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Category: running

All Aboard the Struggle Bus

Welcome Aboard the Struggle BusYou may have noticed that I haven’t written much about running since completing the Pittsburgh Marathon four months ago in May.  Unfortunately, that’s not a coincidence.

Since May, I have struggled to find motivation to run, and had settled into some bad habits.  I didn’t have a training plan (I didn’t even have a next target race), I was struggling with the heat, and I settled into a slow pace, not challenging myself much.

Maybe it was just my marathon hangover…

I also fell way off my goal distance pace of 1000 miles for the year, going from 60 miles ahead of pace after the marathon to 80 miles behind it today. Basically, my running was making me feel bad, and I was also gaining weight again, which you think would motivate me more, but mostly frustrated me.

Add in to that some life changes (I started a new job a little over a month ago), and I’ve had less focus on my running and more on getting up to speed there.

So, it hasn’t been a pretty summer for my running, but I’m starting to make some changes…

First, I’m starting to hit up the gym and lift weights or swim once a week.  I’ve had so much focus on my running, I haven’t done enough to develop overall fitness, so I’m aiming to change that.

Second, I signed up for a race.  I’m now targeting the Hot Chocolate 15k in Columbus, OH in November as my next race and working on setting up a training plan.

Third, I’m trying to push my pace a bit more for my runs, trading some distance for speed, and walking when I’m out of breath.  Hopefully, it will help push me to run more effectively, and not just slog through the miles.

So, it’s been a rough stretch, and time to shake things up.

Any other suggestions on things to try to reinvigorate my running?

Mt. Lebanon Kicks Off “Urban Trail Running” Initiative

Mt. Lebanon, PA — After years of planning and several months of construction, Mt. Lebanon recently unveiled the first trail in their brand new “Urban Trail Running” initiative to help encourage a healthier city.  The 1-mile “Boulevard Trail”, adjacent to Castle Shannon Boulevard, is a combination of asphalt, crushed limestone and broken concrete.

“For too long, our local trail runners have had to leave the community to experience the sport they enjoy.  Now, the trail has come to them!” Councilwoman Cindy Stephenson boasted.  “And, since it’s here in town, we can maintain it to be open year-round.”

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The New “Boulevard Trail”

“I love it!” claimed local trail runner, Franklin Tcazki.  “Instead of driving a half hour, I can just walk down the street to the trail!”  Franklin hopes to organize the trail’s first race, a 15k mini-ultra-marathon, for sometime this fall.

However, some local residents have been less impressed.  “I thought they were just doing construction,” said John Jackson, who lives along the trail, “but then they just stopped last month!  It looks like a terrible sidewalk, but if others enjoy it, I don’t mind driving over it.”

Despite the mixed reception, the community appears to be moving forward with a additional trail to be installed by Robb Hollow Road later this year, with additional trails still in the planning phases.

Thoughts On Social Running

When I initially started running, one of the hardest parts was feeling like I was going it alone.  Running when I could fit it in got things done, but not having much interaction with others made it hard for me to stay accountable and dedicated.

I then started running sporadically with a running group from Fleet Feet.  It started as one Sunday morning long-run a month with the group, and I got a chance to get out and explore the different parts of Pittsburgh.  It was a lot of fun to get a change of scenery, have longer maps laid out as goals for my running development, and getting to meet up with other dedicated people.

Sporadically turned into consistently, and running with that group carried my through my first marathon in November 2013.  While I enjoyed it along with the hard work, the long runs with the group started eating significantly into my days; sometimes I wouldn’t return until after noon.  The group took off for the winter (training targeting the 2014 Pittsburgh Marathon was available, for a fee, and I was unable to target that event, so I did not join the group), and when spring rolled back around, I joined once or twice, but ended up doing most of my long runs on my own.

For me, it was a bit freeing.  I was able to go out earlier and reclaim much of my day.  I had already gotten the exploration bug, so I started creating my own training routes and maps.  I was already fully dedicated, and no longer needed the accountability that the group had provided.

One might think that I missed the camaraderie, but I didn’t much.  In fact, I actually joined up with the group for the first run of the new season today, and while I enjoyed the course, I found myself asking why I hadn’t just gone out on my own, as I probably would have been wrapping things up by the time the group started.  That’s not meant to be a criticism of the group, as it is a great running group, but a fact of me being a very functional and not highly social personality.  While I enjoy meeting other like-minded runners and networking with them, by-and-large I am more interested in tackling my runs and getting them completed.

Overall, every runner and every person has different needs, and even more so in different stages of their development.  The group was critical to developing my love of running, but I’ve come to a different place a few years later.  I still stay connected with the group online, and it’s nice to know that the group is there should I need that extra motivation.  However, at this time, I’m doing fine without the group, and that’s OK too!

2015 Pittsburgh Marathon Recap

At Corral D

On Sunday, my 4 months of training came to a head, as I made my way to downtown Pittsburgh for this year’s marathon, getting settled in corral D.  We got a beautiful day for the event, sunny with warm temperatures, and I was feeling good.  Thankfully, the event was very well organized, and I was calm and relaxed, despite 26.2 miles laying before me.

That feeling continued throughout the first part of the race.  I started out at a comfortable and relaxed pace, settling in near my 11:00/mile goal pace and was feeling strong, hitting the half at 2:27 and a potential PR in sight.  However, the temperatures were rising fast, and got to me quickly, as you can see below.

PittsburghMarathon2015Results

 

Shortly after the midway point, temperatures went upwards of 70 degrees, which was  a shock to the system.  For most of my training, my long runs were in temperatures between 20-50 degrees for the high, so jumping another 20 degrees ended up wreaking havoc on my core temperatures.  I didn’t get dehydrated like I did in my first marathon (where I struggled through 10 miles of full-body cramping at the end), but I was feeling very warm and couldn’t get cool.  Unfortunately, there also wasn’t much of a breeze, so my only relief was cool towels at the fluid stations.  Alas, that wasn’t enough to keep me on track, and I ended up walking more of the second 13.1 than I would have preferred, mostly to make sure I didn’t succumb to heat stroke.

So, yes, it was a little rough, but I’m still proud that I finished my second marathon, and it only makes me want to run more of them (as I start to look for late fall marathons with cooler weather).  It’s also piquing my interest in the half-marathon, probably because it’s a little more speed and I have yet to run an official road one (though there is the one trail half-marathon under my belt, but that was a whole different animal).

However, despite the slower-than-hoped-for time, I’m most proud of my charity efforts.  When I signed up, I had modest goals of reaching $500 in contributions for the Mario Lemieux Foundation.  However, when all was said and done, we hit $2,420 to help fight cancer and make hospital stays for children more comfortable, which was a full 484% of my original goal.   That amount shocks me every time I look at it, and I’m blown away by all the contributions that were made on my behalf.  Even if I had been slower, I’d still be extremely proud just for us being able to help so much!

Thank you to everyone who contributed!  If I had medals to give each one of you, I would.  However, I guess I’ll just leave you with the one I got…

Pittsburgh Marathon Finisher

 

We all did something great on Sunday!  Thank you for being a part of it!

One Week Until The Pittsburgh Marathon…

One week from now, I’ll be in the process of running The Pittsburgh Marathon.  I’m very excited for the race as it’s the culmination of 4 months of careful training (including dealing with some rough winter conditions).  I feel like I’m ready to go, and just need to finalize the race day logistics.

That also means that my Lemieux Foundation Fundraising efforts are coming to a close.  So far, we’ve been able to raise more than $2200 for the foundation to help fight cancer and make children’s hospital stays easier.  Yes, that’s 440% of my original goal of $500!  

Thank you so much to everyone who has donated so far!

That said, if you would still like to contribute, there’s still time.  Simply visit my fundraising page to add your donation.  While our goal has been met, there’s still plenty more that can be done with your contribution!

And if you’d like a reminder why I’m raising money, my Marathon Story has been added to the Mario Lemieux Foundation website.

Marathon Fundraiser Update – Above and Beyond!

mario-lemieux-foundationThank you so much to everyone who has not only helped me meet my fundraising goal of $500 for The Lemieux Foundation, but go beyond.  To date, you have helped me raise $625 to help cancer research and make hospital stays easier on children.  I’m so thankful to everyone who has contributed, and am excited for race day to come (Just over 3 weeks to go!).

However, the foundation is still short of their goal at the current time.  They are looking to raise $9,000 more before race day across all of us who are running on their behalf.

If you haven’t contributed and still want to, there is still time!  Donations will be taken until May 2nd, 2015 at Greg’s 2015 Team Lemieux Fundraiser.  And if you’d rather send a check than donate through the website, just reach out to me and I’ll get you the details.

Again, thank you to everyone for making this such a success.

Closing In On Marathon Fundraiser Goal

90% Funded
90% Funded

Thanks to my very generous friends and family, I have now raised 90% of my goal to raise at least $500 for The Mario Lemieux Foundation as I run the 2015 Pittsburgh Marathon.  I’m extremely thankful for everyone’s support thus far, and race day is still over 5 weeks away!

If you haven’t yet contributed and would like to help me get over the hump, please visit my Team Lemieux page and add your donation.

A Run To Be Excited About…

The sun rising over Pittsburgh from the West End Bridge
The sun rising over Pittsburgh from the West End Bridge

The thing I enjoy so much about marathon training is the challenge combined with the adventure.  When I talk about it, people ask “You ran how far?!?”, but it gives me this great chance to explore and be lost in thought.  I ran for 3 hours on Sunday, the time just seemed to melt away, and I had fun doing it.

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I won’t claim to be the fastest, or breaking any records (except for my own, hopefully), but this was one of my best feeling runs this year despite a heavy dose of hills (3200 ft of total elevation change including going over both Greentree hill and Mt. Washington).  Plus I love getting downtown, partly for the change in scenery, and partly because it seems so far from home, yet I got there anyway.  Besides, hitting a few places on the marathon route in advance doesn’t hurt either.

The best part for me was that I tackled this 16-mile route in the same time it took me to tackle a 15-miler the week before (which was more of a struggle, and still a bit icy).  It put me right about my target marathon pace in order to reach my sub-5:00 target time, and that’s while tackling tougher hills than I should see during the marathon, so it has me feeling positive for the marathon.

Still, nothing beats that feeling of accomplishment after these runs.  Even without the marathon target, I know I’ve pushed myself and made myself stronger, and I keep looking forward to doing the next one!

“No Room For Normal…”

At least today’s, as here’s the weather description for tonight’s 5-miles of intervals (following a relaxed 6 miles this morning):

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That’s right!  There is no room for normal here!

 

The Worst 2 Miles…

Snowy Night

Now that winter is here, a new phase of running begins…

With cooler temperatures and more layers, the running feels a bit different.  While not overheating is nice (since I run really warm anyway), the chill hitting my lungs is not always so pleasant.

However, the biggest adjustment for me is the warm-up time.  During the spring, summer and fall, it usually takes about a mile for my muscles to loosen up and feel comfortable as I settle into my pace.  However, in the winter when it dips below freezing, it usually takes twice as long for me to warm up.  This makes for some more mental challenges on my runs trying to gauge how they are feeling.

For example, on Saturday, I headed out for 7 miles, but after 2 miles I still felt like I was dragging my body forward.  However, I pushed ahead knowing that marathon training kickoff is just around the corner.  By the time I hit mile 3, I was running comfortably and felt good for the last 5 miles.

This morning, I went out for a short 3-mile run, and I again gritted through the first two miles, but then only had a little over a mile of running that felt “good”.  While I was only trying to do a maintenance run, in my head I was wondering if it was even worth it.  I know it is in the end, but when more than 50% of the run is “warming up”, it’s hard to convince myself that it is when I’m getting ready to head out the door.

Alas, we’re just getting started with the season…