Run #M88 - 4/19/14 - 4 miles


Duration: 46:31

Distance: 4.48 miles

Rate: 10:23 per mile

I learned something today. I’ll get to that in a few paragraphs.

I wasn’t terribly interested in running slow today. In fact, after having a full day to rest after my 12-miler, I felt crisp and ready to go. While my warmup was a little slow (just a little), I was off like a rocket. This was a short four miles, which still makes me giggle, so why the hell wouldn’t I put my pedal to the medal and go after some fast pace? The first trick was to ignore the back-of-the-brain survival instinct that told me I needed to slow down and stuff it into a closet. Then I needed to remember how to put one leg slightly farther in front of the other. This may have all been lead, in part, by reading a bunch of marathon threads on the internet yesterday and wondering about bringing up my pace a bit. These short runs are supposed to be about going a bit faster, so let’s do it.

I was reminded quickly what the miracle of speed was like. For good reason, it’s been a long time since I’ve tried to break any speed records. Whizzing down the course faster than I ever have was a great sensation that’s going to be hard to break when I slow down for tomorrow’s six-miler. First miler was great, obviously, the second one still good, even as I crept a bit closer to that ten-minute mile mark (I was doing around 9:30 beforehand), but it was the third miler that I got shocked.

So this is what I learned today: the mental state of a runner - to the external world - is only slightly higher than a paramecium or bacteria. As I was about to round a corner, an older lady in a mini-van flagged me down. The first thing I thought was “oh, no”, which sounds entirely selfish, but this was not someone who looked like they were in the slightest bit of distress. She was not having a heart attack.

Regardless, I broke pace and doubled back to help her. I’d kept RunKeeper going in hopes it’d be a quick interaction.

Her: Do you know where <road> is?

Me: I have no idea.

Her: You don’t know the roads?

Obviously, I’m a runner, so I know all of the roads in our little suburban rat’s nest by name. I don’t. This one, I’d honestly never heard of. She was holding a piece of paper, her dash had no navigation or display and it was apparent she had no smartphone or standalone GPS unit, so it was obvious I was her first and last option for help.

Me: I know the layouts, I don’t know the names.

This is true, I know the layout of this entire batch of neighborhoods. I couldn’t tell you where anything was, which became something else in the next set of note…

Her: So where am I?

Me: Well, you’re on… uh… <road> and, there’s a major road, called, uh… I don’t even remember.

So let’s go back to that lesson. You’re googling me for map directions when I’ve just spent the past twenty-five minutes wondering exclusively where my next luscious gulp of oxygen is coming from or where not to step so I don’t fall and destroy my leg. I can’t do that. I am useless to you.

Unless you’re bleeding profusely, a runner is absolutely useless to you in any inquiry you may have. If I were walking, sure, that’s something else. I could pull out my phone at that point and show you maps and all that, but I couldn’t even do that. Do not ask a runner anything.

The entire interaction couldn’t have taken longer than about twenty seconds, but getting back to pace when I’d already had a good bead on the balance of physical and respiratory effort was a pain. I was more mad than anything and I used that as fuel. I don’t think I was going to break any records this time around, but I was really really close. The last mile went smooth despite my mental simmering. Turns out RunKeeper went a little crazy on the course charting because of my stop, so I had to adjust it slightly, which changed my pace a few seconds. C’est la vie.

Slower tomorrow, hoping for another faster attempt on Tuesday ahead of the fourteen-miler. I work another six-day week (one day off for the long run) because of store inventory. Blech. Feel free to ask me any questions now, just not during :)

Run #M87 - 4/17/14 - 12 miles

Duration: 2:28:20

Distance: 12.59 miles

Rate: 11:47 per mile

Another week, another record-breaking long run! Only a few more distance records to break in this training plan (next week’s 14 miler, then 16, 18 and 20 miles after that). I mixed the course up slightly this week, reversing halves, with the bigger half going last. Despite adding a mile, I’m not sure how I kept at 11:47 per mile, so I assume that’s my drop dead survival pace at this point.

It was 93F when I set out and I was anxious. Who cares that I’d just conquered eleven miles last week, this was TWELVE miles! I’ve had a decent amount of sleep in the past few days, so yet again I felt fresh out of the package when I set out onto the runway today. I also brought a new friend:

Yep, she’s got a handle and everything. After rationing last week’s dinky bottle of Nestle Pure Life, I decided that I wasn’t about to put up with that again. Enter the bottle. Since I didn’t need to be careful about precious H2O spilling out the top (since I was just knifing the cap on the smaller bottles), I was able to actually run with this thing, switching off when my clenched fists got tired, which wound up being every mile or so. Because of its capacity, I was tempted on a few turns to guzzle more than the usual amount, which lead to a coughing spat more than once. Moderation is the key!

First leg was a standard Leg B that runs by the house, it’s the one I skipped last week. Second leg was the extended Leg C that runs 3.2 miles. I noticed I was going faster this time around, then I remembered last time around, I’d already run nearly six miles by that point, so duh.

The problem I actually had, since I found my pace pretty early on this time, was that somewhere between knowing the course and that big, bright sun, I was looking at the ground most of the time, meaning that most of the run felt compressed. The novelty’s gone, so there’s no point in keeping my head up unless danger’s pending, right? I wound up daydreaming through a lot of these first few legs.

Then I found the glory of the straightaway. Usually daunting from a psychological perspective, I found these were the best ways to recapture pace. I can’t quite explain it, but when you can see the end point of a particular, long segment, a calm just comes over, like, yeah, I’ll get there, so just relax.

Third leg was the extended, probably standard Leg D and it was here that I was having to play the hardest mental games. It was here that I was feeling tuckered out the most. Not helping things was RunKeeper alerting me that I was going slower when I didn’t feel like I was. I imagined a scenario in which I’d need to start walking at some point in the future because the run was getting long and there was still so, so much to do.

But I didn’t.

Fourth leg was the extended Leg A and the cool breeze that had disappeared in the third leg came back to help me through this. It was long and I skipped a cul-de-sac this time around (no idea why I took it last week, but whatevs), but I knew it wasn’t so bad because I’d already made it that far and this was just the final bit. By the time I finished up this leg, I was starting to feel a pain flare up in one of my left quads, so I was making this artificial-feeling yanking sensation when pulling up my leg to alleviate it, as if a puppeteer’s string was yanking my knee away from the ground. It resolved itself within a half-mile.

Last leg before the exit mile was a standard length Leg A and I didn’t feel like I was grinding away like last week. I was tired, sure. I was out of water, definitely (despite having over twice as much!), but I felt I could’ve definitely gone farther. The exit mile came and I had enough juice in the last stretch to pick up the pace a bit.

Back home, my shirt was covered in salt stains from all the sweat, my calves a little beat up, every exposed inch of skin covered in a light layer of dust or dirt. My Achilles eventually froze up, making walking around a pain, but thankfully, with a shift in my work schedule, I can spend the night recovering, rather than pushing around merchandise. It’s working out great.

Instead, I’m going to relax and play Titanfall. 4-6-4-14 next week. See you then!

Run #M86 - 4/15/14 - 4 miles, thoughts on Boston

Duration: 50:00

Distance: 4.43 miles

Rate: 11:17 per mile

A year ago today, I didn’t walk. I didn’t step outside, I didn’t tell RunKeeper that I was conducting any form of fitness. In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings and the real-time manhunt, I was recovering from a strenuous series of walks a few days prior. The Boston Marathon seemed like such an odd choice for a terrorist target. I’d heard of the marathon, but I didn’t know anything about it. It was important in the sense that a marathon in any large metro area is important. New York, Chicago, LA, etc.

We got the bastards that did it and I moved on. Another day in the life.

Three months later, I got bit by the marathon bug, started this entire cycle. I didn’t run because of Boston, I ran because it was an incredible goal in my life. My high school English teacher explained how he’d wanted to run a marathon. His wife would drop him off further and further away from home. When he finished the race, he wrote about it for the local newspaper. A marathon is a huge goal by itself.

Over weeks of solid research, I got to learn about Boston and BQ’ing. Being one of the oldest and popular races in the country, the organizers restrict attendance by requiring all runners race in another qualifying marathon with a very fast time - for anyone under 34, it’s 3:05:00 for men, 3:35 for women. Any serious marathon will promote that they’re Boston Qualifying. To BQ is to have an Oscar on your mantle. It’s proof that you don’t just run 26.2 miles, but you’re in the absolute, most fit shape possible.

At my current pace, I’m aiming for a nearly six hour marathon my first time around, which is a bit on the slow side, but something I’m proud of, because I’ll be happy to finish a marathon at all even at half-BQ pace. It’s unfortunate that the vast majority of those who made it to Boston last year never got to finish is disappointing, but being able to pull off such an enormous physical feat, to be able to show up in the first place, that makes them all champions in my book.


Today’s run! Well, I’d planned on going a bit faster today and for a little bit there, I did. I’m finding it harder and harder to believe at this point that at some point, I ran 3.3 miles at a 10:10 pace because I really tried today and I got the number you see above. It’s silly to think that way, though: it’s about the distance. Between a less-than-ideal amount of deep sleep or subtleties in my recent diet or just an overall lack of recovery time, I shouldn’t be too surprised. And it’s hot out, y’know?

Warmup was slow, which may have foreshadowed what followed, but I was out the gate, only slowing as I entered my second mile around my new, extended Leg D. Third mile went fine and even Murder Hill didn’t put up a fight. I was just a little slower, that’s all. I guess I don’t want to kill myself ahead of that long run on Thursday, which I now no longer work afterward! Yay!

See you then!

Run #M85 - 4/13/14 - 6 miles


Duration: 1:14:32

Distance: 6.53 miles

Rate: 11:25 per mile

Ha, you thought I would skip a run? Ha! Hahaha! HAHAHAAHAHAHA!

No, but seriously, I’m a tad late on this one. After this run, I had a nice, long walk with a friend, at which point it was time to come home, have just enough time to eat, relax ever slightly, then go to work. So, I wasn’t able to get this registered in that time.

This was a breezy run. Both in the sense that I was going faster, but in the sense that in turning up Murder Hill, it was enough to slow me down. Sometimes I’m like a thermostat when it comes to pace: if I don’t manually check how much effort I’m putting in, I’ll underwork or blow out. Like when you run a little bit faster crossing a street when a car is waiting? And you end up running that pace afterward? Forever? That’s traditionally been my problem, so I wound up slower overall than even yesterday’s shorter run. I’m not complaining, though. Six miles was once daunting and now it is not. Hooyeah.

Having a day off (today!) is pretty great. I’m appreciating both halves of this equation.

Run #M84 - 4/12/14 - 4 miles

Duration: 50:07

Distance: 4.41 miles

Rate: 11:22 per mile

After M83’s eleven-miler, this felt like a half-day at school. Sure you’re still getting all that wonderful knowledge and sure you’re still going to school, but c’mon! Half-day! I have nothing to complain about on this run, though!

It was 89F when I left, so a few chilling degrees shy of the 91F on the last run. I made sure I was watered up before I hit the pavement. On a side note, I did buy a liter bottle for the twelve-miler this week because it was the smallest the store carried. I didn’t want to lug a jug, if you know what I mean.

I don’t mean anything by that.

I mention the heat (again) because when I’m lining up on the major street where I start my run, with the big long concrete sidewalk, I’m usually blasted by hot air. I’m also reminded of every air strip I’ve ever been on, so launching into my run is mentally linked to me being a plane taking off on a hot day. Turning that corner from the warmup (which was slow) is probably the biggest component of the demoralizing, mental jolt I get before I start.

But I was at it! And for two-thirds of a mile, I was actually nose-breathing! That’s right, my exertion was such that I was able to push air in and out of my nose for such a distance. My dream is to be able to do that - although much quieter - for any length of run I’m on. When I was able to nose-breathe through all my walks, I felt like I’d truly reached the next level.

But then I think about that: running four miles feels like a walk around the block now. Sure, Murder Hill still put up a fight in the end, but I had enough juice to put in a full sprint on the last stretch back to the house. I also remembered that training in this hotness (and it’s going to get hotter) is somewhat equivalent to running at high-altitude, which’ll be great come September when I’m running that half-marathon back home.

Great run! See you tomorrow!

Run #M83 - 4/10/14 - 11 miles

Duration: 2:16:55

Distance: 11.61 miles

Rate: 11:47 per mile

What’s going… what’s going on? What’s going… what’s going on? - M83

I’m sitting in my office chair and my calves are finally reaching the end of their burn. I just ate some granola bars and peeled off my compression shirt. Aside from running eleven miles, the thing I’m happiest for is that going forward, I’ll no longer need to go to work a few short hours after my long run. Yeah, it’s a dumb situation. Unfortunately, this week I’ve gotta deal with it. I’ve never worked something so hard that it felt like it had fallen asleep during a workout. You know, that painful tingly feeling as blood rushes back into your extremities? Yeah, that.

For last week’s ten miler, I decided to torture myself a bit by running my standard four legs in pairs, one after the other. I decided that wasn’t quite good enough as my distances needed to get longer, so I finalized a few expansions that sent me through a variety of new neighborhoods. I planned this all through, but they always overestimate on mileage, so I needed to overplan for the discrepency.

On the first leg, I over-quadrupled the length of Leg A, running around nearly all of central eastern El Mirage. At four and a quarter miles, I wound up running down a cul-de-sac I didn’t need to (but whatevs) and cutting through a park. About four miles in, I actually thought I wouldn’t be able to make it through the entire eleven miles. But, I pressed on.

The second leg involved tripling the length of Leg C through the guts of the neighborhood. The monotony of tract housing began to set in at this point, as did a pain in my left Achilles. I combat this by adjusting my stride so I wasn’t pulling as much with the back of my calf. Water management became a fun mental game as I regularly tracked my progress down my bottle. I need to bring a bigger bottle going forward, actually. A sip of water every half mile was doing okay for a bit until I would put it off. As it turns out, our thirst is a really good gauge for how much water we should drink. When I was sated with water, I felt like a million bucks. This didn’t happen often though, primarily because I didn’t quite bring enough water to keep that level throughout.

Third leg was a standard short Leg D, which is when my left hip began to flare up. I couldn’t quite understand it until I paid attention to it while running and discovered it was unusually tense all the time, so it was burning up. I focused a bit and relaxed and that went away over the next mile.

The final leg was going to be a Leg B past Guitar Pick Park, but the aggressive changes in elevation combined with the fact that it runs within thirty feet of my house made it a bad last-leg choice. I should run that early, rather than later. Instead, I ran a standard-length Leg A backwards past the school, then proceeded up the exit leg, at which point I was in such familiar territory that I felt like I was on auto-pilot as I climbed Murder Hill. It feels odd, but I felt sufficiently enthused when I entered that last Leg A because those last two miles felt like a landing strip after all the running I’d done so far. I ran out of water before the exit mile, so I was parched the rest of the way up.

Those last few turns beyond Murder Hill were hard and slow, but I think if I had some more water, I could’ve done the entire half-marathon length, which was only a mile and a half beyond that. Actually, that’s kinda crazy. I was just a mile and a half shy of a half-marathon distance, which is what my long run calls for in two weeks.

I should note that when I started, I opted to keep things as slow as possible, so when things got real hazy, I was pushing twelve minutes per mile, but there were some peaks in the end where I heard myself pushing below eleven. In the end, I would’ve been in pretty bad shape if I tried running eleven miles in a faster time.

4-6-4-12 next week! See you soon!

Run #M82 - 4/8/14 - 4 miles

Duration: 47:52

Distance: 4.35 miles

Rate: 11:00 per mile

Hey guys, it was hot out today! That, combined with a fast short run made things awesome and sweaty out there.

Actually, it was a short run, but the fast was just how I was feeling at the time. After a good warmup, I was on the way and the Gump wasn’t holding me back. I only had one day off, but it felt so much longer. So I put my legs into it. I didn’t have quite as much sleep as I would’ve liked or eat as much, so after the first two miles, I started to feel it a little. By the fourth exit mile, climbing up Murder Hill wasn’t fun, but I had some juice saved up for a little extra effort in the last few turns.

Next is M83, the long run. What a coincidence!

Run #M81 - 4/6/14 - 5 miles

Duration: 1:00:52

Distance: 5.36 miles

Rate: 11:21 per mile

Exit Survey Says: Could Add A Mile

Look at me, I’m so happy!

Once again, my two best weapons for staving off the running aches were a healthy dosage of sleep and stretching. I’ve actually not been stretching my Achilles and it’s been irritating the heck out of me, on top of just being an outright pain. Some people take pills, I need to get on my stretches. As soon as I got home this morning, I wound down super fast and fell into bed. Throughout yesterday, I felt a full step above how I felt the day before after the long run.

Today, I felt even better, which makes me feel good about that 11-miler on Thursday. I’d been calculating a few extended legs (extending Leg A to a 2-mile Ab and C into a 2-mile Cb), but I didn’t get them properly mapped and I didn’t want to run them yet. But soon! Probably on that 11-miiiilllleeeeerrrrr…

Warmup was slightly slow and before I launched into my run, I needed to adjust my shoe, so that affected… oh, whatever it affected. The first mile felt long and it’s feeling longer with each new run. It’s odd. Maybe it’s a broadening Gump Effect. No idea. But it was great through the first mile and the second. Coming up the end of that into the third, I started to feel it a bit since they were inclines. Beginning of the fourth the same. By the fifth mile headed up Murder Hill, I simply could not get any more juice out of my legs. Even as I tried to squeeze myself to tango under that 5-mile/hour mark, there simply wasn’t anything there. That said, I could’ve probably added another mile, but it would’ve been an achy one.

Four-miler on Tuesday, long run on Thursday, I get Tuesday/Wednesday off. I was able to get my reschedule re-jiggered so that I won’t be running right after my long-run, which is murder. Stay tuned!

Run #M80 - 4/5/14 - 4 miles

Duration: 50:31

Distance: 4.34 miles

Rate: 11:39 per mile

Exit Survey Says: Would Not Add Any Miles

Before I talk about today, I wanna talk about yesterday.

After the ten-miler (Run #M79, for those playing at home), I went to work. That was harsh. Even harsher was walking home afterward and plopping down in my chair, my legs feeling like they were on fire. I’d intended to get a full eight hours of sleep, but it wound up closer to seven because of how long it takes for my brain to shut off (only in extreme conditions do I fall asleep right away). My legs were so sore that every time I’d flip in bed, I’d wake up with a Charley Horse and need to twist my leg into a compliant position before the pain became too much.

Fun! When my alarm went off, I couldn’t even stand up out of bed on the first try. My legs felt paralyzed. On a concerted second effort, I made it up and out. With some time and the usual Friday mile-and-change walk, I was warmed up, but even after going to work and back without much issue, I considered tossing out this new four miler and maybe even the five-miler I have scheduled for tomorrow. I got home early this morning, got into bed early, fell asleep early. Great sleep.

So, no, I didn’t cancel any runs! But, I knew that I would be achy and slow on this little jaunt and I was not wrong.

Warmup was slower and once I started throwing my weight down, my feet reminded me that this was not going to be a holiday. That first stretch past the Walgreens was slow and achy all the way through, but then things started to warm up. Past Guitar Pick Park, I knew I was going to be in first gear through this, but I wouldn’t be causing any tendons to explode or spirits to crush.

I knew I’d be okay.

Of course, that first mile felt like the hardest as I reminded myself that, hey, this was still the first mile. Second mile came and went without issue on Leg A. During the ten-miler, I was actually wondering why someone didn’t just grab a broom and sweep away all the small rocks that hurt my feet so much around the school. Whoever planned that block just decided to place unrestricted, loose rocks beside the sidewalk and they are sprayed out everywhere. I blame the kids of the nearby school. Yeah, that’s it.

RunKeeper informed me that my pace was quickening as I entered my third mile on Leg D, which is the softest of the four. It was a nice, little reprieve. Throughout, I felt my breath was labored, but I wasn’t dying for it. I know that’s hard to describe, but I was getting enough oxygen, it just felt like I was huffing a little. Not huffing and puffing.


Third mile goes fine and then it’s off to Murder Hill on the exit mile where, more than ever, the elevation change is here to punish, not reward. I knew I was trying to keep things on the slow side and the exit mile felt like I was running out of fuel, ready to collapse. In fact, I’m going to note that I wouldn’t add any extra mileage to this run in a new feature that I’m going to put up top right now (as if the portrait isn’t enough!).

Five miles tomorrow. I can dig that.

Run #M79 - 4/3/14 - 10 miles

Duration: 1:58:51

Distance: 10.56 miles

Rate: 11:15 per mile

The photo above depicts me being unable to lift my arms to remove my sunglasses. I knew I could handle a few extra miles (or an extra mile) after last week’s eight-miler, but I didn’t realize I’d be running on fumes by the end. Well, running on fumes isn’t quite putting it the right way: it felt like everything was wearing out. Maybe the break pads? But I wasn’t stopping? Ugh, stupid analogies.

Last week, I mentioned this was a big, symbolic run and it is. On top of being a round ten miles and the farthest running distance to date, it also bests my farthest walking distance to date as well. As I mentioned in my original introductory post, when my car broke down over the summer of 2007, I found myself hoofing it across Colorado Springs and back to pay the bills. The distance then was 9.75 miles, which I originally achieved in 3:43.xx, but worked down to nearly three hours flat by the time I got my car fixed. Over the course of three weeks, I made this trip many times and for years to follow, it was the pinnacle of my physical achievement. It felt, honestly, like a dream because the effort required was so divorced from my day-to-day routine that it seems there’s no way I could’ve done it.

Fast forward seven years and, in the midst of marathon training, I’m conquering not just that distance, but a bit more, while running. Not walking, running. While the elevation shifts weren’t quite as drastic on this route as they are back in the Springs, it was an absolutely huge test of endurance. To add to the mania, I decided to hinder myself psychologically by doing two laps of each leg before moving onto the next. Not as stirring as doing eight laps around a single leg, but I have to preserve my sanity somehow. There’s a fine line in there somewhere.

Warmup went well and after a few days of rest, I felt like I’d just been released fresh from the bag. I wasn’t quite as supercharged as I was last week, but I knew that was coming. I knew I’d have to deal with less-than-ideal conditions eventually. I began my usual sweat at the end of intro mile, but it was cooler today with a slight breeze, down in the seventies. Around four to five miles in, I wasn’t sweating at all. That was also when I found my survival pace, the rate at which I can run without thinking about it. I think this will simply be a thing for all my long races - it’s going to take me some time to find my pace.

The first two miles around Leg B, which runs closest to home and Guitar Pick Park, were the most severe as far as grade, so I was glad to take those on first. The second two miles around Leg C gave my ankles quite the jolt as it features the most hops on and off of curbs. Distance is a funny thing: I was happy to be reaching the half-way point as I entered my fourth leg, then less happy still not be at the half-way point after running nearly another mile. Don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched, kids.

The next two miles around Leg D ran clockwise instead of counter-clockwise because Legs C and D are so similar. Tract housing, man. By now, my water bottle is distorting into crushed garbage, but I have my sip method perfected. Leg D is the shortest, so it was a nice reprieve before entering my last few.

The final two miles before the exit were around Leg A, the old holdout that runs along the south side of the school. I called these the bonus miles because last week, they were two miles I didn’t need to run before I hit the exit leg. By now, the sun had fallen beyond the horizon and my achilles’ were screaming at me. I changed my footfall so I landed as if I were running on tip-toes and this released the pressure. Felt very interesting.

At this point, the mind was able, but the body was losing its will. Everything ached. My calves were no longer excited to be on this journey. My sides didn’t cramp, but somewhere between my shirt and holding that water bottle, my right arm began to cramp up around the shoulder. So that was fun. I’m sure if I were more vigilant about switching the bottle every mile instead of just when I remembered to - which wasn’t that often - it’d be better.

The exit mile was a war of staring down a sprawl of sidewalk, then crushing it. There are two long stretches of this and they came right as I was reaching the edge of my abilities. I even tried to pour what was left in my body into the last quarter-mile with mixed results. I got home and the front door was locked, which gave me plenty of time to send off my RunKeeper report.

Next week is 4-5-4-11. Hoo boy! I’m actually thinking about ordering gels here soon for the first time. They’re pricey! Did you know that? I wish there was somewhere that offered a sampler? I guess local stores would. Why am I still typing…