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Thursday, June 30, 2011

ManaRes

Hot off the great start to my summer running season, I wanted a long run at my new favorite site, the Manasquan Reservoir. Since I didn’t warm up with a slow jog beforehand, I pushed it hard from the start in order to have a quality time.

I made sure to listen to a running podcast – Ultrarunner Podcast – which was a first-time listen and strongly delivered; I listened to an interview with Gordy Ainsleigh about how he started the Western States 100 miler, followed by an interview with a top ultrarunner and former WS100 winner, Hal Koerner. Between the stories about the Sierra Nevada mountain range and pseudo-wilderness track of the reservoir, I was transported to a trail somewhere other than Howell, NJ.

My first lap around wasn’t easy, but exactly what I wanted. A hard workout and a quality time. I originally wanted two laps – 10.2 miles – and the pain in my abdominal area wasn’t helping yet again. I also had plans with my cousin, Jordan, to do some upper body lifting. When the thought of leaving 5.1 miles out there on the trails of the reservoir crossed my mind, I forced myself back with an easy pace. I wanted to walk during portions – and did during the biggest incline of the trail – but running was the quickest way to end the discomfort.

And yes, my iPod malfunctioned again.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Age Group Winner!

The only expectation I had entering week one of the Ocean Running Club Summer Series was to leave nothing out on the course. I did exactly that and earned first place in my age group. My first victory!

My crew (beautiful wife Robin) and I arrive with about twenty minutes until the start of the race. Unlike previous races, I wanted to warm up for a good ten minutes or so. I've noticed a negative split on three mile runs as well as a tendency to grind through mile one. This time, I was hoping to be a little more loose and relaxed through that first mile.

I jogged, popped a GU Roctane (first time experimenting with it), and lined up with the rest of the 100 or so participants. There was no National Anthem as in years past, so I had little time to get nervous, second guess myself, or become overwhelmed by the start of the race and numerous bodies rushing toward the same destination. I was calm and ready to execute my plan.

I started off easier than usual with a pace that still could have considered fast for my liking. I focused on my breathing and form, as I was wearing the NB Minimus Road. I blocked out any ideas of passing other runners or vice versa. It was my own personal race that mattered.

There weren't many people ahead of me as turned off the main road of the Winding River Park and headed through the trees. Knowing the course was a major benefit to me, possibly cutting at least 5 seconds or so off my time. My first time running this course was horrible; there are so many winding turns (coincidental, you think?) that I wasn't sure if I was running a 5k or a 5 miler. This newfound familiarity was helpful in navigating such a course.

I couldn't help but wonder if a swarm of runners were lurking behind me. Last year, I started out incredibly quick, so much so that I was in first place going through the trees off the main road. I knew I couldn't keep up the pace and the remainder of the race had me catching my breath and feeling like I was running backwards with numerous runners blowing past me. Today, it would hardly happen at all.

With one mile to go, I could feel soreness in my abdominal area. I had exercised my abs through an hour-long workout yesterday and figured as much would happen today. I checked the status of my legs and they felt great. I had to push through the pain. It wasn't much, so I knew I had to just toughen up.

I didn't really think it realistic to finish under 20 minutes, but I wasn't far off. My overall time was 20:33, a PR. Although the 5K (or 3.125 miles) was more like 3.07 miles due to an organizing error, the time would still qualify as my PR! And, even though I didn’t concern myself with the other runners, I finished 9th overall! I was first in the 30-39 age group! I don’t know anything else that could have been motivating for me to keep pushing myself and striving to be a better runner than that!

I even got my photo taken as I was awarded a nice Ocean Running Club pint glass for winning my age group. The accomplishment of finishing any race to the best of my abilities – a 5k or a marathon – has always been satisfying. Today, not just completing a race in my best time ever but actually winning a race has been most satisfying.

M.I.A.

Is an iPod to blame for my two week absence? Hardly. While I do rely on an iPod to keep track of my running time and there have been several major malfunctions with three separate iPods, I simply should be posting my thoughts after each run. I’ve also been doing a lot of cross-training in the past few weeks and haven’t decided to discuss this much or to count such workouts. Either way, I’ve got my excuses.

Another knock on iPods is my reliance upon them during my runs. I listen to a lot of great podcasts during these times (Pod F. Tomkast., Comedy Bang Bang., ESPN: Baseball Today.) and this acts as a form of multitasking. Aren’t I supposed to be running? Not running AND listening? It doesn’t sound like much, but this usage can hamper my ability to focus on breathing, form, and general effort, all contributing to why my speed and running times haven’t changed very much in two years.

Will I be retiring the iPod during these runs? I think to some extent, I will. The goal for July is to increase my 5k time and push harder – much harder – on shorter runs. This should ultimately translate into faster 10K, half and full marathon times. When I need a long run or mid-tempo run, then I’ll bring the ol’ iPod and enjoy the aural company.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Working the Oval

Track workouts! Woooooo!

Today was a first for yours truly as I took to the oval for a 4 x 800 workout. The temperature was cool in the early to late morning and I thought to capitalize on this. However, I was late getting out and the temp increased. It was still a great day to be a runner!

I went to Georgian Court University. and jogged over to Lake Carasaljo where chipmunks were all the rage. One barely budged as I trotted by. Same for a Canada Goose. I ran across two bridges, then immediately back as I simply wanted a warmup. (The trail around the lake is in the ballpark of four miles.)

I felt somewhat weak during my warmup and popped a GU for help. I took too long preparing my food for the day and hadn’t eaten since breakfast nearly four hours earlier. I ducked into the cafeteria and topped off my new water bottle – nestled perfectly inside the Ultimate Direction strap – with a healthy amount of ice chips.

I set my few items behind a garbage can which offered the only shade in the track area. I methodically wrapped a stopwatch around my right hand so that I could still relax my hands while pumping my arms. I toed the line, took a deep breath and began my workout.

The first 800 felt pretty good. I was probably at the 100 meter mark when I started breathing heavily. I made a note to focus on my breathing immediately after takeoff. I wasn’t sprinting, but I was running as hard as I could for having to take two trips around the oval. I completed the first lap at 1:24-and-change (hadn’t played with the splits feature on the stopwatch yet, only glanced at it) and a 2:49:10 final time for the 800. According to a race estimator, that time would probably calculate to a 20:01 5k time. What a tease!

After my second try at the 800 (2:49:15 – consistant), my only goal became to actually complete four 800’s as I had never even done one before. The third attempt came back positive, too – 2:50:75. My final go at the 800 was pretty bad and I was feeling tired and unable to push myself any faster. (Or at least as fast as I had been running.) I completed the fourth 800 in 3:01:86. Not bad, but certainly something I’ll be aiming to improve next time.

That wasn’t all either. I went to the gym afterwards, worked on the upper body – especially my pectoral muscles which haven’t been the same since a tear back in January – and walked for 25 minutes on some serious incline. What a calorie burner that can be!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Progress?

With another 5 miles of walking in my minimalist sneakers, the New Balance Minimus Road has been giving me a good workout. Practicing a well-balanced midfoot strike hasn’t been easy physically or mentally – with each step comes the reiteration of placing my foot down in just the right way – even while walking. A three mile walk yesterday and a two mile walk today left my feet and ankles feeling fatigued.

But I soldiered on. Today’s walk took place immediately upon my arrival home and dinner followed closely thereafter. During a meal of fabulous vegetarian chili – nice job, babe – the wife and I watched two episodes of Curb-Your-Enthusiasm-Complete-Seventh/dp/B002OOWKSA/Curb Your Enthusiasm Season Seven. (Larry is great because he is so awful). Once the episodes wrapped, it was only 6:30 in the evening. There was still an entire night!

There was too much time left not to get some exercise. Even though my ankles were somewhat sore and the condition of my Achilles tendon was in question, I had to get out. The weather was a perfect 64 degrees; this helped drastically with my performance. Though I felt incredibly tired after work, went for a challenging walk and worked fairly hard yesterday, I still recorded my fifth fastest time ever on my 6.44 mile route. Overall time: 45:48.

I’ve been working so hard in the gym and on weekends to extend my long runs, yet without much noticeable improvement. Today, I hope I turned a corner, catching a glimpse of how much progress I’ve made in the past month with a sight set on the potential of what’s to come.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Training Guilt

As mentioned, I didn't run for three hours on Sunday in hopes of getting a taste for ultramarathon training. While I was very happy how the day turned out - especially since it gave my wife and I some quality time together - I felt disappointed. Maybe I let myself down. Maybe I took on more than I can handle. Running 50 miles a week isn't just about the sheer amount of effort needed to log that kind of mileage, but also about the time to do so. The time away from other activities or necessities. Or love ones. Perhaps its a deeper question for me to ask myself.

Regardless, I felt guilty. So, with only six hours of rest, I woke up at 4am and got myself into the gym promptly an hour later at opening time. With the aid of a little caffeinated iced tea, I powered through a core workout that ratcheted up my effort even more.  When I was finished, I walked on the treadmill for 30 minutes, much of which was on a 15% incline, before I hit the bike for another 10 minutes (hey, I had work to get ready for otherwise I'd have done more - get off my back reader!).

I felt a little rejuvenated for the week ahead. Last week was sub-par regarding my diet so I wanted to start fresh for the week. I've done so and set the bar high. What the week will bring is entirely unclear. But, should I get my rest and eat well, I will reward myself with an excellent trail running excursion this weekend the likes of which I have yet to see. Stay tuned!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Funday Run Sun

My first taste of ultramarathon training lacked flavor. Rather, there was nothing on my plate as I opted against spending the majority of the last day of the weekend driving 45 minutes to run for three hours, drive 45 minutes back home and feel too fatigue to prepare my food for the work week. So, when considering these details as well as my longing to spend time with my wonderful wife, it was a no-brainer. My love and some shopping.

Our first stop of the day was Roadrunner Sports in Shrewsbury, mere yards south of Red Bank. I was hoping to check out some minimalist shoes in an attempt to improve my running form and potentially get quicker. While I've been eyeing the Vibrams for some time, I figured a minimalist sneaker might not as difficult of a transition. Almost immediately upon placing the New Balance Minimus on my feet, I was in love. There was cushioning about the midfoot, something important for my stride. The Vibram Bikila and the Saucony Hattori simply didn't provide enough cushion for me. Sure, the point of wearing these types of footwear is to improve one's stride so that large amounts of cushioning is not needed. But, I simply saw injuries in my future should I choose one of the later models.

We ended up staying out rather long and felt the fatigue of an entire week of work and exercise; we need an eighth day simply to relax! I wanted to try out my new kicks if only to not be an entire failure for the day and to work off some of the Chipotle burrito from lunch.

Just lacing up these sneakers made me feel like a 5-minute mile type of guy (I'll settle for 5:59 even). Even though I was tired, I had enough in the tank to tackle an easy 3 miles. The run went well as I could feel my midfoot strike much more prominently than in the thick heeled sneakers I've always worn. The forefoot had little padding as well and my toes work a little hard to propel me forward to my next step. I wasn't going terribly slow (same pace as yesterday's 5k splits); at some point, I felt pain behind my right knee and my achilles tendon was starting to beg for some help. Even with my inserts, I was getting a harder workout for a normal effort.

Thankfully, Roadrunner Sports has a 90-day return policy for its members. Should I get injured or simply not take to the minimal lifestyle, so be it. At least I tried. I just hope I can really give it a fair chance so as to improve my abilities as a runner.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Training for a 50 Miler?

Today, Saturday, is typically not a long run day for me. However, I’ve been considering training for a 50 miler (more on that later) and much of the training is based around running three or more hours on Sunday after nearly two hours the day prior. I wanted a taste of what that kind of training was like and, with no races on my official schedule, I thought now would be a good time to try.

I went over to Winding River and prayed for the rain to stay away. The weather.com site is a real you-know-what when it comes to planning your daily run. Today’s weather depicted a sun obstructed by an ominous looking cloud emitting powerful streams of rain and a vicious looking lightning bolt, yet there was only a 10% chance of rain. Is that picture really necessary?

The rain held of wonderfully though the air was very moist. There weren’t many people in the park: three couples walking and a burly 20-something getting in his three miles; this fact made me extra alert for wildlife as the road traversing the park was unusually quiet. Alas, I only spotted a deer calmly crossing my path about 50 feet ahead.

My overall time was fair especially since I was going easy in hopes of running even longer tomorrow. My splits were rather consistent for each 5k: 25:32, 25:34, and 25:53. I ran a half-5k (does such term actually exist?) in 12:15 which would have put me on pace to top those times.

Unfortunately, tragedy struck the run as my Ultimate Direction water bottle broke. The nozzle tore open from being pulled out and plugged down too many times. The bottle served me well for nearly two years during long runs. Donations to purchase a new one can be sent directly to patrick.dennis.lyons@gmail.com. J

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Brick Reservoir

Yesterday was a cornucopia of running. I tackled 6.44 miles (approximately, but quite an accurate guess) before work, walked for ten minutes on the treadmill at 15% incline, and enjoyed a run with my pal Eddie at the Brick Reservoir.

Up to this point, the reservoir only existed as a curiosity when driving north on the Garden State Parkway. I remember it's construction, but even several years later I neglected to the research as to its exact location and title. Once I made the distinction between the Manasquan and Brick Reservoir, I knew I wanted to experience both.

Eddie made the five minute drive with me from his house and we chugged along the route ingesting gnats, bugs, and a few clouds of mystery flies. The reservoir is only 1.5 miles around and we were both fatigue from our early running pursuits. We ran one lap and walked another.

Overall, the reservoir was beautiful and true gem to the folks of Brick and bordering Wall Township.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Winding River Park, Toms River

On the sixth day, God created the morning and the evening. On Sunday, He had his long run.
           
As it seems for many runners across the globe, I had my long run for the week. Yesterday, I went to the Manasquan Reservoir with my wife to celebrate our first wedding anniversary even though we had done so nearly every day this past week. We had a picnic and enjoyed the top of our wedding cake, fed chipmunks, and spotted beautiful birds in one of my favorite long run spots.
           
But, since I was just there, I didn’t want to go back there for a second day in a row today. So, I went to the location used twice over for my marathon training: Winding River Park in Toms River, NJ.
           
I’m not exactly training for any race right now, but I’ve steadily upped my mileage for the past month. My legs had been heavy since lifting on Thursday and pushing hard on a stationary bike for 35 minutes on Friday. I made sure to get tons of rest the previous two nights and, thankfully, felt better in this morning.
           
The weather was perfect and I was hardly warm for the duration of the run. Since I worried about my legs – in particular, my left hamstring which has troubled me for about a week – I didn’t care about pace. I simply wanted to log miles no matter how long it took.
           
I started out very slowly on a course that is exactly 3.125 miles out and back, so Ocean Running Club tells me. Interestingly enough, I felt great after the second lap and actually had a negative split for laps three and four of the 5k. Overall, I ran 18.75 miles in 2:42:07.
           
The best part of all was that I decided to take a recovery dip in the nearby lake. Luckily, no one was around as I’m unsure of the park rules on such behavior. Several signs make it clear that there is “NO SKATING” on the premises, but none about wading in the water at waist level. I felt much improved afterwards, especially after watching a family of mallards swim nearby. They hardly seemed unnerved by the ginger-faced water buffalo with blue shorts sitting in the water.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Richmond, VA

This past Memorial Day weekend I was in Richmond, Virginia for a wedding. My wife’s cousin was getting married – coincidentally, to a top US runner – and I was hoping to get in a long run before the ceremony.

After sleeping late and walking around for an hour trying to find a Mexican restaurant serving lunch at 11am, I ate the best breakfast burrito of my life. By the time we came back to our hotel, I had only an hour to discover Richmond by fleeted foot. Richmond is divided by the James River and the hotel was merely blocks from the water. I ran south to find a pedestrian bridge beneath the Robert E. Lee Memorial Bridge (pictured above); the Civil War was represented extremely well in these parts, a thing we weren't entirely comfortable with.

This footbridge led to Belle Island and much of the breakfast burrito reintroducing its flavor to my mouth. For a guy who may run underneath electrical towers as a means of experiencing trails, Belle Island was a wonderland. Upstream were folks sunning on large rocks and wading in the resting waters of the river. I was tempted to go splash about, but I was on a tight schedule.

I asked one of the many hikers for the time and exactly half of my available time was spent. I had to turn around in order to make my deadline. On the return trip, I nearly took the wrong route back to the downtown footbridge. It would have been an honest mistake by any trail virgin such as myself, but I had zero dollars for a cab and several family members would’ve fumed had I been late to the ceremony.

I should have left more time for myself to get ready, but I’m addicted to rushing. There’s an awkward adrenaline rush that comes over me during these times, but a rush I cannot go without. Being ready with time to spare is a sin. It could have been another mile. Or another set of ab planks. On this date, it was cooling down in the hotel’s pool while swimming a few laps that made it worth the subsequent awkward adrenaline rush to get ready.

Thank you to the Byrd Park Group of the Richmond Road Runners for trying to arrange a run on Sunday. I hope you all had a terrific Memorial Day Weekend!

Off and Running!

While my first my at my first post for Running Pride did not hit the ground running (pardon the poor idiom), my second try is off and running! Ha… enough of that now.

Running Pride is my attempt to chronicle my passage to find peace, challenge, and inspiration through running.

When I first began running, I kept a journal about my progress, subsequent struggles, and euphoric self-reflections, all of which led to my first marathon. I have since halted this journal and hope to resurrect its soul through Running Pride.