2017 Goals

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When it comes to running, the crazy things that I do are carefully planned out. No last-minute craziness here! Two years ago I set my running goals in time format: I wanted to be able to run distances that I had already run, just faster. In 2015 I set new PRs at the 5k, 10 mile, half and marathon distances, while running 237 miles further than I did in 2014. In 2016 I set out to focus more on long run training in order to tackle my first ultramarathon. My last long run before the ultra was Space Coast Marathon, where I PR’ed by 12 minutes and was able to do it with a negative split. While a successful 50-miler was the big goal for the year, I believe the marathon PR was a bonus and a direct result of the many 26-mile-plus long runs that I wrote into my training plan.

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What are your goals?

So what could I possibly have planned for 2017? I have three goals for the upcoming year, and for those who have called me crazy in the past, you’ll likely need that word three more times before you’re done reading. Santa didn’t bring much in the line of material gifts this year, but he left me a full dose of lunacy!

First up is a goal that I will start on January 7th and complete on February 5th. I am currently a member of the Half Fanatics (Saturn level) and a member of the Marathon Maniacs (Bronze level), and qualified for both simultaneously, giving me Double Agent status, level one of ten. I accomplished this two years ago by running 3 marathons and 4 half marathons in the same 90-day period. Back to my goal… I am going to be moving up to Double Agent level 3 and moving from Bronze to Gold as a Marathon Maniac by running 4 marathons and 4 half marathons within 30 days. I’ll be running the Disney Half and Full marathons (Goofy Challenge), Best Damn Race Jacksonville half, Shark Bite half, Clearwater Distance Classic marathon, Celebration marathon, Best Damn Race Safety Harbor half, and Tallahassee marathon within those 30 days.

That’s just goal #1 – there are still 11 months left in the year!

Goal #2: The race director for the Daytona 100 and Daytona 50 has announced a sister race in northern Michigan in June and I plan to do two things I have never done before. I will be going to Michigan and I’ll be running the Lighthouse 100 mile race. My goal is to finish the 100 miles of this race within the cutoff time of 30 hours. I’d love to bring that time down, but given the struggles that I faced near the end of the 50-miler earlier this month, and the fact that the Lighthouse 100 has “rolling hills” (where the Daytona 100 had max elevation of about 15 feet above sea level), I’m setting the goal 6 months out as finishing all 100 miles within the 30 hour limit. Also, at this point I have no idea if I will have a crew or will be running solo. Doing it solo will no doubt slow me down a great deal.

Have you called me crazy yet? But wait, there’s more!

Goal #3: Six months to the day after I run my second ultra and first 100-miler I’m going to run another 100-miler. I’m returning to the Daytona 100, this time to run the full 100 miles rather than the 50. Ok, so where’s the goal? In Michigan in June I plan to finish; in Florida in December I plan to finish in under 24 hours. I’m upping my finish time goal by a full six hours in six months. I plan on using the Michigan race as a learning tool to be better prepared and better trained by December.

Goal-setting is a good way for me to get the process started toward improvement. What keeps me on track is the accountability that involves my friends, family, and fellow runners. Even if you don’t know what it takes to prepare for a 100-mile race, I’ll bet you know what an excuse sounds like. If I’m throwing out excuses instead of miles, please feel free to mention it to me, however you see fit! I’m not setting big goals to try to be better than anyone, with the exception of who I am today, and that doesn’t sound crazy at all.

 

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Racing season is coming to a close

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As much of the northern half of the country is looking forward to the warmer weather and the beginning of racing season, highlighted with next Monday’s Boston Marathon, those of us in the sunshine state are saying goodbye to racing season. Yes, there are a few races available May through September, but not many comparatively, especially if you’re looking for distances from half marathon through ultra. Overnight lows of 70 degrees-plus for 3-4 months straight pretty much eliminate the possibility of long, competitive runs.

As I look back on the past six months I see a number of highlights, and overall a season that I am happy with. My first race of the season was the Marine Corps Half Marathon in Jacksonville, FL where I posted my current PR for the 13.1 distance. I had set a goal time of 1:45 but finished in 1:48:19, beating my previous PR by just 38 seconds. Still, it’s a PR and a great start to the season.

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Marine Corps Half finish line

October’s other race was my second running of the Lighthouse Loop Half in Port Orange, FL. Severe anxiety and stress joined me at the starting line that morning, and after three miles at a pace that would have given me that 1:45 time my heart rate was over 185. I backed it down, took some walk breaks, and finished in 1:59:00.

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Lighthouse Loop Half bling!

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Space Shuttle medal #2 from Space Coast marathon

Thanksgiving weekend I ran my fourth marathon and grabbed my second PR on the Space Coast Marathon course (first was my first ever marathon, but still). I bettered my 2014 time by 16 minutes, but still did not have a good handle on the 26.2 distance. Even with 20 and 22 mile training runs, getting past 17 miles in the race is something I struggle with, and have always gone to walk/run by that point, if not before. Goal number one for the remainder of 2016 is to become better at the 20 to 26 mile distance. I will run a marathon without stopping to walk. If I can’t then that 50-mile race will be a long December day.

 

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Finishing marathon #5 in Cape Coral

2 weeks later I drove to Cape Coral, FL for another marathon, hoping for the nice cool weather we had race morning the previous year. At the start of the race it was 66 degrees, but by the finish we were in the low 80s. This definitely did not feel like December! The paramedics were treating runners just past the finish line by the time I got there. Again my first 17 miles went pretty well, but at that point I switched to a 1/1 walk/run and finished in 4:50.

 

 

 

 

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Disney bling! Everyone needs some of this.

January brought me two races, both at Disney World and both in the same weekend. I elected to “only” do the Goofy Challenge this year, where last year I finished the Dopey Challenge. My plan was to run a steady half between 9:30 and 10:00 per mile in order to save something for the full the next day. Mission accomplished on the half (2:07:14) with very even splits. The full, however was the most difficult of the six marathons that I’ve done. On that race day the run/walk intervals started as we were leaving Animal Kingdom, or around mile 13.5 for those of you not lucky enough to have run this course. Goal time: 4:30, actual time: 4:57. Still, it’s six marathons attempted and six completed.

KIMG0763February brought me a couple of races, starting with Best Damn Race in Safety Harbor, FL. Beautiful morning for a race and I finished about 66 seconds behind my 13.1 PR. Happy day! The next day I ran a virtual 10k with a couple of friends. We completed our 6.2 miles at Disney’s Boardwalk area (hotel area between Hollywood Studios and Epcot). The pace was nice and easy which was fine with me!

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Best Damn Race Orlando with Joy

Two more races during March: First was Best Damn Race Orlando half marathon which I ran with a friend. She was recovering from strep throat so the goal was to finish. Mission accomplished. Later in March I ran my first relay event – the Sarasota Half with another friend. I was somewhat disappointed with my time for the 6.9 miles that I completed, but I achieved two PR’s that day. My first relay half (automatic PR) was done in 1:57:08. I also achieved a heart rate PR – when we sprinted for the finish I hit 196 bpm, breaking my assumed max HR of 192.

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Sarasota Half Relay with my teammate Krissy

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UCF Storm the Campus AG award plus U, C, and F medals

April will finish with 3 races, although only one is complete. The third annual Storm the Campus 10 miler was my 50th race since my first race on November 1, 2013. I was trying to break 1:20 for ten miles, but finished in 1:22:20, good enough for second place in my AG. Races 2 and 3 for the month will be this weekend as RunDisney heads back to the parks in Orlando for the inaugural Star Wars Dark Side weekend. I’ll be running the 10k on Saturday and the half on Sunday. Can’t wait to run in the parks again!

After the Star Wars races this weekend I’ll be doing 6 weeks of heart rate training, where none of my runs will take me above 140 bpm. I’ll also be increasing my weekly mileage slightly from about 33 to around 40. After that I’ll continue to increase my weekly mileage and my long runs throughout the summer, peaking at 58 miles per week in 4 runs per week by mid-November. After a 3 week taper I’m running my first ultra, a 50-mile oceanside run from St. Augustine to Ponce Inlet on the east coast of Florida. Yes, I have a goal time already for this and no, I’m not ready to share it yet, but you can bet it’s not what you’d expect for a first time ultramarathoner.

Best of luck to all of you as you enter your racing or training season. There are plenty of PR’s still to be had out there – grab yours!

 

2015 is running away

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The end of the year brings a time for reflection and for those of us that set goals, a chance to compare actual events to the goals we have set. Although there was much improvement in my training and running overall, few of my goals were achieved. My racing was nearly cut in half from 2014 as I dropped from 28 races to 15, including the 4 races in 4 days known as Dopey Challenge. Even with this I still feel like 2015 was a strong year for me.

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“C” finisher medal and AG award

A year ago I set several goals for myself and I’m not really sure how I planned to achieve them all, but I did manage to get some of them. My 5k goal for the year was 22:00. On July 4th I ran my only 5k for time and finished in 22:04. Pretty close to goal, but not quite. My 10-mile race goal was 1:20:00 and I finished the Storm the Campus 10 miler at UCF in 1:20:54. Again, really close. Placing 3rd in my AG took the bite out of that one at least. My 10k goal for 2015 was 47:00. The only 10k that I did was part of the Dopey Challenge last January and I was not running for time. I did, however, use the 10k distance for tempo runs on the treadmill several times over the summer, where I beat 47:00 three times with my best being 45:02. My half and full goals were set at 1:40 and 4:00 respectively (and I was really pushing for a BQ time) and it’s safe to say that those goals will stay in tact until I can reach them. I did set new PRs in both distances in 2015 with the Marine Corps Half Marathon completed in 1:48:19 (38 second PR) and the Space Coast Marathon done in 4:31:38 (PR by 16:01) .

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Six medals for completing Dopey!

I also set a goal to run 1600 miles in 2015. I finished the year with 1523 miles, 77 short of my goal. I started the year off with some injuries and exhaustion due to over-training and racing too much, so I was forced to take some time off to heal. Either way, 1523 miles is a number that I’m happy with. It’s almost 20% higher than 2014’s 1285 miles and I ran fewer days in 2015 than the prior year so my mileage per day was up by 25%. I also improved my consistency by staying over 100 miles for 11 months this year, including the past 10. Let’s keep that going!

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Another running venture that deserves mention is the fact that I worked with a coach for a couple of months. Sort of. I hired a coach and occasionally heard from her but the whole thing was a disaster. Eventually I found out that there was a personal issue that started at the same time I hired her, which led to the communication breakdown. In addition, I made improvements in the area of cross-training, but not nearly to the level that I had targeted. I have been going to a gym since April, though the frequency of those visits has dropped off in the past two months since I’ve been in taper and recovery mode almost nonstop.

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I also wanted to mention two highlights from today’s final run of the year. First, after a mile of warm-up I did an all out sprint for a quarter mile. I did this last New Year’s Eve as well, with a time of 88 seconds. Today’s time was 79 seconds with a peak pace of 4:40/mile. If only I could hold that pace! Near the end of my cool down miles I ran past a house that I’ve run past probably close to 200 times. This time there was a 30-ish year-old man at the end of his driveway who started cheering for me like I was in a race. He said, “Right on! Keep going! I’m so proud of you every time I see you run by here! Hi-five! Alright!!” He hi-fived me, I thanked him, and proceeded on with a little extra pep in my step. I have no idea who he is, but he made my day.

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As for 2016 goals, I haven’t decided on much yet, other than continuing to chase the time goals that I have for different race lengths. I have a new strategy for my next marathon training cycle, where I am going to attempt to solve the heart rate issues first and then work on getting faster and better at handling distance. A new training program means I don’t know what to expect for total miles for the year, though I would like to be able to surpass this year’s total.

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Time to get 2016 started!

The wall

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Typically for runners the wall is a bad thing. Dreaded even. In this case, the wall is an actual wall located in a room in my house. This wall has been the home of my race medals and a few dozen thumbtacks used to hold them onto the wall. As of today there is not a thumbtack in the wall.

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The wall before Christmas

My daughter came up with the idea that a proper medal holder would look better and would be more appropriate. She got some help from my dad and stepmother and ordered a medal holder specifically to hold my RunDisney medals since Disney has been a special place to me for about 35 years. When Christmas Day came and I opened the gift from my daughter I was truly surprised and felt that now these medals that I worked so hard for could finally be displayed in a proper manner. I had previously displayed the RunDisney medals across the top row of my wall, but this Disney-themed display unit was going to look much better.

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Disney-themed medal holder ready for some bling!

A few minutes after I opened my daughter’s gift, my dad handed me another package to open. Before I could start removing the wrapping paper he started explaining that there’s an interesting story that goes with this gift. Now I’m scared, especially with my dad. Once the package was open I saw another medal display unit which read “Always earned, never given.” Before I started running I was familiar with this phrase but never paid much attention to it. After the amount of effort I put into learning to run, getting faster, going further, and reaching goals, I have learned the value in this phrase.

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Another medal holder. Is this a hint?

Remember that story that dad had for me? Apparently he had ordered this for me (playing on my daughter’s idea) and it arrived bent (at about a 30 degree angle) due to some mishandling by the delivery folks. Dad called the company and explained what had happened, emailed them a couple of pictures, and they sent a replacement right out. They told him not to worry about the damaged one because they would collect the damages from the carrier. So dad got to work and got the steel holder about 90% of the way back to its original shape. He gave me the damaged piece and told me that if I could finish straightening it then I could have an extra one. I knew someday that having a rubber mallet would come in handy!! Challenge accepted.

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Disney medals

 

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Medals from UCF, Best Damn Races, Space Coast Marathons, and Final Mile events

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The rest of my race and virtual race medals

The wall is now complete and neatly houses almost 50 medals from 5k, 10k, a5k, 10 mile, half marathon, and marathon races, multi-race challenges, virtual races, and an age-group award that was a medal. If I figure out a way to do it I may add my finishers crown and four other age group awards to this wall somehow. I just have to figure out how to do it.

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The wall has been properly decorated

 

 

 

Race recap: Space Coast Marathon

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Ten months ago I was set on the idea of qualifying for Boston with this race. A week before the race I was in the ER to try to find a reason for my recent spikes in heart rate while running. I wasn’t sure that this marathon was even going to happen, let alone what pace I could maintain. Add to it the fact that summer really hasn’t gone away yet in central Florida and I was seriously entertaining the idea of running at a snail’s pace.

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Once I figured out that either the Zyrtec or the Albuterol (or both) were at least partially responsible for the heart rate spikes, I stopped using both and saw my heart rate drop, but still not to where it was two months ago. Race time (6am) temperature was forecast at 70 degrees, but weren’t we pleasantly surprised when it was only 68 at the start of the race! Even with the cold front I was still using a conservative race plan (BQ was definitely out of the question) and expected that I’d have to adjust my plan along the way based on how I felt and my heart rate, something that I failed to do 5 weeks ago at the Lighthouse Loop half. I decided to start the race with the four-hour pace group and even managed a few miles just in front of the pacer. Due to the congestion near the start our first mile was a little slower than it should have been (9:22) but not bad. After the second mile (9:06) I decided to jump in front of the pacer in order to grab some room to move.

I am able to know that I’m comfortable with a run when I can run splits that are pretty even without the use of a pacer. The next three miles were done in 8:57, 8:55, and 8:56. I like it! What I didn’t like was that the sun was up and so was my heart rate. For the fifth mile I averaged 165. Miles 6 through 14 were good as far as pacing goes, averaging 9:05, and I crossed the halfway point in 1:59:31. Mission accomplished for the first half, except for that pesky heart rate. Mile 14 averaged 180bpm. At this rate of increase I would have 3-4 miles left before I maxed out. I started working in some walk breaks which worked well for about 4 miles. The problem with walk breaks for me is that my legs don’t want to start running again once they have tasted the glorious feeling of walking. Miles 15-18: pace 10:23, HR 175.

 

By the 19th mile the bottoms of my feet started hurting and I could feel the burning start in my calves. I was not used to either of these sensations coming from long runs, but I knew that I didn’t like either one. I forced myself to run more than I wanted to and tried to keep the walk breaks relatively short. Miles 19-26 varied from 11:16 to 13:04, with an average heart rate of only 165. I could have pushed harder from a heart rate standpoint, but I just didn’t have any more in me. For the last half mile I used the support of the crowd to keep me running and sent my heart rate to its highest point for the entire race (183), but I finished the race running. I also finished it with a PR at 4:31:37, 16:02 faster than I finished the same race last year.

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There were several similarities between this year’s race and last year’s version, and one major difference. I felt aching in my back both years so I need more gym time! I went out faster last year, reaching 13.1 in about 1:54 and I started slowing down about a mile sooner than this year. This year I had only 1 mile over 12:45, where last year I had six in a row over 13:45. This tells me that I have made improvements and I have better self-control, but I still need long-run work, especially at or near race pace. In shorter races the finishing time might tell a large part of the story, but in a marathon what happens along the way tells so much.

And for the race highlights that weren’t about me: My friend Christin drove to Cocoa from Orlando on race morning to see me finish, which I appreciate so much! I got to see some other friends set PR’s. Because of this race I have a new favorite spectator sign: Is that a gel in your pocket or are you following a hottie? Very nice. And if you missed it, consider yourself lucky because the guy who likes to run this race in just a speedo (shirtless too) was back again this year. And thankfully so were the people who live along the race route who take pleasure in spraying runners with a garden hose if they want it. I thoroughly enjoyed being sprayed! I will be back for this race again next year, better prepared and ready to collect my 3-year Milky Way Challenge finisher medal.

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Adios from Cocoa Beach!

Marathon Training: August

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With the departure of August the fall marathon season is just around the corner. For those of us in the Sunshine State there are still a couple of months before any marathons show up on the calendar, which means marathon training is in full swing.

In case you are new to my blog I’ll recap my marathon history, and it’s not pretty. My first marathon was Thanksgiving weekend 2014, approximately 13 months after I started running. I thought I was much better prepared than I actually was and nearly PR’d the first half, reaching the 13.1 split in 1:53. My goal was to beat 4 hours so the pace seemed right. When I crossed the finish in 4:47 (2:54 2nd half) I was beaten, broken, and battered. I then ran another marathon 6 weeks later (with 4 halfs, a 10k, and a 5k in between). I started out slower but found the same basic result (4:50 finish). My third marathon was just two weeks after the second. Any guesses on the result? 4:54 finishing time and by this time there were two Achilles injuries and a completely defeated attitude.

Following the third marathon in 60 days I took a few weeks with little running and canceled a couple of races. I needed time to heal both physically and mentally. I also needed time to regroup and set some new goals. But wait, I hadn’t yet reached my marathon goal of beating 4 hours, or even come close. I set a new goal anyway. Conservative this time? Not a chance. I’m going for a BQ in the same race that I PR’d at 4:47, and I’m going to do it 12 months later (Space Coast Marathon). At my age a BQ time is 3:24:59 or better. I’m looking to make up 1:23 or more in one year. #Crazy

Fast forward to this past June when I started my marathon training. I had recently hired a coach and shared my new goal. She said it would require a great deal of dedication but it could be done. That’s all I needed to hear. I also purchased a gym membership so there would be nothing to get in my way. Strengthening would be a key part of my program and some of my runs would need to be done treadmill style simply because of the heat and humidity of central Florida in the summer. Things have since fallen through with the coach but I’m on a solid training program of my own and feeling good about my progress.

The month of August is where I started stretching the long runs as well as the easy runs, upping the weekly mileage while continuing to do speed work every Tuesday and Thursday, usually at the gym. My previous top mileage month was this past May, with 159 miles but August finished up with 189 miles. I conquered long runs of 14, 16, 18, 15, and 18 with the final 18 being on the treadmill at an average of 8:51 per mile. Marathon goal pace will be 7:49 per mile so I still have a ways to go, but considering the difficulty that I have had just finishing 18 outside this summer, that treadmill run was a huge confidence booster.

I was also able to complete a variety of speed workouts, including progression runs, 800s, ladders, and tempos, meeting or exceeding my goal for each speed test. On August 20th I even stretched a tempo run just long enough to set a 10k PR of 45:35 (my 10k race PR is 49:13). So far things are looking good.

My goals for September are to flirt with 200 miles for the month, achieve my first 50-mile training week and get more comfortable with the 18-20 mile runs outside. I will probably move one of my long runs inside again in September as I try to get a feel for marathon pace for longer distances. I also have one week scheduled with no speed work as a form of a cutback week, but other than that the speed work will continue twice a week. It really is having a tremendous impact.

If you’re on a marathon training program or if you’ve been through one and you have suggestions, please leave a comment. Like I said, I’m doing this on my own so I could be missing some important ideas.

Some Actual Training has Happened!

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It really seems like it has been forever since I have done any training. Literally, the past 4 months have been taper, race, recover, race. In some places there has not even been enough time between races to recover AND taper, and in one spot (Dopey Challenge) there was time for little more than a nap between races. Yes, this is something that I did to myself and was a brilliant example of “You don’t know what you don’t know”. I even cancelled two races in February because I could tell that running them was going to create some long-term problems. I just needed the rest.

Rest doesn’t include training, at least in the sense of running workouts that lead to improvements. I probably wouldn’t have had as big a problem if all of these races had been 5k or 10k in length. Could I be that smart? Have we met? This poorly done schedule included my first, second, and third marathons, 5 half marathons (plus the two that I cancelled), a 10-miler, and the 5k and 10k that were part of Dopey. Yes, there was a logical explanation for each and every one of the races that were on my schedule; each had a purpose. Suffice it to say that I severely overestimated my capabilities and underestimated the amount of recovery needed after some of these races. My calendar is much lighter in the next 12 months. I have learned something!

As I did not expect all of the additional recovery time, I also did not expect to lose so much of my speed and endurance while I was recovering. Running truly is a use it or lose it type of thing. I have not lost everything that I had, but I sure couldn’t compete with the times and distances that I was capable of just a few months ago. In addition to all of the recovering that I have been doing, I have also been working on strengthening both Achilles as I have had issues with them recently. It’s almost like my body wants me to accept the fact that I’m as old as I am rather than continuing on as old as I feel.

There’s the back story.

I’ve split my training plan into two parts, the first of which will get me to the Echo Half marathon in June. I’m calling the Echo Half “Goal race #1” for this training cycle. The second part of the training cycle will take me from Echo to Space Coast marathon in November AKA “Goal race #2”. The goal for Echo is sub-1:40 (current PR is 1:48:57) and the goal for Space Coast is 3:25, sometimes referred to as BQ time for us older guys.

Week one of my training was designed to do two things: To run five days in a week for the first time in months and to save the long run for the fifth day and see how I felt. The first three runs were Tuesday through Thursday, 4, 4.5, and 3 miles, all between 9:20 and 9:25. Definitely not going after speed or distance with those runs, just getting out and getting my sweat on! A comfortable pace and felt no ill effects as a result. So far, so good. Saturday I ran with Christin to help her complete the Pi Day 5k from Gametiime. We did a run/walk at her pace, finishing in 33:31. A half hour later we walked a 5k march for Autism Awareness so I had my longest cool down ever!

Sunday’s run was a much shorter “long run” than I’ve done in quite a while, but in my current state of training, still a long run. I ran a total of 8.5 miles with the first 4.5 done as 5×1200 at 9:28 with the help of my Moov training device. The final four miles were at about a 9:10 pace and I really felt strong at the end. And accomplished. I just have to keep reminding myself that I’m not at the same point in the training cycle as I was last November when I ran a 7:08 pace for a 5k. If I try to do too much too soon right now, nothing good is going to come from it. Patience is not my strong suit!

So week one is in the books. I accomplished what I set out to do and am ready for more. For week two I’ll be adding in a short tempo run and will shorten my long run a little. Total scheduled distance is 25.5 miles.