Run to Live, Live to Run

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Just five days away...

Hey there everyone,  it's been one hell of a winter, but the light at the end of the tunnel has finally arrived.  At about 1:32pm this Saturday, try and observe a moment of silence to officially kick this winter goodbye.  And luckily, the weather is supposed to stay clear on Sunday just in time for the Caesar Rodney half marathon, Delaware's largest and oldest road race.  Hell Yes am I ready...I'll be toeing the start line with over a thousand other runners who have suffered training through one of the worst seasons in recent memory.  This week is one of the most important of race training, also known as the taper week.  After all the tempo runs, speedwork, hills and repeats in addition to the lonely weekend long runs, the taper week is a nice reward.  The "taper" refers to tapering back mileage to conserve energy and stay fresh for the grueling long distance of a race.  For example, at my peak I ran about 28 miles total for the week, that being 2 weeks ago.  I ran my longest training run, being 12 miles, the Sunday before last.  This past week I ran 23 miles, with an 8 miler on Sunday after the monsoon cleared out.  This week however will be much lighter.  I took off yesterday and then ran about 4.5 miles nice and easy on the trail today.  I will do conditioning and strength training tomorrow and then do a nice and easy 4-5 miles on Thursday.  Friday will be an off day and Saturday will be a relaxing day before the race (which will be hard since it's suppose to be sunny and near 70 degrees)...probably a nice bike ride, a good dog walk and then off my feet for the night.  A good filling dinner, probably chicken and rice with plenty of water (no alcohol on a Saturday night...sheer willpower) and then to bed by 9pm.  I'll be up around 6:30 race morning to fuel up with peanut butter toast and a banana and some green tea.  No coffee or dairy...they tend to not treat my system so great when mixed with physical exercise.  Race time 9:30am sharp...10 weeks of training coming to fruition in about an hour and a half's time.
The forecast is about 50 degrees and partly other words, perfect.  I'll be honest, I'm a bit nervous, mainly because I've trained nice and pain free for the first time in awhile.  My fingers will be crossed until I cross that finish line. I'll check in again this weekend with a full report after finishing (and after finishing a few Guinnesses)...thanks again for reading and we'll talk again soon.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Dog Days of Winter...

    Ok, say by now you've cursed the weatherman, cursed your neighbor for taking the parking spot you dug out, the local government for lack of snow removal skills, and if you're like me, even cursed God for making it all happen.  Anyways, the end is in sight, and despite the horrible conditions the past few weeks, I've still managed to get in my half marathon training, in creative ways nonetheless.  Today was actually pretty nice out, about 45, sunny and most streets just wet.  I got in a nice 45 minute tempo run, but lately it's been tough to get in a decent outdoor run.  I absolutely hate the treadmill, so I have to be very creative.  I've got a membership to the YMCA, which is very valuable this time of year.  On days I haven't been able to run outside, I've gotten in great conditioning workouts at the gym.  Usually, I warm up with a nice 15 minutes on the bike or the elliptical trainer, then full stretching and core training with the weighted exercise balls.  Throw in 3 sets each of 25 push-ups, pull-ups and dips.  I top it all off with a 30-40 minute swim.  I alternate laps with different strokes swimming and also strapping on a floatation belt and do some laps of pool running.  It provides the body with just as much aerobic benefit & exhaustion as a run when it's just too crappy outside.  It also just feels great.  My body gets probably the best night's sleep after a pool workout.
    As for you, if you're already an established runner or are actively training for a goal race, great for you.  If not, but you wish to and you're finding it tough to get motivated this time of year, don't get down about it.  It's not that hard to start a training program.  A logical first step would be to get some good shoes that fit your feet, body type and running goals.  I always tell folks to go out and see Mike Monagle at  Delaware Running Company in Greenville Shopping Center and they will set you up nice.  Sure you can go to Dick's or Sports Authority if you want know what you're looking for or want to find a deal, but nobody there is going know anything about finding the right shoe for you.  The Running Company is staffed by runners who know how help other runners find the right gear for them.
    The next step is getting out the door (or on the treadmill if that is your preference) but the only way to become a better runner is to start logging miles.  Start small, not too far, not too fast, say a few miles or 25-30 minutes at a comfortable talking pace.    Walking is ok too...maybe alternate 1 minute walking breaks for every 2 minutes running and then gradually work your way up adding another minute running.   If you have a dog, it's also a great excuse to get him or her out.  If not, think about adopting one-check out the DE Humane Shelter or Faithful Friends to get started on that.  The goal when you go out is to enjoy yourself.  It doesn't have to suck or be painful.
    Once you start running, it's a safe routine to go every other day...say 3-4 times each week, gradually building up mileage or time.  I go with time, just because I don't always have the time or patience to measure out the distance of every run.  It's a good routine to add 10% each if you ran 4 days in the week, totaling about 20 miles, just add 2 more miles to the next week's total.  Or add 3-4 minutes to your average run each week if you're not keeping track of distance.  Now once you're into a nice routine and comfortable adding distance or time on a regular basis, you can add in weekly long run if you like.  It should be 30-40% of your weekly running total, so if you're logging 21 miles for the week, have your long run be 7-8 miles.  If you'd like to map out a distance and don't have the means to measure it, a great tool to use is Google Maps.  Go to the main page, click "My Maps", then "Browse Directory" and then "Distance Measurement Tool"'s very accurate and very simple to use.
    A great way to keep track of your progress is to keep a diary or a running log.  Write down everything...where you ran, how long, what you saw, what you ate before and after, any pain or problems and how it made you feel (hopefully great).  You'll be surprised at how much you can learn from yourself. 
    Enough for now...I'm off to bed and to pray for rain to do some more melting the next few days.  Hopefully later this week the streets will be easier to navigate.  Spring is 4 weeks away...until then, the pool better be ready for me.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Six more motherscratching weeks...

  So the most famous giant rodent in the Western Hemisphere gave us his word on winter on Tuesday and honestly, SCREW YOU PUNXSUTAWNEY PHIL.  Anyways, we shouldn't be surprised since it has been a harsher than normal season so far and all the predictions were that we were going to really get it this year.
I was lucky enough to get out for a long run today on the Woodlawn Trustees Trail, given that with the forecast for the weekend, it probably won't be great running conditions for the next few days.  I for one don't mind running in the winter, or in the snow and ice for that matter (I just can't stand treadmills).  I have a few great pairs of trail shoes that grip the elements well.  I favor Asics, particularly the Gel Trail Attack 5, below   and the Gel Trabuco, below those.

     Both are rugged and bulky enough like a hiker, but  light and well cushioned enough like a runner with the classic Asics feel.  They are also water resistant, which comes in handy this time of year.  I would recommend them to anyone looking for a great winter training shoe, especially if you've worn Asics before.  The Trail Attacks felt great today even after running for an hour through muddy snow covered feet were totally dry.  I also wore a pair of Nike long compression socks, which not help alleviate pain from shin splints, but also add a little warmth if you're like me and won't touch a pair of tights, no matter how cold it is.  They're actually made for soccer, but function very well anytime running for extended periods.  They keep my feet nice, warm and dry and have never given me blisters.  Until spring, they are the go to sock. 
     This week not only marks the 6 week countdown until spring (hopefully), but also the 6 week countdown until the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon.  I am just over 2 weeks into my training and am up to about 20 miles a week.  My hope is to add a mile to my long run each week (I did 6 miles today) and top out at about 35 miles a week before the race.  To make it interesting, I'm also doing fundraising for the race's sponsor and benefactor, the American Lung Association of Delaware.  If you would like to make a donation to help fight lung disease in my name, you may do so here at my homepage.  It's totally tax deductible, would help me reach my goal and would go to a great cause.  So if you donate, thank you very much and if not, shame on you, you should.  So enjoy the winter wonderland this weekend and until next time, good night and good running.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Balls of Fury...

     Alright, so you're a decent runner, and you want to maybe step it up a little bit.  Or maybe you just want to feel stronger and more confident while out there or just in your daily travels.
Weight Training...I know, it sounds so heavy...imposing...time consuming...or you just like to run and don't want to get too big.  All excuses, at least for the workout that I do to supplement my running routine.  I actually don't use weights, at least not heavy ones.  I go to the gym, but everything I do there I could do at home, so I think my $50 a month YMCA membership will be coming to a close come spring.  The elements to keep in mind here are low weight, medium reps and high quality. 
I like to use weighted medicine balls,  found at most gyms and available at any sporting goods store.  I found 2 great ones, 8 & 10 pounds each at the Sports Authority on sale for less than $30 each, so don't say you can't find any.  Now I am in half marathon training, so I am serious about my training.  I currently am running every other day...Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.  I do my weight training and conditioning Monday and Wednesday.  I either swim, bike or do an easy jog on Fridays and I rest on Sunday.  My Mon./Wed. routine starts with a 15-20 minute cardio to get my heart rate up, then some light stretching and yoga moves to get nice and limber.  I then proceed to go through a mix of different moves standing up, sitting down and on my back with both the 8 and 10 pound balls.
Here is a great regimen to follow, this one followed by Tyler Hansbrough and the UNC Tarheels basketball team...I think it must've done some good, given that it helped them win a little something called the National Championship last spring.  
     Since I started using the balls as opposed to free weights and barbells, I feel stronger, more flexible and have much more energy not just on my runs but throughout my day.  It also takes a lot less time, and you can do it in your living room.  You'll have more time, more energy and like me, maybe some more money saved from that Y membership.  Until next time, good night & good running.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

On the Trails in Delaware....

The Trail runs parallel with beautiful and serene Brandywine Creek 
    Probably my favorite trail run in the area (and probably my favorite run overall) is the one shared by Brandwine Creek State Park and Woodlawn Trustees Wildlife Preserve in North Wilmington. One of the trailheads is only about 5 minutes down the road from me, so it's very convenient and close. There are a few different trail heads you could start from but my favorite is to park at the Jewish Community Center on Garden of Eden Rd., just off Concord Pike Rt. 202 in Talleyville. The trail is well marked at the end of the road next to the lot, and you have a few directions to choose from after getting started. You can go left, which is a bit more narrow and technical, which goes south towards Mount Lebanon Rd, you could go straight, which goes downhill, a bit rocky and leads right to the Brandywine River and the Brandywine Creek State Park trail that heads north towards the DE/PA line. If you did that, you could do a nice out and back to Smith's Bridge just over the PA line for a nice 5 miler. But I like to go right just after getting on the trail and stay about a half mile before going left and down towards the creek.   I cross a smaller creek and then head back uphill towards Woodlawn'll know you're in the right place when the trees clear and you see a horse farm and a road where you have to turn left.   You'll go straight until you hit Thompson's Bridge Rd., which I then cross, go past a small gravel parking lot and continue through a small cluster of trees and stay right at the fork and continue downhill, crossing Ramsey Rd. and keep following the trail past another horse farm.  One warning about being on these trails is that they are frequently used for horseback riding and mountain biking as well, so it would probably be wise to leave the headphones at home.   I've also crossed paths with many a deer and foxes, so be on the lookout for wildlife of all shapes and sizes.
Share the trail with horses and mountain bikers

It may all look like private property, but as long as you stay on the marked trail (you'll see signs saying "Wildlife Preserve" and it will usually be roped or fenced off from the private property)  I usually keep going north across Beaver Valley Rd. where the trail perimeters cornfields and crosses a few more creeks, going behind the Hi-Point Dairy.  There are some great lookout spots on the high parts of the trail before heading down towards the Creek.  Eventually I make my way down to the Brandywine where I turn south and head back along the creekside trail. After crossing back over Thompson's Bridge Rd., go about a half mile and just past a small pedestrian bridge, you'll see a trail on the left which will take you back up towards the JCC parking lot.  The run in full is just over 8 miles, which may seem like a bit much.  You could definitely shorten and/or vary it up by staying on the upper trails or staying down on the creekside trail like I described.  Find whatever suits you, but I'm sure you will savor and enjoy it given the beautiful natural surroundings.

Smith's Bridge-One of just 6 Covered bridges in Northern DE

Here are some fully marked trail maps to help you along...
Accurate measured route map of the run I described
Brandywine Creek State Park Map
Woodlawn Trustees Trail Map
If you're not familiar with the area, I would keep the map handy, a phone and/or gps or compass and start short to get your bearings.   Once you go a few times, you'll find it easier to navigate.   

Alongside Ramsey's farm with the Granogue water tower in the distance

You'll see on the map there are several other parking areas with access to the Woodlawn Trails.  One of the larger lots is is at Ramsey Road.  Take I95 Exit 8 onto US-202/Concord Pk. toward W Chester/Wilmington.  Go 5 miles. Turn left at Beaver Valley Rd.  (The big intersection before Brandywine Town Center) Go .3 miles. Turn left at Ramsey Rd and go 0.4 miles. Then turn right to stay on Ramsey Rd. The parking lot will be .8 miles on the right. A gravel road across the street from the parking lot leads to several trails. There is also a trailhead at the back of that parking lot.
This truly is a diamond in the rough of the narrow cramped roads and private property taking up most of the space in the area, so it is a rarity.  I would love for others to enjoy the natural beauty of the trails as much as I do.  Feel free to drop me a line with any questions or advice...then get out the door and go!   Good night and good running.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Great Moments in Running #785 "The Big Race"...

Now we all know that Seinfeld was brilliant, but this is sheer & utter genius...

On the Road in Delaware...

    One of the many things I want to accomplish with this blog is to spotlight a different part of Delaware in regards to running routes.  It's a small state with not much space on the road for recreational use, so I'm gong to try and show you the safest, most scenic and efficient routes while not risking getting hit by a DART bus.  I also like to wear headphones, so I tend to stay far from busy streets and traffic.  Today I'm going to talk about the Brandywine Park & Rockford Park area since it's in the city, a mix of shade and sunny areas, with nice wide sidewalks and paths away from the street with plenty of great stuff to see along the way.  If you're lucky enough to in or near this area (I grew up right near the zoo, so this was where I first started logging miles) you can access it easily and are already aware of the beauty and charm and pedestrian friendly aspects.
    As for me, my usual routine would usually consist of a nice 5-10 warm-up coming through the neighborhood down towards 18th & Broom St., near the athletic fields. I enter the park near the playground between the baseball fields, make my way down towards the river, and go left towards the zoo and begin what I called the Figure 8 loop.  I would run east down Park Dr. to Market St., cross the bridge & run up the other side of the river past Wilmington Hospital to Van Buren St. bridge & then cross to the other side and continue west towards the Swinging bridge (the footbridge).  If you're lucky like me, then maybe you'll catch a glimpse of the local wildlife in the form of the Great Blue Herons that nest along the river.

    I would then follow the path up the hill, underneath the traffic bridges towards Wawaset St., then continuing past the large beautiful homes of Kentmere Parkway.  After passing the Delaware Art Museum and then entering Rockford Park at Riverview Ave. and Red Oak Rd., I would pass the dog park and head into the woods towards Rockford Tower.  I would stay on the road until reaching the Tower, where since it has a bathroom, water fountain and plenty of grass to rest on, when I would take a breather to regain my strength and bust in to the homestretch.  The great part about this run is that it is a nice gentle and rolling terrain with a gradual uphill leading into Rockford.  After you go around the Tower and go back out the way you came, it's a nice gradual downhill that helps to push you towards the finish.  Also if you're lucky enough to be in the park on a day in the warm months when the Tower is open, it is free and definitely worth it to head up the 100 or so steps and see one of the best views in the city.  It is still a working water tower for the surrounding neighborhoods so it makes sense that it was built on the highest point in the city.

    After turning around and heading back the way I came, I finish up with a nice staraightaway along the Brandywine just underneath the I-95 bridge and ending at the bottom of Monkey Hill.
Altogether, the run is about 5.5 miles, but if you'd like to shorten it, you can just do the river loop for about 2.5 miles or you can lengthen it by heading out he back entrance to the park towards Pennsylvania Ave. and turn northwest past Tower Hill.  This route follows the same course as the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon, so it would be an ideal training route if you're planning on doing the race.  Here is a link to a map of the Park.
    Feel free to comment or drop me a line with any thoughts or favorite runs of yours in the area.  Next time I'm going to talk about my favorite off road trail, the Woodlawn Trustees Preserve in North Wilmington.
Until then, goodnight and good running.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The New Year of hope and dreams...

Ah, the New hopes, new dreams, new goals, new races to scare me & challenge me...
Winter has sucked so far for me running wise.  I strained my lower back in November and due to sometimes crippling pain in my lower back and hip, I couldn't run for 5 weeks.  Thank goodness for the pool, muscle relaxers and red wine...lots of red wine.  But now, I'm recovered and pain free, so back to it.  Right?  Not as easy as I thought...
    Starting small, after a month long layoff due to the holiday paunch and the nasty battle with sciatica in my lower back, I knocked out a very hard 35 minutes on Sunday, then a more challenging 45 minutes on the trail today.  It was hard to take into consideration that I put on almost 15 pounds since the fall.  My quads felt like they had been beaten slowly by midget boxers...definitely thank goodness for Physical Therapy.  I'm going to the wonderful people up at Elite PT in North Wilmington.   They've trained the Men's US Soccer Team, tennis star Maria Sharapova and USA Baseball amongst others.  Thorough, courteous, professional and comfortable, just what PT should be. 

Delaware's oldest road race, the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon takes place just over 2 months away on March 2, and I've started my training.  As of now my training will consist of 4 days of running, 2 days of conditioning and cross training and one day of rest and recovery.   2 runs will be tempo runs, between 40 and 60 minutes at a fast, controlled pace concentrating on form, posture and breathing.  1 run will be repeats, usually on grass, sometimes with hills, totalling about 45 minutes or 4-5 miles.  And the last run, the best one...the long run.  Done on the weekend, I'll start with 50-60 minutes this weekend and add 5 minutes each week, topping out at about an hour and 45 minutes (my goal finish time is under 1:35)...I'll be updating on my progress as much as possible...that's all for now, some hot chocolate with Bailey's is calling me before bed.  Good night, Good running.