Dancing in the Shower

It has been over 19 weeks since I began training for our upcoming marathon. It’s not unfamiliar territory for me, this being my sixth marathon coming up. For us with families and jobs, obligations, relatives, birthdays, weddings, funerals, vacations, and lawn care responsibilities, we can’t just say we commit to the training plan as outlined in Runner’s World, Jack Daniels, Hal Higdon, or any other plan, and then stick to the plan as it is written. It’s always modified. Perhaps “modified” (in quotes) is more like it, since sometimes we get way off track, and the plan is no longer recognizable. I decided to come up with my own plan, and to be sure, I made a lot of it up as I went along. This way, I could always say I was sticking to the plan. Very clever, no? But the general gist was to up the mileage in a steady fashion, get some long runs in early in the training, and steadily get fitter and trimmer.

It has worked out. The last month has shown I can do the long runs, get in the marathon pace runs, do fifty-plus mile weeks, do hills, and recover quickly enough to run again the next or following day. My companions in training are also looking good, trimmed down, faster, and able to go the distance. We talk of a fourteen mile run as a short run. We eat more than most people and still have dropped weight. In fact, all my belts are being pulled up an extra notch this past month. Jen Van Allen, of Runner’s World, spoke at our last running club meeting, talking about the book she wrote with her co-authors Bart Yasso and Amby Burfoot, “The Big Book of Marathon and Half Marathon Training.”. She is an accomplished ultra-marathoner, and talked about training, avoiding injuries, and the like. She referred to the actual running of the race as the “victory lap” after the real event of the training. While that’s a nice way to put it, especially if you know you can complete the race well under, say, a Boston qualifying time, I think it is fair to say that neither I nor my training partners will be running this as a victory lap. It is tough to get through a marathon. There is pain involved. There is what used to be called intestinal fortitude, but now is more appropriately referred to as mental toughness, which is, I suppose, really the mind-gut continuum. Jen Van Allen asked me what my goals are for this marathon. Here they are again, as I previously stated them: First, to finish without cramping. Second, to break my previous best time of 3:44:14 run in 2009. Third, to qualify for Boston. My Boston qualifier is now better than 3:40:00, six minutes under the allowed time previously, since they lowered the bar last year. I think that is a long shot for me, but I think it is possible.

This past weekend was busy with running. Friday evening I ran ten miles, Saturday morning, seven, and Sunday, twenty-one, at an average pace of 8:52 for the Sunday run. Friday morning, before running, I was in the shower, and feeling good, just started dancing under the shower head. I take it as a good sign that Sunday, after my long run, I still felt like dancing in the shower.

Frank

Poison Ivy

Since we are not solely training for a marathon, regular life goes on, even as it draws closer and closer to the race. Last weekend, noticing how the recent rain caused the grass growing between the bricks of my sidewalk to spread and cover nearly the whole walk, and the ivy to spill over the walk as well, I readied myself to the unenviable task of cleaning up that walk. Since I live in a corner house, the walk runs from the front of the house to the back of the property, a good distance. It takes the front walk of four houses across the street to match the length of my fine, brick sidewalk. I knew there was poison ivy along the fence in one spot, and every year I make an effort to avoid contact. Every year I fail, and wind up with ugly patches of scaly, red, blistered skin on my arms. This year was no different. I saw the obvious vines, handled them with gloves, and took great care to keep me and the leaves separate. But I think there were some small shoots I missed and wound up, again, with the rash. It got on my wrist, my chest, behind my ear, on my knees, and around my waistband. That stuff is sneaky. According to what I’ve read, and from my own experience, it takes about three weeks to go away. Topical steroids help a bit in lessening the itch, so does calamine lotion, but only a hefty dose of systemic steroids will squelch it, and one must take them for three weeks to keep the reaction down. I’d rather suffer the poison ivy.

That off my chest, how’s the training going, I can hear you ask. I would say we are doing alright. Last week was a 21 miler for me on Sunday, a bit over 9 minute pace average, with the last mile a steady 8:30 pace. Monday, I took off, Tuesday 5 miles, Wednesday 10 miles at 8:19 average, Thursday off, Friday 10 miles at easy pace, and Saturday 7 miles, again at easy pace. Today, Sunday, Steve, Tony and I met up in Manayunk to get in some hills. Steve and Tony ran an early 6 miles in order to get in a 20 miler. I met up with them at that point to do my planned 14 miler, which included the (now familiar) Forbidden Drive to Andorra route. Steve and I both ran bare, that is, without a Garmin or a watch. In Steve’s case, I think it was by choice. In my case, my darn Garmin 305 wouldn’t turn on. I tried pushing all sorts of combinations of buttons for 10 seconds, but nothing worked. Tony had his Garmin on, a newer model than mine, but he wasn’t divulging any Garmin stats to us. So, we had the enjoyable experience of just running as we felt we should. Keeping up with Steve takes work. Even with him having six miles on me at the start, he kept a rigorous pace throughout the whole run. As a measure of my own fitness, I am happy to report I was able to keep with him the whole way. We did an extra set of hills at around mile 12 for me, 18 for Tony and Steve, just to show we weren’t dogging it. Steve and I finished with a fast pace up main Street in Manayunk, with Tony not far behind. The weather has gotten very accommodating. It was in the low 60’s when we we started, and the sun felt good as it rose. This is such a welcome change from the last twelve weeks of unrelenting heat and high humidity.

After our run, and after high fives all around, mainly for Steve and Tony having done their last long run before Steamtown, Steve left to get ready to go to an Eagles game. Tony and I headed to the Manayunk Diner, a fine establishment serving good old standard breakfast fare. I had my favorite, two fried eggs over corned beef hash, and Tony indulged with scrambled eggs, bacon and pork sausage, french toast and two glasses of orange juice. Not that he finished the whole thing. More than half the french toast stayed on the plate.

My last long run will be next Sunday, two weeks before the race. A three week taper seemed a bit long to me. And the Garmin? Turns out one must push the Enter and Reset buttons for ten seconds, then release and the device resets, and turns on. I thought I tried that combination, but maybe not. Anyway, it worked when I got home.

Frank

Scabs on my nipples

I realize it is a bit sensationalistic to start with that title, but it is what happens when one runs a lot in the summer, when it’s hot and humid. I have run without a shirt during my long runs, but it’s not always acceptable. On the other hand, the tell-tale red streaks from the nipples downward at the end of a long run just don’t look cool. This summer, and it is still summer in spite of Labor Day being behind us, has been steadily and unforgivingly humid. I really look forward to cooler, dryer days and cool nights.

That said, here’s the current status on the road to Steamtown:

Saturday 9/1: reprieve of the Manayunk-Forbidden Drive loop, including the climb up Andorra St. ( see 7/22/12 entry, “Andorra”). 14 miles, a bit under 9 min pace.

Sunday 9/2: 13 mile run from the Haddonfield Running Company with fellow SJACers Bryan, Tony and Dan. Pace around 8:50. Went to pool party later in the afternoon, swam a “48” meter IM, drank a lot of beer.

Monday 9/3: rained all day, but after 27 the last two days, needed the recovery. Worked inside, throwing away accumulated trash of the ages. Barely made a dent in it.

Tuesday 9/4: worked over 12 hours. Kind of tuckered out. No run.

Wednesday 9/5: 11 mile tempo run at marathon pace of 8:30-8:40. Felt good. After the run, my legs did that weird fibrillation thing I wrote of in my very first blog entry. Very entertaining to watch, but a real pain when a true cramp develops.

Thursday 9/6: another long, hard day at work. Pretty exhausted and got home around 9 PM. No run.

Friday 9/7: long day, but only 12 hours. Had to run, so got out after the sun went down, and did 5 miles in fairly well lit streets and sidewalks. 8:50 pace and no tripping on uneven sidewalks in the dark.

Plan for Saturday and Sunday: 7 miles tomorrow at a bit over marathon pace. Sunday, 21 miles at around 9 min. pace.

Feeling good, no serious pains, just a twinge here and there, the plantar fascia, the pes anserinus (medial aspect of the knee). But nothing too troublesome. This is the time in marathon training when one gets really paranoid about anyone with a sniffle. I stay out of elevators, don’t touch hand rails, wash my hands even more than I usually do (being a surgeon). The other guys in my training group are also looking really good as we go into the last few weeks. The only wildlife of note this past week has been the amazing spiders and their webs. We saw one large spider traversing a long string from a tree to a lamppost, probably about 8 meters long and 2.5 meters off the ground.

I am looking forward to the runs this weekend.

Frank

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