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Archive for January, 2012

The dreaded taper

First of all…YAY!  It’s race week!

After a couple weeks of nothing on my calendar, I have a fabulous four mile race coming up on Saturday morning.  It’s local.  Held in Cherokee Park in Louisville, Kentucky.  It’s a park I know well.  It’s the hilliest freakin’ park I’ve ever run in.

Secondly…BOO…race week means it’s time to take it easy on running to have well-rested legs for the race.  Granted, this is a shorter race, but I’ve found that the taper is a necessary evil when it comes to running.  Why give everything during the week only to wake up with tired legs on race day.

I’m still running…just not as hard and not as much this week.

And…it sucks.

This morning, I headed to the gym and got on the treadmill.  I was cruising for 2 miles at a fantastic pace of 7.2 mph, throwing in some varied inclines every couple of minutes, keeping the pace, finding that I wasn’t having to grab hold of anything.  It felt amazing!!

And I wanted to go for longer.  I wanted to change my mileage from 2 miles to 3 or 4…but…I didn’t because that little voice in the back of my head reminded me of my race on Saturday morning.

Let’s face it…the taper SUCKS!

Especially when you are so accustomed to running so much, as I have become.  Cutting back isn’t easy.  But…I know I’ll benefit from it on Saturday.  Hoping to see if I can best my last 4 mile race time.

Here’s hoping all this running, and the taper, pays off.


Free Spirit

The greatest pleasure in life, is doing the things people say we cannot do.
— Walter Bagehot

Spirit of the Marathon

Spirit of the Marathon

Tonight was a night of inspiration.  After a good run 7 mile run this morning, I already feeling fantastic going into the day.  I didn’t do a lot of anything.  A little grocery shopping.  A little reading.  Some laundry.  And I cooked.

But as I sat down to dinner, the movie of the night was one my roommate surprised me with.  It’s a little documentary called “Spirit of the Marathon.”  This film basically captures the story and essence of the legendary 26.2 mile run.  It follows six different stories of runners as they prepare to face the challenge of the Chicago Marathon.  It literally envelops you in their lives, their training, their hardships, the drama that comes with preparation and the race itself.

And what I found in all of this was a huge nudge toward the big race.

A marathon.

I’ve toyed with the thought of running a marathon.  But 26.2 miles seems so dauntingly long.  And seeing as I have many races under my belt, but only one half marathon, I’ve never seriously taken a look at it.  This year, I’m signed up to run in four half marathons and a plethora of different length races throughout my area and states I’ll be traveling to.  But now, a bigger picture lies ahead of me.

Let me declare this now:

I want to run a marathon!

There…I said it and all of you who read this have now heard it.  I’m going to train.  I’m going to find a great place to run my first marathon.  And I’m going to do it.  Not this year.  I’m nowhere near ready, but 2013…that’s my goal.

I have “Spirit of the Marathon” to thank for this.  I got to watch a variety of runners, from elites to your average Joe’s, from newbies to those who have been doing it for years, and see them go through the motions.  And it only made me get excited about running.  I finally have a race coming up, and now I’m super psyched to run it.  Granted, it’s only 4 miles, but it’s me, getting outside with other runners, and hitting the pavement.  I love it.

And what better way to show my love of my sport than to run the ultimate athletic challenge.  I found the stories that this film followed to be inspirational.  I love the way it was laid out and how it showed that running can cause injury, it can keep you from reaching a set goal (one runner wanted to run Chicago to qualify for Boston, but he injured his knee and he no longer could run Chicago), or how runners can break through that wall, despite the pain and strain of 26.2 miles and reach that emotional finish line.

Yeah…I want to be a part of that.

2013…mark my words…I am going to find a marathon and I’m going to run it.  I may not finish in spectacular time and I know I won’t set any records, but I now understand why people run it and I want to throw that challenge at myself and conquer it.  I’m going to do it.  Physically, I know that in a year, I can train and do it right.  And now…I’m more determined than ever to do it.

So, time to start checking those marathon races and seeing which ones I can run in.

Inspiration from a simple film about the earliest sport known to man.  Yeah…I must be a runner.  Because now I know I won’t be complete until I take on 26.2 miles and prove to myself that I can do it.

I can be a marathoner.  I will be a marathoner.

My running spirit has been reignited by watching this film, taking in the stories, watching each one meet challenges and fight to finish.  I want that for myself.  I want to taste it for myself.

If you are a runner, you should see this film.  If you are a non-runner, you will enjoy the film just as much as those who are into the sport.  My roommate was consumed by it and she is currently searching for future marathons that might be a good option for me.  Gotta love encouragement.  Watch the film.  Become inspired.  Let your own marathoner spirit soar!

Treading through the winter running blues

Running on a treadmill sucks.

There is no easier way to kill the running spirit than to slog away on a moving conveyor belt, going nowhere fast.  Yeah.  I despise it.

But, during these cold winter months, it’s a necessary evil.

So, recently, I’ve been  playing around with new ways to liven up the treadmill as I run on it at the gym.  I usually tune into Food Network while my iPod is playing my run playlist, but sometimes that’s not even enough to get my mind off the fact that I’m running…nowhere.  The joy of running outside is actually making progress.  You’re moving.  You’ve got a goal in mind.  You move toward that goal.

Setting goals for a treadmill is not as easy.

And on Friday, I woke up feeling sluggish and not really wanting to get on the equipment at the gym for another mindless morning of running.  It was cold and rainy outside though and I had an office job waiting for me afterwards, so…I went.  For the past couple weeks, I’ve been playing with inclines.  Run at 0% incline for 5 minutes.  Then go to a 3% incline for 2 minutes.  Repeart.  One day I threw in an extra minute each rotation at a 4% incline.  On top of that, I slowly increase my speed (within my normal running limits) every mile.  So, yeah…I can change it up some.

But, since I was feeling MEH on Friday morning, my roommate issued a new challenge for me.  Set the treadmill for 26 minutes, and attempt to get a 5K run in during that time.  Why 26 minutes?  Because my current PR for a 5K is 25:59.  Seriously.  So…it seemed like a good run for a blah morning.  I accepted the challenge.

And I met it.  I didn’t play with inclines that morning.  I wasn’t feeling it.  But I did increase my speed slowly over the course of the run, once again, staying within my normal running limits.  And…I ran 3.13 miles in 26 minutes.  I was elated.  I high-fived her when my machine slowed for the cool-down walk.  I suddenly felt better.  My morning meh’s were gone and I was invigorated again.

All I needed was a challenge.  One that I was willing to meet and one that kept my mind off of the mindless machine I was using.  And it worked.

Mission: Accomplished.

And yes…it felt good.

So, when the winter time blues hit…I know all I need to do is set a goal and try to achieve it.  If I don’t manage the first time…try again.  Part of the glory of this sport is finding ways to improve on what you can already do.  This was the pick-me-up I needed.

Trapped on the treadmill this winter?  Issue yourself a challenge and then…crush it.

I dare you!

The first 50 miles



Back in January, I made a promise:

Log 500 miles over the course of 2012.

Well, today I reached my first milestone, if you will.  Mile marker 50.

50 miles in by January 21st.  That’s not a bad start to the year.  I know with my crazy race schedules I’ll have to cut back on mileage at points, so having 50 in before the first month is even out is amazing.  It felt so great to log the last 4.1 miles I needed to reach 50 this morning.  And I was so damn proud of myself for doing it too.

I admit, getting up sometimes to get in even a mile isn’t always easy.  There are days the last thing I want to do is lace up my shoes and log a run.  But I always feel better after I do it.  And I think it’s that feeling that keeps me going, that makes me put on my running shoes and head out.

Today…I’m 1/10 of the way to my goal.  Damn…it feels good!

And, yes…it totally makes me want to keep going.

The 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials

This morning…I went for a run.

Nothing hard.  Nothing fast.  Nothing long.  Just…a simple run.  I had one goal in mind…and that was to be back home before the coverage of the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials kicked off in Houston, Texas.  I got home just in time after doing an easy 2.25 miles.

NBC’s coverage was going to be delayed, so I turned on the computer as I made breakfast and settled in to watch an episode of The Big Bang Theory while the live feed began of the beginning of the men’s race…and then fifteen minutes later…the women’s race.  Before I knew it, my DVD player was shut off and both myself and my roommate (who is so not a runner) were on the edge or our seats watching the Runner’s World live blog feed cover the race.  We couldn’t see it as it happened…but it was riveting.  We were on the edge of our seats cheering for the men and women runners who were fighting for their spots on Team USA for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

You would think not being able to see the race would be dull.  On the contrary, it was hard to leave the couch for any task.  Every update was our link to that race, and I could see it happening in my head.  A few guests posted pictures from the race as they watched it happen in Houston.  Even without a live image to watch, I couldn’t step away.  I didn’t want to.

And at 2:09:08, Meb Keflezighi broke through the tape and finished first in the men’s race.  Followed close behind, and earning the other two spots for the 2012 Men’s Olympic Marathon team were Ryan Hall, who was the favorite going into this, and came in just behind Meb at 2:09:30, and Abdi Abdirahman, also finishing sup-2:10:00 with an official time of 2:09:47.  Coming in fourth was one runner both my roommate and I were pulling for: Dathan Ritzenhein, who still finished with a respectable 2:09:55, just barely missing the chance to be on the Olympic team.  What an amazing race.  The men started off fast and maintained that fast pace throughout.  There was very little changeover when it came to leaders, although Meb did play it safe in the beginning, starting at the back of the elite pack out front and then working his way forward as the race progressed.  Hall was out in front pretty much the entire way, but his fast pace out of the starting gate might have been the precursor to his, still respectable, but second place finish.  Abdi was more of a long-shot in the elite runners, but he had such a great day in Houston.

Our 2012 Team USA Marathon Men are:

Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi, and Abdi Abdirahman

Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi, and Abdi Abdirahman

Now the women were a different story all together.

Where the man set out and breakneck speed from the start, the women were a little more reserved at the start of their race.  This didn’t make the competition any less exciting, however.  There were some surprises as the updates were being posted.  My roommate and I had chosen our favorites to cheer for…and those three would eventually come in and take the three spots on the Olympic team.  But they did have to battle it out over the 26.2 course in Houston.

In the end, though, breaking through the tape at the end at 2:25:38 was Shalane Flanagan, who I was amazing in this race.  She would take the lead, only to be pushed back, but in the final two miles, she pulled out ahead, got a tremendous lead, and maintained it.  Only seventeen seconds behind her, however, was the Little Engine That Could – Desiree Davila, finishing in 2:25:55.  For her tiny stature, Davila powers through her marathons.  She’s ambitious and a fighter and definitely one to watch.  And, quite happily, my roommate and I cheered for the third place contender, Kara Goucher, back from maternity leave.  I had just read her book “Running for Women: From First Steps to Marathons,” so I was quite familiar with her as a runner.  Her qualifying time was 2:26:06.  Finishing fourth was Amy Hastings, who had been in the lead for awhile, and would jackrabbit up to the front and fall behind.  But she fell way behind and the three women my roommate and I had chosen to cheer for came in to earn their rightful spots.  It was an intense and exciting race.

Our 2012 Team USA Marathon Women are:

Desiree Davila, Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher

Desiree Davila, Shalane Flanagan, and Kara Goucher

I’m so excited about watching these runners take on the world on the Olympic stage in London this summer.  I know I’ll be tuning in to watch.  Team USA has six very strong, very talented, very determined runners heading to London for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.  And I’ve never been more excited to see these men and women run their hearts out for the chance of winning a medal for our country.  GO USA!!

And huge congratulations to Meb, Ryan, Abdi, Desi, Shalane, and Kara!

You inspire me with your speed and your talent.

In fact, I’m inspired to go for another run tomorrow.  A longer run.  I’m no marathoner, but I have the heart of one!


Road Hero

The 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials are being held in Houston, Texas, tomorrow morning.  The crème de la crème in the running world are all toeing the line for the chance to win a place on the Olympic team.  And there are plenty of favorite elite runners out there hitting the road.  For the men – Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi, and Dathan Ritzenhein are being pegged as the three to beat.  For the women, it’s Shalane Flanagan, Desiree Davila, and Kara Goucher at the head of the pack.  But here’s the thing with running – you can be the top of your class, the elitist of the elite, and you can still have a bad day, hit the wall, and fall behind.  You just never know.

But with all the talk about these great runners making their play at a spot to compete in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England (six will advance to run in the marathon…three men and three women), it got me thinking about who my heroes in this sport are.  There are so many greats to choose from – past and present.

But when it comes down to it, I owe a lot of my passion and a lot of my love for this sport to one man:


Howard A. Brady - my grandpa & my running inspiration

This…is my grandpa, Howard A. Brady.

From as far back as I can remember, my grandpa was a runner.  When we visited him in Minnesota over summer vacations, he would still lace up his running shoes and go for a run.  When he came to visit in New York and Alabama, he’d bring his running gear (something I have now taken to doing when I travel) and head out on unfamiliar roads and get his run in.

My Grandpa & my cousin Andy in 1989

My Grandpa & my cousin Andy in 1989

The thing is, my grandpa wasn’t always a runner.  In fact, he took up the sport quite late in life.  He was in his fifties, in fact.  And to me, this just proves that it wasn’t just dedication to running, it was a love of it.  When I talk to him on the phone (he is still in Minnesota and I am currently in Indiana) after my races or whatnot, we always talk about running.  He once told me that he preferred to run on hot days.  He loved to sweat it all out.  I too share this love of the hot-weather run!  Cold weather and I don’t get along.  He has a gift for storytelling, and hearing some of his race stories can be downright amusing.  One of my favorites came out of a marathon he ran in Berlin, Germany.  I can’t even begin to share it here.  It’s a story best left told by the man who was there.

My grandpa has done amazing things in his running career.  He has regaled me with stories of his races…and he has done every distance from 5Ks to marathons.  When I was visiting this past summer, he took time to show me what racing shirts he still has in his possession, his race bibs, his awards, medals, etc.  I totally understood his passion for the sport, because the way he talks about it…it shows how much he loved it.  And…how much he  misses it.

Now 90 years old, he hung up his running shoes a couple years ago.  And, though I didn’t come to the sport right away, I have picked up the torch and started on my path in running.  But it was my grandpa who truly showed me what it was like to love running.  I didn’t realize it as I was growing up, but knowing he was out their pounding the pavement was inspiring.  And that inspiration lit a spark in me that has since flared into my own passion for this sport.

Running and I used to have a passing acquaintance.  To me, running was more of a punishment than something to do for pleasure.  I was a relatively active child growing up, playing softball, basketball, taking karate lessons, and just heading out to the neighborhood streets with all the kids and playing a round of kickball.  With the exception of karate, these sports did involve some running.  But, for the most part, running was used as a punishment.  If we lost a softball game, my coach would make us run laps.  We’d have to run sprints in basketball, which was grueling to say the least.  In gym class, we’d have to go for runs around the gym or the track, sometimes to warm up, sometimes for the physical fitness test…but it was never something I got excited about.  It was more disdain than anything.

My Grandpa at the Twin Cities 10 Mile Run - part of the Twin Cities Marathon

My Grandpa at the Twin Cities 10 Mile Run - part of the Twin Cities Marathon

I’m short, so my stride isn’t long.  That means when I see all these lean, lanky, running machines at races, I often look at myself and wonder how I came into this.  I am not built to be fast.  But, I have proven that these short little legs can carry me over the distance.  Then again, I didn’t get into running to be the first across that finish line.  That will never happen.  I got into running because…I just started running.  For fun.  Not for any other reason.

And I think that’s how it was for my grandpa.  He took up running later in life and got in over 30 years of miles on the road.  He’s run races in a variety of cities, states, and countries.  He still tells me how much he misses running.  And I can understand why.  Because when I can’t get in a run or have to take time off, I miss it too.  When I got injured during the summer and couldn’t run from May until August, there were times I would just sit on my couch and cry because I just wanted to get out and run.  Missing the sport is probably an understatement for a man who was so passionate about chasing his own pavements.

Every race I run, I run with my grandpa in mind.  When I lace up my running shoes to get in a quick run during the day, I do so with my grandpa in mind.  He’s the reason I chase my own pavements and strive to be a better runner.

You can throw names of great runners at me, heroes of the sport, Olympians, elites, the fastest-of-the-fast in distance running, but my running hero will always be the man who inspired me to run in the first place – Howard A. Brady – my grandpa.

My grandpa, Howard A. Brady - Chasing Pavements

My grandpa, Howard A. Brady - Chasing Pavements

Me - Chasing Pavements - following in his footsteps

Me - Chasing Pavements - following in his footsteps

Enjoying a run (with a lowercase “R”)

Awhile back, Runner’s World contributor, Mark Remy, posted a blog called “The Beauty of the ‘Lowercase R’ Run”, where he waxes rhapsodic about the difference between a Run and a run…and how important taking time to go for a run (lowercase ‘r’) is.

I got back to that today, as I opted to go for a run on my lunch break.  Normally, even on days where I sporadically decide to go for a run, I log a Run.  You know…I run as hard as I can as fast as I can and I don’t stop until I’ve accomplished some goal that I set out to achieve.  It had been ages since I just logged a simple, easy run.  I get caught up in training for upcoming races that sometimes I forget the glory of the lowercase ‘r’ run.

So, what is the difference?

Let me quote Mark Remy’s fantastic article:

For nearly all of my running life, I’ve been logging Runs — uppercase-R Runs. Uppercase-R Runs are Very Important Runs. They’re things like Long Runs. Or Tempo Runs. Speedwork. Even just a few easy miles can be an uppercase-R Run, because when you’re Training (uppercase “T”), that’s a Recovery Run.

And those lowercase ‘r’ runs?  Well, he describes those as the runs that you don’t pay attention to pace, to time, to how long you’re out there.  You find yourself simply running (or jogging) and soaking in everything else.  You don’t find yourself gasping for breath at the end of it.  But you come away with this feeling of refreshment.  That you accomplished something.  And that it felt good.  No pressure.  No high standards.  Just you…your shoes…the road (or treadmill).

These runs are SO important.  And I had forgotten about how important they are.

Did I run fast?  Nope.  An easy pace of about 6.4 mph on the treadmill over at the gym.  I ran for 20 minutes.  I logged 2.1 miles.  And I didn’t find myself glancing at the clock to see how much longer I had.  I just took the run for what it was…a simple, easy run.

I’m coming off a run streak.  The days I don’t run I feel weird.  These easy, filler runs, might just be what the doctor ordered.  From running every day from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day to dropping back to the normal routine hasn’t been an easy transition for me.  I found the running streak has, indeed, helped me with my running.  I run faster.  I run better.  But in order to keep it going, I think these lowercase ‘r’ runs need to find their way back into my dailies.  Even if it is just for 20 minutes while on lunch break.

While you should always strive to Run…always find time, during the week, or at least once a month, for a run.

Trust me…it’s a feeling I can’t even put into words…but it reminds me just why I love running and Running so much.