Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 - The Yearly Report

Last post, I talked about my top 10 runs for 2012. I thought I would follow that up with a recap of how my training went this year. After all, the weekly report is a big part of this blog so I thought it would be nice to put the numbers together.

Putting on the miles (not the pounds)

So after putting all the numbers together (and it wasn't easy, I started running using Cardio Trainer, then switched to Map My Run then to RunKeeper) I ran a grand total of 268.21 miles. When I saw this number I thought about trying to make it an even 270 before the year was gone but some knee problems are  preventing that from happening. (More on that later)  Considering that in 2011 that total was ZERO, I think I get an A+ in total miles this year. Next year I would like to aim for 600 miles though I don't know if I'm being conservative or underestimating. We'll see in December next year.

Here is the rundown by Month:
March - 6 miles
April - 20 miles
May - 24.2 miles
June - 37.5 miles
July - 25.6 miles
August - 31.5 miles
September - 18 miles
October - 39 miles
November - 34.2 miles
December - 32.2 miles

January through March I hadn't started yet so they are not there obviously. It's interesting to see my progress through the year. That dip in September corresponding to getting injured after my first race and that peak in October before the whole vacation planning and the actual cruise brought things down a bit (but just a little bit). Those December numbers are padded though. I didn't run as frequently as I would have wished but when I did run, it was for far longer distances than the previous months.

Those 6 miles in March were tough. The first week I ran, I couldn't run again until the next week. Then when I finally was able to produce two runs in a week, I couldn't do a long run during the weekend. Hey, my body was getting used to it all. The slightest hill felt like Mount Everest and going up from the road to the sidewalk required several minutes of planning because that step up would require so much energy, it could mean the end of the run. Now that I think about it, I have no idea how I managed to to survive that and still be running today. Fancy me a masochist. Those first runs were, at best, 2 miles long. My last long run was 6 miles. In Marathon terms, that's not much. For the fat guy who was sitting on the couch doing nothing several months back, it is a great victory.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Top 10 Runs of 2012

Quite normal this time of year to do things like this. Looking back helps us set our goals for the upcoming year. Notice I didn't say resolutions. Nobody goes through with those. For me, this was a great year running-wise. I started in late March and have not stopped since. it was a real struggle just to get out and run and frankly, I was scared I wasn't going to stick with it. But here we are at the end of 2012 talking about the best runs of the year. Wow. Good thing the World didn't end either. I didn't want all that work to be for nothing. I mean, the whole point of this is to eventually run a Marathon.

You might not recognize some of these runs as they happened before I started blogging about it. But without further ado:

10. May 19, 2012 - 4 miles: This was the first time I had ever run 4 miles in my entire life. I was surprised at how manageable the last mile was as opposed to when I first ran 3 miles which was murder and actually took several attempts to run the whole way. It was on this run that I really felt I could do this (run longer distances)

9. June 26, 2012 - 3 miles: The entire year, I ran on a treadmill only once and it was on this run. I discovered one thing: Running on a treadmill is SO much easier than running on the road. I was in Florida on a work thing and not wanting to risk getting lost again (See #9) I decided to run on the Fitness Center's treadmill. Now that I think about it, I traveled 4 times in 2012 and ran in three of those trips. That, folks, is wanting to run.

8. May 4, 2012 - 2.2 miles: This run is memorable for two reasons: I was on a mini-getaway/work thing in Florida and even though I was just starting to run, I felt it was important to continue my training even while traveling. The other reason is that I got lost. Big time. It was a beautiful course around several Disney hotels: The Boardwalk, Yacht Club, Beach Club, Swan and Dolphin. It was a bit dark though and ended up on some road where only trucks were passing by and ended in a Cast Member only area. I eventually found my way but it sure was interesting.

7. April 26, 2012 - 2.0 miles: This pretty uneventful run is memorable because it was the first time I ran with proper running shoes. Boy did it make a difference. The recently retired New Balance 1123's gave me 208 miles of faithful service and sent me on my first trip to a running store, an experience I will never forget (Check it out here). Fit Girl, I'm still waiting to run into you while on a race.

6. August 26, 2012 - 3.1 miles: My first race. Popular Bank's 5K was a total disaster in terms of strategy, planning and training. But man, was it fun! Adrenaline absolutely took over and everything went out the window but the minute I crossed the finish line I was plotting how I was going to run a better race next time and it felt so good when they put the medal around my neck. I had officially gotten "The Bug".

5. August 28, 2012 - 2 miles: My very next run after my next race. I called it "My first Zen run" on the blog. I was sore, tired and hurting but I went out anyway. Best thing I ever did. Forget about how good it was physically,  mentally it helped me collect my thoughts which were all over the place after the race. People often talk about the mental aspects of running and how running helps them think and stuff but I had never understood that until this run.

4. May 19, 2012 - 4 miles: With this run, I logged 10 miles in a week for the first time. These numbers can seem trivial, especially to runners who log 50 mile weeks and more but for me it was a big deal. At the same time it made me think about how for someone who wants to run a Marathon (me) 10 miles a week is still a long way to go.

3. November 18, 2012 - 3.1 miles: The Give a 5K for Diabetes race was the craziest of the year by far. Mainly because I arrived late and unprepared but it was such a big improvement over my first race. Not to mention the fact I ran the entire thing. ( I had to stop during my first race. Again details here)

2. November 27, 2012 - 2 miles: It's not every day you get to run on a moving cruise ship at 3:30 in the morning! But that is exactly what I did on this run. The Disney Fantasy has a jogging track and its big. 2.5 laps-equals-1 mile big. When you are on vacation, especially a cruise, you want to relax so it is totally justifiable to feel like not running. But I ran. The word "freak" starts to come to mind...

1. November 30, 2012 - 3.1 miles: The Castaway Cay 5K is the race that started me running so, having accomplished the goal of running it this year is reason enough for it to be at the top spot but it's more than that. Emotionally, it was an accomplishment to know that I was able to keep this "running thing" going long enough to get to this race and also, finishing the race and not going into "accomplished mode" but actually planning races for next year and beyond. Thinking about the future. A future where I run. I also PR'ed. How cool is that?

It was a tough year filled with many challenges but that is exactly why I'm so happy with my running. I was able to run despite those challenges. It's very easy to get lost in the worries and problems of life but think about this: Without our health, there can be no life to worry about. We often don't take care of ourselves because "we got to think about our family" but I tell you: Letting your health go to waste is truly not thinking about your family. If you leave things like obesity and laziness run rampant in your life, how long do you think you are going to be there for the ones you love? Sure, death comes to us all and you never know when it's going to happen but why tip the odds in its favor?

Anyway, hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and that you will have an even better new year. Hopefully 2013 will be an incredible year for your running, your lives and your families.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Thrill of Victory, The Agony of... Losing your Phone

For the last two weeks (and sorry for not reporting last week) I have been running no less than 5 miles every time I go out. This was gloriously capped this Sunday with my first 6 mile run. A 10K (minus .2) in less than a year. I wish I could tell you my time in this historic run but I can't. See, at some point during the run, the pocket in which I was keeping my phone ripped and the phone fell. As I was finishing my run, I go looking for it to hit stop and its not there. Ironically, I was just talking to my wife about me getting a GPS watch. Well, to be honest I was buttering her up so she would let me buy one (they are kind of expensive for those not familiar) and one of the reasons I was giving her was that in my pocket, the phone was bothering me (it moves quite a lot) and it could also break, or worse I could lose it.

Well, I lost it.

Now I know what you are saying: "Frank, you got one of those arm band thingies for Father's Day, why don't you put it in there?" Because that's where I keep my iPod which I also carry with me. We runners are a special bunch. Anyway, I quickly got home and into our mini-van and doubled back the entire route. Twice. Did I mentioned it was raining? Assuming no one had taking it already, it was getting wetter by the minute so time was crucial. But it was not to be. The phone was gone (or I didn't see it). I mean, it was early Sunday morning! At that hour, the only people awake are either running or getting ready for Church.  So I went back home.

I was so angry at myself. I told my wife what happened and let her know and told her I would take a shower and head to the phone carrier store to claim a replacement since I have insurance. And as I was taking a shower my sister called my wife to let her know someone had called her and had found the phone! I quickly called (well I finished my shower first) and made arrangements to pick up the phone. It turned out to be this very nice lady who was leaving her house to go to Church. Go figure. The phone stopped recording the run at 4.5 miles. Looking at the map data, you can see where the lady picked up the phone and took it home. So of course, RunKeeper published I ran 4.5 miles in 1:36. Now I have no trouble admitting I'm slow but give me some credit. I edited the activity but the "run" was already posted to Facebook and Twitter. Oh No! The three people who follow this blog have the wrong information.

So to recap: My weekly mileage went up from 13 miles to 16, I ran the furthest I have ever run (6 miles) and ultimately, I did not lose my phone. Sounds like a good week to me.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Taking the Next Step

Having finally accomplished running the 5K that got me into this whole journey, I have spent the last few days assessing where I am and where I'm going. Now, don't worry. I'm pretty set up goal-wise. I got a 10K to run in February for the short term and the Walt Disney World Marathon is looming ever-closer for the long term. However, there is one part of this journey I haven't tackled yet and I think it's time I deal with it. 

It's time to deal with my nutrition and eating habits.

Before you all say anything, let me tell you, I was putting this off on purpose. After many past and failed attempts at losing weight, I have made every mistake and leaned many lessons about what works and what doesn't. One of those things, is all the times I have dove in to the whole process, heart and soul with every good intention in the world. I eat right, I exercise and I end up losing weight, only to gain it back and then some. The lesson I have learned from that is that whenever I have made that decision, the changes have been too extreme. I try to make changes over many things and it get very overwhelming. Invariably, after several months, I get tired of it all and return to my usual patterns. 

On the exercise side of things, it had a lot to do with the fact I had not found an activity I really liked to do in the long term. I would start doing whatever it was at the time, really excited and then the novelty would wear off and I would lose interest. Ironically, all that time I tried all those different things, I avoided running like I would the Ebola Virus. I was convinced I hated running. Go figure.

That is why when I started this journey, the first rule I set for myself was to take it easy. To not try to do everything at once. Since I was setting some lofty goals for myself and given my past history with running, it was crucial for me to be patient. I do not want this to be another failed attempt at a healthier life. My family deserves more than that.

So I set off making a deal with myself: Go run. Worry about nothing else. Forget the diet and the calorie counting. Make sure that running can become not just a  form of exercise but a true part of my life. Something I feel I HAVE to do. Need to do. Make certain it is not an impulse thing. Make a true habit. Forget the rest. Just run.

Well, here I am, 9 months later and I can truly say that running is a part of my life. I look forward to running and the prospect of future races makes me excited. I have caught the bug. Now, for the next step.

That's not to say, I have nothing to show for those 9 months. Aside from the three medals I have collected during that time, I did lose 15 pounds. All that running had to make a dent of some kind, diet be darned. Sadly, the cruise did have an effect. I gained 6 pounds back but still, it could have been worse. However it's time to get serious. I can't expect to run a marathon 100 pounds overweight so now comes the hard part.

Right off the bat, forget the crazy diets. I'm taking the same approach to this I took with running. Slow and steady wins the race. I have to make small, but permanent changes that I can stick to. Then, after making sure I have committed to those changes and make sure they are working, I can make more. Here is the first set of changes:

1) Soda has got to go! - I am a big drinker. Not alcohol mind you. When I sit down to eat I drink a lot of whatever is in front of me, usually soda. I can drink 3, 4 glasses. Maybe more. It is an immense waste of calories and it has to stop. I have no problem drinking water but I'm hooked on soda. The fact that combo meals conveniently include soda is obviously a factor which reminds me...

2) Stop the junk! - We eat out way too much. I'm not talking about sitting down at a restaurant. I mean, "let's not cook and go grab a burger from the drive-through window" eating out. Sodium consumption should be dramatically reduced just by doing this alone. With a family of 5 with small kids, this is very convenient so I'm not gonna say that we are never ordering out but we have to reduce it way down.

3) Taper my meals - What this means is that as I go through my day, every subsequent meal will have less calories than the previous one. Which means that breakfast will be the biggest meal of the day and then with each meal I will eat less calories. This will end with a snack after dinner no higher than 300 calories. That will make it 4 meals a day (including the snack). The snack is important because I can cheat big time at night.

4) Keep track of my food - I have failed horribly at this before but if I can keep track of my runs and workouts I can do this. Since it worked for my runs, I will be using the Internet as well for this. is a great place for those who want to lose weight. The members support each other a lot and it has a great food and calorie tracker with a phone app so you can do it whenever and wherever you are. Plus its all free.

And that's it. 4 small things to work into my normal habits. I think the soda thing is the biggest one but if I manage to reduce eating fast food, that will work itself out as well. Whether it works or not I will keep you all posted.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Weekly Report #15

Recovery week basically for me. After running essentially two 5K's in consecutive weeks, and trying to digest a week's worth of cruise food, this first week after returning home was about taking it easy. Sort of. I was dying to try out my new running shoes and I have to say they have not disappointed so far. I have also been working on reviewing my weekly training to get ready for running longer distances. I have also come to realize that it's time to take this journey up one notch but I will go into that in my next post.  Right now, it's about this last week which was... interesting.

The new shoes are working out great! The minute I put them on, they felt "right". They are a little tighter in the toe box than the 1123's but still there is plenty of room in there. They feel a little stiffer in terms of cushioning compared to my previous pair but I'll reserve final judgement about that after I break them in a little more. On Wednesday, I tried them out:

Wednesday, December 5 - 3 miles:
Full disclosure: Even though I was dying to try out the new shoes, that was the only reason I wanted to run this day. The minute I started running I felt why. Despite racing on consecutive weeks I hadn't done a lot of running the last few weeks. Add to that a week of my extreme high calorie journey through the Caribbean and you can understand why my body would complain on this run. I felt sluggish and heavy. My legs started hurting the minute I started. My motivation was non-existent. I hadn't even done a mile when my cousin drove by and seeing opportunity, I stopped to chat with him. Didn't even bother to turn off RunKeeper. After a couple of minutes I said goodbye and kept going. Then it started to rain. When I arrived in town, the annual festival to our Patron Saint was being held, in the middle of my route. I tried to keep running but after a while more decided to call it a night. Hey, without bad days you can't have (and appreciate) good days and hey... 51:02

Saturday, December 8 - 5miles:
Things got a LOT better after that. When I went out this day, I was a bit weary since I had such a bad run last time. My wife asked me "How much are you running today?" and I hesitated for a bit, then told her "4 miles... maybe." and left it at that. But after I started running, everything just clicked. I was feeling good and right before mile 4 I saw I was feeling strong and decided I would keep going. Apparently all I needed was to get moving (my last run) to return to form, sort of speak. I think this is the best I have felt running this distance. Perhaps I can run this distance more than once a week? We'll see. 1:16:40

So stay tuned folks. The next post is kind of an important one.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

New Balance 1123's (R.I.P.)

May 2012 - November 2012

Well, after 200+ miles and thanks to my youngest brother's very timely birthday gift, the time has come to retire my first, true pair of running shoes. As I mentioned when I first got them (post here) they really made a difference in how I run and how frequently. I also mentioned a while back (here) that I was starting to see and feel signs of wear and tear but I just could not buy another pair because, quite honestly I just didn't have the money.

Well right before the cruise, my youngest brother gave me a pair of brand new shoes in the hopes that I would use them during the Castaway Cay 5K. Well, that was not gonna happen. As I explained to him, there were two things keeping me from doing that: 1) Never use new shoes for a race. This is part of the whole "never do something you haven't tried before during a race." thing. 2) While a cruise is definitely about luxury, space can be an issue. You have to pack for formal night, semi-formal night, pirate night (yes, pirate night) so you got to be careful how much you pack. I wasn't about to take the 1123's either. I needed something versatile I could use to run and sightsee. I settled on these:

My mom gave me these a couple of years back. I have used them mainly for walking around Disney World and I have worked out once or twice in them. I found out, while researching what shoes to replace my 1123's with, that these are in fact, women's trail running shoes. Hey, I didn't know. Apparently neither did my mom. (unless this was her attempt at humor) I got lost while running through the Disney World Resorts in these shoes. Ended up in an employees-only area at 5:30am. We have a history, these shoes and I.

But, Alas, they are not proper running shoes for every day use so I save them for cross-training (something I should be doing by now). The 1123's on the other hand, were crying for mercy. During the Give a 5K for Diabetes, I could really tell they were on their last legs. The bottom of my feet were hurting and that had never happened before. Since I had read that running shoes can last up to 500 miles I thought they would last longer but they ended up giving me a little over 200. Apparently, carrying almost 100 pounds extra takes a toll on the wear. Plus, those first miles I ran, I dragged my feet a lot. I will miss them. Goodbye New Balance 1123's...

Hello Brooks Beasts!

I have been told by many that these shoes are built like tanks in terms of their wear and durability so I'm looking forward to trying them out this week. In terms of looks, they are way louder than my previous pair but not the "I want to kill myself" neon colors I see so often. I'm not sure I love the spaceship silver color but I'm excited to try them out. I will let you know how they work out when I give my weekly report.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Castaway Cay 5K Race Recap

Well, I'm back from an amazing Disney cruise. We had tons of fun. Without going into the details, this isn't a travel blog (maybe I should do one of those...) I can tell you the best way to describe this vacation in one word is: Magical.

However, the important thing about this cruise, as far as this blog is concerned, happened on the last day when we stopped at Disney's private paradise island Castaway Cay. Way back, when I booked this cruise and learned about a race held there called the Castaway Cay 5K, it got me into running. Running this race was the initial goal that started this whole adventure and while my long term goals have sure changed (now I want to run the Walt Disney World Marathon in 2014) this little race is a fundamental part of why I'm running today. I was extremely excited to cross this 5K from my list.

The race itself is not a big deal in practical terms. It is basically another cruise activity you can do during your cruise. It has caught on with guests though, so over the years they have added bibs (with the Run Disney logo) and a timing board. They have also modified the course somewhat according to those who did it a while back. It is flat as a pancake and takes place inside the island so there is not much to look at. Looking back, I wonder what it was about this race that made me think it was doable. But human beings are weird that way. You never know what is going to trigger them into doing something crazy.

Last post, I gave you the recap of the 5K I ran the week before the cruise. Craziest race ever (sordid details here) by a long shot. The week after that I was pretty sore so I did not run again until I was on the cruise where I did a 2 mile practice run on the ship. Yes, ON the ship. The Disney Fantasy has its own jogging track on Deck 4 (The 4th floor for all you land lubbers). 2.5 laps equal 1 mile and I did two miles. Funny thing is, the cruise changes time zones a couple of times and I got a little confused so I ended up running at 3:30 in the morning. Now wonder I was all by myself!. Despite that, I felt pretty good during that run. The rest days really refreshed my legs. Plus, I felt like Denzel Washington in "Crimson Tide". You that scene where he is running inside the sub? It kind of felt like that. In the Fantasy you are running right below the life boats and there are all these pipes and machinery so I could almost hear the movie soundtrack in my head.

On race day, all the runners were told to meet at The Tube (a disco made to look like London's subway). There we signed up and were given our bibs and instructions about the race. This was not a motivating scene. I saw many people who looked like serious runners and many more wearing shirts that said stuff like "Historic 10K" and "Ultrarunners of St. Louis". Quite a diverse (and might I say fit) crowd.

You don't see a lot of pre-race meetings at places like this.

From there, we were the first ones out the ship and we walked from the ship to the start line which made for a nice warm up. At the starting line, there a was a time clock and a map of the island. We were shown the route of the race and after a quick trip to the bathroom we were off!

Now, sure, this was a goal I had set a long time ago but I had no delusions of grandeur or anything. I was on a cruise. I hadn't run that much in the past two weeks and... I was on a cruise. I mean, do I have to say it? I ATE EVERYTHING! So even though I knew the course was mild and flat there were no expectations of any kind. My last 5K I did 47:30. My best time running three miles has been a practice run: 44:38.

Sure enough, after the start, everyone fell into their respective paces and I ended up in the back, a bit ahead of the walkers. I was running a bit faster than usual but decided to keep it up since the course was flat but after a while I dialed it back. While the temperature was pleasant, the sun was really showing off that mid-morning power and besides, I started having a very interesting, albeit funny, problem. At first, I thought I was getting dizzy because of the sun. But it wasn't "normal" dizzy. At least that is not how I've felt dizzy before. After a couple of minutes I figured it out. I was Land-Sick! LOL. After a week on the ship with only brief exits I was feeling the movement of the ship while on dry land. It reminded of the film "Waterworld" with Kevin Costner where at the end he leaves because the ground "Doesn't move right."  Every time I felt the "sway" it was like my body trying to cross from one side of the road to the other. After identifying the cause, I laughed and kept going.

Halfway through, I had another little event. This time a mental one. Back when I started running, I read about Jeff Galloway and his run/walk/run method. While I felt his method was probably the most sound for a person that is overweight like myself, I decided to try and just run, even if I progressed slower. Now, I'm in no position to question Jeff Galloway in any way. If he says it is the most efficient way, I believe him. For me it was an ego thing. If I'm going to run, I want to run the whole race. That's it. I didn't think I would be faster or better, I just wanted to run the entire distance in front of me.

Of course, that all sounds awesome until the old ladies start passing you by. That's when the real pride and ego kick in. For the second race in a row, I got passed late in the race by people doing the run/walk/run method. For the second race in a row, I got passed by some really old ladies doing the run/walk/run method. Again I told myself "you are running the whole thing. You WANT to run the whole thing." but it still stings a bit. Maybe I should revise my position on the Galloway method. lol

At the end, I picked up the pace and finished strong. My one goal for the race was for the Cast Members (that's what Disney calls their employees) in charge of the race to not leave before I got to the finish line. Basically, they told us they would be at the finish line for a while handing out medals and if they weren't there when you finished they would send the medal to your room. It sounds like a stupid thing but I wanted to receive the medal at the finish line. After the final turn I saw the finish line there they were with the medals. Yes!!!! But wait, what about my time? As I crossed the finish line, I look to my left and there is the clock...


Can you say Personal Record?!! Yes. I. Can. Doing the happy dance! I mean, I'm doing the happy dance now... Back at the finish line I could barely breathe. The Cast Member put the medal around my neck. Oh yeah! It felt so good. Of course, Disney does not waste any revenue-creating opportunity so right next to the finish line was a store selling what else? Castaway Cay 5K T-Shirts! Of course, me not wasting any Disney income-reducing opportunity, bought the shirt to commemorate the occasion. 

And that was it. Another goal met. The race that got me into this whole thing has now been checked off my list but, it was at the beginning of my list. There are many things to cross off in the future. Next steps? I think its time to start considering a 10K. Perhaps the World's Best 10K? One of the biggest races in Puerto Rico being held at the end of February? Sounds like a plan to me. Also, with this race (and this cruise) behind me, I think its time to start tackling the other part of this lifestyle equation: Nutrition. Stay tuned folks. The best as they say, is yet to come