Category Archives: motivation

Oh. My.

It’s been quite a while. I’ve been in one of those slumps that sometimes hit post-race, but the race was in May. Around that time things were kind of becoming a little tense with coach, and then, to the astonishment of our running group he stopped showing up at all. Sure we see him in the park from time-to-time, in which case he grits his teeth, mutters things under his breath, “Oh, for goodness sake!” But essentially he seems to have gone AWOL. It is a little confusing, crazy, and sad. So, this is a little more than a post-race slump. There’s some mourning involved, I’m afraid. Not that he might not ever return. But if he did, that would be a different chapter.

In a slump, the running is not automatic. It requires motivation. This is a somewhat alien state affairs for me and requires skills I don’t usually have to apply to running. The running magazine lays on the table, untouched. There is no beet juicing. The mind is not awash in fartlek, long runs, or tallied mileage. What is my mileage?

No one from the group showed up this morning. I took my camera and hiked up two very steep mountain ridges, in the style of the group, taking a few pics here and there. This is out-of-breath, legs go to wobble hiking — no Sunday stroll in the park. Cardio and strength. Half way up the second ridge I was drenched in sweat. I jogged back down the winding trail and down a side trail we call “ankle breaker” (aptly named), watered at the over-pressured fountain, then headed home.


Lost for Words

Excited about my training – sort of lost for words, but long runs are averaging roughly 7:30 min/mile pace now (see previous post) and mileage is creeping slowly up. The rest in pics.

The time graph is kind of cool. Possibly more telling than actual mileage. Oh, and the pace chart, yes pleased about that one.

Otherwise, see Twitter!




Mental Toughness

(I wrote this at the end of April, but it never made the light of day, for some reason.)

Now down to 8 days, 16 hours until the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon, which I will run. My first half in two years.

I’m pretty sure the fitness is there. Now I just have to see if I can cash in on the right mindset, the mental toughness. As I tweeted a while back, the body is something of a bullshit artist — you realize this when you get your second wind. But it’s really the mind that’s the bullshitter, of course. Matt Fitzgerald has written a lot about this. (I direct you to Brain Training For Runners as well as, Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running By Feel.)

Yesterday’s workout, a 13-mile progression run was hard, but by the afternoon I had pretty much forgotten about it. No race effort there. But I’m a bit bothered by how the mind convinced me to back off by the end of it. (Today, however, the body definitely reminded me that I’d done some running yesterday. Not so fast, partner.) Tomorrow I’m running some sort of tempo workout, I’ve not settled on the details yet.

Here are three articles I’ve thoroughly enjoyed on the mental part of the game:

Marathon Training: Is Your Goal Pace Too Easy?

Feeling good, being uncomfortable and suffering.

I Know Mental Toughness When I See it.

Two Weeks Out

Fourteen days, 14 hours until my half marathon race. Of course, I’m assessing where I am in my training, starting to think about particulars. As I think about how my training’s gone, I’m also thinking about what I might build on for the next training cycle. Not sure I can manage a full blown narrative, but I can put a ragged list together.

A Few Pre-Race Considerations:

  1. Pace. I’ve been doing “wave tempos” between 6:45 and 7:15 min/mile. Somewhere in there is my race pace. Today’s tempo run went pretty well, though I still could have suffered a little more. Maybe a lot more. For my next training cycle, renewing my relationship with pain is going to be a priority. Because, as someone wrote, when the pain hits that means you’re on track to a PR. And that’s not any crazy 110%, no-pain-no-gain philosophy — it’s just the facts. Coach Jay Johnson has a nice post about it, “Feeling good, being uncomfortable and suffering.” (I leave my strength and speedwork pretty much up to the group of middle distance runners I run with in Griffith Park. They have me running much faster than I ever would have done before, and in completely different ways. They are not averse to a little suffering.)
  2. Step up the strength work. Really what I’m talking about is The Standard Core Routine I found at Strength Running, and the Lunge Matrix I found at Coach Jay Johnson’s site. I throw in some pushups. The reason for stepping up the strength work is not just because it feels good, and contributes to running form or preventing injury. There are a couple of other things in play. First, being diligent about doing some strength work right after the workout is another training stress, another layer of fighting fatigue and working with a little suffering, especially on one of your “hard” days. The same Jay Johnson post, link above, touches upon this idea. And second, (taking out) strength work can be an element in your taper. At least that’s something I read, and it makes sense to me so I’m going to try it out. Idea being, the week before your race, that in addition to cutting your running volume you could cut the volume of your strength work. Thus creating a zippy, energized body. Not sure where I got this idea, but quite likely it was from Strength Running, Jason Fitzgerald’s site. He has a good post on tapering, here. And speaking of tapering…
  3. Tapering. In the past, and it’s been a while now, I think I reduced both volume and intensity of workouts. I’m not doing that this time. Just volume. I’ll do short, intense workouts at race pace just to whet the appetite without introducing the element of fatigue. I’ll also be considering my diet. I’ve been reading Matt Fitzgerald’s new book, The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition. Just taking a cursory look over the book I realize I have no idea whether I get enough carbs or not, to be carb loaded up. Do I eat 300 grams of carbohydrate a day? Who knows.
  4. Fueling. I’ve greatly enjoyed experimenting with taking medjool “fancy” dates on my long runs, but am not sure they’re a great solution for a race (just one type of sugar, probably not too many electrolytes). I haven’t ruled it out. I tended to use those only after about an hour of running. Just recently tried some other fuels. My last long run I took Gatorade, which worked fine. Not sure if I want to take a fuel belt for the race, though, and I don’t think they’ll have Gatorade at the race. Today I took raspberry flavored shot bloks, with caffeine. They’re okay, but require a fair amount of water to get them to go down and I find I don’t tolerate them that well. The whole process is a little distracting. I may end up going with the dates and fill them with a pinch of salt or something crazy like that.
  5. Mileage. I’ve got my long run comfortably up to 15+ miles and weekly mileage up to 40. I’m ready to move up to 50. Maybe I’ll get one week of 50 before the race? Maybe not a good idea. Honestly, not sure I’ll have the time to get to 50 in the next training cycle. Not sure how people train for marathons. Where do they find the time?? Perhaps become a Predawn Runner?
  6. Shoe choice. I recently got the Saucony Kinvara 3 (see runblogger’s review), which I quite like, but it feels a bit minimal for a half. I know many would disagree. Right now the Brooks PureFlow (see runblogger’s review) is the frontrunner. It’s light, has a sort of cushiony feel, without being as gigantic as the Hokas. I really enjoy the Hoka One One Stinsons (runblogger won’t review it for some reason, though the Hoka One One B2s seems to be helping his wife deal with hip pain — here’s a little video about the Hokas) for eating up sidewalks on my long runs, but having gotten used to lighter shoes, it feels a bit much for a race. Undecided, though. I’m going to be weighing all the shoes, out of curiousity.

Beyond this it just gets into minutiae and worrying. Socks? Packet pick-up? I feel good about my training and just want to get some good, confidence building workouts in. I may have to get creative carving out time for my next training cycle, but I also have some ideas about what to work on.

A Motivational App to Incorporate Strength Work


Funny going from the phone to the desktop — never *quite* sure what things are going to look like. These massive images are from my Lift app, a social motivational app used for tracking habits, etc. I’ve found it to be quite helpful in tracking my non-running strength or core work. And now that I’m convinced strength work is essential to preventing injury and strengthening running overall, I’m pursuing it.

I’m happy to note that I’ve been doing a fair amount of strength work with some success, and I believe using the app has helped a great deal.

When I started I was doing 5 pushups, now I’m doing 30.

From the photo above, you can see that today I did (marching) bridges, lateral leg raises, clamshells, modified bicycles, planks (prone, supine and sides), and pushups.

(I haven’t been tracking the Lunge Matrix, but I’ve also been doing that before my last 5 or so solo runs. My meditation has been lagging a bit lately.)

Very handy (and motivating!) to see the data, for instance, that I’ve done planks 53 times since January 20, and that right around the time of my trip to Santa Fe my habit flagged. I also notice that my meditation habit was just devastated by my race in February. So on top of being motivated, you might even learn something about your habits. Pretty cool. This app is essential for me, now.

Most of my exercises I got from Jason Fitzgerald at Strength Running, specifically from this particular video. (I added on pushups and clamshells and lateral leg lifts.) If you don’t know his site, you should really check it out. He has tons of information, check out his free pdf “52 workouts”, for instance.

As I’m gradually embarking on a more steady work schedule, it will be interesting and challenging to see what other patterns emerge.



March Elevation

March has been a big running month for me, in both quantity and, perhaps less so, quality (see Twitter feed!).

I managed to transition out of a good race result from the 5K, into a more energized stretch of training, with sharpened goals, more focused training. I surprised myself by sticking with my strength training, which consists mostly of body weight exercises – but I continue to do them: push ups, three kinds of planks. More recently I’ve added clamshells, a modified bicycle and marching bridge pose – all basically stuff aimed at strengthening the posterior chain, and yes, the core.

Coach has been kicking my ass, not so much in terms of specific workouts, but more related to attitudes, expectations. I no longer require a recovery day after one of those group runs, though they are frequently very tasty workouts. Coach understands the value of variety, and hills, for sure.

And I’ve found some great running blogs for inspiration (posts to come on that front). Ok, well, for starters – this Canadian Olympian’s adventures in Kenya are really just to be recommended. Reid Coolsaet.

And tomorrow taking the overnight train to Santa Fe, elevation 7000 feet! I had read from some fairly reliable source that green tea extract helps with the adjustment. Hydration is also critical. Excited to do some easy running and photography, before launching into this April training. Half Marathon on May 6.



The wife has sweetly produced all kinds of “remedies” as if she were a native-born Californian, in the hope that I might salvage my race on Sunday. It is two days, but this morning the cough seems to have tightened its grip and the throat needs lots of attention. Most likely it will be a choice between running it easy, tentatively, or not at all, which, to be quite frank, sucks ass.