I always hope that the last week or two before a race will be tranquil.

I have visions of heading into a race feeling fully rested, relaxed, hydrated, and confident.

How many times has that happened?

Once.

Ironically enough, I wound up having my worst race ever (the Run For Justice) when I headed into a race feeling great about everything. I do recall that my foot did hurt a bit the day before that run, but I do remember heading into the race feeling well-rested, stress-free, and excited.

If history repeats itself, then I’m shaping up to have a fantastic half marathon on Sunday at the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, because last week was a heckuva week! Read the rest of this entry

Have you entered my giveaway for 2 tickets to the VIP Brunch at the Cleveland Marathon? Click here for the post and be sure to enter by Tuesday, May 14th at 11:59PM!

After two great training runs during the week, I was stoked for my weekend long run! I was prepared to go 9.5 miles, which would be a 1 mile increase from the distance of the long runs that I had conquered over the past two weeks.

While I enjoy the tranquility and peacefulness of the Towpath, I figured that having at least one run on the final part of the Cleveland Marathon course would be helpful. Additionally, familiarity can often breed contempt, and I’ll need to get in multiple runs on the Towpath throughout the summer as I prepare for the Towpath 10-10 in June and the Towpath Marathon in October. In order to guard against getting bored with the Towpath, I decided to head downtown for my long run. Read the rest of this entry

After another stressful week last week, we headed out of town for a much-needed getaway. Although we weren’t gone for a long period of time, we were blessed with an enjoyable and relaxing trip! I’ll put up a post about our trip within the near future so that all of you can see that there’s more to my life than running and showing off Butters more fervently than most parents show off their kids.

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My bride and my Butters

Many of you who know me in real life know that I have a love-hate relationship with my phone. While I enjoy being able to make last-minute fantasy football lineup changes after church on Sunday (contrary to popular belief, I don’t do it during the service itself!) and am grateful to be able to access email at all times, I absolutely hate talking on the phone, especially when it involves matters that can be dealt with via text or email. Nevertheless, I never put my phone on silent unless I’m at the movies. Why not? I’m my mom’s only son, and I want to be there for her if she needs to reach me in an emergency.

However, one of the reasons for going on this getaway was so that Sheila could escape work-related stress, so after her phone happily died 10 minutes after we were out of town, I decided to put mine on silent for the duration of the weekend. We work at the same organization and our jobs often intersect, and I wanted to make sure that she was kept unaware of anything that occurred at work while we were on our getaway. Although I did periodically check my phone, I didn’t spend much time on it at all.

Of course, this meant that I didn’t find out about the tragedy in Boston until I got home and was beginning to prepare for the 7 mile training run on the books for the week. Read the rest of this entry

I’ve never been much of a comics guy, which probably explains why I didn’t like The Avengers very much (I feel like a bad Clevelander saying that!) and why I was completely lost during the X-Men movies.

However, the one comic strip that I have consistently enjoyed throughout my life is Calvin and Hobbes, and the title of this post is a homage to one of the compilations of Calvin and Hobbes cartoons that I still have somewhere in my mom’s house. My mom used to leave funny Calvin and Hobbes cartoons along with notes for me when I got home from school, and I still enjoy the strip to this day. While I understand Bill Watterson’s desire for privacy, I would love to see a Calvin and Hobbes movie during my lifetime!

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Although I definitely am grateful for the benefits of adulthood, I would be lying if I said that I never wished to be able to take a trip back in time to the days when I was Calvin’s age. These past few weeks have been packed with a variety of stress in just about every aspect of our lives. Hence, I completely dropped the ball on blogging about Week 5 of training. One picture will explain why: Read the rest of this entry

Much of the focus of my previous training blogs has been on my weekly long runs. This is understandable. After all, the point of training for a half marathon is to gradually increase one’s distance, and anyone who’s ever prepared for a race knows that the rewarding feeling that one gets after they successfully knock out their weekly long run and know that they are one step closer to their goal cannot adequately be described in words.

That said, success on long runs is simply unattainable if one doesn’t adhere to their training plan during the week. I had two really great training runs during the week, and I’d like to focus on one of them.

Why am I focusing on a 3.5 mile run even though I knocked out 6 brutal, windy miles in downtown Cleveland on Sunday?

6.01 miles in 59:02 - not bad considering downtown Cleveland's omnipresent wind and the fact that the incline on the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge was deceptively difficult!

6.01 miles in 59:02 – not bad considering downtown Cleveland’s omnipresent wind and the fact that the incline on the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge was deceptively difficult!

I’m doing so because I want to encourage all of us—especially those of us during the half marathon—to keep following our training plans even though training could possibly be turning into a bit of a drag at this point in the midst of Cleveland’s impossibly long winter. Although running these shorter runs may not provide us with the same adrenaline rush that knocking out a new distance may provide, I’ve learned that these runs can teach me some very important lessons about running and be unexpectedly refreshing as well!

Read the rest of this entry

I celebrated my 32nd birthday last Monday, and I headed into last week believing that it would be a relatively light week because Tri-C was on spring break. I had visions of writing up several non-training related blogs and catching up on other work that needs to be addressed at my other job as well.

Sheila and I at my birthday dinner (photo taken by our good friend Stephanie)

Sheila and I at my birthday dinner (photo taken by our good friend Stephanie)

Man, was I wrong. Last week turned out to be one of the busiest weeks in months.

For decades (I can say that now because I’m well into my 30s, right?), I allowed fitness to fall by the wayside on these types of weeks. Fortunately, though, those days are over. Although I was tempted to take a mulligan on my training plan multiple times, I powered forward with each of my runs and cross-training walks. I’m glad that I did, even though some of them were among the most difficult runs that I’ve had in recent months.

Read the rest of this entry

Maybe this is an early onset of a midlife crisis as I prepare to turn 32 next Monday, but I really like the phrase Y.O.L.O. (You Only Live Once) that I see emblazoned upon the attire of youths approximately half my age.

Some people use it to justify reckless, life-threatening activity, and maybe that’s why I know a sizable number of people who hate the phrase.

I love this phrase because I use it to justify challenging, life-enhancing activities like taking the risk to run a half-marathon! It’s true—all of us on Earth only do live once. Why not spend our one life attempting to conquer challenges that will help us become healthier people in the process?

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Unfortunately, I still experience plenty of times when I temporarily forget about my own human fragility and completely forget that keeping my body in shape for running is a daily effort. My first week of half-marathon training was filled with those times.

Read the rest of this entry

My Half Marathon Training Plan

Ever since I decided to run the half marathon in May at the Cleveland Marathon, I’ve been evaluating the pros and cons of various training plans. Although I really enjoyed using a training plan for my first 5K, I haven’t used one since that time and essentially just went running three days per week with the goal of gradually increasing my distance over time. Miraculously, this approach has worked well and I’ve been able to reach seven miles without hurting myself.

While I’m sure that this approach could potentially keep working, I don’t want to roll the dice with my health. I have high hopes for my 2013 racing season, and I’d hate to have a foolhardy approach to training send me to the sidelines for an extended period of time. Therefore, I decided that I wanted to have a training plan in place far in advance of the time when I would need to start training in the hopes of setting myself up for another great year of racing.

Here I am at the Cleveland Turkey Trot – a great end to my first racing season! With God’s help and smart training planning, I hope to have many more of these moments in the years to come.

Read the rest of this entry

Listen To Your Stronger Self!

Some of my fondest memories from high school involve my experiences as a statistician for the St. Ignatius football and basketball teams. Three friends and I kept statistics for the football and basketball teams during our last three years of high school. In addition to having the privilege to see many current NFL and NBA players in action during their high school years, I had the opportunity to travel throughout Ohio when the team played away games in Cincinnati, Columbus, Akron, Toledo, and elsewhere. We played at Fawcett Stadium at the Pro Football Hall of Fame during my junior year, and I always recall sitting in the press box watching Ignatius and Canton McKinley play one of the most memorable high school football games in Ohio high school sports history every August while I’m watching the Hall of Fame Game.

Another fond memory from my junior year occurred when our basketball team shocked everyone and made a run to the state championship game. We rode on the team bus for basketball and since we provided stats to the coaches at halftime we would sit in the locker room and observe as the coaches broke down the game plan. I’ll never forget our coach’s speech before the regional championship game. One of the lines that has stuck with me for years is, “You’ve worked much harder all season long than them and you want it more than they do. They didn’t get up at 6:00 A.M. to lift weights like you guys did.”

I drew upon the inspiration from that memory during my training over the past two weeks. During the last week of January, I was grateful to have been able to get in three solid runs (2 inside and 1 outside) as they provided much-needed relief during a very stressful and busy week. Last week, the near-constant bad weather almost forced me into a zero week. Fortunately, I had a one-hour window on Saturday during which I squeezed in a great run.

However, I have had a LOT of trouble staying motivated at various times during my runs. My “weaker self”—the voice of doubt in my head that kept me on the couch for so many years—repeatedly tells me, “Your training schedule doesn’t even formally begin until later in February. You don’t even need to be doing this right now. Why don’t you just take it easy?”

I’ll admit that I often consider stopping and rationalizing my choice as protecting my health for the future. Every time I entertain this idea, my coach’s words from 15 years ago ring out in my head and my “stronger self” takes over, and I keep doggedly pushing onward towards the finish line.

As a statistician, I wasn’t required to attend practice, but I was still well aware of the hard work that the players and coaches invested each and every day all year long. During the offseason, I’m willing to bet that many of the players didn’t realize that each and every practice and workout was bringing them one step closer to a state championship while they were in the midst of the activity. However, each and every practice and workout was a small stepping stone towards an end goal.

Running alone at night during a frigid Cleveland winter can be a somewhat isolating exercise. Seeing other runners helps me know that I’m not the only crazy one out there, but I oftentimes feel like Frodo in Lord of the Rings as I journey through the Cleveland landscape. As I run through Tremont, I often see happy couples and other assorted people heading out for dinner and drinks on weekend evenings, and I wonder if they think I’m crazy as I run past them covered in sweat and gasping for air. (Heck, sometimes I wonder if I’m crazy!)

This is the view from the end of West 10th Street. I’ve seen this view on almost every run that I’ve done since June 2012, but it never gets old. Cleveland’s skyline looks even more beautiful at night when I’m running!

Far too easily I forget that each and every run is a building block for my future. I wouldn’t be able to have ever crossed the finish line in any race in which I have run if I hadn’t put in the hours of training, eating healthily, stretching, sleeping, and doing everything else that is needed to be a successful runner. Training for a race of any distance isn’t like cramming for a test—one can’t train intensely for a short period of time and expect that to compensate for a lack of a sustained, long-term training schedule.

The Cleveland Marathon is over 90 days away. That’s a long time!

My weaker self—the self that formerly laughed at the running accomplishments of others as I sat on the couch in poor health—tells me, “You can already run over half of the 13.1 miles and you’re far ahead of where Hal Higdon wants you to be at the start of his half marathon training schedule. Chill out and take it easy. And by the way, live a little. Take advantage of all of those fast food restaurants out there by Tri-C. A few stops at Arby’s won’t kill you. Sheila won’t ever find out.”

My stronger self—the self who reminds me that anything is possible with faith and trust in God, hard work, and discipline—tells me, “This time is a gift. Use it to build up a strong base and to continue to work towards a healthy weight. Great things lie ahead for you in 2013 and beyond. You’re not just preparing for the half marathon. You’re getting ready for a great lifetime of running. Running those 13.1 miles in May is going to be a great accomplishment, but you’re going to do much more than that before the year is over.”

Although doing so can be hard, I’m going to listen to my stronger self. Ever since I started listening to my stronger self on New Year’s Day in 2012 when I made the decision to start losing weight, my life has been filled with victory and triumph. Doing so hasn’t always been easy, but I know it’s worth it. On the days when you’re tempted to run to the couch, television, and refrigerator instead of the gym and the sidewalks, I urge you listen to your stronger self too! When we stride proudly across the finish line on May 19, we will be glad that we did.