Category Archives: P. Mark’s Blogs

Race Report – Challenge Atlantic City Half-Iron Triathlon 70.3

Challenge AC 2015 4 picsMy third half-iron triathlon was my slowest:

  • Swim 1.2 miles = 45:35
  • Bike 58 miles = 3:19:52
  • Run 13.1 miles = 2:21:02
  • + transition times = total of 6:37:38

If I had trained specifically for this race, that would be disappointing. The truth is that I have been training for two other races.

  1. I have been training hard for the summer track season. Since the Boston Marathon in April, I have aimed most of my running for the 800 meter race in July.
  2. I am just at the beginning of training for a full-iron triathlon (Ironman) in September.

With that in mind, how am I to describe this race? Baby-steps. I am a runner. I am a running expert. I am a running coach. But I am a novice in triathlons. This race was just my fourth triathlon. I only added swimming and cycling to my training regimen in December of 2013. The learning curve is steep for both swimming and cycling. So many technical details and form issues in both sports.

Although the overall result of this half-iron triathlon was about the same as the first two. How it played out was actually very promising.

Baby-step 1 – Swimming

We swam in salt water, but it was an inlet so waves were not present. We had the usual issue of swimmers running into each other, crossing, paths, etc. This was my first race wearing a wetsuit, but I barely noticed. It helped me stay on top of the water, which is a tremendous help. The only issue there was some minor chaffing.

The baby-step forward was in my swimming form. I just recently learned to think of my lower palms as the paddles and to keep my arms bent so that I have more power on each stroke. I am sure that I have heard and read those instructions many times in the last two years, but I finally found the right video to help me understand exactly what I should be feeling during each stroke. The most important part for me is to feel my lat muscles doing the bulk of the work. The latissimus dorsi are the back muscles that start under your shoulders and go all the way down the back. They are big and long. The lats are the powerhouse behind pull-ups and lat pulls. If you build them strong and focus on them you can get a lot of power on each stroke.

This focus on my lats during the swim helped me swim much faster than I have before. The time, however, does not show that. I had leaky goggles. No matter what I tried, my goggles continued to leak. Hence, I spent a lot of time slowing down or stopping to empty the saltwater out of my goggles. This was frustrating. I kept reminding myself that this was not an A-Race. I was less concerned about time, and more concerned about getting the experience. It was also just a really long workout.

Having stopped so many times but still getting about the same overall time result means that I was swimming faster than my previous half-iron triathlons. Call it a win. Baby-steps.

Baby-step 2 – Cycling

The progress on the bike was much more clear. I averaged 17.41 miles on a very windy course. That is 1.13 miles per hour faster than the bike portion of my previous half-iron. That is kind of a big deal. I was hoping for 18, but this was still such a big jump. Count the victory. Celebrate.

How did I accomplish this increase in speed? Time. Trainer. Form. I have gradually increased my time training over the last few months. I obviously have to keep increasing that by the time I do a full-iron triathlon. Enabling that is my bike trainer. A bike trainer is a stand on which you mount your bike so that you can ride your actual bike inside your house. It turns your bikes into a stationary bike. You can change the difficulty level by shifting gears. I was able to increase my time on the bike by ignoring bad weather. Ice on the roads? Stormy? Doesn’t matter. Put your bike on the trainer and ride safely in your home. It is the equivalent of the treadmill. Outside is better, but the bike trainer offers an excellent workout.

The biggest breakthrough on the bike, however, has been in form. Like the swim, I have read and heard much about bike fit and bike form. Like the swim, I only recently began to understand what they have been trying to tell me. I am more comfortable on the bike than I have ever been. I am in the right position and loving it. Not just feeling good in regular bike position, but this race I was in the aero position nearly the entire time. The aero position is leaning forward with forearms resting on pads on the handlebars and hands out on special aero handlebars closer together. This puts your body in a more aerodynamic position. That gives you less wind resistance. That helps you go faster. That is why it is called aero position. In this race, it was a big deal because we had so much wind. Each time I was in regular position, I felt like a kite in a tornado. Aero position was absolutely necessary yesterday. I was grateful for the fact that I was comfortable enough to do aero position nearly the entire time.

So What Happened on the Run?

I ran the Boston Marathon in an average pace of 7:46. Why did I average 10:46 on the 13.1 mile run in this triathlon? Simple. I had not trained enough. Not the run training. I did not put in enough swimming and cycling to build my endurance base. Even though I had some baby-steps forward in the swim and bike, I still have a long way to go. Hence, this slow run was a side-effect of wearing myself out on the swim and bike. I ran as fast as I could without cramping. I kept trying. I just didn’t have it. My electrolytes were fine. I was hydrated. I had fuel. I just did not train enough for the bike and run. This was my longest swim and longest bike of the year. I did them back to back. Of course, I was going to suffer a bit.

Was I disappointed in the run? A bit, but not surprised. I knew my training. I knew my limitations. I just reminded myself that this was just a really long training session.

As the run dragged on, I told myself:

  • You already met some goals.
  • You are gaining experience.
  • Just keep running.
  • Get the finishers medal.
  • Cheer for Muna and friends.
  • Celebrate the baby-steps.

It was a good day.

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor

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Boston Marathon 2015, My race report

Boston 2015In 2014, I ran my first Boston Marathon.  I had a bad day, taking nearly 5 hours to finish.  It wasn’t just one thing, but a combination of things that slowed me down.  Nerves, time off for a knee injury, getting hit by a car, …  I set out to run as close to 3 hours as possible, but went into survival mode at mile 6.

As I lined up for the 2015 Boston Marathon, I was much more confident.  I had gone injury-free for a year.  My training was going well.  I had created a “NEXT-LEVEL” training program that helped many runners achieve their goals in the last 9 months.  I used a variation of that program.  I was healthy, calm, and ready to get this done.  The weather forecast was cold and wet.  That forecast was showing itself to be correct, so I knew that I should go with my B-Goal.  My A-Goal would be a personal record of around 3:11.  In the cold, wet weather I expected to struggle a bit more, so I set my sites on just BQing (qualifying for a future Boston) by finishing faster than 3:25.

I aimed to start the first mile at 7:30 and then gradually whittle that down to a 7:10 pace by the halfway point.  I did average about 7:20 for the first 3 miles, which fit the plan fairly well.  At mile 12, I was on course with a 7:10 average pace.  That, however, was when I first felt a cramp coming on.  My left hamstring twitched during one stride and I slowed just a bit.  I made a quick stop at a port-a-potty during mile 13, but I was still very close to the goal pace for the first half.

I spent the second half of the race managing the cramps.  I never went into a full cramp.  I know what it feels like when I am about to cramp.  I know how to ride that line, going as fast as I can without going into a full cramp.  I discovered a relationship between the timing of these “pre-cramp twitches” and when I took in calories.  I stopped fueling at that point and drank only water.  I took in as much water as I could without stopping.  I soon found out how much was too much.

From that point on, I used pace and water to manage my conditions to avoid cramping.  I knew that I would not get a personal record, but I was still as a good overall average.  If I allowed myself to slow down just a little each mile, I would still keep the average under the time I needed to come in under 3:25.  With each uphill, I reminded myself that it was okay to slow down.  With each downhill and flat, I reminded myself that it was safe to press the pace just a tiny bit.

By the time I reached the 25 mile marker, I knew that I could run a 9 minute mile the last 1.2 miles and still be under my goal time.  Still, I pushed as hard as I could without cramping.  Then I saw that beautiful sign: “Hereford Street.”  I was still on pace and had two turns to go.  Right on Hereford, left on Boylston, and on to the finish!

I can’t tell you that I passed anyone on that last stretch.  Maybe I did.  Maybe I didn’t.  I didn’t care.  I had just spent the last 26 miles with thousands of others runners, but I was only racing one the entire time.  The race was against my limitations.  I had pressed my limits and managed my resources to get the most out of my body.  In the race against my limitations, I won.  I finished in 3:23:39.

The Real Story

This race was not won on emotions.  This race was won by suppressing the emotions and staying focused.  In particular, I won the race against my limitations because I had stayed in tune with my body.  I ignored the crowd.  I kept a laser-sharp focus on the road 20-30 feet ahead of me.  I felt every muscle and mentally went through a checklist of every body part in an ongoing scan.  When I did get emotional, I talked myself down and re-focused on doing my best in that moment.  I did what I needed to do to get the best possible performance.

 

My story is one of overcoming obstacles, overcoming past performance, and overcoming my own fear of failure.  I did this by staying focused over the last year and staying focused during the race.  After the race, I shivered wildly.  I realized just how cold and wet I had been for the last 3 hours.  I shivered and shook all the way to Boston Common, when I could finally stand in a heated place long enough to regain control of my hands.

That is when it hit me.  I did it.  I beat Boston.  I had come back to the course that defeated me last year and I was triumphant.  I BQed at Boston.  In fact, there was now only one marathon course which I have run, but not had at least one Boston qualifying time.

As with most races, the first thing I did is set my sites on the next big goal.  I had run my first 2 marathons at Knoxville.  I have BQed on every course after that. [not always on the first try, but eventually].  I think it is time to return to the Knoxville Marathon next spring so I can reach 6 out of 6.  If I can run under 3:25, I will have qualified for Boston at least once on every marathon course I have ever run.  That sounds pretty good.  Challenge accepted.

What Did I Learn Between 2014 and 2015?

A)  As an introvert, I need a plan to deal with the noise and distractions.

Many runners are encouraged by all of the fans, signs, and noise.  I, on the other hand, am an introvert.  I had to learn to drown it all out.  If you look at my photos, I am always looking slightly down at the ground about 20-30 feet ahead of me.  I was busy tuning out of the crowd and tuning into how I was feeling.

B)  I need to run my own race.

I was well aware that the people in my corral all had about the same qualifying time as I did.  That does not, however, mean that we can expect to run the race together.  Some will go out too fast for me.  Some will be going too slow.  I take the uphills slower than most of that same group of runners.  I make up for it on the flats and downhills.  If I had tried to stay with the equally capable runners that I started with, I would have charged the hills too fast and faded early.  In fact, there were only a few instances when I stayed with a group of specific runners for more than 20 seconds.

C)  I belong here.  I can do this.  I need to remind myself of that.

You have to qualify for Boston.  Most marathon runners don’t.  Despite the fact that I had already qualified for Boston on four different marathon courses, I still had my doubts.  Last year’s struggle did a lot of damage to my self-image.  Throughout this year’s race, I had to give myself positive affirmations:

“Just because they start out fast, doesn’t mean they are faster than me.”
“This pre-cramp feeling is just a sign.  I will deal with it and keep moving at a strong pace.”
“I am still on pace for a BQ.  I have this.  Keep pressing the limit.”
“I can average a 9 minute pace this last stretch and still get a solid BQ.”
“Yes, this is a slight uphill, but the finish is just around this corner.  You can keep pressing the pace.”

D)  I can still get faster and stronger while only running 3 days per week.

I had been doing my NEXT-LEVEL” training program and it had prepared me for the challenge.  I typically run 3 days a week, ride my bike 2 or 3 days per week, swim once every other week, and do a lot of strength training.  In the year between the 2014 and 2015 Boston Marathons, I gained 10 pounds and became a stronger runner.

I praise The Lord for helping me learn these lessons and getting me through this race.

Now on to the next challenge.

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor

Every Finisher’s Medal Has a Story

IMG_0734medals 2I have earned many finisher’s medals since my return to running in November of 2009.  On the right is a small photo of most of them.  Each medal has a story, a context, a tale of triumph, defeat, friends, and laughs.

Why would I only display 9 of them on my medal rack?  Because some memories/achievements are bigger than others.  These are the stories I want to remember.  These are the stories I want to tell.

From left to right…

Knoxville Marathon 2010:  The first medal represents my first marathon.  In March of 2010, I was less than well-informed about the needs of an endurance athlete.  My training was sparse.  I had no nutrition plan.  I had taken one drink of water on one training run.  That was it.  Nothing else had passed through my lips on a training run.  No calories.  One drink of water on one long run.  If you know anything about endurance nutrition and hydration, you know where this led.  I ran reasonably well until mile 17 and the bottom fell out.  My legs locked up and I could barely walk.  The skies grew dark and a cold, windy rain set in.  I walked the rest of the way.  I shivered.  I must have looked pitiful, because the medics checked on me frequently for the rest of the marathon.  I was determined that I did not need help and I would finish.  I did.  5:34:38.  Then I could barely move for a week.  Good times.  I am not a quitter.

Knoxville Marathon 2011:   The second medal happened 1 year later.  One year of studying running.  One year of reading and studying.  One year of training.  One year of learning about hydration and nutrition.  I only ran two races between my first and second marathon, but I trained.  I didn’t train every day, but I trained all year.  This time when I got to mile 17, I could feel that my body was being challenged, but I knew how to pace myself.  I paid close attention and ran as fast as I could without cramping.  I gradually slowed down, but never stopped.  3:55:59.  More than 1.5 hours faster than the first try.  Consistent studying and training pays off.

7 Bridges Marathon 2012:   In the fall of 2011, I ran my third marathon, the Seven Bridges Marathon in Chattanooga, TN.  I had done more studying and a lot more training.  I managed to shave another big chunk of time, finishing in 3:27:27.  This was great progress and I was very happy, but it was also painful.  I cramped hard in mile 26.  I was on pace to qualify for Boston until that moment.  I could see the finish line, but I could not get to it.  I had to stand and wait for my legs to calm down.  My time was 2 minutes and 27 above the Boston mark for my age group.  But this medal is from the 2012 Seven Bridges Marathon.  Why this one?  It marks my victory over two things: cramping and gluten.  I had started the 2012 Knoxville Marathon in April, but had to stop.  I had been getting weaker during my taper instead of stronger.  I tried to ignore it, but I could not.  I spent more than half of 2012 trying to figure out why I was sick.  Finally in September, I was diagnosed as gluten-intolerant.  I stopped eating wheat for 6 weeks.  Then I ran the 7 Bridges Marathon.  Even though I had been weak for 6 months, I had trained anyway.  I was hoping that the slow paces would pay off because of the big efforts that it took to fight through my weakened state.  That gamble paid off at 7 Bridges.  My slower, weaker, but valiant attempts at training during my illness led to a finish time of 3:22:44.  I had beaten gluten.  I had beaten the cramps.  I had qualified for the Boston Marathon for the first time.  This medal will always have a place on my medal rack.

Shamrock Marathon 2013:  After that, I was healthy and ready to score another big PR.  I had now studied three very different marathon training strategies.  I had even written a book about running.  I was laser-focused.  I had very consistent training with a very consistent strategy.  It paid off again.  Even though I still gradually slowed down, I did my best job of pacing ever.  I did cramp just a bit, but I was 100 yards from the finish.  I jogged it in for a 3:13:22.  My second BQ (Boston-Qualifying time).  Not only that, but I had BQed by more than 9 minutes.

Indianapolis Marathon 2013:  This one was only a PR by 37 seconds, but this is amazing in and of itself.  Why?  Because my training strategies varied greatly.  I was starting to play with speed.  I ran shorter distances and did a lot more speed-work.  I was reading and studying like always, but I was testing out my own theories about training.  I was also racing A LOT.  It was a couple of months from the marathon before I started getting a bit more focused.  I was gambling that my endurance base was maintained through out all of the different training strategies.  That gamble paid off.  Even though I did not make significant progress, I did show that I could maintain my fitness level.  This is remarkable because I was 45 years old.  At this age, we are expected to gradually become slower.  I had not slowed down.  I was 15th place overall.  Not bad.

Boston Marathon 2014:  This was one of my worst races ever.  I knew by mile 6 that I was not feeling well enough to run a good race.  I gradually slowed from under 7 minute pace down to trying to maintain a 12 minute pace. It was physically and emotionally painful.  As painful as this was, I understood that this was just a bad day.  I tried to smile and wave to the crowds a lot.  I knew my wife was waiting for me.  I knew she was worried as my splits kept showing slower times.  Every time I crossed a timing mat, I was telling her “I’m okay.  I’m still moving.”  I spent some moments of anguish in the medical tent until I recovered.  I vowed to return.  Just over one week from now, I shall.

Savannah Marathon 2013 & 2014:  I didn’t really set out to race Savannah in 2013.  It was about a month after the Indianapolis Marathon and I would not expect to PR.  I was, however, excited to run with my new wife, Muna.  We “eloped” on the way to Savannah.  We were newlyweds running together.  I paced Muna to 3:52:25, her first sub-4.  In 2014, I raced.  Even though I was doing my first triathlons that summer, I made sure to include enough specific training to prove that the performance at Boston was a fluke.  I would at least qualify for Boston again.  That is where I aimed and that is what I earned.  3:22:43.  BQ by just over a minute.  I walked away with the confidence of knowing that I know just how much effort it takes to earn the result I want.

Shrimp and Grits 5K 2015:  This is the 5K associated with the Charleston Marathon.  I ran a 19:28.  Nowhere near a PR, but that was not the goal.  I just wanted a fun run.  I usually check my pace regularly while aiming for some very specific time. Instead of aiming for a PR, I decided to race. I simply sized up the competition over the first mile and decided who I could catch by the end.  I met Tony at the start line.  He was 57 years old and in great shape.  He started out ahead of me, so I spent more than half of the race chasing after Tony.  I eventually got him in the last mile and then just held my position.  After the race I jogged down to the 14 mile marker of the marathon so I could run the rest of that race with Muna.  She was having a rough time, so my support was more important than ever.  She toughed it out and still finished with a great time considering the illness with which she was battling.  After we finished the marathon, I found out my friend Ethan had won the marathon and I had won the masters division in the 5K.  That’ll do.

These are not all my best races.  They are not all personal records.  They are, however, all significant.  Each one has a story that means something to me.  I could leave all of my medals up, but it would be very crowded.  I want to see these particular medals when I walk by… and to remember.

 “Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor

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Product Review – TIUX Compression Socks

I occasionally review products that are sent to me, but only if they fit my criteria:

  • it was a product that I actually wanted to try for myself
  • and as long as I was not OBLIGATED to blog about it.

The first condition is because I want the product to be useful.  Why post it otherwise?  The second condition is because I only want to post reviews that are positive AND reviews for products I in which I truly have trust and confidence.

I am happy to report that I recently received one such product:  Tiux Compression Socks.

About Compression Socks/Gear:

Recent research shows that compression gear does not enhance performance except as a placebo effect.  There are two areas where compression gear still prove to be very important.  First, that placebo effect is big.  That feeling of protection that some folks get when they wear compression socks during a race is very real.  You should try it a few times to see if it helps you.

The most universal and important positive effect is not during a race, but after.  Recovery is expedited by better flow of blood.  That is the main purpose of compression socks.  The snug fit with a firm grip does not allow blood to pool in any one particular area.  The blood must flow.  Better circulation leads to quicker healing.  That is a huge advantage.  I wear compression socks or sleeves after every race.  After big races, I might wear them for several days.

Bottom line: Compression socks work.

tiux 5About TIUX Compression Socks:

TIUX is a start-up company that is dedicated to quality compression gear.  That being said, I came into this experience with a critical lens: Could this start-up produce a quality product to compete the big companies?

I put them on the minute my new TIUX Compression Socks arrived.  The first thing I noticed was the fit.  I usually wear size medium in compression socks because larges are too loose.  This pair was large and in charge!  They were clearly large in size, but they gripped my calve, ankles, and feet firmly.  Good start.

The next thing I noticed is that they felt extra thick.  After wearing them for a day, I was thinking that these thick socks might be best suited for winter. After the first wash, however, I changed my mind.  That feeling of thick socks went away.  That first time through the washer and dryer seemed to magically transform my TIUX compression socks to the perfect thickness.

Still, I refused to draw any firm conclusion until I had worn them and washed them many times.  How did they hold up?  Extremely well.  They still have that snugly, yet firm, grip.  They still fit exactly the same.  They still feel just right.  I have used them to recover from a tough race and several tough workouts.

The final report card:

Quality = A
Durability = A

TIUX compression socks have one more feature that is outstanding:  price.  TIUX has chosen to cut out the middle-man to save you money.  You can only get TIUX Premium Performance Compression Socks by visiting their web site at http://tiux.co.  [That is NOT a typo.  There is no “m” on the end of the web site.]

tiux 4

 “Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor

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“You have earned my respect, Runner.”

Which runners do I respect?  The ones that have earned it.

To the one that is running regularly for the very first time:  your kind of crazy

There may be a lot of walking, but you are out there doing what you can to improve your health and fitness.  You have earned my respect, Runner.

To the one that is just jogging to lose weight:

It is great that you want to be lighter, but you are making efforts towards running that puts you waaay ahead of the folks still on the couch.  You have earned my respect, Runner.

To the one that only runs for the social aspect:

Yes, you always run at “conversational pace” and you seem to be more happy at the beer garden after the run, but you are still out there.  You are there two or three times a week.  You have earned my respect, Runner.

To the one that runs EVERY 5K because races are fun:

Yes, you, … you 5K freak!  Even if you only run once a week, you are out there consistently.  You participate, you run, you help raise funds for charity, and you are a part of the running community.  You have earned my respect, Runner.

To the Half-Maniacs:

You know who you are.  You are the one that does as many half marathons each year as you can afford to do.  You supplement your appetite for half marathons by running more half marathons.  At whatever pace you choose, you are out there doing it.  You have earned my respect, Runner.

To the Marathoner and the Ultra-Marathoners:

People think you are nuts.  I think they are right.  I love you just the way you are.  You have earned my respect, Runner.

To the speed-demon, driven by the quest for age-group glory or more:

I get it.  You push long and hard.  Sometimes you overdo it.  So what.  You rock the world and sometimes the world rocks back.  To me it matters less that you win; it matters more that you try to improve.  You try with all of your might.   You have earned my respect, Runner.

To everyone that tries to run, for the ones in wheelchairs, the ones with guides, the ones with knee problems,… people of all shapes and size, people of all ages, genders, … anyone that runs in any way, shape or form:

 You have earned my respect, Runner.

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor

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Revisiting Long-term Goals and Setting Goals for 2015

What you get by achieving your goals
is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”
Henry David Thoreau

It is time to check in once again.  Although I had some setbacks that made 2014 a challenge, I still need to reflect on the good things that happened.  I also need to remind myself of the Unreasonable Running Goals for the Next 5 Years that I set back in September of 2013.  I have some crazy-high expectations on that list.

3rd place in 1 mile 7 1 2014The two biggest goals are at very different distances.  The first is running 800 meters in 1:58.  The second is running a half marathon in 1:10:25.  All of the other goals listed on that post are interesting but not critical.

Although I listed the half marathon as my main goal in that list,  I am thinking that the 800 meter goal will need to occur first.  Here is my reasoning: I must build my raw speed and power to a whole new level before I can maintain a fast speed for the half marathon distance.  In most half-marathon training plans, the speed work comes in the first phase.  The second and third phases are more focused on elements of endurance.  Likewise, as I look at the next 3.5 years of my development I know that I must get faster.  Although I still have a few longer races on my schedule, they will not be the focus.  My training must focus mainly on speed at least until I break the 2 minute mark in the 800 meters.

This being the case, my main goals for 2015 all revolve around faster speeds at short distances.  My personal records within that last 5 years are as follows:

Running Records (since 2009)

800 meters

2:23

2013

1 mile

5:21

2013

2 mile

11:58

2013

5K

18:35

2013

10K

39:43

2013

Half Marathon

1:27:42

2013

Marathon

3:12:45

2013

You will immediately notice that they were all set in 2013.  The only PR I set in 2014 was at the 15K distance.  Why is this?  I had a knee injury from weightlifting in November 2013 and took off all of December 2013 to recover.  Then I suffered a concussion when hit by a car while riding my bike in February of 2014.  These two instances set me back.  It has taken all of 2014 to make it back to a point near my fitness level of 2013.  What are the good things that happened this year?  I ran my first Boston Marathon and I regained my fitness!  If I can stay healthy throughout 2015, I expect to see the personal records begin to fall once again.

Since my main focus is on speed, I will be happy if I can manage a big PR in both the 800 meters and the mile.  Any other PRs set in 2015 will be a happy side effect of my focus on these distances.  These goals, however, are rather vague.

Remember This:

If you aim for nothing you will surely accomplish your goal. 

Goals must be specific enough to know when they have been accomplished.  Here are my specific goals for 2015:

  • 400 meters – 0:59.99
  • 800 meters – 2:11.50
  • 1 mile – 4:59.99 (on the track)

Any other personal records set this year will just be icing on the cake.  I will race distances from 800 meters up to marathon in 2015, but mostly for fun.  The only specific goals are at 1 mile and shorter.

Your goals may be quite different from mine.  How do you go about setting goals for 2015?  Here is what I suggest:

  1. Define your goals for the next 5 years.  They do not have to be time-oriented.  It could be distances.  You may want to run a 100 mile race 5 years from now or you may want to run a 5K in less than 30 minutes.  These are YOUR goals.  You define success.
  2. Think about the multiple steps that it will take to achieve your main 5 year goals.
  3. Choose the first steps and write them as goals for 2015.
  4. Double-check your goals to make sure they are specific enough.  How will you know if you reached your goals?
  5. Revisit your 1-year and 5-year goals next year.

What do you want to accomplish?  How can I help you get there?

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“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”

    — P. Mark Taylor

Keeping Things in Perspective: Down, But Not Out

“On your worst day of running, you still inspire someone.”  This is what I remind myself when I get down.

Unfortunately, I have been down a lot lately.  Just over a year ago, I made a mistake while lifting weights.  I hurt my knees.  I ran the Secret City Half Marathon last year on hurting knees, but then I took almost the entire month of December 2013 off to allow my knees to recover.  2013 had been a year full of personal records.  I was up, up, up and flying high.  I was strong and fast.

secret city 2013I entered 2014 by racing a 5K on New Year’s Day that was considerably slower than my recent 5Ks.  This was not a big surprise since had just taken a month off.  What did surprise me was that it would take me a full year to get back to the shape I had been in before the knee incident.  I suppose that bike wreck and concussion in February didn’t do me much good either.

I trained hard and fast.  I took breaks after the longest races.  I did many things right.  Still, I have been plagued with “bad days” time and time again in 2014.  At my first Boston Marathon, I struggled very early.  I started out as planned, but got slower every mile.  I finished nearly 2 hours slower than my goal and required medical attention.

I focused on shorter distances in the summer more than ever before.  Still, I fell short on the personal records set in 2013.  I was getting closer as I went into fall, but my fall marathon had the same difficulties I had experienced a couple of years ago.  I struggled to maintain pace after the half way mark and gradually faded.  I managed to qualify for Boston 2016, but just barely.  I finished about 10 minutes slower than I had in both of my marathons in 2013.

The only course PR that I set this year was at the Townsend 15K.  I believed I had finally gotten my speed back by the end of November 2014.  I was training very well.  I expected to compete for a PR or come very close at the Secret City Half Marathon in 2014.  Unfortunately, I was ill on that day.  I was nauseous on the way to the race.  I tried to ignore that and started the race as I had planned.  I was fine until mile 4.  I slowed from 6:28 in miles 2 and 3 to a 7:30 in mile 4.  I considered stopping.  I considered puking, thinking I would probably feel better if I could let it out.  I decided to press on and make the best of it.  I pushed myself as hard as I could.  I managed to squeak out a 7:00 average pace by the end of the half marathon.  It was not race-day jitters.  I was ill for the next 36 hours.

I am frustrated.  I am as fast as I have ever been, but I just can’t seem to show it.  Staying positive is the only defense against such thoughts.

  • I am grateful that my knees did recover.
  • I am grateful that I survived the bike wreck (car involved) without anything but a concussion.
  • I am grateful that I have made a strong comeback, even if I have not shown it in a race just yet.
  • I am grateful that I have a loving wife who is patient with me as I go through all of these struggles.

Not everyone has these things.
I am privileged.
I am blessed.

I am frustrated, but I will not give up.  My training is working.  I am enjoying running.  I can’t let performance on race-day detract from that.

“On your worst day of running, you still inspire someone.” This is what I remind myself when I get down.  That is when I find the strength to stop the pity party and keep running.  They are my legs.  It is my effort.  It is my time.  Still, it’s not all about me.  That makes it worth the effort no matter how I do.

 

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”

— P. Mark Taylor

_____________

Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

.

.

_______________________________________________________

Wise Running Shirts & More

Find yours HERE:

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Happy Runiversary! Savannah Marathon 2014 Race Report

Sometimes the race is not the main event.  While it was most definitely the event we planned around, this Savannah trip was much more than a marathon.

THE RACE

As for the actual race, I had yet another marathon when I tried out a new fuel.  I have never been totally happy with the gels or bars I have used in the past.  This race was no different.  Although I had practiced using Bonk Breakers bars in training, they did not work as well as I had hoped during the actual race.  That savannah 2014 resultsbeing said, I still had a reasonably strong run.

My main goal was actually to remain in the 6:50s for average pace for the first 20 miles.  I slowed a little faster than anticipated but still managed to average around 7:12.5 for 20 miles.  Not what I was shooting for, but still pretty good.

Although I was following my race plan as closely as I could, I gradually became weaker.  By mile marker 23, I had to start taking some walking breaks to avoid cramping.  I kept the best pace that I could without cramping.  I was running by feel rather than pace.  I could have tried to push the pace, but I am very familiar with this feeling.  I knew that pushing the pace would lead to strained muscles that could take a long time to heal.  Time to ease up and stay healthy.  Although I was a little disappointed, I still managed to finish in 3:22:44.  This is about 10 minutes slower than my PR, but it is still a Boston qualifying time by over two minutes.  That’ll do.

savannah 2014  muna jennifer meThe Run-iversary

It wasn’t the best time I have run for a marathon, but it was the best of times at the Rock’n’Roll Savannah Marathon.  The town of Savannah is great.  The course was supported well and the streets were filled with the citizens of Savannah cheering us on!  More importantly, Muna (left) and I were celebrating our first anniversary.  Is it odd that we would celebrate it by running a marathon?  NO!  We were married exactly one year before when we stopped in South Carolina to be married at the church where her uncle was the pastor.  You see, last year we were on our way from Knoxville to Savannah to go run the marathon.  We decided to “elope” just a few days before the marathon.  We got married the day before the race.  During the race, I stayed with my new bride to pace her to a PR.

That was 2013.  This was 2014.  It has been a good year and we were in ready to celebrate by running.  Our friend Jennifer (right) traveled with us to run the half marathon.  We had fun on the road.  We enjoyed the massive race expo.  We took the ferry across the river and enjoyed historic downtown Savannah, GA.  We got up early on race day, raced, and celebrated with thousands of other folks at the post-race party.  After an hour or two of reloading with Gatorade, Power Bars, and Michelob Ultra, we began to waddle back to the car.  On both days, Muna would stop us at every historical marker in Savannah to narrate with the words on the placard.  We love Savannah. We love the marathon.  We will be back next year for another try at a personal record.   We will be back to celebrate our run-iversary.

 “Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”

    — P. Mark Taylor

_____________

Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

.

.

_______________________________________________________

Wise Running Shirts & More

Find yours HERE:

I love running shirt

10 Days Before the Marathon

wise running logo 7_25_12The hay is in the barn.  It is October 28 and I just ran the last key workout for the Savannah Marathon.  That leaves 10 days between today and race day.  It takes a full 10 days to see the full benefit of any particular workout, so this is a logical stopping point.  I will not get any faster.  Through rest and easy running, however, I will keep my speed and increase my health.  The little bumps and bruises, the sore parts, the cramps, strains and all of that, those things need time to heal.  They need to be gone by race day.  Fresh legs with no soreness but all of the speed I have earned through a thoughtful and hard-fought process of training.  Yes, 10 days ought to do the trick.

Getting to This Point

Much of my summer was focused on track meets and developing raw speed.  It was in mid-July that I first started sprinkling in some marathon-specific workouts.  I still had a few track meets left as well as a half-iron distance triathlon, so I was not fully devoted to marathon until later.  My long runs began to get longer and I sprinkled in some tempo runs here and there.

In August, my monthly mileage gradually went from somewhere in the twenties to somewhere in the thirties.  Throughout September, I averaged 41 miles per week.  Through experience, I have learned this is the sweet spot for my marathon training.  I make the most progress at about 40-44 miles per week.  Some people can handle a lot more.  This is me.  I have stayed right around there through the first 3 weeks of October, too.

My longest runs are every other week.  At first I was measuring by miles, but after 16 miles I start measuring by time.  My long runs went from two hours and twenty minutes, to two hours and forty minutes.  I completed two 3-hour long runs.  The Sundays between these very long runs were in the 10 to 12 mile range.

My training paces have changed over the months as well.  In July and part of August, I was doing a lot of short (200 meters to 800 meters) intervals at 5:40 pace or faster.  I gradually decreased time at those ridiculously fast paces while increasing time and distances at paces ranging from 6:30 15257355495_c5aa8f7266_oto 6:50.  These are the paces that I want to run during the marathon, so I have run a lot of mile repeats and tempo runs in this pace range.  No, I do not plan to average 6:30 miles in the marathon.  I would like to average in the 6:50 range.  I have to plan for time to walk through water stations and take a potty break.  Hence, I practiced 6:30’s and 6:40’s to aim for an average in the 6:50’s.  :)

I have done races along the way, but I considered them all to be training runs for the marathon.  I wanted to maintain two to three key workouts per week.  That meant that I could not afford to rest up to really kill any races along the way.  So, they were just training at a good pace.

The 10 Days of Taper

So here we are, 3.5 months after the first marathon-specific workout.  The hay is in the barn.  I will take it easy.  All runs will be at 8:00 pace or slower except for a few strides now and then.  This is enough effort to maintain my speed but easy enough to heal completely in 10 days. My scheduled miles for this week add up to 26.  Next week, I will run 9 to 12 miles before race day on Saturday.

Not only am I going for a personal record (PR) at the Savannah Marathon, but it also the one year anniversary of our wedding.  Muna and I got married on the way to the race last year.  It will be a great day no matter how the race turns out.  Gotta keep things in perspective.

 ______________________________

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”

    — P. Mark Taylor

_____________

Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

.

.

_______________________________________________________

Wise Running Shirts & More

Find yours HERE:

I love running shirt

2014 Progress Report on My Own Training & Performance

In the midst of watching my run coaching clients make progress and set personal records, I have forgotten to reflect on my own progress as a runner.

A lot has happened in the last year or so.

  • I injured my knees in late November of 2013 and did not run for 4 weeks in December.
  • I was clipped by a car while riding my bike in February 2014, suffering a concussion.
  • I ran my first Boston Marathon in April, which turned out to be my second slowest marathon time.
  • I focused my summer training on the 800 meters and 1 mile distances.
  • I competed in my first “USA Track and Field” sanctioned track meet.
  • I became a RRCA certified running coach.
  • I ran two mile races on the road and 5 track meets in the summer.
  • In between track and mile events I also completed my very first triathlon, the “Storm the Fort” Half-Iron Distance.
  • I did a total of three triathlons in 2014, two half-iron distance triathlons and one sprint triathlon.

Townsend 15KSetbacks

Due to the time off from the knee injury and concussion, my fitness level suffered.  I lost a lot of progress.  I have been pushing hard all year just to get back to level of fitness that I had a year ago.  I have loved the training.  I enjoy pushing myself.  On the other hand, it has been extremely frustrating to work that hard and not achieve any personal records.  Very discouraging.

Progress

Yesterday was a big victory.  No, I did not win a race.  I was even a full minute behind the winner in my age group.  Still, it was a big victory.  I set a personal record (PR) in the 15K distance (about 9.3 miles).  That feels pretty good.

I still have a ways to go.  I am still a bit behind where I was in February of last year.  That is when my fitness last fully peaked.  I ran a 1:27:42 on a hilly half marathon course.  This is 9 seconds per mile faster than the 15K I ran yesterday.  Hence, I am close, but not quite all the way there.

When will I get there?  Well, I have 2.5 weeks left before I taper (ease up and heal) for the Savannah Marathon, which is on November 8.  I will have 5 key workouts in that 2.5 weeks.  I may not reach a PR at Savannah, but I should be very close at that point.

Conclusion

Whether I peak at Savannah or not, I know the time is very soon when I will be able to earn a few more personal records.

  • My training is balanced, pushing just the right amount.
  • I am eating healthier than ever.
  • And, most importantly, I am enjoying my training.

When I am not enjoying it, I change it up.

Remember This:

Enjoying the run comes first!
It is more important than progress and personal records.

 ______________________________

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”

    — P. Mark Taylor

_____________

Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

_______________________________________________________

Wise Running Shirts & More

Find yours HERE:

I love running shirt