Monday, October 29, 2012

Soaring Wings Half – Race Recap(s)

So I just completed my 4th Soaring Wings Half Marathon.  As long as they have this race and I live nearby I will continue to support their mission.  This mission has a little bit of a personal significance to me which I will share with you a bit later.

First I’ll recap this year’s race.  I left my house in plenty of time to pick up Scott and easily make it to the start line.  After driving the 15 minutes to Conway I realized I had forgotten my Garmin.  I must run with my Garmin as I’m incredibly addicted to analyzing my races after the fact.  I simply must be able to look back out how I did during different parts of the race.  It’s an odd addiction, but one I know that isn’t peculiar to just me.  So I turned around and headed home, texted Scott to tell him to go on.  I got stuck behind a Blue Ford Truck in Conway that seemed to have misplaced its accelerator pedal.  I parked, jogged to the start line, Scott saw me, I jumped in line and literally went from my walk up to the race to a run in the race in one step.  No standing around at all.  Long story short, I got a PR by 10 minutes finishing in 2:09:48 and running the entire race with Scott while enjoying most of it with conversation.  

This year’s race was a great race for me.  I have now run the SWHalf four times with the previous three not going as planned.  In 2009, my first year and my first race distance longer than a 5K, I way over hydrated and overGUed and finished just over my goal of 2:30.  In 2011, my third year running Soaring Wings, I trained poorly and got a much deserved 2:19 finish (though this was my SW PR until this year).  In 2010 I trained really well, but things went terribly wrong the week leading up to the race and I finished with a time of 2:34.  That year, the one with a 2:34 finish, my worst finish at Soaring Wings ever, was my most rewarding.

First a quick little back story on me that you’ll need to know.  I’m a youth soccer coach.  I never played soccer and didn’t know a thing about it until I enrolled my son to play when he was four and I agreed to coach.  He’s never quit and we are still doing it.  Over the years I’ve coached his older sister’s team as well.  I believe in God and am a follower of Jesus Christ.  (What follows is an excerpt from thoughts I’ve previously shared on FaceBook with friends)

As the 2010 Fall soccer season started my Soaring Wings training was well underway and was going great.  About our third practice a new girl joined the team and it was clear that her skills were a bit behind the other girls, I’m not even sure she had ever played soccer.  She also needed a bit more attention than most of the other girls on the team.  She was a sweet as can be, but you could tell she was wired just a little bit different.  I knew my work was cut out for me with the new girl.  If my team was going to be as competitive as I wanted them to be I was going to have to find a way to get her up to speed more quickly or find a way to hide her on the field.

I didn’t know the whole picture, I didn’t get it.

About 3 games into the season I became aware that she was a Soaring Wings Ranch kid. (If you don't know about Soaring Wings Ranch, go check them out. ) This explained a bit about why she appeared wired a little different.  I had shared with the team that I was going to be running the SW Half Marathon and she was super excited and shared with me that she would be handing out the medals at the end of the race and wanted to personally hand me mine.  I was excited to be able to "do this for her". 

“Do this for her”, like I’m so great.  I still didn't get it.

As the soccer season progressed we were not winning any games.  I had become frustrated and didn't know how to make us better.  I had become convinced that some of my “players” were holding us back. 

Wow, my thoughts were ugly. I really didn’t get it.  I didn’t get what I was here to do.
On the flip side my Half Marathon training was going great, I posted one of my best training runs for a half marathon at 2:05 and I was feeling great.  I was the lightest I’d ever been while running and poised to shoot for breaking the 2 hour barrier. 

I thought I was awesome, I still didn’t get it.

The Tuesday prior to the race I awoke with a fever and some sort of illness.  I was sick the entire week leading up to the race, not eating much and my energy was drained.  I could not believe my luck. I spent a lot of time in self pity that week and not much time thinking about the girl waiting at the finish line for me. 

God was like “Wake Up!”, I couldn’t hear him over my whining, I still wasn’t getting it.

Race day I decided to go on.  I told myself, my friends, my family that I was “doing” this race for her.  How noble of me.  Deep inside I still knew I was doing it for me, I knew I was going for sub 2:00.  As I started the race I went out and ran the first mile on my own, blistering the pace I’d been training with.  Something happened at mile 1.5.  I was done.  I had nothing left in me.  I started to walk.  I had time to think.  I thought about the girl at the finish line, about 1 Tim 4:8 (one of my favorites if you know me), about how I had trained for running good but not trained for being good, I started to pray, repented of my selfishness, and I started to run again.

I still didn’t quite get it, but I was slowly beginning to get it.

I crossed the finish line that day, searched for that young girl and she gave me that medal.  God didn’t give me that sub 2 half marathon that day.  In fact, I’m certain he made sure I was going to do my worst.  But I know he carried me to the finish for something bigger. 

I was slowly getting it.

Below is a picture of her and me at the finish, this was the last time I’d see this young girl.  I don’t know the specifics, but she left the Ranch that week and never made another practice or game.  You never know the time frame you’re going to have to impact someone's life.  You never know when that person will be taken out of your life, so you must do your best by them each day.  I still pray for her.  The 2010 Soaring Wings Half Marathon will always be my most rewarding as I learned more about who I need to be as a person that day than I’ll ever learn from a race about who I am as a runner.

I think I finally get it, and I hope I continue to live it.

Finish Line at Soaring Wings Half 2010

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Know When to Fold 'Em...

Nearly 11 weeks ago, I started an ambitious journey to train for the Soaring Wings Half Marathon and White River Marathon for Kenya.  Both of these events are within 3 weeks of each other so I dubbed this training cycle as "Marathon Madness" for my dailymile tracking.  All in all, the training has gone much better than I could have expected.  For 9 weeks, I only missed 2 runs.  One of them for sickness and another one for just being exhausted after working all night.  I hate missing runs, but I hate really horrible runs even more.  I don't feel like I get much out of a run if my body just doesn't want to do it.  I firmly believe that if you listen to your body that it will respond much better for you than if you try to push it through aches and pains just to "log the miles".

Fast forward to this past week, week 10.  I had just run my peak long run for the White River Marathon training on Saturday (20 miles) which turned out to be a very good training run.  I felt good and kept it at the pace I needed.  I woke up on Monday morning and, despite my best recovery efforts on Saturday, felt extremely sore.  I normally wake up and can run my way past the soreness on Monday mornings, but this time was different.  I decided that my body needed another day of rest, especially with the Soaring Wings Half Marathon coming up on Saturday.  I woke up on Tuesday feeling much better and ready to get back to it.  I took off for my 5 mile run feeling pretty good... until mile 3.  It was then that the gastrointestinal monster hit.  The next 3 miles were the worst in my running history.  The entire time I am thinking about what Kevin would do in this situation and I refused to do it.  I don't do it on the backpacking trails and I sure wasn't going to do it in the woods of Conway AR.  I jogged back home, half the time doubled over.  Needless to say, this was one of the worst "runs" I had ever had.  Wednesday morning came and it was time for my mid-week long run and 10 miles were on the training plan for the day.  I got out of bed, got my running gear on, and took a couple more steps and realized really quickly something was wrong.  I was having SHARP pains shoot through my knee.  I tried to stretch, walk it off, and tell myself it wasn't a big deal.  I went outside and started to jog and almost fell down because of the shooting pain.  By now this FAIL of a week was really beginning to irritate me.  I really wanted to complete this 10 miles.  I sat there a minute thinking about my options.  I knew I had 13.1 coming up on Saturday and another 26.2 miles 3 weeks later so I hesitantly decided to shut it down for the week.

It is Saturday morning, Soaring Wings Half Marathon race day.  In approximately 1 1/2 hours the gun will go off and I will have started my 6th half marathon since my running journey began almost 3 years ago.  Over these last couple of years I have learned a lot when it comes to running.  The most important thing... listen to your body!  Most of the time your body is really trying to tell you something if it is hurting.  You will know the difference between just being sore and your body actually being hurt.  I've found that if I listen, my body usually responds well and I am good to go a few days later.  This week has reinforced this more than ever.  In 1 hour and 15 minutes the gun will go off and I feel great.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I'm an Average Joe Runner

Hi, my name is Kevin and I’m an Average Joe Runner.  That sounds almost like the start of an addiction meeting doesn’t it?

ad·dic·tion [uh-dik-shuhn] noun
The state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.

I wouldn’t say that I’m an addict, but most addicts wouldn’t say that they are addicts either.  I know that I have to run.  If I go too long without a run I start to get irritable and cranky and physically start to feel bad.  Too many days in a row without a run and I start to enter a serious funk where I’m just not happy.  At this point you’re probably thinking I’m one of those hard core want to run all the time guys, but that is not the case.

I put runners into 3 categories, and while it may seem that they are aligned based on results, they are actually aligned based on life emphasis on running.  There are the Super-Elites, the Mebs and Shalanes of the world.  Running is their life and for them running commonly takes first priority over all other aspects of their life.  Then there are the Elites, these are the people winning or placing at the top your local races.  Running is a huge part of their life and for them running is the top of all their hobbies.  And then there is us, the Average Joe Runners.  We fill up the bulk of all the race entrants and for us running is a part of our life.  It’s not who we are, but we wouldn’t be who we are without it.  There are many articles from the Super-Elites, and many Elites have blogs, but finding a blog from an AJR is very difficult to do, thus Scott started this blog and I’ve agreed to pen an article or two.

We pause this article for a running break.  [Kevin exits for a run]  Ok, I’m back now.  All this running talk got me to where I wanted to run so I just darted out the door and got in a 5K.  It wasn’t fast, it wasn’t on my training plan, but I just wanted to do it.  It gave me some time to think about what I’d write about next.

When I go on vacation I check out the locations to get in a run.  I love checking off running in a new state.  I’m currently up to 13 different states.  I love running on trails, beaches, pavement, urban and rural.  I’ve run up mountains in the Rockies and along beaches on the Gulf and the inner streets of large cities.  I’ve run in sun, rain, sleet, snow, but not yet hail.  I don’t plan to check that one off either.  I read about a runner that got caught in a hail storm, sounded painful.  I run mostly in the morning as I like a good sunrise, but I’ve run at sunset and at night as well.  I run with music, I run without music.  I run mostly alone, but enjoy company when I get a chance.  I’ve run more with Scott than anyone else and we still only run about 1 out of every 50 runs together.  That’s about to change with our running plan for our next adventure, the 50Mile stage of 3 Days of Syllamo.  This next adventure is another reason for this blog.  We plan to chronicle our training, lessons learned, and race reports leading up to the big race on March 16th, 2013.

So, how’d we get here?  Let me back the story up a bit. I started running after Labor Day of 2008.  I was at a family cookout eating and getting even fatter when the whole family discussed running a 5K that Christmas.  My Wife, Sister-In-Law (Scott’s wife Jenni), Father-In-Law, Aunt-In-Law (is that a word?), and Cousin-In-Law (again, word?) all decided to do it.  Scott was out, he wasn’t running any further than the fridge and he let us know it.  Then 10 months later Jenni and I were running our first Half Marathon and Scott was there cheering us on.  It wouldn’t be much longer and Scott would be joining us.  Fast forward 4 years later and I’ve never quit.  Somewhere along the way I switched from dreading to run to wanting to run.  I switched from worrying about running to reading about running to now writing about running.

This has been your introduction to me.  Scott and I are preparing our journey to running our first 50Mile trail race next March.  We invite you to come along for the journey.  We’ll be blogging about our training runs, lessons learned, race profiles, and pretty much everything else that enters our heads.  Hi, My name is Kevin and I'm an Average Joe Runner.


Myself (left) and Scott after the 2012 LR Marathon.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Registration Eve

So the inspiration for this blog was to write about my journey as an average runner.  I have learned to have a real love/hate relationship for running since I began nearly 3 years ago.  I'm probably like most... I hate the bad runs and I love the good runs.  As I mentioned in my first post, I like to set goals that seem a bit crazy.  It motivates me to stay dedicated and gives me big challenges to train for.  I want to be able to say "I did that".

Tomorrow morning I will sign up for my craziest challenge yet, the 50 mile trail race at the 3 Days of Syllamo.  

I give credit (and blame) to my brother-in-law, Kevin.  Over the past year, he has become a real fan of trail racing.  I have mainly stuck to the pavement but have sprinkled in a few trail races with him.  His biggest trail race was last year at the Sylamore 50K.  I thought he was crazy, and now I will be doing it with him this year.

I have been waiting to sign up for this race since we decided to do it a month or so ago. I am excited.  The thought that I am going to try and finish a 50 mile race is an adrenaline rush for me.  Kevin has motivated me and I am happy to be training with him for this epic journey.  I hope you will enjoy all of our thoughts and experiences as we train for this race as well as the other races we intend to do along the way.  I will be candid, I will tell you what my plan is, what worked and what didn't. I plan to read and research what the elite athletes do and determine what will best work for me.   I want to learn how to train the best way I can possibly train, but in the end, I just want to finish.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Let me introduce myself, and a couple of others too!

It all started in 2010 and roughly 30lbs ago.  Well... let me back up a minute to October of 2009.  My wife and brother-in-law Kevin (both of whom I will mention often) were running their first half marathon.  This was the Soaring Wings Half Marathon in Conway, Arkansas.  It is a half marathon which raises money to provide a home for children with troubled family life.  The place... Soaring Wings Ranch.  Our families watched and cheered as they raced and ultimately crossed the finish line.  They were tired, yet elated that they had accomplished such a goal.  They had both previously run a 5K or two... but this was by far their biggest achievement as new runners.  My exact words as they approached me after they finished the race... "You guys are crazy, why would you ever run 13.1 miles?  You will never see me running!"  I meant it too, at the time.  You see, I had never run further than 400 meters, and that was in high school.  I wasn't good either.  We just didn't have enough students to fill a track team so they needed warm bodies.  I digress.

Fast forward to January of 2010.  I had been experiencing some health issues.  I was overweight and had a lot of sinus problems.  While going through a couple of surgeries to correct those problems, I had more than one doctor tell me that my blood pressure was way to high for someone my age.  The fact of the matter is that I felt bad every day.  I have asthma and allergy problems and they had never been worse in my life.  I had no energy and it showed in my daily life.  My mental state at work was bad, I wasn't a very good father or husband, and I realized it was time for a change.

I decided I would put my stubbornness to the side and see if I could manage running a little bit to try and get into better shape.  I stumbled across the Cool Running Couch to 5K plan.  I decided I would give it a shot.  This decision was made in January of 2010 and I made a goal to be ready to run my first 5K in May, the Toadsuck 5K/10K in Conway, Arkansas.  I did most of the early part of my training on a treadmill at the gym.  At the time, I liked it because I had a TV to distract me.  Over time, I learned to hate treadmills and can't stand the thought of getting on one now.  Getting started was very tough.  There were times I thought it was going to be impossible.  However, with the support of my wife, my brother-in-law, and my friend Aaron who was a cancer survivor and new runner himself (much more on him later) I was able to get through the training and ultimately run and finish.  If I recall, my time was just under 30 minutes which was my goal.  I was on what they call a "runners high"!  

So... long story short... I got crazy and signed up for my first half marathon (Soaring Wings) and my first marathon (St. Jude's Memphis Marathon).  Needless to say, Kevin and I have a long history of biting off more than we can chew, or do we?  5 half marathons and 2 full marathons later, I can honestly say I am hooked. Am I fast?  No.  I am an "Average Joe" runner to this day. However, that is what keeps me going.  I can't wait until the day I break a sub 2 hour half marathon and a sub 5 hour full marathon and I won't stop until I do.  I will be running my 6th half marathon in 2 weeks (Soaring Wings again) and my 3rd full marathon next month (White River Marathon). 

I could quite possibly break the 5 hour mark at the White River Marathon because it is so flat.  However, these are just training runs for another ambitious goal that Kevin and I have for next spring...our first attempt at a 50 mile trail run.  I said we get a little crazy, and we have.  I am super pumped about it and can't wait to get to work.  Kevin has already done a 50K so he has a taste for it.  Now I do too.  More on this training later.

I hope non-elite, Average Joe runners will find our thoughts and training useful.  When looking for something similar, someone to encourage us and give us advice, we couldn't find it.  We will do our best to share that with you.