Keeping running fun

After almost 3 years of running, I’m still learning how to run.

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When something becomes routine, it can become boring really fast. This law applies to everything I think. Work, school, friends, activities, food, movies, music, video games, and so on.  Changing things up and breaking the routine can keep things interesting and fun. Running is one of the easiest things which can get boring quickly. I must admit, I tend to lose interest if I repeat the same routes and strive for the same goal. Marathon training is perhaps the easiest way to get sick of running since it consumes a lot of your free time and weekends. To avoid burning out, especially when the big day is about a month away, I had to make some changes.

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– Threw time goals in the trash. Why feel disappointed after you’ve worked so hard but a minute or two too slow? That just ruins it.
– Replaced the NYC marathon from my number #1 physical ambition with something else (Mt. Rainier summit), which makes marathon day seem less stressful.
– New routes and running old routes in reverse. Hills should not be expected.
– Even though its marathon training time, I reduced my weekday run sessions from 3 to 2. With more time for my legs to rest, the workouts can be more enjoyable and less painful. Why separate speed drills, hill repeats, and recovery runs when you can combine them?

20 miles via the 5 bridge reverse route:
The big 20! After running an 18 miler during the previous weekend, I felt pumped for this. I met up with 2 of the wolf pack warriors around 7am at Columbus circle during a high humidity 70F day. These 2 dudes can run a marathon under 3:15, so it was only a matter of time before I get smoked, left behind, and become the lone wolf. After a 10k down the West street path by the Hudson, I felt out of breath already. Long runs should be a bit slower paced but here I am trying to keep up with their pace.

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We passed by several TFK running teams on the way which was pretty cool. Without a single bridge crossed, we proceeded to the Brooklyn Bridge. Toward the end of the crossing, they appeared as pixels in the distance. Mile 9 and beyond was going to get nasty. A red light stopped them in their tracks and I caught up to let them know that I’ll be tagging along from now on; a green light for them to run their real pace. The Manhattan bridge was next. Smoked. I didn’t even see them anymore. Gosh I suck. They get props for waiting up for me at Chinatown for a water break.

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Bridge 3: Williamsburg bridge. Crossing this completes a half marathon distance. They must’ve waited for 2 minutes this time. We then ran 2 more miles up Brooklyn and crossed the Pulaski bridge where we bumped into a fellow wolf pack warrior who ended up joining us. Soon after, we all split ways prior to the infamous Queens borough bridge at mile 16. I’ve slowed them down enough for one day. For the first time in history, I ran the Queen of bridges without a walk break after already have run 16 miles.

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Finally, the roads of Central Park completed the 20 route. I hit the wall around mile 19. Walking, running, walking, running… nothing left and everything hurts. I later found out that dehydration was the cause (really yellow pee). At least hydration won’t be an issue at the NYC marathon. A painful 20 miles in 3:05. Not too proud of the final time but hey, it was 5 bridges.

Training Report:
Week 15 / 21 of the training schedule.

RunDate Distance Pace Comments
Sep 17 Tuesday 4.20 9:00 Sometimes, you have to poo, and either find a bush or walk home
Sep 18 Wednesday 7.47 9:17 Was not feeling good it at all, but ran anyway
Sep 21 Saturday 20.01 ~9:15 20 miles!
Sep 24 Tuesday 6:49 8:38 Recovery! Splits [8:28, 8:39, 8:30, 8:30, 8:26, 8:59]
Sep 26 Thursday 6.21 8:33 Effortless! Splits [8:45, 8:54, 7:58, 8:58, 7:44, 8:44]
I banged out 2 sub-8s by accident!

Random Thoughts
The weather has been great (60F-70F) but not perfect (50F-60F). Autumn is my favorite. Also, I’m a year older again; a time in which I reflect on my life to see where I’ve been and where I’m headed. With a bad long-term memory and too few ambitions, I researched (googled) to seek out something new. The conclusion: to begin training for a mountain summit. My first hike is tomorrow; Mt Tammany (1500 ft). Let’s see where this rabbit hole leads to…

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When running becomes work

There comes a time in a marathon training schedule when it becomes routine and the excitement fades. There are days where you look forward to a good workout, and there are days when you don’t but still force yourself to go through with it. I’ve started to have evil thoughts like not caring about the NYC marathon, or that running kinda sucks sometimes, and stuff like that. With a dissolved resolve, running during the weekdays becomes a chore, and aspirations of a marathon time goal doesn’t matter as much. But when you reach week 15 out of a 21 week mission, beyond the point of no return, you just have to keep looking forward. Keep your eyes on the prize (I forgot where I heard that one but its a good one that stuck).

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For the past 3 weeks. This lone wolf ran solo through Queens during the final hot/humid days of summer. Some days I felt powerful, and some days I felt fragile, as if my legs would break if I ran too fast. I recall a 90 degree 13 miler Saturday morning. Not that I’m one of those guys who sweats more than average, but I may have left a sweat trail from mile 3. And just when I thought that was a nasty experience, it happened again a week later for the 16 miler. A world record for me; 3 grocery store visits for bottled water. Where is my jacket weather!? I also recall a Thursday 4 mile run session which I started off in a messed up mood. With a sour face, I ran a mile in the humid/muggy sunset. And then I heard it, thunder. And then I saw it, lightning lighting up the sky. And then I felt it, rain, and it was pouring in just 5 minutes. This somehow made everything awesome! Rain in my face, so refreshing after weeks of heat. If you haven’t run in a rainstorm in the summer, you are missing out.

OFF TO THE RACES :
ING New York City Marathon Tune-Up 18 Miler @ Central Park NYC
September 15th, 2013. 7:00AM and 52 degrees. 5,102 finishers.
Results: 8:48 pace, 1435 place, 72% percentile, (C-)

Finally, ideal weather; low 50s. First of all, many of us were late to the race because E/M trains were down. And for the first time, the baggage lines were twice as long as the bathroom lines; just weird. The race was 3 complete Central Park loops, which means that you have to climb Harlem hill and Cat hill 3 times each. Those who signed up for this race are no strangers to these hills. Even to the bitter end, there were hardly any hill walkers. Tough crowd, they must be the 2013 marathoners, and I’m one of them, cool.

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Loop 1 (mile 1-6) was all about swerving. Make sure you have at least intermediate swerve skills for the NYC marathon. It takes at least 6-8 miles before the paces reach a steady state. We shared the Central Park roads with bikers for the 18 mile race. These guys have some serious anger management issues and will yell at any runners in their lane. In general, just follow the rules of the road even when running. Look before switching lanes and hand signal when doing so.

This cat awaits as you summit Cat hill.

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Loop 2 (mile 7-12) was all about holding on to that Loop 1 feeling. There is a transition point somewhere in this loop, when counting completed miles changes to subtracting remaining miles. And then your mind starts doing the mathematics. Time left = Miles left x Average Pace. If the time left is greater than an hour, you’re gonna have a bad time mm-kay.

Loop 3 (mile 13-18) was all in your head; mental. Trying to convince myself not to slow down to shorten the running time by a few minutes. Thinking of times in my life that pissed me off to activate rage mode which numbs me a bit. Imagining sitting in a car trying to ignore the muscle burn in my quads and my chaffing inner thigh. Also, imagining that if I stop running, then the earth will explode, so I’ll have to keep running to save the world. Skipping songs on my Ipod trying to find the one to match my pace tempo and motivate me. And the no-shirt guy kept passing me at the water stations for miles since Loop 2, I made sure to pass him at the finish line.

Summary: I managed to run the first half (miles 1-9) faster than my marathon pace (8:30). I was flirting with 9:00 pace for the second half (miles 10-18) which is acceptable. Overall, I’m on track for a 4 hour marathon, cheers.

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Training Report:
Weeks 12-14 / 21 of the training schedule. 2/3 through! The 20 milers are coming…

RunDate Distance Pace Comments
Aug 29 Thursday 5.10 9:26 Sometimes, you just don’t feel like doing it
Aug 31 Saturday 13.21 9:06 Oh my God. This was the hottest 90 degree run ever
Sep 2 Monday 6.58 8:55 Just an ordinary after work run session
Sep 4 Wednesday 7:48 8:37 Power Run!
Sep 7 Saturday 16.02 9:00 Why oh why is it blazing hot on my long run days?!
Sep 9 Monday 6.74 8:33 8:30 pace on my hilly route. I was feeling good.
Sep 11 Wednesday 6.44 9:05 I don’t remember this one, but it looks like I was still recovering from Monday
Sep 12 Thursday 3.78 9:07 I couldn’t have been happier running in a thunder-storm at night.
Sep 15 Sunday 18.27 8:40 But the official race results has me as 8:48 pace in 18 miles. My App wins 🙂

Random Thoughts
For months I’ve been thinking about new hobbies/activities. Hiking may be the new thing. For me, one of the best things about running is the exploration aspect. No wonder why I hate treadmills. A mountain summit experience has been on my mind for some time now. I finally took a first step and booked a Mount Rainier summit trip for August 2014.

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There’s something about this experience that makes a marathon seem less amazing. How amazing would it be to walk on glaciers over the clouds on top the world. Unfortunately, the training is a completely different monster, and being a marathoner doesn’t impress the mountain crowd.