Archive for the 'The Zen of Training' Category

Daddy needs a quiet house! 12Apr08




Nothing stifles jovial, pre-Boston excitement like spending an afternoon wrangling with arcane tax forms. For me, the complexities of the modern tax code bring the minimalism of running into stark relief.

Running is wonderfully, refreshingly, delightfully simple.

Thank goodness.

- Dean

The Inevitable Interim Post 10Apr08


The blog thing fascinates me. But I’ve never been one to care much about running’s day-to-day trivialities. I’ve never been tempted to write a mundane diary for you.

I could offer the predictable training report, listing the miles I ran today (ten) and where I ran those miles (trails). I could tell you how many miles I’ve run so far this week (twenty-eight). But I won’t bore you with that. That’s worse than a recap of trail conditions (mostly dry with some mud – and wow, the gross puddle in the marsh remains massive). Of course, I might offer an excuse for low mileage like, “I’m tapering for Boston” but you wouldn’t likely find that compelling. Who knows? Maybe you’d suspect me of sandbagging.

I’ll refrain from calmly reporting that the blister on my left big toe is healing nicely. I’ll say nothing of the twinge I felt in my IT Band today. Neither will I share my concern that my Gore-Tex Inov8 Roclite 318 GTX shoes have only a few more miles left on them. And you certainly wouldn’t care that I need new socks. At Zero To Boston, you’ll never read a word about gastro-intestinal distress or chaffing. No, you deserve better.

This space is reserved for weightier subjects; for real drama.

- D

The Train! The Train! 03Jul07

The Train!

I’ve begun working toward my autumn BQ attempt. Time to beat myself to a pulp for the privilege of doing it again in Boston next April 21st: Only 293 days away.

A mere 96 days separate me from my qualifying race, the Steamtown Marathon. A small race held on October 7th, Steamtown is hosted by the lovely blue collar town of Scranton, Pennsylvania. You may know it as the home of Dunder-Mifflin and the inimitable Dwight Schrute. It’s located in Lackawanna County, possibly an ill omen for an endurance race.

Marathon training has a natural ebb and flow. Sometimes you’ve got enough glycogen stores to sink a battleship. Other days, getting out of bed represents a major victory. When things go well, you feel as if you’ll ride the wave all the way to Boston.

That’s how I felt today.

This morning, I ran a challenging 7.5 mile hilly route (locally nicknamed “The Alps”). Typically, one merely survives this run. But today I had energy to spare.

When in attack mode, the last thing you want is an unplanned interruption. But that’s just what I got, and it seriously rubbed my rhubarb.

On the second-to-last hill, I encountered an inconveniently stalled train. I’ve got nothing against trains as a rule, but this one blocked my path completely. I could only turn back or cut my run short. What was an endorphin-hyped Pfitzinger disciple to do?

With only the briefest hesitation, I climbed onto the train and made my way through a gap in the cars, bounding off to the other side of the tracks. I felt like a juvenile delinquent and found the sensation… strangely agreeable. I used this unseemly psychological boost to propel myself up the hill.

Remember children; do as I say, not as I do.

I can’t recommend train hopping, but the resulting speed boost proved intoxicating, on par with the vehicular near-miss. Any boring recovery run can be transformed into a solid tempo session when the occasional car strays too close. The effect is better than that achieved when discussing religion or politics during a workout.

I once ran with a guy who got hit by a car, but continued running. It was his best 20 miler ever. I ate his adrenaline-powered dust.

This has got me thinking. Perhaps someone can arrange an “incident” on October 7th at roughly 9:30am in the area of West Lackawanna Avenue, Scranton. I’ll be wearing black shorts and a red shirt.

With such assistance, I might make it to Boston this time. I can just see Ricardo Montalbán in full Mr. Roarke regalia welcoming me to Hopkinton…

Smiles everyone! Smiles!

- Dean
White Space

Shine on. 04Jan07

Over an hour before the crack of dawn, it’s typically pitch dark. A full moon however, can often provide decent light. Yesterday, the moonlight was astonishingly bright. Everything glowed.

My friend and I usaully wear geeky runner headlamps to see in the dark. This time however, such gadgetry was not needed. The gravel road leading to the trails was illuminated powerfully. Long shadows were cast by trees and we could more than easily see our way.

moonlight on the trails

Around one bend, the sky was utterly dominated by the moon. The road was positively showered with light. We had to squint. The moon recedes from the earth at a rate of four centimeters per year. It’s getting farther away all the time. You could hardly have convinced me of that me of that yesterday.

How could we resort to headlamps once the road gave way to the darker trails? Artificial light would sully this sublime experience. We’d lose the beauty of the moment by polluting it with our high tech presence.

Reluctantly, we lit up and entered the trails. Twenty yards in, I thought better of it and turned off my headlamp. It was quite dark, but the ambient moonlight made the trails navigable. I instantly felt at peace with the run; at peace with myself. The moonlight filled the quiet, pre-dawn trails with something like a still reverence. I ran feeling distinctly alive, enjoying the trails as perhaps I never have. Running felt easy, carefree, effortless. Potentially breaking my face on a dark trail seemed a small price to pay.

I bristled at the thought of sunrise. My only regret was that I didn’t wake up earlier and run longer. I prefer sardonic wit to reflective prose, but I’ve got nothing ironic to offer about this run.

On Wednesday morning, the moon shone, and I enjoyed it immensely while it lasted.

The Mysterious Marathon 29Nov06

My first attempt at Boston is imminent. I’m not exactly freaking out yet, but I’m close. If checking the weather forecast every ten minutes ten days before the race is an indication of neurosis, then I’m there.

Incidentally, December 9th in Kiawah (as of 6:50pm today) should feature a low of 43 and high of 59 with mostly sunny skies.

As a child, anxiety dreams manifested themselves in the mundane “I went to school in my underwear” genre. In College, it was “The final exam is today? I haven’t even cracked a book!” Now, I dream of getting lost during a race, being late to a race, or just plain missing the race entirely. In the hazy moments between sleeping and waking, this can feel dreadfully real.

In theory, I should be just fine. I’ve trained hard, diligently following Rick’s Autumn of Pain (© 2006) training regimen (Adapted from Pete Pfitzinger’s program). I’m injury-free, and most importantly, feel satisfied with the color of my shoes. I’ve done pace runs, long runs, short runs, strides, Yasso work, modified longer VO2max work, tempo runs, trail runs, and races. I’ve run in the rain, in the mountains, on a treadmill, in the morning, afternoon, and the middle of the night. I even have the geeky runner’s headlamp to prove it.

The headlamp gives you power, speed, and endurance... really.

According to Guy Avery’s marathon predictor, (based on various factors including most recent ½ marathon time) I’ve got a decent shot at my goal (3:15). I feel strong, I’m really enjoying this taper thing, and I’m determined to run a disciplined race. I should be all set, right?

But that’s the thing about the marathon. It’s a mystery.

I’ve never gone as fast as I’ll go on December 9th at Kiawah. I don’t yet know what will happen after mile 20 (when the race really begins). I don’t really know about the weather, or if I’ll wake up on the right side of the bed. Until the race is over, I won’t know.

But you know, I sort of like that about the marathon.

Until then, I’ll take what dreams may come.
White Space

I am so tired. 20Oct06

Okay, so I’m training for the Kiawah Marathon on December 9th. This will be my first attempt at qualifying for Boston. In runner’s parlance, I’m looking for a “BQ” at Kiawah. I’m nearing the end of a long training cycle, and I’m just beat. I’m sincerely jealous of the 18+ hours my cats sleep everyday.

Rhombus the cat sleeps almost perpetually.

In the past week, I’ve run a PR (Personal Record) in the ½ marathon (Governor’s Cup), done a VO2 Max 6×800 track workout, and did a 12-mile run with 7.5 miles at marathon pace (for me, 7:20/mile). Oh yeah, I run 21 miles tomorrow.

At this stage, I’m told, fatigue is normal. It’s all part of the dues you pay. Fame costs; and right here’s where you start paying, in your precious vitality.

Dean's week: 10-14-06 to 10-21-06

I’ve also heard you should sleep an extra minute each night for every mile you run during the week. Since I average between 55 and 65 miles per week, apparently I need an extra hour every night. But it’s not like I’m sleep-deprived. I get up between 5:30am and 6:30am. I do a combination of running and working, and get home at about 6:30pm to spend time with Angie and my children. By the time the kids are in bed, it’s past 8pm and I’m toast. By 9:30pm, I’m falling asleep with a cat, watching the World Series of Poker while convincing myself I am not incredibly lame.

Put it this way, if you want something productive out of me, you better get it before 8pm.