Tag Archives: challenges

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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Next Level Nutrition: The Food is Fuel Mindset

“You are what you eat.”
“You can’t outrun or outwork poor nutrition.”

Going to the Next Level

I have searched for years and I finally found it.  I have found the combination of running workouts to maximize the benefits of training.  I know how to train to get faster while putting the least amount of stress on my body.  That is awesome.  I could not be happier!

Still, I have this black cloud that is hanging over my head.  I know that to reach my full potential in the next level of running performance, I have to eat and drink wisely.  Unfortunately, I am guilty of the high crime of eating what I feel like eating.  Sometimes that means I am eating very healthy food.  Sometimes that means I eat junk.  It is a crime against me and my goals.

Why so negative?  Is this really a crime?  What about happiness?

If I had no goals for my health, eating what I feel like eating would be good enough.
If I had no goals for my running, eating what I feel like would be good enough.
…but I do have goals.  I have BIG goals.  The crime is that I am hurting my health and my progress towards goals.cupcakes

The Food Failure Mindset

The unhealthy mindset thinks of food and drink as something emotional.  It is a reward for being good.  It is feeling cleverly sneaky while we “cheat” our healthy diet.  We eat because we want to elicit some specific emotional response (happiness, relief, …) or to avoid feeling emotions (frustration, sorrow, shame, …).

These brief moments of “positive” emotions only last as long as the food or drink lasts.  Does it work?  For a moment.  The pain, frustration, sorrow, resurface as the effects of the indulgence wears off.  Then comes the shame and self-loathing.  So did it make you feel better in the long run?  No.

Even if it is a real hunger that we have, we must remember that cravings are for nutrients, not for junk.  You may feel like you want the entire box of ice cream, but your body is craving calcium and or calories.  If you are skipping meals, your body will not have what it needs.  Of course you will start craving!

Whether your cravings are for real nutrition or for emotional relief, eating what you feel like eating is almost always a road that leads to frustration and shame.  You steal the progress you could be making.  You steal your health.  You steal your own joy.  That is the crime.  In this mindset, you end up both the perpetrator and the victim.

The Food as Fuel Mindset

What food and drink ARE NOT:

  • Food and drink are not rewards.
  • Food and drink are not escapes.
  • Food and drink are not quick fixes for emotional problems.

What food and drink ARE:

  • Food and drink are fuel for a healthy body.
  • Food and drink are long-term fixes for long-term health problems.
  • Food and drink are tools to use towards your goals.

Eating wisely takes a lot of thought and preparation long before the meal or snack.  If you want to get to the next level of running performance and health, you must plan and follow through.

Although I have tried to eat well, my journey of meal planning and preparation is just beginning.  It is my next step to getting to the next level.  As my personal meal and snack planning adventure unfolds, I will blog about it here to let you know what is working for me.  Stay tuned!  :)

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

    — P. Mark Taylor

 

 

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?

 ______________________________

“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

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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

.

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Wise Running Shirts & More

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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

Experimental Training: Staying the Course

Back in January, I reported that I was engaging in “experimental training” focused on building speed.  I summarized by saying:

  • I will run less frequently, but with greater intensity.
  • The speed-work I run on the track is going to be much faster and more intense than I would ever recommend to a client.
  • I will work harder on power through intense speed-work and additional weightlifting.
  • My long runs will still gradually increase as I prepare to run the Boston Marathon.  This remains the same.  There is no substitute.  The experimental side of the long runs for now is that my tempo runs will be embedded within those long runs each week.
  • I will replace my easy running days with cross-training on the bike and in the pool.

Has the experiment paid off yet?

No.  At least not in terms of scoring personal records.

In fact, I have had some relatively slow races lately.  Am I getting slower?  No, I am not.  I am training as fast as ever. ImplementationDip

What I am going through right now is called an implementation dip.  I am challenging my body in new ways.  Hence, my body is changing in subtle but important ways.  In the graph at the right, I am somewhere in the red zone.  My performance had plateaued, so I implemented alternative training and my performance dipped down.  As I continue with the new training, the performance will begin to rise again.  When the change is complete, I can expect my performance to not only match my prior level but to begin exceeding it.  By staying the course on this plan, I should begin setting personal records again before fall rolls around.

On a related note, this is messing with my head a little.  In races this year, I have not felt exactly the same as before.  As a result, I have not been able to make good pacing decisions.  When I get past the implementation dip, the feel of races will be more consistent.  This will help me better adjust my pacing during races and maximize my race performances.

Have I seen any benefits so far?

Yes.  I am healthier, with fewer aches and pains.  At 46 years old, that is a big deal.

I am running fewer miles and doing more cross-training that causes less wear and tear.  I am still doing a lot of cardiovascular work to enhance endurance.  It is just in different formats.  Fewer aches and pains means I am more comfortable doing strength training.  This in turn allows me to get faster.

It also breaks up the daily grind by offering alternative training sites and experiences.  Having fewer runs per week makes my runs feel even more special than before. Even though I have added biking, swimming, and some triathlons, I am still a runner.  That is where my goals are.  That is where my heart soars.

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

    — P. Mark Taylor

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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

 

 

Boston 2014: My Race Report

I was aiming to finish the 2014 Boston Marathon in about 3 hours.  It took me almost 2 hours longer than expected.  My nerves got the best of me.  It was my first Boston.  I was so excited and nervous that I made a few rookie mistakes.  Most of them revolve around my usual routine.  If your routine gets you to Boston, keep following it!

The Mistakes

The mistakes have nothing to do with training or my race plan.  I was well-trained and had a solid plan.  I boston 2014 runningfollowed the plan almost exactly for the first 5 miles.  a 6:40 pace almost exactly.  This is what I had trained for.  It was the right strategy.

Then the bottom fell out.  I was gradually getting weaker and my top pace was slowing.  I tried to slow things down for a bit and then level out to a 7:00 pace, but that quickly fell by the wayside.  I was getting weaker.  This is how the last 6 miles of a marathon feels when I am doing well, but this struggle was not at mile 20 or 21.  No, this was mile 6.  And I was getting weaker at a much more quickly than I would at the end of a good marathon.  Something was very wrong and I knew it.

By mile 8, I had gone from Goal A (3 hours), to Goal B (3:05), to Goal C (3:25), but I had to give that up too.  No, the rest of the race would be about survival.  It was time to move to Goal D: finish the race without an injury.  By the last mile, I was struggling hard to get a 15 minute pace.

My mistakes were made before I ever left the hotel room to go to the starting line.  First, I didn’t eat carefully enough for the month before the race.  I have a gluten intolerance and I was “glutened” at a restaurant about 3 weeks before Boston.  I had mostly recovered but I was not 100% going in to race day.  Second, I drank Gatorade for a couple of days before the race.  Good for electrolyte loading, bad for carb loading.  The sugar spikes your metabolism and causes you to deplete your carb supplies.  Rookie mistake.  Got nervous and forgot my own rule: stick with the routine that is working.  The third mistake probably had the biggest effect.  I forgot to take my electrolyte supplements with me to the start line.  Everyone has their own level of need for electrolytes.  My need is much higher than the average person.  I did not even think about this until I was struggling in mile 6.  I am a coach.  I blog about these things.  I teach these lessons.  I am more embarrassed than disappointed.  I knew better on all three counts, but my nerves got the best of me.  Not going to happen next year!

The Positives

Even though I struggled hard for over 20 miles, there are a lot of positives in this experience too.  First, the race is extremely well-organized and extremely secure.  The Boston Marathon is a class act and the runners are all class acts as well.  The whole environment was uplifting.

Cheering fans lined every step of the course, all 26.2 miles of it.  There was no break.  The support was overwhelming and I was thankful for it.  Whenever I got too down on myself for my errors, I just looked over at the side, waved my hands a little, and the crowd went wild.  Awesome support.

This is the year after the bombings.  At every moment in the entire experience, we were safe.  A guardian angel from law enforcement and/or our armed services was there watching like hawks.  It wasn’t just the course.  There was a wide perimeter of security around the entire towns of Hopkinton, Boston, and every town between.

Did the terrorists scare the crowd away?  No.  The crowd was double the usual number.
Did the terrorists scare the runners away?  No.  The crowd of runners was MUCH larger than last year.
Were the crowd and runners focused on a possible bombing?  No.  We thought about it, but the security blanket offered by the law enforcement agencies was enough to let us focus on excellence and fun.

Boston 2014 with MunaLast but not least among the positives was the presence of my wife, Muna.  Muna is a running coach, too.  She hasn’t run Boston yet, but she is really close to qualifying.  It will happen.  Even though she ran a 19-miler on Sunday, she was not there as a coach or a runner.  She came to support me.  She stood by me and tried to calm me down before.  She was there encouraging me after.  Muna knew what my expected time was and she saw the reports of my progress throughout.  She knew I was struggling.  She knew I was getting worse as I went.  I had two extra hours of struggle during the race.  Muna had 2 extra hours of worrying about what might be wrong.  Then she had to wait as the medical support got my electrolytes back to a stable range.  She took care of me.  Despite the enormously positive experience with the people of Boston and their marathon, Muna was my biggest positive of the race.  Thank you, Muna.

How Do I Feel About My Race?

boston and Knoxville

My first marathon was the Knoxville Marathon in 2010. My first Boston Marathon was in 2014. Both were slow and painful. These are the ones that mean the most.

If this had been a goal race, my bad day would have been much more devastating.  To be sure, I am disappointed.   I am embarrassed by my rookie mistakes.  But it was not a goal race.  Even though I trained for the distance, the focus of my training is presently on shorter races: the 800 meters and mile.  No, it was not a goal race.  It was a victory lap.  It was a victory lap for the 4.5 years it took to go from novice to Boston.  Hence, it was not as devastating as it could have been, because I still have that progress.  I have still qualified for Boston 3 times over the last two years.

Looking ahead, I am determined to come back next year and get a sub-3 hour marathon at Boston.  I have been inching closer to sub-3 for a couple of years now.  I will take another shot at it in Savannah in November, but most of my training will still be focussing on the short races.  After Savannah, I will turn my attention to Boston without being distracted by the short races.  I will follow my safe routine.  I will bring my electrolytes.  I will conquer the Boston Marathon.  I always return to the site of a bad run to conquer it as soon as I can.

The Boston Marathon is a great race with awesome runners, and super fans.

I just had a bad day.

I shall return.

_____________

“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

Seeking Greatness as a Masters Runner: A Non-traditional Approach

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions.  Small people always do that,
but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

― Mark Twain

 In four years of training, I have managed to move myself from a sometimes runner to a locally competitive status.  I have gradually learned the advice doled out to all typical runners and some of the newer info from research.  Those things have helped me make this progress and I appreciate that.  Furthermore, I have shared those details as a running coach as well as sharing them with you through this web site and my books.

So a few months ago, however, I turned a started a new phase in my running career.  I set some unreasonable running goals for myself.  Among those goals is to run 800 meters is 1:58 or less.

Phase 1 was moving from a occasion runner to becoming competitive in my age group regionally.  It took me four years of consistent training to reach this goal.

Phase 2 is to move from solid age group competitor regionally to becoming a great masters level runner.  I fully expect it to take another four years to reach the goal of Phase 2.
To achieve my goal, I am doing some crazy stuff.  After 4 years of running 6 days a week, I am now running only 3 days each week.  No, I am not resting on the other days.  I am swimming, biking, and lifting weights.  Different folks seem to think I have gone crazy, each with their own reason.

  • Dedicated competitive runners lift weights some, but not usually for power.  I am lifting to add muscle.  That sounds crazy to some people.
  • Most people my age think that getting down to 12.7% body fat is  a crazy goal.  They think I should be satisfied.  My new goal is to get down and stay between 8% and 9% body fat all of the time.  That sounds crazy to nearly everyone.
  • Most competitive runners looking for big gains in running ability avoid other sports.  My goal is running, but I am using swimming and cycling to get to my goal.
  • I have been talking about marathons and training for them for several years and my main goal is now only 800 meters.  That takes a completely different kind of training.  Why the big switch?  It doesn’t seem to make sense.

My logic and sanity has been questioned several times lately.  My allegiance to running has also been questioned. These people have good intentions, but are not looking at the big picture.  Put the pieces together and you might be able to make sense of my strategy.

What is the big idea that underlies all of these changes and makes this strategy make sense?  Physics.  Simple physics.

  • To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.
  • Force = Mass x Acceleration
  • Inertia – An object in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon

I am a guy with a relatively big frame for a runner.  That means that even if I drop weight, I am still going to be moving more weight that elite athletes.  That means the amount of force that it takes to move me is greater than those of those elite athletes.  The result is this:  compared to elite runners of my age, I need a bigger push to get my larger frame moving up to the same speed if I am to catch them.  In short, I need more power than I have.

This is why I am training for power right now.  I am building a more powerful set of muscles.  That does not mean that I am “bulking up” but it does mean that I am gaining some muscle weight.  That brings in the body fat issue.  I have to have more muscle, but more weight means more to carry in those long distance races that I love.  The result:  I must drop body fat in order to trim my weight.  I am not starving myself.  I have to feed my body carefully to support muscle growth and speed development.  I have to lose fat only.  That is a tough trick.  I am refining my nutrition and training for this purpose.  More High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) helps to lower body fat.  It is also great for building power.  I do four workouts each week that have some form of HIIT, two in running, one in cycling, and one in swimming.

I am adding muscle power, but lowering my overall weight.  All of that is great, but why am I swimming and cycling?  That’s easy.  Because I am getting older.  No, I am nowhere near retirement, but I am 46 years old.  A ton of mileage might work for some, but it just wears me down.  Cycling and swimming both offer opportunities to train my cardiovascular system for long periods of time.  They also give me additional HIIT workouts.

The biggest difference in my new system is the wear and tear of training.  I do not believe that running wears you down more or less than cycling or swimming.  When I only did one sport, however I had a few spots that seem to always feel the wear and tear of the constant activity.  raining in all three sports distributes that wear and tear out throughout my body.  There is no one spot that is getting more sore than any other spot.

That explains everything except for the change in focus.  I was focused on marathons and half marathons, but now my focus is on training for 800 meters.  Isn’t that going to hurt my long races.  The answer is a yes and no.  Yes, in the short term the fewer miles might have a negative effect on my long races.  Before and after I achieve my 800 meter goal, however, I am going to capitalize on on of my favorite facts of fitness.

Remember This:

It is much easier to maintain your level of fitness than it is to gain it in the first place.

As I work towards breaking 1:58 in the 800 meters, I will also rotate longer runs and rides into the scheme.  I am racing in the Boston Marathon in April.  I will still have long runs that build over time.  My endurance level will be at least maintained if not improved.

After I have achieved this goal, I will maintain the speed and turn my attention towards stretching my new speed to longer distances.  I am reasonably sure that I will not run a sub-four mile, but if I run 1:58 for 800 meters that makes a 4:30 mile look very reasonable.  If I can run a 4:30 mile, then I could probably manage a 15:00 5K.  How cool would that be??

And it goes on from there all the way back to the marathon.  I will still be doing marathons throughout it all.  How fast will I run a marathon?  Who knows?  Here is what I do know: it will be faster because my power base will be stronger.  As I maintain my new power and refocus on endurance, I will become a much faster marathon runner.

A Final Word

Who am I to aspire to be great?  I believe we all have the potential for greatness. It is not specific to me. Most of us just do not believe it.   I do not believe that I have anything more special about me than you do.  What makes me different is that I have begun to believe.

Remember This:

When you believe there is greatness in you, you are right. 
You must find a way to allow that greatness to shine so bright
that it become a light for others.

To my nay-sayers, just know this.  I have a plan.  There is a solid reason for everything in my plan.  It is not traditional because I am not in a traditional spot.  I am not starting in my youth and gradually building to peak performance in my twenties or thirties.  I started this training at age 42.  I am half way through and I expect to peak at around age 50.  I have seen no other plan for becoming a great runner at a late age.  I had to create my own plan.

As the plan unfolds, I will keep you posted about my progress.

If you want to see my daily workouts, I always post them on Facebook and Twitter.

I will also write a book based on my findings of what worked and what did not for taking a good masters level runner to becoming even better.

Until we meet again…

“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

Getting Into the Best Shape of My Life

A few months ago I set a few Unreasonable Running Goals that are even faster than I ran back in the day.  Among other unreasonable goals, I want to run 800 meters in 1:58.

My goal is overarching goal is to reach some of the same benchmarks that I reached back in my prime.  I have been working towards this goals for several years.  I am not competing with anyone else.  I am competing with myself.  I am working towards being in the best shape of my life.

At my first athletic peak…

  • I consistently ran 1600 meter races (about a mile) in 4:45.
  • I ran 3200 meters in 10:17.
  • I ran a half marathon in 1:20:48.
  • I could bench press 150% of my weight.

I thought I would be a great marathoner by the time I hit 21 or 22 years old, but I got sidetracked with an injury that wouldn’t go away.  I could not run on a regular basis.

I have worked hard in the last several years.  I have also worked smart.  I learned as much as I could about running and applied everything that made sense.  I have faced a few bouts of injury and illness, but I have made good progress.

Unfortunately, in my 6 month illness due to gluten sensitivity, I had become quite weak.  I thought my long distance muscles were fine since I was still getting faster.  I learned recently that this is not the case.  Even though I can run fast, my legs were weak.  I just had no idea because I had not challenged them.  Without noticing, I had stopped doing things that required strength.

This was revealed to me about a month ago when I was challenged by Muna to cross-train more, to build more strength to support the running muscles.  I had been resisting this idea for quite some time.  I was putting everything I had into running.  I had some soreness in my legs most of the time.  I loved my run training and racing, but it was taking everything I had.  How could I ask my body for more?

I tried a little weightlifting and injured my knees in the first week.  I had only used weights that I thought were quite small.  I had been running and doing push-ups and pull-ups on a regular basis, so I thought I was at least okay with tiny weights.  No.  I should have started the exercises with no weights and gradually added a few pounds at a time.

Even though the injury was caused by weightlifting and not running, I was able to lift weights but not able to run for the month of December.  I used that dilemma to begin cross-training hard.  I lifted weights.  I swam several miles each week.  After a couple of weeks, I was able to work on the elliptical machine.  At that point, I was also able to do more and more leg exercises.  Throughout December, I challenged every part of my body to get a little stronger.  I started moving towards a more balanced fitness.

Yesterday, I reached a milestone.  It was both exciting and humbling:  I bench-pressed my own weight.  For some, this may sound like quite an accomplishment.  For me, it is a huge slice of humble pie. It felt like starting over.  I was the 98 pound weakling from Jr High all over again.   I am nowhere near the best shape of my life in terms of strength, but I am improving.  I will get there.

This season of injury has given me the chance to have the rest of my body catch up with my running mechanisms.

  • I want to be a more balanced athlete.
  • I want to be strong, but not big.
  • I want to run even faster.
  • I want to jump high.
  • I want to remain injury free and enjoy the ride.

Over the last several years I have set many goals.  Some goals I have exceeded.  Some goals I have failed to meet over and over.

Greatness is not determined by how fast you run.  Its training.  Doing what others are unwilling to do.  Failing, failing, and eventually succeeding.

I know that persistence makes champions, so I keep trying.

“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

How to Make an Effective New Year’s Resolution (Goal)

wise running logo 7_25_122014 is a new year;
don’t make the same old resolutions. 

Change your mind.
Change your life.

The most common New Year’s resolutions are to lose weight and exercise more.  Unfortunately, those two resolutions usually fade off into the land of broken promises by the time February rolls around.  These two resolutions are well-intended but doomed to failure for several reasons.

A resolution must be a goal.  To be an effective goal, it must be specific, measurable, and have a timeline.

Remember This

If you aim for nothing, you will surely achieve your goal!

Bad Resolution 1 – “This year I will lose weight.”

Problems:

    • What will you do to lose weight?
    • How much weight?
    • When?

Improved Resolution 1 “This year I will lose 3 pounds each month by drinking water instead of my usual soda.”

Bad Resolution 2  – “This year I will get exercise more.”

Problems:

    • What kind of exercise?
    • How much?
    • When?
    • Will you do it all at once or gradually add more time/distance/reps/classes?

Improved Resolution 2  – “This year I will do at least 1 hour sessions of cardio exercise three times each week.  I will start in January with 1 group fitness course and gradually add courses, reaching 3 courses per week by July.”

Remember This

If you can’t say why a change is important to accomplish,
then your efforts are wasted and may even be dangerous!

Bad Resolution 3 –  “This year I will increase my weekly mileage.”

Problems:

  • Why? How will it help?
  • How much mileage is helpful and beneficial for your fitness and goals?
  • Will you make gradually increases or big jumps?
  • When?

Improved Resolution 3 – “This year I will increase my weekly mileage from 20 miles each week to abut 35 in preparation for marathons.  I will track this during my spring and fall marathon training schedules, which will gradually increase weekly mileage by ten percent or less.  My mileage will be lower in the weeks between training schedules.”

Yes, this last one got pretty specific, but there is a reason.  It gives enough specifics to know what to do, when to do it, and how to know if you are accomplishing the goal.  It also allows for time to rest the legs a bit and rekindle the love for running.

Remember This

A resolution that is a burden physically or emotionally is unlikely to be kept.
A resolution kept should improve your quality of life.

 

As for me, here is my very specific resolution for 2014:

I resolve to decrease my running mileage from 40 down to 20 per week while increasing my weekly time spent on cardio exercise and strength training until it reach 10 hours.

  • I will gradually move my cardio time (including running) from 5.5 to 8.5 hours per week increasing the weekly total by 15 minutes each week until it is accomplished.
  • My running time has already dropped due to injury, so the goal will be to gradually increase this time by about 10 minutes per week, until I reach 3 hours again.
  • I will include at least three strength training sessions each week, a minimum of 30 minutes each.
  • The remainder of the cardio time will be achieved through a balance of swimming and cycling.

I could make a resolution about eating more veggies, but this is my constant battle.  Every year.  Every week. Every day.  :)

Final Thoughts…

Make resolutions you are willing to stick with for at least 3 years.
If you are not willing to go 3 years, then you will not last 3 months.

Will power and motivation, as most people understand them,
are emotions that do not stay constant.
Resolve and determination are there no matter how you feel.
Base your fitness decisions on them and you will march on to your goals.

2014 is a new year; 
don’t make the same old resolutions. 
Change your mind.
Change your life.

_____________

“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