week eleven.

I admit it.  Work is kicking my ass.  And I do NOT like admitting to that.

It happens every year about this time, as I struggle to put a buying season behind me (pre-purchasing for the Fall season to kick off in another 6 months) while simultaneously getting Spring product arrivals live on the Backcountry Edge website and working with Clipper Magazine to put the finishing touches on our print catalog.  At the same time, I need to be monitoring inventories and chasing down product we need and putting the brakes on the arrival of product we don't need.  These are all good things and, individually, each of these tasks is something that I genuinely enjoy, especially when held up against the mirror of past employment.  The convergence of all these things things, however, can get to be a bit much.

Such is the case at present.

Long days and the need to blow off steam makes running that much more rewarding.  Unfortunately, I have found myself struggling to crawl out of bed in the mornings after working into the wee hours of the night or having tossed and turned while my brain churned over task lists instead of embracing the rest it so desperately needed.

In quieter times, the alarm going off at 5:00 AM is met with some reluctance and requires an initial force of will to get to my feet.  Soon thereafter, though, I find myself glad to be awake and excited to hit the trail or road.  In several instances during the last week I either couldn't muster the necessary willpower to rise or I had enough clarity to correctly recognize that my body (and brain) needed the sleep more than it needed the exercise.

Enough with the explanations.  I only managed my bare minimum of 21 miles last week.  This is a fairly random (and perhaps meaningless) number that I landed on when I decided to start documenting my mileage that roughly works out to 1000+ miles if carried out for a full calendar year.  Averaging 3 miles a day actually gives you a 100 mile cushion but never knowing when sickness, injury or circumstance will put me on the shelf for days or, gulp, weeks at a time, it seems like as good a goal number as any other.  I think it's also a fairly realistic figure for at least maintaining fitness during a thin stretch though not nearly enough to improve fitness and nowhere near where I would like to be if life cooperated.

I'm not at all interested in trading the other hours of my day or week that are devoted to family for miles on the running log.  So, for now, things are what they are and I'll manage what I can until things settle back down.

The upside is that I've found myself able to really push pace.  Hopefully I can effectively balance that speed against the need to be disciplined over significantly longer distances.  That's a problem I'm stoked to solve.

Here is the latest evidence:

Thursday, March 17 - Pre-work run at Pumping Station and on Mole Hill - Strong effort after a few days off UNTIL hitting the wall on Mole Hill and slowing to a snail's pace.

Friday, March 18 - After work out-and-back on the R2T - good bounce-back from the sluggish day prior.

Saturday, March 19 - Mill Road to Sun Hill to Rt 72 to Power Road modified loop - Really pleased with the 7:07 pace on fatigued legs and while tackling good road hills.

Sunday, March 20 - Disappointed to not manage time on the trail, but pushed hard to make up for it - The 6:49 pace isn't far off 5K/5 mile race pace for me back when I was several years younger.


week ten.

Before this week gets away from me entirely, I'd better post my look back at last week.  I didn't make any leaps forward in terms of mileage but I am quite pleased with what I accomplished with the miles that I was able to log.

It was another good mix of road and trail, hills and flats, fair weather and foul.  Four of the five runs were an hour in duration or just shy.  I feel more and more strongly that these are the types of runs that I want to be logging over shorter, faster workouts.

A wicked amount of rain fell on Thursday which left everything (and I do mean just about everything) under water.  I'd thought initially of avoiding the trail until it had time to dry out but convinced myself that I was stupid for doing so.

It would've been.

I hit the trail on Friday at Pumping Station and it was fantastic.  I picked up some blisters because of it and have a toenail that is likely to fall away from the wet, slippery conditions that gave it a good battering, but all in a day's work, right?

The damage wasn't significant enough to keep me away the next morning and Jefferson and I put in work on trails that were still spongy and water-logged.  Jefferson headed off to other commitments after 3 miles and I gave Mole Hill a go.  I'd say more but have decided that said hill deserves a blog entry of its own and I intend to grant it that due in the coming days.  Suffice to say, I received my usual quad and lung-busting punishment.

On Saturday afternoon, I took Lindsay and the girls to see the snow geese at Middle Creek.  They're gone at this point, but as far as my companions were concerned, the tundra swans that are still hanging around were suitable replacements.  Most of the other tourists seemed convinced that they were viewing snow geese anyway, so all's well.  After leaving Middle Creek, we hit the Freeze 'n Frizz in Lititz for hard-earned ice cream.  My shoe fetish got the best of me and I ended up speaking at length with a stranger solely on the basis of his wearing Saucony Kinvaras.  I tend to avoid strangers like a well-schooled child, but I'm glad that the candy of running shoes tempted me into the conversation.  Jason had nothing but positive things to say about the shoes and ended up revealing himself as my doppelganger.

He'd played hoops all life longs and had the ruined ankles to prove it.  We were a year apart in school and probably shared basketball courts along the way in the small world that is Lancaster County.  A flatfooted pronater, Jason had received the same as advice as I had to pick up overbuilt shoes to try and correct for the deficiencies.  The subsequent aches and pains led to him nearly giving up on running before giving trail running a shot and going with more and more stripped down shoes as his mileage increased.  He'll attempt his first marathon next month and though he claims to have no interest in qualifying for Boston, I could tell that his mentioning it meant he hopes to prove himself wrong.  Good luck, Jason!

With the Boston conversation fresh on my mind, I pushed hard on Sunday's road run and covered 10 miles at a faster pace than I maybe ever have before.  If I could just manage to hold that pace for another 16.2 miles, I might just hit up Boston myself.  Some day.

Here's the stats:

Tuesday, March 8 - Pre-work run up Sun Hill, through town on 72, up Orchard Street and back home.

Wednesday, March 9 - Post-work out-and-back on Power Road, Sun Hill Road and Park Hill.

Friday, March 11 - Water-logged run at Pumping Station - decent pace in the conditions (deep water and mud) - picked up a toe blister and bashed/bruised a toe on my right foot.

Saturday, March 12 - Run up to Eagle Rock with Jefferson and then hit the wall on Mole Hill.

Sunday, March 13 - Smoking 10+ mile pace (for me) while battling wicked head winds.  Super stoked on this effort.


i think i can, i think i can, i think....

Been thinking about the mind (thinking about thinking?) a lot as of late, especially on long, solitary runs.  I am not the inspirational poster kind of guy, but have found myself looking for a phrase or an image to turn to in moments of fatigue or doubt.

There are numerous times during any given run that I find my brain urging me to "get your hands down" or "pick up your feet" but these are just reminders like dashboard displays not true mantras.

The phrase that came to me several weeks back and that has leaped to mind now on several occasions is "make it to the top of the hill on the other side of this hill".  It's a bit long and not catchy enough to make it onto anybody's T-shirt, but it's proven handy in tamping down wants to stop. 

Anyone who does a lot of hills knows that there's no motivation necessary to charge down from a summit well earned.  If anything, that's the reward for the preceding long, slow upward trudge.  By the time I make it to the top of that next hill, I have no doubt that my legs'll keep going from there.

And, of course, that hill is going to have a "next hill" of its own which, hopefully, is the beauty of this particular motivator.

"Cut the crap and just keep going" you say and, for the most part, I agree.  After all, a crutch is a crutch is a crutch, right?

Regardless, for the time being this is my mantra of choice and if and when it ceases to doing the trick, I'll let it go.  Should "cut the crap and just keep going" end up doing a better job of picking me up when I'm ready to stop and walk, I won't hesitate to make the switch.


week nine.

March arrived on Monday prematurely lamb-ish but, by the weekend, was roaring appropriately like a lion.  I loved the warm, sunshine-y days and I really loved Sunday on which the floodgates apparently decided to break open and dump inch after inch of rain on the Horseshoe Trail.

I didn't get back to the frequency of runs that I was managing ahead of Piper's bout with the flu (she's all better!), but I'm super stoked on logging 3 separate hour+ runs.  The first of those, a road run, at 10.5 miles in brand new shoes at 7:30 pace was a pleasant and unexpected surprise on the heels of the Ugly Mudder two days before.  Saturday and Sunday were much slower affairs, but, with a focus on climbing and remaining locked in at a manageable pace (not too fast, not too slow) throughout, they were much closer to being my ideal training efforts than many recent runs.

I had hoped to run the Buzzards Marathon on the Appalachian Trail/Horseshoe Trail in Dauphin County on Sunday, but Lindsay ended up scheduled to work second shift and an 8:00 start time was going to have me pushing my luck, especially once the weather report turned out to be on the money with its call for monsoon-like conditions.  The trade off is that my first "goal race" of the year went off (I think) without me. 

Still, all in all, it was a week of good stuff.  Good stuff that looked like this:

Wednesday, March 2 - First time out in the New Balance Road Minimus - I was prepared to do 4 or fewer miles if they didn't play nice, but ended up having one of the best 10+ mile runs of my life.

Friday, March 4 - Morning run to work.  Legs still feeling pretty fresh.

Friday, March 4 - Run home from work at nearly identical pace to that morning's run.

Saturday, March 6 - Tentative first run in the NB Trail Minimus up over Eagle Rock to Camp Mack and back on the Horseshoe Trail.  The shoes felt great underfoot, but I did manage a minor heel blister.  Need to adjust to the streamlined fit and should be good.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 6 - Long, methodical run on the Horseshoe Trail, the first half with Jefferson and the second half solo.  Pounded by the arrival of a rainstorm that would end up dumping an inch-and-half of rain over the course of the day.


week eight.

Judged solely on the basis of frequency of workouts and number of miles logged, week 8 was a miserable failure.  After several solid weeks on the road and the trail, my forward momentum ran smack into the face of my youngest daughter's bout with what appears to have been H1N1.

After a strong run on Monday evening, the rest of the week got away from me as I spent sleepless nights taking Piper's temperature and cradling her back to sleep after another coughing fit had shaken her slumber.  Hours previously devoted to sneaking in early morning runs were spent on desperately needed sleep and after work I hurried straight home to relieve Lindsay from the day shift and/or taxi Piper to another doctor's visit.

In its way, thankfully, the week provided important perspective and made me that much more appreciative of my health and those moments I am blessed to spend on recreation and exercise.

Piper is back to full strength and, despite the week's running shortfalls, I still managed to carve out another 100 mile month (and a few really enjoyable runs) with extended daylight and warmer weather on the horizon.

Here's the stats:

Monday, February 21 - Brisk out-and-back on Power Road, Sun Hill Road and Park Hill Roads (emphasis on hills) in blowing snow.  Really good run. 

Wednesday, February 23 - Midday loop - could barely spare the time during the workday but desperately needed the run.

Saturday, February 26 - Afternoon run on the local rail to trail - faster than I'd intended the day before the Ugly Mudder, but needed to relieve some pent up energy and the legs felt good.

Sunday, February 27 - Pretzel City Sports's Ugly Mudder - bliss.

what gluttony looks like.

New Balance Trail Minimus (foreground) and Road Minimus.