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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Week 1: This Hurt, But it Could Have Been Worse

So this was the first week of official training. For some reason unknown to me now, I didn't think that Houston Fit actually had a workout plan for that week. I thought the three mile run that weekend was the start of the plan and we would go from there. So I missed the first run on Monday due to the fact that I had not actually looked at the schedule.

So my first run on their training plan was that Tuesday. I was slotted for a 35 minute run. To this point I had been  running between a mile and a mile and a half. All said and done that take between 10-15 minutes, depending on which run and how I feel. On those runs I was tired at the end. 35 minutes was a lot longer. A lot longer. The big thing with running though is that it is more mental than physical. I told myself if you can't force yourself to run 35 minutes now, there is no way you will be able to force yourself to run 26.2 miles later.

So I told myself that and I ran my 35 minutes. It hurt. To this point I was running in the evenings which caused several problems. The first of which was it was hot. There is not an appreciable decrease in temperature until sometime after 8. I couldn't wait that long to run, because I wanted to eat dinner, and I hate to run after eating a full meal. So I had to eat before dinner, which meant I was running at 6:30 or so. And so it was hot and humid, and I don't think I have ever sweat so much in my life as during these runs.

The second problem was still dinner. By the time you warm up, fun 35 minutes, cool down, stretch, and shower, its gotten late. By the time you cook dinner its 9:00 pm. You likely starving, and when you are done eating dinner and cleaning up, its likely time to start getting ready for bed. Running in the evening kills your evening. It took me a few more runs to finally realize that the logistics of this whole just wasn't going to work, but in the meantime I ran in disgusting weather, and it sucked.

Thursday I ran 30 minutes. It was still miserable but since I ran 35 minutes on Tuesday, it was an easier mental game of saying I could do it. And Saturday morning for the first time in as long as I can remember I got up at 6am to go running with the Houston Fit group. I am not a morning person. Knowing there are going to be a lot of other people there doing the same thing helped.

The three mile run actually went really well considering how I'd felt about running during the week. I started off towards the back of my group as they told the quicker folks to lead. But not too long into the run upon hitting a comfortable pace I found myself moving through the group. Granted by the end of the run I dropped off a little bit and people passed me in turn, but all in all it was a good run.

It also helped me find people to run with, because the people who passed me at the end are the folks I should have been running with. They had a more consistent pace and finished the same time as me. So I start all my runs with them now and it helps a lot to keep a steady pace. I can get caught up in trying to keep up with whoever is around me. Its good to find people who share a pace and stick with them.

So my first week was over. The 3 mile run turned out better than expected considering how the two earlier runs went. It was a step in the right direction, and the first step of a long training plan.

I went for bagels afterwards. It was good.



Sunday, August 28, 2011

Marathon Sidebar: They Stole My Shoes!

A quick story about the shoes I started my training in. In January of 2010, I signed up for a gym membership. For about two months I worked out quite regularly. Then we decided to buy a house. Which did two things. First house hunting took up a lot of time, and secondly when we did find a house it was far away from the gym I was a member at. What does this have to do with shoes you ask? 


Well the day we started looking for houses I had originally intended on going to the gym that evening. I would never go to that gym again, but all of my workout gear that I brought in the car with me remained in the back seat for the next several months. Included in these items were my running shoes. Now a few months after we had moved into our new place my car was broken into. I use the term loosely because in all actuality I forgot to lock my doors and they just opened them and ransacked my car. Upon discovering this event I tried to categorize everything I had lost. Initially, I thought it was just my iPod dock and some loose change. 

Again several months later we decided to start doing those outdoor walks I mentioned a few posts ago. This is the first time I was going to exercise since abandoning the old gym membership. The first time I needed running shoes since then, and the point at which I realized those bastards stole my shoes. I ended up going on that walk in a pair of sandals, which was kind of awkward. Shortly thereafter I acquired new shoes, very similar to those that were stolen. They can be seen above. They had a brief use during that period of walking before being abandoned (in my closet this time, not the car). 

A few notes about them. They are a pair of Asics Gel-Cumulus 12's. They are a size 9 1/2. My shoe size is 9 1/2, which comes into the story later. They are a fairly neutral shoe and basically the same type of shoe I have been running in since my senior year of high school. I had about four pairs of the various generations of thid shoe. So it is a shoe I like, from a brand I like. They served me well for a while. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Week 0: Climbing Back On the Horse

Stomach ailment, pneumonia, bronchitis, all occurring right as I decide I want to run the Houston marathon. A demoralizing start to say the least. But I put money down to run this race. It needs to get done. At this point in time I threw Couch to 5K out the window. It was a two month program. I didn't have to months to start, and now I had lost most of a month being sick. Time to go back to what I knew. Run until you can't.

How much was that? At this point, not very much. I went out to the park near my home after work on a Monday. The park encompassed a city block. The trail in the park was over a little over a quarter mile around. Once again, as its Houston, it was in the high 90's, humid, but I did check that there were no air quality alerts this time. I went and ran around the park four times. It sucked. But I was running again.

So now was the time to sign up for a running group. I was told by a co-worker who had run a couple of marathons that this was a good way to go. It cost some money but so far it has been a great help.

USA Fit is a national program that's goal is to get people to run, and get them to finish marathons. I signed up to run with the Houston branch of the USA FIT program. They provide a workout program, have seminars, have volunteer doctors to help with injuries, and they just provide a large group of people who are all trying to accomplish the same big goal.

So Houston Fit's first orientation run was the upcoming Saturday. Fortunately at this time they only wanted us to run a mile to help determine our pace group. Even more fortunately  you are supposed to run this mile slowly because running a mile as hard as you can is quite different than a pace you will be running a marathon in. Unless you happen to be the freaks who run marathon's in under 3 hours, in which case you pretty much are running full out for 26.2 miles.

Anyway, I ended up getting two runs in during the week. One a little over a mile and one a little under a mile and a half. So I at least knew I could complete my mile pace run. So I showed up for the run and we were just doing one loop around part of the park. It was paved trail so this was the first time I was running on pavement in a long time. It was a little different in that the impacts were harder than I was used to. All in all it was not a bad run. I finished up in around 11:17, which I kind of found embarrassing since at one point in my life I could run a sub six mile. But those days are at least for now over, and this was supposed to be a slow run anyway.

Surprisingly, an 11:17 run put me in the yellow pace group, which was 9-10 minutes per mile. I didn't expect to be put in a group with that fast a pace, but it makes sense as the whole concept is you will be in much better shape by the time you are actually running the race. This made me happy because while you really aren't supposed to set a time goal for your first marathon (the goal is just to finish), I can't help it and I really want to finish in under 4:30. If training with this group really does allow me to run at a 9-10 minute pace I will likely accomplish that goal.

So from this point forward it was time to launch in to the actual training plan to get ready for a marathon.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Marathon: Almost Stopped Before I Started

So June 1st I signed up for the marathon lottery. We found the Couch to 5K program and decided to start training using it on June 6th, the upcoming Monday. My biggest obstacle in all of this hit on June 2nd, before I could take a single step in training.

After a long day at work where I had not eaten very much I was starving. I got home made some spaghetti and wolfed it down. Still my stomach did not feel right. This was because a few short hours later I would experiencing one of the nastiest 24 hour stomach bugs of my life. I didn't sleep the entire night. I couldn't keep anything down. Tired and dehydrated I rolled into the weekend. A weekend I had intended on resting and recovering before realizing I had made prior commitments to help out my wife's company in the Galveston sandcastle competition they participate in every year. So I went, I tried to stay out of the sun. I tried to drink a lot water and stay hydrated. But it was at the beach, in Texas. Neither of these things were really possible. 

The day was cut short however when my wife came down with the very same bug. So we went home (between stops along the side of the highway to allow for purging). I took care of her and we shared another restless night. 

So Monday rolls around. Time to start training. Not well rested, probably not hydrated all that well, we go run our first little bit of Couch to 5K. It is not a lot of running. In fact it is some running and a lot of walking. My ankle hurt, it was somewhere in the 90's, humid, bad air. Not fun. But I did it. And this went on for a week, everything going as it should. Then the real problem reared its head. The following Monday I ran again. I felt more tired then usual. The following day it was worse. At work I felt out of it, dazed. I kept drinking water thinking I was just dehydrated. It seemed to help at first, but as I was driving home I knew I had a bigger problem.

By the time I made it home it was clear I was feverish. Not just feverish but pushing a 103 degree fever. Not exactly a good state to be in. For a couple of days I just took advil and hoped it would pass. On the third day of it I finally went to the doctor. I had started training while warn out from a previous illness, in conditions that were not ideal in the least, and consequently I now had pneumonia (and possibly bronchitis). My running days were done for a while.

I was put on a 10 day antibiotic regimen and told not to run for about 10 days following the last medication. So pretty much all of my pre-training time was gone. About 15 days in I did start to workout again to try and get as ready as I could. Push-ups, sit-ups, dumbbell squats, anything I could do to try and get back in shape without stressing my lungs too much. But when 20 days expired, I had one week to get ready for the my official training schedule.

During this time, I was able to find out whether or not I made the lottery cut. I was honestly hoping at this point to not make it in so I could switch to a smaller marathon (Austin, San Antonio) that were about a month after Houston's date. This would allow me to make up the month of time I lost. But Alas, Houston it was.

I received the congratulatory email, my credit card was charged for the race, there was no turning back.  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

On the Path to a Marathon

So it was settled. I was going to run in the Houston Marathon on January 15, 2012. I was decided on this on June 1, 2011. So I had plenty of time to get in shape for it. But first, there was one obstacle to overcome prior to setting off down the trail to a 26.2 mile run. That is actually being allowed to run in the Marathon.

The Houston Marathon/Half Marathon instituted a lottery 2 years ago for the race as its popularity grew. The event allows for 24,000 participants. Those are actually broken up into roughly half are participants of the half marathon, and half are for the full. Of those slots about 1000 are held in reserve for those who would be running for a cause.  If you don't make the lottery you can join a charity and help raise money for it, which is always great to see. Some slots are also reserved for those who have participated in over 7 Houston Marathons. They get automatic entry, as do folks who did not make in via the lottery in the both of the last two years. 

So while 24,000 slots seems like a lot, its not the true number and there was some possibility of not being able to run. So I signed up for it and then had to hope I would get selected. Selections wouldn't be made for three weeks.

In the mean time I didn't want to waste a moment in starting to get ready.  

How does one go about going from not running at all to being able to run 26.2 miles in one go? For this I turned to the internet, of course. We discovered a great little program called Couch to 5K, which is supposed to do exactly what it sounds like, get you from a lazy, couch loving lifestyle, to running a 5K. It is a two month schedule to do this. To me this was an important thing. I didn't have two months prior to the start of my official training program but I wanted to take the time I had and start slowly.

Too many times in the past my mindset had been, "It doesn't matter I haven't run in months, let's go run 3 miles". This mindset was always quickly followed up by the "That 3 mile run sucked, I don't want to do that anymore. Back to the couch" mindset. So this time knowing this was going to be a major project and endeavor, I knew I needed to start slow.

I really wish it had actually worked out that way.  

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Challenging Myself: Running the Houston Marathon

Recently my wife had a co-worker talk her into running in the Houston Half Marathon in January of 2012. When I heard this I laughed, said "Have fun with that", and continued to sit on my couch watching TV. This was the response of someone who had ran track throughout high school, went to a military college and had to run all the time, admittedly had said in the past I wanted to run in a marathon, and then had any desire to ever go outside and run crushed by the Houston weather.

I have lived in this area now for over four years. In that time I have gone through various schemes of trying to stay in shape. As far as running went, the only times I ever did it was indoors, on a treadmill. Last year we actually tried walking at some of the parks in the area in the August time frame. We suffered through the heat and right as we were finally getting into it, it cooled off, and out came the masses. It started taking half an hour just to find a parking spot. The outdoor walks quickly ended after that.

So here we are close to a year later, I am sitting on the couch, a place a I frequented a lot during the past year and she is telling me how she is going to run in the half marathon. I laugh it off. However, she wasted no time in telling me that I am the one in the family who always said I wanted to run in a race like this. She also dropped the reminder that if/when we have kids in the near future my opportunity to train for something like this potentially goes away for a long time.

I thought about it and it made sense. As much as I enjoyed lounging on the couch watching whatever was on Netflix, I was also annoyed at myself for having gotten so out of shape. This was a golden opportunity to find some motivation to dig deep and do something I had said I always wanted to do, something that would get me active again, and this could be my last possibility of doing it again before my life takes some dramatic changes.

I'm in. Only I am not doing the half marathon. If this is my last chance to do this, I am doing the full. I haven't run in any consistent manner in over 4 years. Those running stints were few and far between during that time. But why not. Go big or go home, right?

Another plus of this whole thing is I have been wanting to write again. After reading an inspirational post on someone's success in a challenge they had wanted to do, I thought this might be a fun thing to document. If not for anyone else than for myself. Something I can look back on. So here is the start. I hope to knock out a few posts in quick succession in the near future to try to catch up to where I am in my training now, and then I plan to settle down to about one a week.

So here we go...