one, I'm not going to call the authorities... I'm focused on my race.

2) Fast runners in the front, slow runners in the back
I've been thinking about this logic for a while and it makes complete sense.  I always seem to picture myself in the front of a sea full of runners (knowing I don't belong there at ALL), right under the starting line.  And when the gun goes off, I start out, but all the fast runners are blazing past me on my left and right, bumping me, shouting "Move out the way!"  Once they pass me, they turn and look at me with disgust.

I do not want to be that guy.  So, instead of starting in the front, its best for the slower runners like myself to start closer to the rear of the pack.  I mean it's the truth, right?  If I'm only running 10:30 miles at my fastest pace, why in the world would I start with the 5, 6 and 7 minute/mile runners.  That's crazy!!

3) Most bodily functions should be kept to the side of the course
Let's face it, bodily functions are a part of running.  But, many of them don't have to be done on the race course.  Sure, you may break wind or pass gas... That's inevitable.  But, spitting, snot rockets, vomiting or needing to relieve yourself  would need to be taken to the side of the course.

The last thing you want is to spit or blow a snot rocket and it land on another runners leg or shoe.  Be courteous and ease over to the side of the race course.  As far as relieving yourself goes, use the port-o-potties, seek an open business on the route, or if you must, look for a group of bushes that will allow some sort of privacy.

4) Make your presence known and be aware of other runners around you
When approaching a runner in front of you, it is best to say "Excuse me" or "On your right/left".  If they don't hear you, gently tap them on their elbow or arm to get their attention, as you don't want to spook them.

Being aware of your surroundings is just as important.  Whether you're wearing headphones or just enjoying the scenery around you, you must be sure to keep alert and listen for those around you.

5) Be careful around water/aid stations
There can be a lot of disorganization and bottle-necking at aid stations.  It can even be slick at times.  I remember running a race earlier this year and there were so many dropped water cups and spilled drinks on the ground that as I moved through the area, I felt my steps begin to slide a bit.  So it may be better to walk through the water station and move as close to the side as possible.  This way you don't obstruct the path of other runners passing through.

6) Show your appreciation
Just having manners and putting them to use, goes a long way.  Volunteers are exactly that... Volunteers and they give of their time to make our experience as runners a good one.  So, as you get your water and nutrition throughout the race, say "Thank you".  It's nice to know that you're appreciated.

It doesn't hurt to say thank you to any spectators you may come in contact with.  They, like volunteers, come out to make our experience as runners that much better.  They may be coming out to support their runner, but if you get a chance, take some time to let them know you appreciate them coming out.

These are just a few guidelines to help in making your race experience a good one.  I'll be keeping them in mind this weekend as I run the Inaugural Charles Street 12 Race and hopefully you will too, in your next race.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

My last training run before my first long distance race, The Charles Street 12

My cousin had responded via Facebook, to a training run I posted.  He stated that he wanted to run with me before my 12 mile race this weekend.  Another cousin of mine, who is also a runner, who ran Boston this year, and who is an inspiration to my running, suggested it to be a good idea.  So, we scheduled for Wednesday morning at 5am.  He stated he would come and run my route and we settled on 5 miles.

When we were stretching, he asked me what pace I wanted to run at, 10:30 or 11 minutes.  I said let's do an 11 min/mile pace.  Now, my cousin is already much faster than I am.... I mean, he's doing around 8 min to 8:30 miles!! My fastest average pace was 10:18 in a 5k race, back in April, and I was pushing HARD!  So, I had to keep my effort up, simply because I didn't want him to think I wasn't working hard and holding him back from a good training run.

I normally train on my own and this is where it can be good to run with someone else from time to time.  Just so that you can get that extra push, mentally and physically.  Continuously training at the same pace doesn't necessarily allow you to challenge yourself the way you need to be challenged, sometimes.  Not to mention, I didn't want to look like I've been loafing for all this time, so it was important that I produce a good showing and effort.

We set our Garmin Forerunner 10s (we both have the exact same watch, color and everything) and got started.  We haven't seen each other in a long time, so we began the run catching up.  I normally take the first mile to warm up and that's usually a 12 -12:30 pace.  But, after mile 1, I checked my Garmin and we completed that mile in 11:09.  I was already at the pace I thought I would build up to.  I felt fine and the weather was alright.  I figured I would hold on and see how long I could hold on to this pace.

Miles 2 through 5 went great!  From time to time, my cousin would ask me how I felt and surprisingly I felt fine.

Now, depending on how I feel at the end of my run, I'll push my pace and finish strong.  On this run, I just took off! I was hoping my cousin would try to catch up with me... Just a little challenge to get some of the competitive juices flowing.  He did!  I heard his footsteps behind me and I pushed more!! Surprisingly, I had another gear!!  I was shocked!! After running 5 miles at an uptempo pace, I still had a strong burst at the end.

What's funny is that, I don't think my cousin appreciated being surprised like that... but that's the fun of it.  He's already faster than me, so I had to get him when I could.  He posted on Facebook that I should not have tried to out sprint him at the end and now he's gonna have something under his sleeve for the next time we run.  We decided that we would get together and run once a week, so I'll be training harder to be ready for unexpected surprises he may try.

It was a fun run and I'm ready for my race on Saturday!!  Thanks cuz!!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Diet Decision for August 2013

After much research and contemplating on whether to do the Paleo diet, I have concluded that... I won't be doing it for the month of August.

Considering the upcoming races I have in such a short period of time, The Charles Street 12 on August 10, 2013 and the Abebe Bikila International Peace Half Marathon on September 14, 2013, I feel that I would be sabotaging my experience of my first long distance races. I have not trained for them with the Paleo diet and it would not be smart to start within 10 days of one race and less than a month from another race, including a taper week.

What i will be doing for the month of August is re-committing to eating in a much healthier manner. The goal is to lose 10 lbs by increasing fruit and vegetable intake and lessening my carb intake. I plan to reach a goal weight of 235 lbs by August 30, 2013.

I will use video throughout to bring you along the journey. Now, this is my first time doing anything like this, so bear with me as i learn on the go.

Feel free to join me on this journey and post your commitments and improvements as well. We are all in this together!

Well... let the commitment begin!