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After several months of training, I ran my second marathon this past Sunday in the 2012 MetroPCS Dallas Marathon.  This marathon has been run since 1971 in Dallas.  I have now been a participant three times, one half and two fulls.  I finally decided this year to run it again, partially to get redemption over last year’s really crappy weather.  In addition, I wanted to end my year on a strong note and a hopefully improved time.

The race this year was new and old in many respects.  When I ran this marathon last year, it was still called the White Rock marathon, so named because it used to be run just around White Rock Lake in Dallas.  This year’s course moved to downtown Dallas, but still retained  a leg around the east portion of White Rock Lake.  There were also other new additions to the route as well.  So, I ran my first marathon at the last White Rock marathon and my second at the first Dallas marathon.

All the runners gathered downtown Dallas on Main Street before sunup.  Yep, that’s runners.  Ready to run well before dawn.  The streets were decorated for Christmas and it added to the atmosphere.  The weather this year was going to be really different.  I was glad there was no rain forecast, but instead of cool weather that we usually have, it was in the low 60’s and humid–really humid.  Before the day was over, the temperatures would climb up into the lower 70’s.  Not really great running weather for this distance and my build.

The start was arranged in three corrals this year and it helped get us out fairly quick.  Some years folks in the back (like me) had to wait 40 minutes to get out on the trail.  Our first section out took us into West Dallas.  This was the first year that West Dallas had a part in the race.  I think they were thrilled and we enjoyed running through their part of town.  The motorcycle club revving their Harleys was a great part.  Upon leaving West Dallas, we ran over Dallas’ newest bridge.

The Margaret Hunt Hill bridge is a new one placed over the Trinity river and connecting West Dallas with Woodall Rogers and downtown.  It’s a suspension bridge designed by a Spanish engineer by the name of Santiago Calatrava.  I’m pretty sure the idea was to make it like the NYC marathon run over the Verrazano Narrows bridge.  It was a cool part of the race.

Once over the bridge, we took a swing through the Design district in an old industrial part of town, then up Oak Lawn for a ways to Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for children.  They are the primary receivers of the funds from the race.  Scottish Rite serves children with many different orthopaedic medical needs, all at no cost to the families.  The race had never been run by the hospital itself, until this year.  We turned at Maple Street and headed through part of the Uptown district and down to Turtle Creek, a mainstay of the marathon course.

On Turtle Creek, I saw the best sign of the race.  Luke’s Locker mans an aid station about six or seven miles out.  This year, they had some signs placed before the aid station and one read something like, “There ain’t no app for this.”  I think I’m going to have to remember that one.  It ranks right up there with “Run Forrest Run.”

During the early part of the race, I tried to keep my running comfortable, but I made the decision that I would stop for a walk only when I really felt I needed to slow down.  I kept looking around for the 5:00 hour and 5:30 pace groups, but never saw them.  I did see the 2:40 hour half-marathon group close and thought I’d stay close to them.  That would be a 5:20 marathon pace.  Little did I know I was soon to become the poster child for what not to do in running a marathon.

My first real break came at 9 miles when we were about to cross Interstate 75 and head towards White Rock.  I probably could have kept going, but it was time to find a short line at a port-a-potty and this was it.  Someone in front of me forgot to latch the door on theirs and I saw the green indicator.  I quickly found out that the lady forgot to latch it.  No harm.  Nothing seen.  Move along.  After eating a bit and drinking some Gatorade, it was off again.

There were a lot more hills in the race than I remember and more than I run on my training runs.  But, I was doing them pretty well so far.  However, when we were on Mockingbird, I finally realized I was running too fast.  When I slowed for a walk, the 5:30 pace group passed me at about the 12th mile.  Uh-Oh.  I had been running ahead of them all this time.  Time to slow down.

I tried to stay with the pace group around White Rock, but about half way, I could no longer keep up.  I was starting to lose energy.  And, the wind was getting annoying off of the lake.  I forgot to mention that shortly after the 9 mile mark, I got tired of my sweaty tech-T rubbing certain parts of my anatomy that it shouldn’t (and doesn’t usually).  It was either run in pain or lose the shirt.  I ditched the shirt under my hydration belt and ran without it.  Much better, even though I was breaking my daughter’s rule about old men and no shirts.  Precisely why the wind off the lake was now getting annoying.

Just after 19 miles, we ran by a group that was actually handing out beer.  I later found out they not only had beer, but also jello shots for the runners!  I passed up the alcohol and kept going.  Never take in something you aren’t used to on your runs, which is why I also passed up the guys handing out FRS energy drinks.  The biggest hill in the race was right here just before 20 miles.  I was glad to get it over with and get on passed 20. I’ve said before, the first 20 is just a training run, the last 10K is the race.  Now, it was the race.

By this time, I knew I was in trouble.  My feet began to really hurt and it was hard to keep it up.  The marathon is the only place I know where we count up to 20 and down to 26.2.  I was actively counting down at this point.  We were on Swiss Avenue and headed to downtown when I really noticed the wind picking up and it getting a little cooler.  We were due a cold front in the afternoon that would take us down to freezing overnight.  Looks like it was getting here a little early.  By the time I was near 24 miles and downtown, it was time to put the shirt back on.

My last few miles was just gutting it out.  Everything below the waist was starting to hurt.  I crossed the line with a gun time of 6:15:00.  If it had taken longer than 15 minutes to get out, I had broken 6 hours.  We had a new tech feature this year.  A QR code on our bibs allowed volunteers to read us our time almost immediately.  6:01:52 was the actual.  I was still happy.  I had taken more than 25 minutes off last year’s time and considering my mistakes I did alright.  I learned later my 10K time was 1:15 and my half time was 2:45:45.  I ran a great 10K and massively PR’ed my half marathon time.  Yet, it took me 1:36 to finish the last 10K.

I guess I did something right because it sure hurt worse than last year.  It’s Tuesday and my quads are still barking.  Now for three weeks off of running and then to rebuild for next year’s adventures.  I think I’ll work on half marathons for a while.  I seem to run them well now.  My weight is less.  My speed is up some.  The marathon is still a brutal race, but it’s great to have both on mylist and more to come.  Lesson learned and a great race also.

Yes, on Monday morning there was snow on the ground.  Just a little and it left after sun up. Happy running!

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2012 MetroPCS Dallas Marathon Finisher's medal

2012 MetroPCS Dallas Marathon Finisher’s medal

Yep, here it is folks.  Another runner that I follow on Twitter posted this pic of the finisher’s medal for this year’s MetroPCS Dallas Marathon.  I finished my last long run yesterday for my training plan and only have a few short easy runs and some rest days before race day on December 9th.

In addition to getting ready for this race and thinking back over all the training I’ve done, I thought some this week about my cross-training.  After having several injuries mostly relating to over-used or inflamed muscles and tendons, I learned about cross-training.  Of course, as a cyclist, I was cross-training already, but since then, I’ve added in swimming as well.

My cross-training with running really helps with my muscles.  I can always tell after riding, spinning, or swimming how much looser my muscles feel.  This has to be good for my running and I think it has helped.  Along with remembering to stretch after long or hard runs, I haven’t (knock on wood) had any issues this year after my swimming injury healed.

I’m getting just a little bit excited to run come Sunday.  Now the really obsessive part of racing takes hold.  Checking on the weather every five minutes.  Pouring over the race map to visualize the race neighborhoods and where I’ll be at about what time.  Figuring out six days in advance what I’ll wear and need, then changing it several times. Fretting over meals and calorie counts.  If I forget anything to be obsessive about, please send me a comment and remind me.  I don’t want to miss even the smallest obsessive detail you know.

I pulled the marathon card on my algebra teacher this week.  I signed up to take college algebra this semester as I need more discipline hours in order to be able to teach on the college level someday.  Wouldn’t you know I’d pick math, right.  I have this saying, “Dave always has to do it the hard way.”  And, I’ve proven it with math.  I’ve really struggled this semester with this course, which shouldn’t be all that hard.  I took algebra in high school, right; thirty something years ago.  Mostly, I seem to have some kind of numerical dyslexia.  My difficulties are often in getting all the numbers written down without transposing something.  In any case, I spent all day yesterday doing two tests, and I do mean all day.  I’ve been close to giving up and withdrawing.  Instead, I sent my teacher an e-mail and told her I was a marathoner.  We don’t give up.  And, I wont’.  Might go down in flames, but I wont’ give up.

If you already have a follow for me on Twitter, I’ve set up tweets while I’m running next Sunday.  If you haven’t and if you’re really that bored for tweets on Sunday, I’m @abigmanrunning over there.  Strangely enough I do have followers on Twitter as well as here on WordPress.  I thank you for that.  I started writing this for practice, but I realize it’s writing and we do like for folks to actually read what we’ve written.  I found out how important that was this week when I helped out another writer.

Discovered a new app to use this week.  Another friend messaged me about using Strava for cycling and running.  My garmin has been broken for all of this Fall.  I just haven’t wanted to spend the money on a new one nor mess with it while training.  Mostly, I just need an easy way to record my miles, times, and paces.  I’ve been using another app on my android phone, but it’s really a power hog.  Strava so far doesn’t seem to be.  I’ve only gotten to use it once, but it’s really simple.  It works while my phone is in airport mode.  The GPS signal still receives during that mode, but it really lowers power usage.  I’ll keep everyone posted on it.

Well, I told you it was going to be a bit random.  It happens every now and then.  I just heard today there are chances of rain showers for next Sunday.  I don’t need to hear that after last year’s race.  I sure hope that goes away.  I’ll be updating on the post race recap next week, after I rest up a bit.  Remember, the first 20 miles is a training run.  The last 6.2 miles is the race.  I think I said that somewhere before.  Merry Christmas, and Happy Running!

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It’s Monday and I just finished up a “marathon” session of algebra homework.  Yes, yours truly has returned to school yet again.  I discovered at the end of Summer that if I were to simply beef up my credit hours in math or another subject that I have a good chance of getting to teach at the college level eventually.  So, starting with College Algebra, I am back into the groove.  Let’s see how that does with my marathon training.

This past Saturday I finished up my first 20-miler of this round of training.  Last year, my training plan from Runnersworld.com only had me do one 20 mile run before tapering.  This year, I stepped the plan up a notch and it has me doing the 20 three times before taper.  Two of these will come in back to back weeks very soon.

I am also still being amazed at my times.  Now, I’m still not a speed demon by any means, but my long-er long runs have taken considerably less time than I was doing them in last year.  For example, this weekend, I ran my 20 miler in 4 hours, 14 minutes.  That is a full 45 minutes faster than last year’s 20, and I still have two that I can improve upon.  If I can hold up to this, I have a chance at finishing nearly an hour earlier than my first marathon.

I know that part of the factor in my first marathon was the weather.  It was brutally wet and cold.  It slowed a lot of people down.  However, I didn’t run my training runs any faster, and those were run in good weather.

Early last month, my garmin died so I have been using known routes to run for my long runs.  I have a set 14 mile route around South Irving and I’ve added some of my shorter runs to that in order to make the distances.  This Saturday, I ran a 6-mile route first, picked up my stash of Gatorade at it’s usual finish, then took off and ran the 14-miler to gain 20.  I have even double-checked my mileage in my mapmyride.com route and it’s accurate.

If there is anything I know that I have done differently this year, it is in consistent Summer mileage, strength training, and working on getting the weight down.  This past Summer, I regularly ran an 8-mile long run each week, plus tried to keep my weekly mileage near 20.  I’ve been doing strength training at the Senior Fitness Center since January.  I know it’s been an added bonus.  Working on the weight is still a struggle, but I am down to 244.  If I can take off a few more pounds before December 9th, it’ll help.

I think I’ve worked harder on this marathon than last year.  I am hoping that it will prove out come race day.  I’m still injury free and running well.  If the weather will cool off a little more, I think we’ll keep running well round here.  That makes me hopeful for a good 2nd marathon.  But, I still have to remember, job one on race day is just get across the finish line.  I’m working on a solid pacing strategy in my long runs to get me at the right point.  We’ll see how it goes.

In the middle of all this I am still job hunting.  However, I have two appointments tomorrow.  One is with a recruiter about an IT job.  It’s not ideal, but I need to get in front of someone.  I am almost at the point of giving up on IT work for a living at this point, though.  My second appointment tomorrow is with my old job.  There are a couple of positions open that I can do and I’m going to see if they will work out.  It’s work I know I can do with people I know.  Both of those would be good right now just to get me going again.

I am enjoying my algebra homework by the way.  I do like math.  I’m just sloppy at execution.  I make little mistakes that miss the mark.  I could use sharpening up on those and continuing to improve.  That’s something that running and cycling has taught me.  We make mistakes in our training.  But, we evaluate our training and then we make changes to correct those.  We add practice on the new stuff until it works.  Then we can put it into our knowledge base for use on race day.  Because I know I can do the work to run a marathon, I also know I can do the work to reach whatever goal I set, whether it’s job-related, or just life-related.  Happy running, folks!

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It was quite good to come home from Hotter-n-Hell to a week off.  I took all that was left of my vacation time this week instead of leaving it on the books.  I figured I could use it as a buffer between having a job and having to look for a job.  I also thought I’d get some stuff done before starting new tasks.

The weather had conspired to keep me from any yardwork for a few weeks because of on and off again rains.  It’s not too weird to get rain in August, but we got a little more than usual in the past few weeks.  The spacing was just enough to throw off any catch up in the weeds.  I only have one really bad weed nemesis; stickerburrs.  The front yard is fairly well under control, but our back yard along the fence is just over run.

I have tried chemicals to no effect (not my usual choice).  I also have been using bagging on the lawnmower, but that only seemed to have a slight effect.  Currently, I am digging up individual plants before mowing in the attempt to cut down on seeds.  Each stickerburr plant puts out at least 8 to 10 burrs.  Each of these are a seed for a new plant.  Hopefully, by removing the plants, I’ll catch up on them.  However, that will be a trick.  This week’s take is four yard bags of plants.  Each bag was about half full because of the weight.

This week also began the first week of Dallas Marathon training.  For longer races, I usually generate a Smart Coach plan from runnersworld.com, then I add in or take away as needed.  Since this is my second marathon and I ran pretty good this Summer, I set it as a ‘moderate’ level of training.  Therefore, it has me running long runs up to 20 miles three times before taper starts.  That should be fun (sure).

Monday’s run called for five miles easy.  I figured after a very hard 100-miler on Saturday that I would not at all feel like doing that many miles on Monday.  If I got it up to 3 miles I would be doing well.  However, I surprised myself.  My tendonitis in my right foot wasn’t hurting at all and I did not seem to have dead legs.  Since I didn’t have to get up uber-early, I got to Running Bear Park at first light and decided to go around the whole loop and see what I’d get.  Turned out to have a 4.7 mile morning.

Wednesday also called for my first tempo run.  If you’re wondering what that is, check here.  This would be my first real speedwork since last season, so I strapped on the heart rate monitor and decided to run the tempo going more by heart rate than by pace.  The runnersworld.com plans still tend to run slightly behind what I can do now, so heart rate should give me a better idea of true tempo pace.

For the tempo run, I had to warm up, then hold tempo pace for four miles and cool down.  The total for the day would be 6 miles, which is 2 shorter than a normal Wednesday.  After a half mile warm up, I stepped the pace up to 12 min/mile.  That should be enough, right?  My max heart rate should be around 168 (220 – my age = max heart rate).  After a little bit of 12 min. pace, my heart rate went up to…145 bpm.  OK, that’s not doing well, and I could tell by my exertion level that I wasn’t at tempo either.

The general rule of thumb on tempo runs is to hold a pace that you can hold, but really, really would like not to hold.  With HR and exertion level in mind, I stepped up a little better.  We were  heading down to Running Bear park by now.  Turning out of Running Bear, I checked again and my heart rate was 165 bpm.  Good one!  My exertion level was holding, but just; so that was OK too.  My pace now: 10:50 min/mile.  Not bad.

The next mile carried me up two pretty good hills and as expected, by the time I hit the peak, the HR monitor alarm went off.  I was exceeding 168 bpm now.  I slowed a little to let it go back down, but not much.  And, what do I run into…a red light.  Not just your ordinary red light, but the one from Hell that never changes.  Down, down, went the heart rate.  At about 118 bpm, the light changed.  It was probably only a minute and a half, but I didn’t like losing the tempo HR.

After the red light, I picked things back up to speed and the HR came right back into line.  Through the next couple of miles, I had to slow just a bit, but my HR remained steady and I was still doing 11:15 to 11:30 pace.  I turned the corner at the next red light and saw I had finished up all four miles of my first tempo.  I could now slow back down and go easy for the rest of the miles.  It felt really good to finish up the first bit of speedwork.

Today was the first “official” long run at 10 miles.  I had already done a 9-miler a couple weeks ago, so I was pretty ready.  We’ve been in a cool streak, but expecting more heat.  Still, I was surprised to see the 79degF on the outdoor thermometer this morning.  I set up and got my stuff on and left the house…without my hydration bottle.

Oh, I had put on the belt, but didn’t grab the bottle out of the frig.  When did I figure this out?  A half mile down the road.  Now what do I do?  I couldn’t run out a whole ten miles at this temp without fluids, so running back to the house I went.  At least the jog back to the house made sure I had ten miles done this morning anyway.

On my long runs, I keep close to what the plan states, at least somewhat.  It called for a 15 min/mile pace, but that’s almost walking speed now.  I kept it between 13 min/mile and sometimes 14 min/mile.  Those paces felt pretty easy for me.  For a mile or so, on flat section, I put in a 12:30 pace.  The 10 miles went by decently, but not real fast.  It took a couple of hours plus this morning and I have been able to do 10 miles in two hours even, but not today.

I am sitting here this afternoon waiting on a friend that’s just gone through the job search routine recently and we’re going to go over what I’m going to do.  I also have a list of things to do next week; some related to job search and some related to keeping something going for now.  It’s kind of weird not having to worry about each day right now.  I know that can grow as time drags on, but right now it’s not a big deal.  That’s new to me.  My biggest problem will be making sure I stay productive and busy while the search goes on.  As my sweetie tells me, I don’t sit still very well.  That’s probably a fault of mine.  As I recall, my grandfather was a bit like that as well.  So, here’s to next week and getting things done.  More miles on the books and things to do.  Happy running!

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