Tag Archives: Mid Winter Classic 10 Miler

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.


Lesson learned at Mid Winter Classic 6.0

Climbing that hill at the end of mile 5. It was pain train time. (Photo by Maine Running Photos)

When I signed up for the Mid Winter Classic in November, I had high hopes. I was continuing to make progress, a little more than a year removed from two months on the shelf because of my bum knees, and I thought I was ready to dive into some hard training.

It didn’t exactly work out that way partly because I got a little lazy, partly because the weather was a jerk, mostly because I was sick for almost a month.

I battled my way through the 10-miler, undertrained and finished in a little bit of pain (it’s OK, I’m not injured, I’m just out of shape and have bad knees). I battled the voices in my head telling me to stop, I ran consistent splits, and run negative splits.

And I learned a few things along the way.

• Don’t listen to the voices in my head.

This is a constant battle, but even more so now that I haven’t been racing very much and I haven’t been putting too many workouts to really, truly make myself uncomfortable. When I started to hurt just before all those hills in mile 2 on Sunday, I almost turned around and jogged back to the finish line. I gave myself permission to run just 5 miles hard-ish, then jog the final 5 miles. I almost stopped and walked during mile 8 (I even pulled over to the side of the road). I was hurting and wanted to stop, but I didn’t listen to my head and kept going.

I need to focus on my core.

My back started to get tired and sore climbing that huge hill at the end of mile 5 and the start of mile 6. It has been getting sore when I work out or when I stand up at work. That’s a sure sign that I have been neglecting my core. I’ve been doing pushups and I even did a couple of CrossFit workouts (that shit hurts), but planks and other core work … well, I’ve been slacking. That has to stop.

I have a lot of work to do.

It took a pretty big effort for me to average 8:38 miles for 10 miles on Sunday. Granted, it’s a pretty tough course, but my goal for Chicago is to run that pace (or faster) for 26.2 miles. Running 25-30 miles a week and slacking off on strength work is not going to cut it. I found that out, struggling through those final 5 miles at “marathon pace” on Sunday. Big goals take big work and it’s time to get to work.

• Don’t skip my warmup or my cooldown.

I spent most of the time before the race catching up with friends, and I don’t regret that at all. I do regret not warming up. I didn’t do any dynamic stretching, I didn’t jog, I just stood around and chatted, then when the canon went off (and scored the shit out of me), I started running. My hamstrings were tight, my calves were tight, my hips were tight. I felt miserable and that is a recipe for disaster. My hamstring have been too much of a problem for me to skip that step.

A day after the race I’m a little bit sore and my knees, specifically my left one, are feeling a little beat up, but I also have a ton of information to build on as I take the next step in training. These lessons should be valuable as I prepare to run the New York City Half Marathon in March and the Chicago Marathon in October.

There is a lot of work to do, at least I have some ideas what that work should be.

Training with mixed results

This photo really has nothing to do with this post other than I’m trying to remind myself of what I am capable of when I believe in myself because this was one of the best races I’ve ever had.

I’m in a weird spot right now.

Some days I feel really good about the progress I’ve made, my ability to run a little bit faster and a little bit longer.

Some days, I’m feel completely overwhelmed, that I’m not capable of the things on my training schedule, and that I’m not making quite as much progress as I think I am.

In reality, I’m somewhere in the middle.

Starting Week 5 of the Mid Winter Classic training class at Fleet Feet, I have had mixed results following the plan. The Wednesday group workouts, despite my intimidation and doubt in my ability to finish all the reps, have gone well. 7×1 minute uphill. 9×1 minute uphill. Beat your last intervals. I’ve have conquered my doubts and accomplished the workouts, gaining a good deal of confidence in the process. My Friday or Saturday morning workouts, which I do on my own, haven’t gone quit so well. The fartlek runs were fine, 1 to 1:30 minute hard reps sprinkled into a longer run, no problem. Progression runs and steady state workouts on the other hand, I had a hard time with those.

Take Saturday, for example. The schedule called for 45-60 minutes of steady state running, with a 15-minute warmup and a 10-minute cool down. I felt like shit when I left the apartment, feeling the start of a cold that has knocked me off my feet today (I’m sitting in bed, skipping my run on New Year’s Day because I feel pretty shitty). For some reason, I thought the workout called for 30-45 minutes of steady state running, so after that 15 minute warmup, I picked up the pace.

Immediately, I thought the whole thing was a mistake. My breathing was labored and my legs were heavy. I was struggling and told myself to get through five minutes. After that five minutes, I told myself to do five more. I got through a mile and, without realizing I was doing it, I picked up the pace. I was supposed to be running between 8:00 and 8:20 minute per mile pace. The second mile of the workout portion of this run was 7:53. Whoops.

I slowed down both out of necessity and because I was trying to actually run the workout correctly during the third mile of the workout, and when I hit 20 minutes, I told myself to try for 10 more. Then I could call the workout a success. I did six more minutes and called it a day.

I was gassed. I was done.

After my cool down and a little stretching, I picked up my training log to jot done some notes, and saw the schedule. The workout was actually “45-60 minutes at Steady State Pace.”

Well … fuck.

I was feeling like I had a decent workout, getting 26 minutes at steady state, when in reality, I wasn’t even close to finishing it. I barely did half. Now, I cut myself a little bit of slack because I was sick. I ran 1.3 miles Sunday and stopped because I had no energy and breathing was hard. This illness definitely had an impact on that workout Saturday. But, it was a blow to the ego, a shot to my confidence to struggle so hard to not even get halfway through that workout.

I guess what I’m figuring out through this process is it is a long road to get to where I want to go. I not only have to work on my fitness, I also have to work on the mental stuff. It’s about developing the belief in my ability to do the work. It’s about learning how to pace certain workouts (like that progression run where I clearly ramped up the speed too quickly and had to stop 21 minutes into a 35-40 minute progression run). It’s about putting in the work and sticking my nose in there to make myself better.

I’m not where I want to be right now, and this cold isn’t helping, but I’m starting to do the work. It’s a weird place to be. Sometimes I feel like I’m over my head, sometimes I feel like I should be further along then I am, somedays I feel like I’m making really good progress.

In reality, it is all of those things.

Looking forward to New York, and more

New York shenanigans circa 2011. I don’t recognize that guy. 

From 2001 to 2013, I spent St. Patrick’s Day weekend in New York City. For the first 10 years of those trips, I walked around the city, overweight and out of shape, wondering where I was going to get my next beer and where I could get the best burger. Then, I started running and the highlight of those trips were the miles I logged in Central Park. 

I’ll return to New York for St. Patrick’s Day weekend in 2019 and I’ll log miles all over the city. 

Late Wednesday night, after refreshing my web browser about 95 times, I saw I had been selected in the lottery for the New York City Half Marathon. The race will take place on the morning of Sunday, March 17, which also happens to be my 45th birthday.

Happy birthday to me.

I’m really looking forward to getting a different look at New York City. Running through Times Square, without all the cars screaming down the street, horns blaring, breaks squealing, will surely be an incredible experience. 

With the news that I was accepted into this race, my 2019 race schedule is starting to take shape. I have two goal races already on the schedule – the Mid-Winter Classic 10 Miler and the NYC Half – and I’m awaiting word on what would be the biggest goal race of the year – the Chicago Marathon. I’ll learn on Dec. 11 if I have been selected in that lottery and if I’m not, I’ll try to join a charity team so I can toe the line for Operation: Chicago 3.0 on Oct. 13. 

Now, I need to get to work getting into shape. I had three really good weeks of training after the MDI Half Marathon, then things slowed down when I ran the Turkey Trot 5K and the weather turned to shit. This week has been better and next week I’ll start training with a group for the 10-miler, so hopefully I’ll get some good forward momentum going. 

I’m starting to set some goals for 2019 and starting to figure out what I need to do to reach those goals.  

My first goal is to create better habits. I need to do a better job of getting myself going in the morning to not only get my miles in, but to do my warmup and drills pre-run, to stretch post run, and to do physical therapy every day. I need to get in the habit of doing core and strength work a couple times (or more) a week.

With better habits, I’m hoping reaching my second goal will be a little bit easier. I’ve been hovering between 180-185 pounds for much of the last year and I’m figuring out to run the type of races I want to run, I need to lose some weight. I have done my best racing when I weighed between 165-170. It won’t be easy, with all the holiday food I’m sure to be around, but I would love to toe the line in New York in that range. Improving my diet and my training habits will help me reach that race weight. 

I’ve been thinking about time goals for Mid-Winter, NYC and Chicago. I’m hoping to run 1:20ish at Mid-Winter, but I have no idea what to shoot for at New York. I’m kind of eying 1:45, but I’ll give that some more thought. For Chicago, or whatever marathon I run, the goal is always 3:47 until I break 3:47, but I’d like to think with a good year of training I can go even faster than that. But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself on that one, I have to make sure my knees will let me run the type of mileage I need to to run that kind of race. 

I’m not going to over think it yet. I mostly enjoy running right now, when my insomnia allows me a decent night of sleep, so I want to keep that momentum going. As we get closer to the New Year, I’ll start to hammer those habits and try not to eat too many Christmas cookies or meat pies.

I haven’t had too many running highlights in 2017 and 2018. I’m hoping the NYC half is just one of many in 2019.

No idea what to expect

Turkey Trot 2016. I’m going back to this race Sunday.

I set my 5K PR on June 9, 2016. Since the Twilight 5K, when I ran 21:21, the 5K is a distance I have pretty much ignored. I ran the Turkey Trot 5K later that year, the Irish Road Rover and Take the Night (any alley cat race) 5Ks in 2017, and I ran a six times on the Back Cove 5K series this year, but I haven’t really focused on the 5K for a long time. Every time I’ve run a 5K, it has been more of a test of my fitness than a goal race. 

Sunday, when I toe the line for the Turkey Trot 5K, that trend will continue. I have started training again, but everything I’ve done, with the exception of a treadmill workout on Tuesday, has been focused on getting ready for the Mid Winter Classic 10-miler. My workouts have mostly been done at half marathon pace, I’ve rarely touched on 5K speed.

I don’t really know what I can pull off Sunday. I broke 24 minutes in the last two Back Cove races I ran, and I’ve been training a little harder since then, so maybe I can go faster. Maybe because I’ve been training my legs are going to be a little bit tired and I won’t have a lot of speed to throw out there. 

I don’t have a goal for Sunday other than to put in a good effort and finish in one piece. I’d like to run faster than my post-AD PB of 22:56, but we’ll see what happens. 

After the 5K, I’m also signed up to run the Thanksgiving 4-Miler. I do have a goal for that race, though I’ll probably throw it out the window once the race starts because I’m too competitive. On Thursday, my plan is to run somewhere between 7:50-8:00 minute pace since I have half-marathon pace workout on the schedule. I’ve done this workout three times since I started tentatively following a plan late in October, and two of those times I’ve run faster than half marathon pace, so that probably what will happen at the 4-miler. At some point I need to learn what half-marathon (or 10-mile) pace feels like, but I’m guessing a shorter race isn’t the day I’ll do that.

As you can see, I have no clue. Honestly, I’m just glad I’m healthy enough to put on my running gear, pin on a bib, and give it a shot. I’m excited to see what I can do over the next week and how I’ll bounce back from that. I’m excited to keep training with the knowledge I’ll gain from these test. I’m excited to have a little fun and push my limits.

Really, that’s all that matters. 

Shut up and do it

IMG_3063.JPGEvery Tuesday and Thursday morning I have a conversation with myself. Actually, the talk usually starts Monday and Wednesday evening.

Tuesday and Thursday in my current training plan are workout days. Tuesdays are speed intervals, Thursdays are tempo (at goal pace) runs. In just my third week of following a training plan for the first time in more than a year, I don’t have a ton of confidence. Workouts have always freaked me out, but now that I’m really getting back into it, I have extreme doubt and anxiety about my ability to do the workout on the schedule. So much so that I even have a hard time getting myself to try.

This morning was no different. When a friend texted me last night to ask what today’s workout was, I looked it up and immediately started wondering if I would be able to complete the 4×1200 at between 5K and 10K pace (I’m shooting for 7:45 right now). This morning as I waited in line to vote, I wasn’t thinking about the candidates, I was thinking about alternatives to that workout. I told myself I’d do two or three reps, or I’d do a couple 800s.

Constant talk. Constant self doubt. It’s nonstop.

It kept up during my 1 1/2 mile warmup. As I made my way back to East End Beach to do a little dynamic warmup and start my workout, I wasn’t convinced I’d make it through this workout. Then I reminded myself I felt the exact same way at the exact same spot the week before when I did 5x1K, and the week before that when I did 6×800. I made it through both of those workouts, so I convinced myself to at least start this one.

The first rep was painful. My left ankle was tight, my right hamstring was a little sore, and my legs felt like lead. The second rep was better and faster. I started to loosen up. The third rep was the best one. The fourth rep was … hold on and finish.

I learned a lesson this morning. I’m learning a lot of lessons being back on the grind. Sunday, I was reminded it is OK to be tired. Today I learned I should stop worry so much about workouts and at least give them a shot. Chances are I will make it through them just fine, and be better for it. And if I don’t, because I’m tired or sore or just not fit enough, that’s OK, too.

Training is not about one day, one workout. It’s about the weeks and months of work. I have a hard time remembering that. My anxiety kicks in and my doubt kicks in. My self confidence has always been garbage, training sometimes brings out the worst in me. But days like today, when I fight through those voices in my head, it brings out the best in me.

Take it easy, man


Not today, not even this year, but pretty typical, I’m staring at my watch.

I felt the buzzing on my wrist and heard the electronic bell. I immediately glanced at my watch to see my split. I knew, at least within a few seconds, what my split was. After all, I look at my watch 15 seconds ago.

And 15 second before that.

And 10 seconds before that.

I have an unhealthy obsession with my watch. I am constantly glancing down at my Garmin to see how far I have run, to see how “fast” or “slow” I am running.

It’s silly and unproductive, on a day like today for me to be constantly checking my pace. My 5-miler this morning was not a speed workout, it wasn’t a tempo run. Today’s run was about time on my feet. Slow, recovery miles. That was the plan for today. I shouldn’t need my watch to tell me I’m running slow. I’ve been running for 7 1/2 years, I should have a handle on that by now.

I’m trying really hard, as I wade into training again, to embrace those slow, easy days. Too many times in the past, I’ve gone too fast on my easy days. I felt bad about the numbers on my watch. I got caught up running with a group or a friend who is not only not on the same training plan as I am, but is much faster than I am. I’ve run too fast because it will look good on Strava.

And I wound up with bum hamstrings and ran shitty races.

There are a lot of layers to being a strong, healthy runner who is able to run the type of races I want to run. Strength training, stretching, doing workouts, putting in miles. The easiest one to accomplish is to allow myself to recover on those easy days by making sure the miles are slow and relaxed. Running fast all the time will put me back on the shelf, and I have no interest in that, so I’ll gladly run slow. I’m convincing myself to take pride in seeing how much slower my every day pace is compared to everyone I follow on Strava. All those people are either faster than me or run their easy stuff too hard. My goal is to do it right, and doing it right means recovering on recovery days.


Some sloppy hand writing and slow miles (and a couple workouts) in my training log.

Next time, maybe I’ll leave my watch at home. I’m super anal about tracking my miles and having a record of everything I’ve done. I upload everything to Strava and write it in my running log. It wouldn’t hurt if I estimated from time to time and just made sure to get in some slow easy miles. I could very easily leave my watch behind so I don’t have the temptation to glance at it every 10 or 15 seconds, and I would likely accomplish much more.

Right now, Tuesdays and Thursdays are my “fast” days. In Hanson Half Marathon and Marathon Method those are called “something of substance” days. Tuesday are intervals, Thursday are tempos. Those are the days I need to focus on pace. The rest, well, just take it easy, man.