Saturday, December 20, 2014

Things Are Coming Along Nicely

Tina & Nicole, Chadd & Michelle, and Michael & me at the KC Multisport
Christmas Party last night - I always feel like a loser around triathletes because all I do is run
I think I'm back.  Back to exactly what level?  Who knows.  But after a very solid 20 miler last Saturday, and an 18 miler this morning that was affirmation of the previous run, I feel like things might actually be back to normal with my running.

This morning's long run was 18 miles at 7:19 average overall pace.  It was smooth.  It was fairly even paced.  And at the risk of sounding overly confident or haughty ... there was not one single thing that was difficult about the run at that pace!  That was the most encouraging part.  I really never felt like I was pushing it, even when the pace got down toward 7:00.

In late August, I felt like I was probably the fastest I've ever been, and in pretty good shape overall.  But when I fell of the wagon there for a while, I was not only amazed at how much fitness I lost ... but how immediately it went away.  It seemed almost like overnight.

Great picture of my family earlier this week at a stop at Crown Center
during our Plaza Lights Limo Ride - man, I love these people!
At Thanksgiving, I really recommitted to overall body health and fitness again.  I began my Core 5 program, and started the Runner's World 36 Days of Awesome Challenge, where you run at least one mile every day from Thanksgiving to New Years Day.  I'm not a big "run everyday" guy, but at that time I needed some motivation, and it worked.  Since Turkey Day, I've been consistent with core strengthening, and have really worked with upper body and leg strengthening as well.  Plus, I've put together a few good Tempo Runs.  I'll probably start a little Speed Work in a couple of weeks.  And best of all, I think I've actually lost about 5 pounds, in spite of the holidays!

We have a Half-Marathon in Springfield two days after Christmas next Saturday.  I scheduled it with the thought of using it as a bench mark for my training.  It will be really interesting to find out exactly how fast I am right now.  I don't think I'm below a 1:30 half, but I probably should be close.  We'll see I guess.

More than anything, it's just good to feel like I'm back in shape. I don't feeling like I have for the past couple of months.  I like the feeling of being able to go out and run 20+ miles any week of the year.  I know that's ambitious, but things just go better in my training when I bulk up on the miles a little. And based on the long runs I've had in consecutive weekends now, I should be able to start adding a little up-tempo pace after the first of the year, hopefully for a fast early-Spring marathon in Phoenix.  But for now, I'm just gonna enjoy the positive progress!
... be great today!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Miracle

The title of this post might be over-stating things a little, but not much.  On Tuesday night, Michael and I got some great news that drastically changed everything in our lives for the better.  Here's why ...

As most of you know, both of Michael's parents passed away in September only 18 days apart.  Among other things, her mother suffered from liver disease, and her father developed pancreatic cancer.  However both parents were also diagnosed with Hepatitis C a few years ago, which is an infectious disease that attacks the liver and can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure.  After quite a bit of reading and research, we found that many in the baby-boomer generation carry Hepatitis C of some varying degree.  In fact a few years ago the CDC issued a statement encouraging all baby-boomers to have Hep C screening completed.  Furthermore, many in the medical community believe we will see a drastic increase in cases in the coming years, possibly nearing epidemic proportions.

Michael, her sisters, and the rest of the family were very aware of the parents' Hep C condition, but were informed that it could only be spread by blood to blood contact.  We were all careful and conscious of extra hand-washing etc., when we visited New Mexico to take care of them, but doctors assured the family there was way less than a 1% chance of anyone contracting it while providing assistance in their last days.   

To be on the safe side, Michael and her sister had blood work performed to check for the virus after their parents passed.  Both of Michael's sisters' tests came back negative, but Michael tested positive for Hepatitis C.  We were shocked and devastated and didn't understand how she could have contracted it based on the slim percentages.  In what was the toughest time emotionally for Michael, due to the passing of her parents, she was now apparently Hepatitis C positive. This was a potentially life changing discovery, and we both were filled with confusion and fear of what the future would hold.

We immediately began researching treatments and scheduled a meeting with a Heptologist.  He confirmed that her antibodies in the first test indicated that she was most likely positive, but further blood work was needed to confirm.  So she completed the blood work, and then we waited.  Based on her conversation with the doctor, Hepatitis C was eminent and we were going to have to choose between treatment options, some of which can be very aggressive, similar in nature to chemotherapy that cancer patients receive.

But last night, on the way to our Christmas Lights Limo Ride, she received a call from the doctors office ... all of the secondary tests came back NEGATIVE!!!  She was given a 100% clean bill of health and they said there was no sign of the Hepatitis C virus.  It was the best phone call ever!

The timing of the initial tests just came at an unbelievably cruel time in our lives when Michael was very much still mourning the loss of her parents.  She still misses them dearly, and will for some time, but the "Christmas Miracle" of a negative test will certainly help make things a little easier, and I couldn't be happier and more relieved for her.
... be great today! 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

First 20 Mile Report

I completed my first 20 mile run of this marathon cycle on Saturday, and overall I was fairly happy with the results.  It obviously wasn't a record breaker by any means, but I got through it relatively smoothly, at a nice relaxed pace.  Minus the bathroom break I took at mile 9, the overall pace was 7:36, including water stops.  However, 9 of the last 10 miles were at 7:23 average pace.

I was mostly pleased because I intentionally ran this one a little slower, trying to keep the pace around 7:30, which overall I basically did.  The downside of the run was my legs got incredibly tired at mile 14 and I really had to focus on getting through it.  It wasn't like "marathon hard", but definitely more difficult than it should have been.  Also, for the first time in a long time I had some stomach issues.  Not like "I gotta find a restroom STAT" or anything, just a little trouble settling my stomach from the beginning until the end of the run.  I ate a little more than normal before the run and I'm certain that was the problem.  Typically I'll just have a banana and a few dry steel cut oats.  But this morning I ate a banana, Stinger wafer, about a cup of dry steel cut oats, two beet juice shots, and a gel immediately before the run.  I just felt way too full right out of the chute.

But even with the minor stomach issues, I would give the run a solid B-, especially considering where I'm at right now.  My legs are still not nearly strong enough for a marathon, my endurance is shotty at best, and I'm a little over race weight at about 178 - not heavy, by any standard, but I like to race at about 170-172.  But it's so hard to lose weight in the winter.  I'll keep working at it with more total body workouts, but it was definitely a good building block for the Phoenix Marathon at the end of February.  Have a great weekend!
Be the one.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Winter Warm Up

Fire display near the skating rink at Town Center Plaza in Leawood, KS
I really don't enjoy winter.  Given the choice of 30 consecutive days of 0 or 100 degrees ... I'll always take the one that makes you sweat.  Although, a month of either would be dreadful.  But if I'm going to avoid, or miss a run, it's typically because of blustery winter conditions.  Oh with the layers, and the hats, and the gloves, and the checking for wind direction ... it' ridiculous.

But this winter I committed to myself to run every run outside.  And, so far so good!  I haven't ran inside yet.  I'm sure there will be an unbearable day here or there that forces me inside, but if at all possible, I'm running under the sky.  I'm not a treadmill hater like some of y'all, but I just think you get a much better workout outdoors.

Today's conditions weren't bad at all, 29 degrees with only 4 mph wind, but about 96% humidity, so the "feels like" was about 24.  I got in a good Tempo run that averaged a 6:42 pace over 7 miles, with three additional miles for warm up and cool down, for 10 overall.  And the 5 middle miles were below 6:30.  The pace wasn't as easy as it was this past summer, but golly, I sure hope I'm not "months away" from being able to repeat this pace during another workout.

So far, my 2015 marathon training has been "warming up" quite nicely.  I'm pretty happy with how soon I got back up to speed.  Now I just have to keep building my base and then whittle the speed down a little more as I near the end of February - but that's a long ways away.  The plan is to add mile per week to my Tempo runs, to get the mileage to about 16-18 miles at Tempo pace as we near the race, although that's probably a little ambitious.  Right now I'd just be happy to hold the pace for 10 miles.

In winters past, I would acquiesce to running inside until it warmed up a little.  It just seemed like a necessary requirement for living in the Midwest.  But as long as it doesn't get excruciatingly cold, I plan on pushing through outdoors until Spring.  And hopefully by then, I'll be ready for my fastest marathon ever ... that is if my legs aren't frostbitten.  Have a great week!
Be the one.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

"Still In The Murder B'ness"

After a pretty good early 2014, that soon turned disastrous with a lot of personal family tragedy, I was really beginning to wonder if my fastest days were behind me.  Of course running naturally took a backseat during those days. Plus, I'm turning 46 years old next week, and I just don't know how much faster my legs can go.

But let me proudly proclaim here an now ... IN 2015 I WILL KILL IT!  I make no apologies for announcing loud and clear that I plan on making next year the fastest version of me ever.  I WILL murder my 5K time and maybe finally run in the 17's. I WILL slaughter my half-marathon mark in pursuit of my goal of 1:25.  And I truly believe I can PR in February at the Phoenix Marathon.  When I'm finished ... there will be only a trail of previous personal bests lifeless on the ground surrounded by a white chalk outline.  Mark it down.

Why so confident you ask?  Well, for starters I had a great 16 mile run today that I'm still pumped from ten hours later.  I averaged a 7:12 overall pace even with two potty breaks, and multiple water stops, all without stopping the clock in 35 degree damp windy weather.  Plus I ran the middle 13.1 miles at about 1:30, which would have been a pretty decent stand alone half-marathon time.  I just felt so free, and light, and fast again.  It was a huge confidence booster.  Here were the splits ...

8:19   8:29   7:33   8:04   7:04   7:12   7:00   6:44   7:04   6:39   7:07   6:45   6:49   6:37   6:26   7:36

Secondly, I've recommitted myself to overall body strengthening.  I think I run better when I'm strong and healthy from head to toe.  Last year I backed off the upper body workouts and it really seemed to have an adverse affect, even though I thought it would help conserve energy.  I'm going back to my old training habits in 2015.

And thirdly ... because I'm small like this ... one of my blog followers decided to run his mouth about my speed and ability in a recent race and it really motivated me.  I know that's petty and ridiculous of me, and he probably didn't mean anything by it - but the first time I qualified for Boston, I used motivation from one of Michael's coworkers who said I would never qualify because "I ran too many marathons".  I've qualified five more times since and he can shove all six up his ass!  Yes, I'm incredibly insecure and simplistic like that, but sometimes it just takes one little doubting or disparaging comment to get me going.  So thank you sir, I'll think about your ignorant words all Spring.

I have twelve weeks until Phoenix and I plan on getting faster than I've ever been.  I'm recommitted and refocused and WILL make it my best year ever.  Yeah, like everyone I'm getting older, but days like today make me feel like I'm aging backwards.  So bring it 2015 ... nobody's seen the best me yet.
... Be the one!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

All About That Base

Bent over a little at the waist because I'm fat and out of shape
with no core support at the 2014 Ward Parkway Thanksgiving 5K
Yes grammar police ... I realize I spelled "base" differently than the hit song "All About That Bass".  And while I certainly appreciate the "bass" Meghan Trainor is singing about (and yes Michael, specifically one "bass"), I'm referring to BASE ... as in this weekend I kicked off BASE building mode for my Spring marathon.  But seriously, I am all about that bass ... wink.

It's been a while since I've trained for a marathon.  Moreover, with all that's happened in our lives this Fall, I've really kind of fallen off the running bandwagon.  So Michael and I scheduled a Spring trip to Phoenix to attend 2015 Baseball Spring Training (actually I'll be going to games and she'll be sunning herself by the pool), and also to run the Phoenix Marathon.  It's supposed to be a really fast marathon in hopefully warm February desert air.

After not running farther than 13 miles in the past 60 days, I was able to throw together a long run of 15 miles on Saturday at a 7:40 average pace.  I'll use that as my current benchmark.  Plus, I'm still among the breathing so it didn't kill me like I thought it might.  It was tough, but I didn't stop the clock for a water stops or  a bathroom break, so I was probably closer to 7:30 overall.  It's definitely something to build on.

More than anything I've just felt unmotivated to run lately, so hopefully focusing on a marathon will light a fire.  Plus, for a little challenge, and to help build  my mileage base back up, I decided to do the Runner's World 36 Days Of Awesome.  Basically you have to run at least a mile everyday between Thanksgiving and New Years Day.  My plan at this point is to run at least five everyday, but I'll probably needed a day off here or there, so I might just do one some days.

I've never ran every single day for an extended period of time.  I know a lot of people do it, but I've always taken at least one day off per week, and two days over the last couple of years.  I just think it's better to give the body a little rest and allow the muscles to heal, especially as we age.  But it will be interesting to find out how hard it is.

I don't have any huge speed goals for the Phoenix Marathon at this point, although in the back of my mind I would like to qualify for Boston again.  But more than anything, I just want to finish and have a good race.  So here's to kicking off marathon training once more and getting back at it. I hope your training's going well - have a great week!  Booty - booty!
... be great today!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

I Demand A Recount! Thanksgiving Day 5K

Ward Parkway Thanksgiving Day 5K
November 27, 2014
Kansas City, MO
Temperature: 26 degrees, 4 mph wind
Runners: 2,680
SWAG: Long-sleeve shirt & pumpkin pie
Turkey Throw-Down winning time ... 20:00
My finishing time ... 20:01
Yes, the turkey beat me by one second, undoubtedly the clock was a little out of calibration, ha

"Don't come back to the car if you get beat by a turkey!" was the last thing Michael said to me before we parted ways for the Ward Parkway Thanksgiving Day 5K.  I thought she was surely kidding, but based on the amount of ridicule she gave me after the race, I'm not quite sure.  The event has become our annual Thanksgiving morning tradition, and is ran on beautiful (and somewhat hilly) Ward Parkway, at the Ward Parkway Mall in Kansas City, Missouri.  It's our favorite holiday race by far and one we look forward to every year.

And as a special treat this year, Ashley, our niece joined us for the chilly run.  At about 26 degrees at 9:00 am, it was the coldest Thanksgiving 5K that we've ran together.  But since there was no wind, it wasn't too bad.  It just takes longer to get my old legs loose and stay warm when the weather's cooler. Plus, it was cloudy, which always makes it seem colder than it actually is.

Pumpkin pie for all finishers at the 2014 Ward Parkway Thanksgiving Day 5K, 
and AWESOME handmade ceramic medal for First Place in 45-49 Age Group ... one of my favorites ever!!!
Also this year, the race featured a Turkey Throw-Down.  Sound ominous, right!  Anyone who beat Ward The Turkey (a guy running in a turkey costume) ... and finished in less than 20 minutes, was the winner of the Turkey Throw-Down and received a special shirt at the finish line.  Based on my current lack of conditioning, I had serious doubts as to whether I could run a 5K in less than 20 minutes.  I thought I would be close, but the Ward Parkway course is downhill for the first mile, and then an incline for the remaining two.  If the race were flat, I thought I could probably run around 19, but with the rolling hills I wasn't sure.

After about a 25 minute warm-up, the gun sounded and I settled into a comfortable downhill pace of 6:15 or so.  I really wasn't pushing it, and I was surprised at how easy the pace felt.  In warmer weather, I think I could have easily been close to 6:00 for the first mile, but on Thursday, I hit the first marker at 6:18 ... not bad.

Mile Two begins basically a two mile grind of an overall gradual incline, mixed with rolling hills.  I knew that to come in under 20 minutes, I had to be at 6:27, so I started doing the math in my head.  I was basically 9 seconds fast on the first split, which meant I could dial it back a little on the second mile, which I did.  The middle mile of this race is all uphill.  It's a gradual uphill, but it wears on you. I felt great as I slowed my pace a little and thought I was handling the run fairly easily.  But at the marker, my split was 6:32 ... which now meant I had to hump it a little.

Somewhere during Mile Three, the previous months of little-to-no conditioning ... and ABSOLUTELY no uphill running ... took it's toll.  I was really beginning to suck wind.  Plus, as I neared the final turn, about a quarter mile from the finish line, I saw Ward The Turkey about 200 meters in front of me.  I was losing to the Turkey!  This harsh reality made me really begin to dig a little.  I was starting to feel a little gassed, even thought the pace was much slower than a typical 5K.

As we came over the last hill for the final downhill stretch of the race, I could see the finish line clock in the distance.   I figured that my finishing time was probably going to be around a respectable 19:40 or so ... but as I watched the seconds tick away, I could tell I was right up against 20 minute Turkey Throw-Down cutoff, and I started to sprint.  As I started to hit my final stride, I could see that I was closing in on Ward The Turkey ... but he crossed the line right in front of me as the clock hovered around 20 minutes.  We'll get the race photos in a couple of days, and I hope I'm crossing the finish line with a turkey ... THAT would be awesome!

I figured that I came in right under the qualifying time, and a lady at the finish line said congratulations and handed me a Turkey Throw-Down shirt that read "I Burned The Turkey", haha, pretty funny.  I got a drink, grabbed the pumpkin pie that all finishers received, ran to the car to change clothes, and then came back to the finish line area to wait for Michael and Ashley.  While I waited, I went over to the results table and started laughing as soon as I saw my results ...

"JAMES WEATHERLY ... 1st Place/45-49 ... 20:01"

... ONE SECOND ... the turkey had actually beaten me by one lousy second.  Michael was never going to let me live this down.  Plus, I had actually collected a Turkey Throw-Down winner's shirt for a challenge I hadn't completed.  I thought about giving it back but it was already in the car ... so I kept it, ha.  But I DID win my Age Group and get the most awesome hand made ceramic medal ever.  It looks like an ash tray with a turkey stamped on the inside.  Only the first place winners got the "medal" so it was really awesome!  Plus, I got a $25 gift card to Gary Gribble Running Store, so now I guess I'm actually classified as a pro since I got paid, ha.

All in all I wasn't upset that a turkey beat me, I was just disappointed that my fitness level has dropped to the point that I can't run a sub 20 in a 5K.  I mean, just this past summer I ran an 18:21, and felt like I could have ran close to 18 a month later.  Undoubtedly on a flat course it would have been no trouble to come in under 20 today, but that's no excuse.  The bottom line is that I've got to get my lazy butt going again and get back in shape ... right after I finish this delicious pie! Be thankful for everything wonderful in your life today!  And ...
... be great today!