Thursday, April 30, 2009

Training Update 4/30/09

Well, it's now just 3 days until marathon #2 for me. Ready as I'll ever be. :) I had a little run-in with some stomach issues over the weekend, so training didn't go quite as planned. I ended up taking Sunday and Monday off, then got in an easy 5k Tuesday night (~8:45 pace) and an easy 3.3 miles Wednesday night (~9:00 pace). I feel a little drained of energy since I had to fly to Arizona and back on Wednesday, but I suspect a trifecta of rest days should fix me right up. It'd be nice to get in one more easy run before the marathon, but I don't want to run the two days before the race - and I'm not going to push it tonight, so I guess two days this week will be it.

The race on Sunday starts around 7am. With any luck, I'll be finishing around 11:15... wish me luck, everyone!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Motivation, planning and goal-setting

This week was a particularly challenging week from a work standpoint. Conference calls until 11pm on Monday, 9pm on Wednesday and 9pm on Thursday. Couple that with a few morning meetings, and it was a long week... so how to keep training during a week like that?

For me, the most important thing that I've found is to have a target race that I'm training for. In this case, it's the Eugene marathon, which is coming up in a scant 7 days. But after that, it'll be preparation for the Hulaman Half Ironman in August or the Portland Marathon in October. In 2006, I ran the Portland Marathon 5-miler, and watching the marathoners start their race, I was moved to sign up to run my first marathon in 2007. Having that race on the calendar was very motivating - I always had a goal in front of me. I knew that while I could get lazy and take a day or two off, I also knew that if I fell completely off my training plan, it would jeopardize my marathon goal. I was able to stick to my training plan for a full 12 months. There were a few adjustments along the way as I got smarter about my training, but I managed to stick to basically the same plan over the course of that year.

However, after I ran PDX in October 2007, I let the typical post-marathon rest period turn into an extended excuse for life as a sloth. Sure, I told myself I'd do Portland again in 2008, but I hadn't registered for any major races, and come January 2008, I'd gained 12-13 pounds and had almost zero cardio base. By the time I got around to starting serious training for PDX in June, I ended up trying to play catch up - which of course, resulted in over-training in the form of a nasty case of runner's knee requiring a month and a half rest and three months of physical therapy.

When I started getting back on track with my training in the fall of 2008, I set myself a couple of goals. The first wasn't so much a goal, but a philosophy to live by: I was going to make sure I get a good base in - and keep that base, so not only will I be able to target any race given 2-3 months to train for the distance, but also to ensure that I'm healthy and fit. And then I looked over the calendar and set my major race goals for 2009, to give me something to shoot for: the Hulaman Half Ironman and the Portland Marathon. (I'd also love to do a century ride, but I think I'll leave that one for 2010.)

Once I've committed to the goals, I find that it helps me focus on the training task at hand: whether it be getting in those base miles, increasing distance, or focusing on pace or speed. This focus definitely has paid off so far: the base miles have helped me drop 8-9 of the pounds I regained after the 2007 Portland Marathon, I've dropped my training pace from 9:20ish to 8:30-8:40ish, and by January I had enough base in place that I was able to commit to the Eugene marathon this May. And that feeds the cycle of increasing my focus, so now despite a busy week, I still find/make time to sneak in the shorter mid-week runs.

It does still get pretty tough staying motivated during a 60 hour workweek, though. That's where some advanced planning comes in. My wife is great at this, and I've tried to learn from her: at the beginning of the week, figure out what the week looks like and build a plan that fits with it. If I know that there's no way I'll be able to run on Tuesday, make sure I find the time Monday and Wednesday. If I know that the only time I'd have to run Wednesday is early morning or noon, either make sure I get to bed early on Tuesday or make sure I block out time for the noon run on my calendar. Then it's not so much a matter of motivation and having to figure out what to do, but just doing what has already been planned out.

The concepts of planning and goal-setting are equally relevant in my career and my running. At work, we learn to challenge ourselves (stretch goals) while at the same time making sure what we're planning are SMART goals: specific (what exactly is it that I want to accomplish), measureable (how will I determine whether it is done or not), achieveable (a stretch goal is fine as long as it's realistic), relevant (how does it fit in with my overall objectives) and time-bound (by when do I want to accomplish it). After I've defined a goal, I then put together a project plan to accomplish it. Setting a goal for a specific race, whether it be to just finish or accomplish a specific time, and then defining the training plan, is the fitness equivalent.

Of course, the other thing that helps with motivation is to have an accountability partner. I normally run by myself, so I don't have the benefit of someone waiting on me to start their run. But fortunately, my wife is a great encourager - if I look like I'm not having enough motivation to get out and run on a planned day, she'll say the right things that make it easier to get out and run or even just give me the simple reminder that I have a specific objective coming up. She also helps me stick to my diet a lot better than I would on my own, but that's another story. :)

Planning, goal-setting and accountability partners are the things that help me keep my motivation during the busy times... what are the things that help you out?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Training Update 4/22/09

First of all, today is a great day... my 3rd wedding anniversary. Thank you to my wonderful wife Christine for 3 great years with many more to come!

Now an update on training. As I planned, I took a rest day on Sunday with a 12-14 miler planned for Monday. Monday morning I woke up at 5:30, ate my usual pre-run breakfast, and headed out the door at 6:30 am planning to run a half-marathon at my planned marathon pace (9:45). The run started off poorly... my headphones pretty much died a half-mile into the run. After getting over that, I cruised through the first mile in 9:15. What??? I told myself to slow down and completed my second mile in... 9:15. Third mile? 9:15. Fourth mile? 9:17.

Well, at this point, I decided that rather than try to reproduce race pace, I would just go ahead and run my 13+ miles at a "comfortable pace". That turned out to be 9:15-9:20 until I hit ~2 miles left, and I picked up the pace - I could hear faint bass lines from some of songs on my iPod, and a particularly catchy KT Tunstall tune came up. :) Not sure what I was running, but I was pretty energized - it was a beautiful day, I was feeling good, and I was in the groove. It was probably a 8:45ish pace, because my overall pace for 13.5 miles ended up being 9:11!

Not only was it a great run, but for whatever strange reason, I didn't feel the usual "post-run, can't walk down the stairs, my legs are so stiff" feeling either Monday or Tuesday. I did take Tuesday off, as I do after all my long runs, and I decided to take today off... still fighting general fatigue (need more hours in the day for sleep!) and woke up with sore feet (the wonders of being almost flat-footed).

I'm not sure whether Monday's great run was a sign that my training is all coming together or not, but I'm planning on keeping up my regular schedule of two days on, one day off for the next week: shooting for 3-5 mile runs on Thursday, Friday, Sunday and Monday, then probably a couple of days rest, an easy Thursday run, a couple of days rest and then Eugene. Hopefully I'll find some other things to get me some "exercise" (yard work, long walks) during those last few days, but the way my training has been going, that seems like the best taper for me.

Moral of the story: I'm definitely signing up for a pace group at Eugene, because I proved to myself I can't gauge pace very well right now. The 4:15 group is a 9:44-9:45 pace, so I think I'll go with that one...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Training update 4/17/09

Just a quick training update... some of you know that I'm training for the Eugene marathon, which is on May 3rd. Right now I'm in the final part of my training, so whatever major strengthening or damage has already been done. Now it's a matter of keeping my base, working on my pace, and staying injury-free for another 16 days.

That being said, this was a good week: 5 miles last Saturday followed up by 4 miles on Easter, all at a decent ~8:35 pace. My base miles are getting faster, which I think is a good sign - as long as I don't overdo it.

Then a rest day on Monday, followed by a business trip to Wisconsin on Tuesday. Despite getting up at a very unreasonable 3:15 PDT, I managed to get to my hotel around 6:30 CDT and get in a run before it got too dark and the bugs got too thick. Another 4+ miles at a reasonable 8:43 (which up until a couple of weeks ago, was a typical "fast" training pace for 3-5 milers). And on Wednesday, I got in another late afternoon 5k at an 8:46 pace... but was definitely starting to feel sluggish, both from traveling as well as the hills around the hotel.

Thursday was a rest day, and it turns out today was a rest day as well - we drove to the coast to spend a weekend with the in-laws. So the plan is to get in a run tomorrow, rest Sunday and on Monday morning get in my last "long" run (shooting for 12-14 making sure I don't run any faster than planned race pace) before the marathon. Oh, and work a full day on Monday, too. :)

An introduction

Hi everyone! Thanks for checking into my blog... this is a grand experiment for me, and it will definitely be interesting to see how it evolves.

So what's the point of this blog? Well, first the title gives a hint at what the content is: the intersection of being an engineer and being an athlete. But I suspect it will be more than that - after all, life IS about more than work and running. First and foremost, I'm a husband and a father. My wife and I are coming up on our third anniversary, and we have two wonderful daughters (step-daughters in my case), 12 and 10 years old. And I have a crazy albeit wonderful family spread across the western US: a grandmother, mom and sister in Colorado, cousins in Colorado and Idaho, and a ton of in-laws just a few miles from home in Oregon (as well as a sister-in-law in New York and cousin-in-laws in various places). Since they're such a big part of my life, I'm sure you'll see them crop up occasionally as this blog progresses.

But why the focus on work and running? For those of you who are salaried, you know the challenge of balancing a job - which is almost never just 40 hours a week - with any sort of hobby, especially if it's endurance sports. And I am branching out (again) into endurance sports and not just running. I first started running around age 10 when I was introduced to the sport by my uncle, who at the time was a 5k & 10k runner, before his transition to marathons. And when he started spending more time cycling, I took up that sport as well... and by age 13 or 14, I had completed a metric century on the bike, a sprint triathlon and a number of 2 mile, 5k and 4 mile fun runs. In high school, I hung up the shoes in favor of swimming; but in college, a girlfriend encouraged me to lose some of the swimming "streamlining" and take up running again. At age 21, I completed my first half-marathon. But the transition from college to grad school took its toll, and I started running less (and the discovery of beer meant I started weighing more!). By the time I finished grad school, I was down to 3-6 miles a week, which eventually turned into 3-6 miles a month after I started working in the "real world" (think 50+ hours a week of grey cubicles and business trips). But marrying a wonderful woman who encourages and inspires me to stay healthy has allowed me to reintroduce running to my life. In 2006, I completed my "first" (since college) 10k, and in 2007, I completed by first (ever) marathon, the 2007 Portland Marathon. And this year, I have a couple of marathons and a half-Ironman circled on the calendar.

As you can see, the intersection of life and running has had both positive and negative moments. People have always been on the positive side: an amazing uncle who introduced me to the sport (and an amazing aunt who continues to inspire me) as well as a wonderful wife who gently encourages me to take better care of my health. But the rigors of school and career have often shown a negative impact on my exercise efforts: whether it be the "lack of time" to work out, lack of motivation after a long day (or week or month) or business travel where people insist on wining and dining every night. But as we all know, nothing puts the stress of life behind you like a good run or ride or swim - being an athlete and a professional should have positives, not just challenges.

This blog will attempt to capture some of the highs and lows as I experience them or reflect on times past. Hopefully some of it will inspire, perhaps some of it will allow you to commiserate. Some of it will probably invoke laughter at me (afterall, I'm an engineer attempting to write!), but maybe some of the laughter will be with me. I'll try to post something "significant" once a week: I've already got a list of topics I want to cover (like the challenges of training while traveling, whether it's better to use and iPod while running, or about my personal battles with pizza, burritos, Cadbury eggs and DQ Blizzards), but if you have an idea for a topic, I'm always open to suggestions. I'll also post the occasional training update - which might not be too inspiring, but maybe you can provide some encouragement, training suggestions or good-natured heckling.

So.... welcome aboard to this grand journey. Let's see how it goes when we start talking about Running and the Cube.