Thursday, August 30, 2012

Looking at(and Enjoying) the Good Things

Right after my first race, I wrote the recap of how it went and vowed to let you know about all the things I was going to do improve on the many things I did wrong or didn't do. But something happened before I could put my potential plan in writing:

I ran.

Also, my results finally showed up on the website: 48:54. Par for the course for me. I'm certainly going to write about the things I'm going to improve for my next 5K (Susan G. Komen's Race for the Cure at the end of September) but after running on Tuesday I got to reflect a lot and decided to do something first. I'm going to go over how far I have come since I started running 5  months ago. While I was very critical of my performance, I don't want to give the impression that I was frustrated or sad. Quite the opposite. I was quite excited. I saw all the nitpicking I was doing as a good sign. Not only had I just run my first race, I was already thinking about the next one. I was taking it seriously. I am really starting to get into running.

After the race, I was very sore. I wasn't really up to it, but I thought doing an easy run would help me "flush" the lactic acid. So off I went. It was a short run: Only two miles and a very easy and slow pace.  It was the complete opposite of the race. I was in total control. I was happy to be running despite the soreness. It helped me clear my head and get my act together. By the end of the run I had a much clearer picture of what I had to do. I had to take it easy. See, after the race I was going a bit Cuckoo. All I was thinking was "I got to add more mileage! I got to run harder!." I was completely missing the point. I have gotten this far by being patient. Maintaining that line of thinking was going to probably get me injured or worse, away from running. So its important for me to see where I'm coming from before I go forward.

When I started, I could only run a mile and a half.  It was a struggle. Every breath, an effort. I remember reading that you should run at a pace that allowed you to talk. I didn't get it. The only pace were I could do that was walking. Taking a step up a curb was an involved process were I started thinking about it 500 yards before it happened. The last half mile was particularly painful. But I got better.

When I started running, my running form was a joke. It was barely running actually. Walkers would pass me. Yes, I was struggling to keep up with people walking. It was pathetic. I would drag my feet on the asphalt because I could barely lift my feet. But it got better.

When I started running, the first few times, I had to rest an entire week to try it again. I would need three days many times after that. But it got better.

Yes, it got better. While I still have a long way to go, progress is progress. Today, I can run 5 miles. That's more than triple the distance I started with.

OK, so I'm still slow. But I have recorded my pace in the 14's. That's faster than when I started. Walkers are having a hard time catching up now. lol

My running form has improved a lot. I don't drag my feet anymore. I have a lot more control. I can speed  up, slow down and control my pace (Though it would seem I forgot about that during the race).

All those things came rushing back into my head while on my run Tuesday. Yes, I have a long way to go but I have also come so far from where I started. Yes, I run 14 minute miles but you know how fast I was running those miles  last year? Zero. Zip. I wasn't doing anything. I have run over 130 miles this year(so far). How many did I run last year? Zero. 

I'd say, I'm doing pretty good.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Popular Bank's 5K Race Recap

Lets get this out of the way: It was great, I had fun... yadda yadda yadda.

It was an extremely overcast and humid day last Sunday. While it was a bit warm, the lack of Sun made it a great day for running a race. The shadow of Hurricane Isaac was still over the island. While I was told that people do not wear the race shirt to the actual race, the starting line looked like a New York street filled with taxi cabs on rush hour. Maybe things work differently here in Puerto Rico. My wife and a good friend of ours accompanied me and gave me support. Because of the threat of rain, the girls stayed at Grandma's.

GangGreen in a sea of Yellow

Of course, nothing went as planned and all the mistakes I was planning to avoid weren't avoided at all but bear with me. Let us start with the bad.

1. I was told again and again. I read it again and again. Take it easy and don't start too fast. Yeah right. Out I went and sure enough, being at the back of the pack, I was passing people left and right. I was feeling fine so I barely noticed that compared to my usual snail pace I was sprinting like a galloping horse. Of course this didn't last too long. Which led to my next issue.

2. I couldn't run the entire way. The course was basically a rectangle. We went up one street and came down the other. The course was basically flat but on the cross from one street to the other it was uphill. My legs  simply were not going to stand for that so they went on strike and I walked up the hill. So there goes running the entire way. Just in case I needed conformation that I ran too fast, the soreness I feel today seals the deal. I haven't felt this way after running 3 miles in a while.

3. Now, one would think that since I'm not psycho or anything, I would take it easier on the way back but as soon as I started running again, Flash was back. I don't know why... Maybe subconsciously I was trying to make up for the "lost" time walking. I tried to keep it up the whole way but I just couldn't. There is a silver lining to this, but I will leave it for the good things about my first race.

4. I ran out of tunes. As I mentioned here, I had prepared a playlist that lasted 46 minutes and change. The purpose was to time myself and hopefully finish the race somewhere around the last song. (Journey - Don't Stop Believing) I fell short. It wasn't by a lot - the .1 in the 3.1 miles - but still, it stung a bit.

5. I don't know exactly what my time was. Not only are my results not showing up in the website, but I could not time it myself because when I turned on Run Keeper, the GPS was not working. Thinking I would just check the time from the race website, I turned it back off.

I wouldn't be writing this if there weren't some positive things. Right off the bat I have to say:

1. I will definitely run again. Another race I mean. The minute I crossed the finish line I was already figuring out how to run a better one next time. Which, of course, means...


3. Despite my frenzied pace, I didn't walk that much. (The aforementioned silver lining to #3) Which means the prospect for a faster 5K is not that far away. The potential of a runner is starting to peek out of me. LOL

4. Not to mention the prospect of running the entire race next time. (which will be my #1 short term goal as of today)

5. Getting my first race bling. Before this race, I wasn't really thinking about it or giving it much importance. Everyone that finishes gets one after all so, why are they special? Well, you have to run a race to "get" it. If someone would have handed me one before the race I would still not care. After training like I did, running the race, and crossing the finish line, getting that medal really meant something. Even on such a short race. It really adds to your sense of accomplishment. The bag with plums and an orange they gave with the medal sure didn't hurt either.

That green shirt sure got darker after the race.

There is a bunch of stuff I want to work on for next time and I will write about it on the next post but for right now, I'm basking in the glory of running my very first race.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Isaac the Schmuck

What a week. Just as I was hoping to get at least a final run before my first 5K, a Tropical Storm of all things makes certain that it will not be so. Ever since last weekend, we have been watching this thing develop into a Storm and heading towards the island. What's worst, it was preceded by a band of rain that started on Monday (Usually it gets eerily calm and rain-less just before a storm). So my Tuesday run? Scratched. Thursday? Ditto. I was hoping to get one in today at the very least but its not looking good. We are still getting the tail end of Isaac.

The good news? Well, several good news actually. Isaac did not pass the island head on. It just kind of grazed us on the southwest and while there has been a lot of rain, it could have been much worse. Also, since we are practically out of danger, it has been announced that the race will be held as scheduled so I went down to Popular Center to pick up my bib and shirt. There was a very long line but it moved fast. Apparently they are expecting 5,000 + runners and so far there are 4,500 and something registered online so it looks like they are going to pass that target.

Here is the shirt:

Why does running stuff have to be so... bright?! I hate wearing yellow. The shirt looks nice and I like the design but the color....

This is the back. It says: "Yo corro pa' echar pa' lante." It is kind of a slang way of saying "I run to move forward." I have been told that it is a common rookie mistake to wear the shirt you are given on a race to the actual race itself so I will be wearing my new favorite Jets running shirt.

My bib. I was one of the first to register it seems. Am I excited or what?

The "Champion Chip" used to record your time. I know you put it in your shoe but I have no idea how so I will probably wait 'till the race and copy somebody.

So there you have it. Two days to go and the last run I had was last Saturday. We already discussed that little fiasco here. I sure wish I'd be heading into this first 5K with a bit more confidence. While I'm sure I will not be losing a lot of conditioning with just a week of inactivity it still makes me wonder. If everyone has told me something, is that the race is very different from training. Despite my doubts, overall I feel excited. You know, the good excited so we will see.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Weekly Report #2

Not exactly a good week and certainly not the best timing  for it but, you take things as they come. Weather and the most pathetic run in recent memory conspired to ruin my momentum. As I mentioned in my previous report, last week was pretty good and got all my runs in. This week, hard as I tried it was not to be. Ran only twice. Here's how it went.

Thursday, August 16 - 3 miles
It rained all week and on Thursday, it was still pouring. But it stopped in the evening and I saw my break and took it. Of course, it started right back again while I was running. The good thing about running in the rain is that you can't really stop. You're too far away from home and what are you going to do? Walk back? Might as well keep running. The thing is, I thought I was running at a pretty good pace but I ended running it in about the same I always do. 47:16. I should have considered it an omen.

Saturday, August 18 - 4 miles
This was, by far, the worst run I've had probably since I began. It was awful. I was aiming for 5 miles. Started pretty good at a slow pace,(it was a long run after all) but after mile 2, while going up the first "big" hill I had to stop. Started back up at the top but stopped again a while later. After several attempts I finally just walked the rest of the way and settled for 4 miles. 1:07:50.

The thing is, I don't know what went wrong. Did I eat the wrong thing? Lack of rest? Just a bad day? I'm not sure. All I know is, I got just two more runs before my first race and this is not the best time for a slump so I'm just going to keep on going and not look back. I guess your going to have your good days and bad days. It happens.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Proper Music

Thinking about my first 5k, my attention was turned to music. I have a playlist to which I run called the Ultimate Workout Mix. I have over 100 songs in there and its basically a best-of from my music collection. The stuff that makes me move. For a 5K however, 100+ songs is bit of overkill so I thought I'd condense it to about 45 minutes of music. For one, I thought it would be great to narrow it down to the songs that are really moving me right now. Also, I thought it would be a great way to keep pace during the race. The final playlist is 46.3 minutes. If I run out of music during the race... well, I'll think about how to express my shame on this blog when I have to. Right now, the objective is clear.

Here is the final playlist. Two things: 1) I'm a metal guy. If you don't know who some of these bands are, think metal. 2) This is not a list of my favorite songs. They are just the songs that are motivating me to run right now. They tend to change.

Sabotage - The Beastie Boys
Breed to Breathe - Napalm Death
Fuel - Metallica
Eye of the Tiger - Survivor (Having this song on your running playlist should be a law!)
The Heretic Anthem - Slipknot
Going the Distance - Bill Conti (Also from the Rocky soundtrack)
Wolverine Blues - Entombed
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner - Iron Maiden 
'Till I Collapse - Eminem featuring Nate Dog
Not Listening - Papa Roach
Move Along - The All-American Rejects
Don't Stop Believing - Journey

Hopefully, somewhere in the middle of not stopping to believe, I will cross the finish line. It is recommended to focus on finishing during your first race, not some finishing time. However, I think I have trained well enough to run this race comfortably within that time frame without over-doing it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

It's the Shoes

A 300 pound guy walks into a running store...

Sounds like a joke right? Well, that's exactly what I did a couple of months ago when I bought my first pair of running shoes. Actually, strike that. It's the second pair. The first pair, I actually made the mistake many have made before me: I went to an outlet store, found the shoes labeled "running" and bought the pair I liked most.

Wow. That was 60 bucks well spent.

I should have done a little reading first. Turns out that running shoes are kind of a big deal. They are the most important piece of gear for a runner. Logical since your feet are the only thing in contact with the floor. But man is the whole thing complicated to the uninitiated. Gait, pronation, arch type, etc... The pros recommend going to a running store and getting expert help so that's what I did.

So I walk in the store and immediately feel self-conscious. An incredibly fit girl in incredibly fit looking clothes greets me and gives me a look-over like "This guy has never seen the inside of a running store." (a correct assessment by the way). I tell her I'm looking for a pair of running shoes. She literally goes: "Yeah, so walking shoes..." I correct her. "No, running shoes. Hard to believe right?" She said nothing. I tell her I know nothing about running shoes or what kind of I might need so she asks me to take off my shoes and socks and get on a treadmill. She tells me she is going to film my feet while on the treadmill.

I tell you, that was embarrassing. I start walking and all I can hear is my heels banging every time I they hit the ground. It's like I weighted a ton. The running lady mercifully does not make me run and stops the machine. This is her diagnosis:

"You have flat feet. Your bear the grunt of the load from your step on the inside of the foot which means you over-pronate. Plus, your heavy (no, really?) so you need a lot of support and cushioning. You need Motion Control shoes."

Never heard of Motion Control shoes. She then brings out three different pairs of Motion Control shoes on my size (14). While they have very different looks they do have one thing in common: They all have the thickest bottoms I have seen on a shoe. I try them all. Immediately, I feel the difference. wearing them, it's like every shoe I have ever worn was missing a piece of the bottom. I settle for a pair of New Balance shoes, the 1123's. 

I'm so glad I did this early on. Compared to the shoes I bought at the outlet, it is no contest. It turns out that your feet don't have to hurt  when you run. Complaints? Just a minor one. Running Girl told me I over-pronate but after using the shoes for several months (and almost 100 miles) the soles are distinctly wearing out on the outside of the foot, not the inside. It hasn't been an issue but its good to keep in mind the next time I buy running shoes.

So now, I have two goals: To run the WDW marathon and to sometime in the future, find Running Girl and have her see me running in a race. Any race. he he he

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Weekly Report

Well, with my first 5K looming closer, I'm doing everything I can to not miss any runs during the week. This week, despite some setbacks, went well. I had 3 runs scheduled and did them all. Here's how it went:

Wednesday, August 8: Regular Run - 3 miles
I don't normally run on this day but I missed my run on Tuesday due to whether. I hadn't run during the weekend since last week I kind of took it a little too far and paid for it dearly with soreness. I was not going to miss this one. It wasn't the best of runs and I was feeling tired the whole way but I finished. 50:30 is nothing to be proud of but it could have been worse. I could have not run. THAT would have been shameful.

Thursday, August 9: Regular Run - 3 miles
I was a bit worried about this one. I avoid running on consecutive days to avoid soreness but it seems my body is getting used to running. I actually had a great run! I managed to keep a decent pace and with a mile to go I actually picked it up a bit. Now, this is all relative of course. When I mean I picked up the pace, what I mean is I went from "turtle" to "son of turtle". But 47:06 is certainly an improvement from the day before. The fact I was able to run two days running is an achievement in itself.

Saturday, August 11: Long Run - 5 miles
Now, I have run 5 miles several times. I think at this point, it is my limit. That is, I'm going to be running that distance for a little while before I increase my mileage. On previous runs, it was a struggle to make it. I either barely made it to 5 or I would have to stop along the way. On this one I was determined to finish with something left in the tank so I took my time and tried to not rush it. It doesn't help that the course I run those 5 miles in has the four, longest, most painful hills I have ever run. Actually, I don't think any experienced runner would find them that bad but for me, you might as well ask me to jog Everest. The problem is these hills happen in the middle of the run. You're just getting your rhythm going when the first one pops up. They really tire me out. Usually after mile three, I'm struggling but this time, I tried to preserve my resources and plan my attack. During the hills I shortened my stride and ran as strong as my lungs would allow without raising my heart rate. By mile four I was feeling pretty good. I had a severe case of dry mouth but other then that I knew I was going to finish. Sure enough, by the end I felt like I could run more. Success. 1:20:47. People run half - marathons in that time but hey, there's no way to go but up.

Overall, a good week, plus I got some new running clothes which was cool as not only were they way more comfortable than what I was running in, but it's NY Jets stuff! Double Whammy.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Some new running stuff

Got home from work yesterday and my wife handed me a box with the new running stuff I had ordered. Yay! Isn't it great when you get new stuff from the mail?

Aside from my shoes, I had avoided buying anything running related until now. Running is a hobby (for lack of a better word) and like all hobbies, companies make all sorts of stuff just for it. It is very easy to go overboard! We have all seen them at races: The people who seem to have bought the entire running store. I certainly didn't want to be that guy, and especially didn't want to be the fat guy who bought the entire store.

But after six moths of running, I caved. For two reasons:

1. My wife. I was running in old cotton T-shirts and she complained about them smelling funny even after washing them. (maybe too much information here, but hey, it's a blog)

2. I found Jets stuff!!!!! I'm a big New York Jets fan and found some stuff made for working out with their logo and cold not resist. Here it is:

I also bought some running socks, which feel weird because they are so thick but they certainly help cushion your feet. Also, I bought another pair of shorts which don't have the Jets logo. They are black with a 10" inseam (as short as I can dare to go right now) and very light. Didn't take a pic of them because... well I was already wearing them when I took this one. Hopefully this will be the stuff I use for my first 5k at the end of the month.

Well, what better thing to do after getting new running stuff than go running? I put on the socks and the shirt and went for a 3 mile run. I'll let you know how I did when I post my weekly recap.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Mouse Made Me Do It

"I only hope we never lose sight of one thing: That it was all started by a mouse."

                                                                                             - Walt Disney

Mickey Mouse made me run. Don't worry, I'm not going to ask you to join some weird Mickey/Running cult or anything. It just so happens that I have always been a Disney fan. The movies, the parks, (the merchandise...) well, everything. Including for example, the Disney Cruise Line. Taking a Disney cruise has been a long dream of mine, not to mention my wife's. About a year and a half ago, we finally manged to get the money together to book one for the end of November, 2012. They can be pretty expensive but most people who have taken them agree it's totally worth it. Booking almost two years ahead allowed us to pay it off slowly.

Anyway, I read that when a Disney cruise stops in their private island - Castaway Cay - they hold a 5K called, oddly enough, the Castaway Cay 5K. It's not really a big deal: Whoever wants to run it gets off the ship first, then you run it, then everyone gets medals for finishing and a certificate. The course is flat as it can get so it is pretty mild. The only problem is the Caribbean heat and humidity. Already having the thought of a marathon on the back of my head, running this particular race as my "first race" sounded like a really good idea. Plus I would have plenty of time to prepare. 

Looking for more information on the race and the cruise, I stumbled onto a blog called Running with Sass ( Written by this very nice young lady named Heather Montgomery, she posted pretty much every detail you would want to know about the race. She ran the race, taking pictures and noting all details so if you ever do it yourself, you'll know what to expect. In that post, she mentions the fact that the bib you are given for the race has the Run Disney logo on it, which she thought it was cool. Run Disney? What is that?

I shouldn't have asked that question.

Reading deeper into her blog, I found out she had started running after visiting Walt Disney World and watching some friends finish the WDW Marathon. Watching all those people crossing the finish line with such a sense of accomplishment really motivated her to try it herself. Sure enough, two years later she crossed the finish line in victory. What poor Heather could not know though, was the effect her experience would have on me. Heather, I have a bone to pick with you.

It turns out that Run Disney is a pretty big deal. They hold all sorts of different races from 5K's to full marathons. The biggie of course is the WDW Marathon: A race where you run through all four Disney parks in Orlando, including a triumphant pass under Cinderella's castle. If this sounds like fun you'd be right. Disney being Disney, they make sure these events are something special. There is music and performers all through the course plus you can stop and get your picture taken with the Disney characters. These races are to say the least, unique and it was pretty much all I needed to get my behind moving. I made up my mind and have set my goals. While I will definitely run the CC 5K in November I have decided to aim higher. A lot higher.

In two years, I am going to run the Walt Disney World Marathon. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Here we go...

Well, for the better part of this year I have been doing something that, for as long as I can remember I have hated. Now some of you might think that hate is a strong word. Well, you know what is another strong word? Super-hate. 

Yeah, that sounds about right.

I have never liked running. That is just the way it is. I think it comes from my experience as a pre - teen/teen. I was in the Civil Air Patrol - something I absolutely loved by the way - and to go up in rank you had to take both a written and a physical test. The physical test always ended with running a mile. The higher the rank, the lower the time you had to finish and pass. For years, that was running for me: Running around a track, going against the clock about to puke my lungs out (at least that is how I felt). I would hear stories of people who, believe it or not, actually ran regularly and I could not even conceive how they could do it. "That guy runs 5 miles a day." someone would say. I would think of the effort it took me to run one mile and think that it took some sort of super-human to do something like that.

Of course, it didn't help that I was fat. (Still am)

The fact that I am overweight has not helped my beliefs about running over the years. I have tried many things to lose weight and not succeeded. Every kind of exercise you can imagine and every kind of diet. Every time I have looked at my options for "starting over" with weight loss, running was always at the bottom of the list if on the list at all. It seemed logical to me. I mean, if you are going to exercise, it should be something you like. That way, you stick to it right? So running was out of the question. I hate running. I super-hate running.

So why am I running?

I watch The Biggest Loser  regularly. Yes, I'm one of those fat people that love the show yet never seem to do anything about their own weight problem. Anyway, it has become sort of a tradition on the show for the finalists to run a marathon. Now, if running a mile was the worse thing I could wish my enemies you can imagine what I thought of a marathon. 26.2 miles... That's not, human. Travel 26.2 miles in any direction in this island of mine and you will end up on the other end. Or in the ocean. You need a car to travel that distance. Yet, there they went. The contestants I mean. No different (or lighter) than me, covering the fabled distance. If they can do it then, why couldn't I?  However, that fact alone did not exactly push me to run. It took an iconic cartoon character to send me over the edge.

On my next post I will explain what I mean.