Tag Archives: marathon training

The achy knees chronicles

Training to be The Man. Oh wait, I can’t be The Man, Becky Lynch is The Man.

A week and a day removed from the Mid Winter Classic, the first hard, long effort I’ve put in since the Kennebec River Rail Trail Half Marathon in September (well, the MDI Half was a sort of hard effort, basically 13.1 miles at marathon pace), I’m left with the same question I had after racing in September:

Will my knees hold up through marathon training and the marathon?

In the days after both the KRRT Half and the Mid Winter Classic, my arthritic knees were sore, my right one more after the half, my left more after Mid Winter. There was a dull ache in both knees for a few days and running was not my favorite thing to do. Last week it took a mile or so for my left knee to warm up and stop being sore.

I’m not sure my knees hurt here, but I’m pretty sure everything else did. (Photo by Maine Running Photos)

That dull ache in the days after a 13.1-mile race and a 10-mile race has put some doubt in my mind about the possibility of running 26.2 miles in October. If 10 miles at 8:28 left me feeling that beat up, what am I going to feel like after 26.2? I mean, I know it is supposed to hurt, but will I even be able to finish it?

I have a few reasons to optimistic about my chances in October.

First, my training for both of those races wasn’t exactly stellar. I wasn’t doing a ton of workouts in preparation for the Rail Trail Half and I was sick as a dog for at least two weeks leading into Mid Winter. My mileage has been pretty low and my body hasn’t had time to acclimate to that much time on my feet. I am confident (hopeful?) I will work harder this spring/summer/fall (I’m already making progress) to prepare myself for the marathon. I’ll run enough miles, I’ll do enough workouts, I’ll get better about doing strength workouts to build myself up enough to hold up for the marathon.

Second, I have been smarter about my diet and keeping up with my physical therapy. I ran the half at 180 pounds, the Mid Winter Classic at 177ish. I know the numbers on the scale don’t mean everything, but I’m overweight. I’m clearly better than I was when I weighed 235, but I’m still carrying around too much. With bad knees and a tired back, that extra weight isn’t helping.

I put on a bunch of weight right before running the Sugarloaf Marathon in May 2017 because I got injured and got lazy and ate my feelings. It made for an ugly day and I’m still not quite over the whole thing. (Photo by Maine Running Photos)

The good news on that front is, I’m down about 7 pounds in 2019. I was stuck between 180-185 for a long time, probably since I ran the Sugarloaf Marathon in 2017. I started this year at 182 and when I weighed myself Monday morning, I weighed 175. I can credit that mostly to giving up beer, eating a smaller breakfast, and not crushing half a jar of peanut butter after work each night.

I’ve also done my physical therapy every day and done at least 30 pushups most days this year (I skipped three days, and one of those I did 50-plus burpees). All of this is hopefully going to make me stronger and put me in a better position to be finish the marathon strong in October.

I’m trying to stay positive and not fret about what lies down the road in three months, six months, nine months. If you know me, however, you know I’m constantly asking questions, constantly doubting what’s possible, constantly questioning my abilities.

That’s the other thing I need to work on as I train for the marathon. And I’m trying, but that has been a life-long battle, so it’s hard to say if I’ll ever win.

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Putting the numbers into perspective

So many numbers.

I’m constantly yelling at myself to stop worrying about the damn numbers so much.

• Ignore the number on the scale and just get healthier.

• Ignore the numbers on your watch and just run.

• Ignore the numbers in your running log and on your Strava page, and just do what is necessary to be a better runner.

•Ignore all those numbers everyone else post, their pace, their mileage, their race times. It doesn’t fucking matter.

Yet I couldn’t stop myself from looking at my mileage for 2018. We are two and half days days from 2019 and I was curious where I stood compared to 2017, and for that matter 2016. Each of those years are tremendously different, which I’ll write about in a bit, but I was curious how this year stacks up.

• 2018: 1,404 miles, and counting.

 2017: 1,391 miles.

• 2016: 2,114

Like I said, those years are significantly different.

In 2016, I was mostly healthy and had two really good training blocks, preparing for the Kennebec River Rail Trail Half Marathon and the Maine Marathon.

In 2017, I was off to a really good start training for the Mid Winter Classic and the Sugarloaf Marathon, then I injured my hamstring, lowered my mileage in the summer to try to get healthy, and finally was forced to take two months off because of my bum knees.

This year, I changed my stride and basically started from scratch, slowly working my way back to regular consistent mileage. I also dealt with the fear of doing too much and going back on the shelf.

Taking a look at these numbers has reminded me why it is important not to blindly place too much stock in them. Looking at my mileage this year and comparing it to 2016, on the surface it looks like a huge disappointment, but it really isn’t. In January I was working my way through Couch to 5K as I tried to gain back some fitness and learn my new running form. Now in December, I’m running five or six days a week and I’m logging between 30-40 miles per week. That’s forward progress. That is momentum. That makes those 1,404 (and counting) miles this year a success.

I set a bunch of goals for myself for 2019, a few of them based around numbers. My new goal for 2019 is to not get too wrapped up in them. The idea is to do the work I need to do to become a better runner. To get stronger and faster, healthier and happier. The numbers will be a guide, but not the end all be all. They won’t determine whether or not my year was a success. Whether I do the work to feel good and have fun doing the work will determine if it was a good year or not.

Of course, I will still track everything and still obsesses over the numbers on my watch, and the numbers on the scale, because old habits are hard to break and I’m stubborn. Maybe that’s another goal I need to work on in 2019.

Taking stock, setting goals

Out with the old Batman, in with the new.

Every December I take some time to set up my training log for the upcoming year. In an empty notebook, usually with a menacing drawing of Batman on the cover, I’ll create an index, set up pages to track my monthly/yearly mileage, to record all the races I ran that year, and for my goals for the upcoming year.

When I’m setting up that new log, I will also look back in my current log to see how things have gone for the past 11 1/2 months, and how I did on my goals for the current year.

I recently sat down and went through this process for 2019. My goals for 2018 were pretty casual, while my goals for 2019 are pretty specific and pretty lofty. Let’s take a look.

2018 to 2019. Setting goals.

In 2018, I set four goals for myself:

  1. Master mid-foot running form.
  2. Build my body into a runner’s body (PT/strength at least four times a week).
  3. Lose 20 pounds.
  4. JUST FUCKING RUN.

I’m not going to say I completely failed on all of those goals, but I wasn’t exactly super successful.

  1. My form is still very much a work in progress, but it is much more efficient than it used to be.
  2. I’ve had stretches of good habits, but my body is still soft and not nearly as strong as it should be.
  3. Not even close. I’m hovering around 180 now, which is right where I started the year, and pretty much where I started 2017. 2 and 3 need to be priorities.
  4. I have run plenty and enjoyed many of those miles, so that is a huge win.

My goals for 2019 build off some of those goals I set for myself in 2019. They also revolve around the races I have on my schedule. Most importantly, those goals are effort to push myself harder, to push myself to take training and my health more seriously.

  1. 3:47.
  2. Sub 1:45 half marathon
  3. Sub 23 minutes 5K
  4. Lose 20 pounds
  5. 50-mile week
  6. 200-mile month

Each one of those goals is tangible and, with the right amount of discipline and hard work, very reachable. Here’s my thinking behind each of them.

  1. As I wrote in my last post, this has been my goal for 5 years. I am actually aiming higher than that (3:40), but ultimately, 3:47 is my goal for the Chicago Marathon.
  2. My half marathon PR is 1:41:51. As I build myself back from last year’s injury mishaps, I can’t fathom running that fast. In my goal race for 2018, I ran 1:48:25. I can fathom running three-plus minutes faster.
  3. I broke 24 minutes in the 5K a few times this summer with very little speed training. Just getting back to training and running higher mileage, I think I can easily shave a minute off that time.
  4. It’s not all about the weight, though I’d be lying if I didn’t say that pillow above my belt didn’t bother the shit out of me. Those 20 pounds I want to lose are tied to my shitty diet. I snack way too much and my meals are too often the easiest thing to fix, which means sandwiches or frozen pizza. If I can finally tighten that up, and get into a better strength training routine, the weight will come off no problem and my knees will be grateful.
  5. I’ve hit 40 miles a few times this year. 50 miles just means I’m working harder toward my goals and feeling good about running. To get my body strong enough so my knees can take that sort of pounding, well, that would be the ultimate win.
  6. See No. 5.

I’m not necessarily a believer in New Year’s resolutions because WHY WAIT? I’ve already started some of the work toward my 2019 goals, but I am allowing myself to hit the reset button on Jan. 1. I’m not going to let my goals prevent me from enjoying the holidays and all the food and beverages that come with it. Jan. 1 is just another day, but it seems like a good time to buckle down and truly get to work on these lofty, for me, goals for 2019.

When I look back next December, I want to feel like I gave those goals my best effort possible. If I don’t reach them all, that’s OK, as long as I put in the work.

Aiming higher

Earlier this year, learning to run again, taking steps toward reaching that big goal

If you read this blog on a regular basis (when I’m posting on a regular basis, that is) or we have talked at all about running, you probably know that I have one goal that stands above all others. I have had a ton of goals in my 7 1/2 years of running, many I’ve reached, many I’m still chasing, but one holds more significance than the others. 

I have been chasing this one particular goal for more than five years and when I take my next swing at it, it will be six years and about a week old.

In the hours after jogging my first marathon, I set my sights on running 26.2 miles an hour faster than I just had. Finishing the Smuttynose Marathon on Oct. 6, 2013 in 4 hours, 47 minutes felt like a huge accomplishment, and for a guy who was in the process of losing more than 50 pounds and had been running for a little more than a year and a half, it was a huge accomplishment. However, I knew I was capable of much more.

On the car ride back to Maine, my goal of running a 3:47 marathon was born. In the five-plus years since I set that goal, I’ve taken four swings at accomplishing it. 

  1. I ran 3:56:55 at the 2014 Chicago Marathon.
  2. I jacked up my hamstring training for the 2015 Maine Marathon and had to skip the race. 
  3. I ran 3:50:12 at the Maine Marathon, crashing in the last 3-5 miles.
  4. I tweaked my hamstring training for the 2017 Sugarloaf Marathon, then suffered through a 4:12:05 on race day.

I’m taking another swing at that goal in 2019 when I run the Chicago Marathon. If I can get myself in shape to run that 3:47 on Oct. 13, my year of running will be a success. If I don’t run that fast, the race, and the year, can still be a success, but finally erasing 3:47 off that chalk board that hangs in my bedroom would make it a killer day. 

So why, all of the sudden, am I setting my sights even higher?

As I set goals for the 2019 race season and wrap my brain around exactly what I’m going to have to do to get ready for Chicago, I do want to aim higher. 3:47 is a good goal because it has significance, but I feel if I put my mind to it, I’m capable of more.

That’s a strange thing to say, since I’ve been chasing that goal for so long, but I also feel like in each of those training cycles I’ve left something on the table.

• In 2014, I had no idea what I was doing training for or running a marathon.

• In 2015, I was stupid and didn’t care for my body.

• In 2016, I ran more than I ever have, but I didn’t do enough other stuff to get myself ready to run a good marathon.

• In 2017, I didn’t learn my lesson and I wasn’t strong enough mentally to push myself through all the hurt. 

I talk a lot about wanting to get to the next level, wanting to do the work it takes to be a better runner, wanting to stop settling and actually believe in myself enough to chase bigger and faster things. 

Which is why my ‘A’ goal for the Chicago Marathon is to run 3:40. Like I said, 3:47 would be awesome, but I want more, and I want to stop settling and start working harder and smarter. 

I ran 3:50 at the Maine Marathon in 2016. This was heart of my training. I saw this yesterday and said, “holy shit.”

It’s kind of funny I’m throwing this out there right now, because my confidence isn’t exactly sky high. As I said in my last post, I was looking back at my mileage from the summer of 2016 and I’m overwhelmed. Running 50-plus miles a week seems so daunting right now, especially with the way my legs felt after an hour and half on the roads yesterday, which put me at just over 35 miles for the week (I’m a little bit sick, though, which may have something to do with being so sore). 

Training to run a 3:40 marathon seems crazy to me right now. Shit, training for a 3:47 marathon seems crazy. It seems way over my head and the thought of all that work gives me a panic attack. 

Yeah, so what? 

Where I’m at right now isn’t where I will be in Oct. 2019. My lack of overall fitness shouldn’t stop me from making the effort to get into the best shape possible, it should encourage me to start doing the work. To really focus on those habits and routines I keep talking about. To figure out what I’m going to do for a training plan (I really think I need to hire a coach, again). To start convincing myself I’m capable of way more than I believe I am. 

So yeah, I have a lot of work to do. I want to do the work. I want to cross off some of those goals, especially that big one that I’ve been chasing for so long. 

Let’s do this.

Friendly reminder, this is hard

Screen Shot 2018-11-04 at 12.21.35 PMFifteen minutes into my run I was ready to call it a day. My legs were dead. My left foot hurt. My head wasn’t into it.

I stopped a mile and a half into my scheduled 10 miler, paused my Garmin and re-tied my left shoe. When I stood up, I looked around to see what the easy way off Forest Ave. back toward Stevens Ave. and my apartment would be.

When I started running again, instead of taking a left toward home, I crossed Forest Ave. and turned down Walton Street, figuring I’d at least slog through a couple more miles and see what happened.

Stopping to re-tie my shoe helped. My foot hurt because I tied my shoe too tight. My legs never fully came back to life, but 3 miles in, I was feeling better and decided to take a lap around the Back Cove to see what I could get in.

The wind battered me as I crossed Tukey’s Bridge, where I crossed 4 miles into my run, and pushed me around the entire time I ran along the Back Cove Trail. I made it back to the parking lot with about 4 miles to go, stopped at the porta pottie, and decided to run until I got those 10 miles in.

It never felt great. My legs were heavy and felt like junk. My left calf was a little tight, maybe a result of that shoe being too tight and hurting my foot. My right knee got a little bit sore in the last couple of miles. My lower back was fatigued (hello core work, sorry I’ve neglected you) in the last 4 miles or so.

No, I never felt great, but I got my miles in. And at some point during that run this morning I remembered that sometimes it is not going to feel great. I ran 38 miles this week (not a ton, but it’s as much as I’ve run since I went on the DL for two months at about this time last year. I ran two fairly hard workouts in the middle of the week and ended with today’s 10 miler. I’m going to be tired. I’m supposed to be tired. It’s not easy to get fit and I remembered today it takes a lot of work, and I have a lot of work to do.

I was, at first, discouraged this morning. If I’m this tired and sore just two week into following a training plan, how am I ever going to make it through marathon training at some point next year. Then I reminded myself that it is going to feel like this sometimes. I know that, I choose to do this, and I’m excited to do it.

Today was just a reminder of what is to come. I think I’d better go take a nap.