Troy Conquers 26.2: The End is Nigh

For the past several months, I’ve had the great pleasure of coaching most of my family members for the Disney Marathon Weekend races. It has been a wonderful journey, and great fun to see each of my family members growing through the training. The best part of coaching my family has been working with my brother as he trains for his first marathon – as part of the Dopey Challenge. I am so deeply proud of him that it stuns me. Every time he achieves a new goal, I am filled with pride. The best moment was this:

Troy's Garmin

The text he sent me following his *second* twenty-miler. He’s amazing. I even got a little misty-eyed reading his texts. It has been truly my pleasure to see him finish this training. Here’s his take:

I ran the Volkslauf 20K in Frankenmuth, MI on July 4, 2014 as my first long race (more than 5K) since Disney in January.  I had trained well through the summer, but missed long runs or workouts along the way.  Still, I dropped 2 min/mile off my expected half marathon time and finished without injury.  It was a success.  The next day, I ran a 5K with Dr. Rachel as a shakeout and a glimpse as to what would come in January again.  I had never done back to back races and probably very few back to back runs.  But that was the future for me – training for Dopey and running back to back to back.

Thus, I consider July 5th as my training start date for the Dopey Challenge.  I started out following the Disney supplied plan. Then, in September, I switched to the Dr. Rachel prepared plan.  Since then, I have followed it as best I can; running through Lake Fayetteville in Arkansas, West Hartford in Connecticut, treadmills, and the Pere Marquette Rail Trial here in Michigan. Since training started, I have logged 406 miles running – 113 of which came in November alone.  Even as temperatures have dipped in Michigan, I have stayed outdoors; trying to avoid the mistakes and injuries of last year.  Staying healthy and getting stronger (running) has been a huge priority.  I have missed out or skipped out on things so much that I am sure my friends and wife are sick of hearing “I would love to but I have to run tomorrow”.  But the end is nigh.

In an early post (August,) I had mentioned my weight loss goals.  When Dr. Rachel visited for the Volkslauf, besides being my running coach, she also helped me with changes to my eating habits.  I don’t say diet.  I still drink beer, eat pizza, and grab fast food (sometimes while still in running clothes).  Nothing has been cut but instead portion size monitored and better decisions made.  I am down 48 pounds, feeling better than ever, and I think it has translated to better, faster run times.  The holidays are a hard time to skip the eggnog, the cupcakes, and the thirds at family dinner.  But the end is nigh.

There are 15 days, 15 hours, and 8 minutes (as I write this) before the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.  While I expect some of my new habits will carry with me into the future, the end is nigh.

Troy Conquers 26.2: The Easiest Hardest Thing

In his newest post, my awesome running brother really captures something that’s true about running – it’s the easiest, and hardest, thing I do.

 

It is hard to explain running and the brain worms (the compulsive desire to run a stupid long distance and sign up for races).  I never thought I would be in the position to be a distance runner and still, I catch myself thinking ‘Well, I don’t need that.  That is for real runners.’ Only to realize that maybe along the way, I have become a real runner.  40 mile weeks and marathons; planning days and weeks around mileage; traveling with twice as many clothes so I don’t miss a workout — I didn’t plan this and it hasn’t come easy.  Though maybe it has…

Running, running long distances specifically, is the hardest thing I may ever have done.  It is also the easiest.  Running seems essential to human life in some way and something that occurs without ever thinking about it.
We as a species seem born to run.  I watch my three year old nephew and realize that he runs until he falls over, everywhere.  He doesn’t think about it and has no finish line.  He just runs as though it was the easiest and most natural thing in the world.  And really, running is easy.  It is just falling slowly but in a very rapid pace.  There is nothing magical about it and anyone, yes anyone, can run or work up to a run.  Running is easy.

Running, running long distances specifically, is the easiest thing I may have ever done.  It is also the hardest.  Running the long runs is just time, a decision to put aside 4 hours of my day to go out and enjoy nature.  To listen to birds sing and see my neighborhood or a park at a calm 5 mile per hour pace.  Getting to that point, getting to running 3, or 5, or 10 miles is hard.  It is hard to get out of bed and strap on shoes to run for 3 hours.  It is hard to push through mile 15 and 17 as feet and ankles and knees all seem to rebel against movement.  It is hard to face up to chaffing and consuming half your calories in paste form.  Running from mile 17 to 18 last weekend was one of the most physically and mentally straining things I have ever done but I did it.  It takes being more stubborn than smart.  Running is hard.

Troy on run

Maybe that is what is appealing about running or what draws people to run until they bleed and can’t walk another step.  While challenging, the challenge isn’t the activity. The challenge is to push yourself into something you never considered possible before.  Running is easy to do but incredibly hard at the same time.

Amazing Holiday Gifts!

If you’re anything like me, holiday shopping is a little bit of “one for you one for me”. I love to find great gifts and this year I’m on a tight budget. Most of the people I shop for are runners, so I’ve collected lots of great ideas for runners. I you need a Christmas gift, a stocking stuffer, a small gift for one of the less-important days of Hanukkah, or a great little Festivus present, look no further.

If you’re shopping for the runner in your life and looking to save a few dollars, head on over to Clever Training, my go-to shop for running gear and accessories. Use my handy Clever Training discount code (Email me for the code!) for an additional 10% off!

Here are my top ten small holiday gifts for runners.

1. Lock Laces – Lock Laces are a great gift, and one that I’ve profiled before. These nifty elastic laces make tying shoes a thing of the past. They are secure, comfortable, and easy to use.

Lock Laces

2. Believe I Am Training Journal – This beautiful training journal was created by professional runners and features quotes, cute drawings, and helpful notes to inspire the female runner in your life. Check out the beautiful jewelry and clothing while you’re on the site.

Believe I Am

3. Win detergent – Keep your runner smelling fresh all year round with detergent specially formulated for technical fabrics. Special detergent is the key to getting your running clothes clean.

Win detergent

4. Oofos sandals – Oofos are seriously the best recovery footwear ever. They are soft, supportive, and come in fun colors for all runners. They’re available on Clever Training – use the code above for a 10% discount!

5. Add A Day Roller – For rolling tight muscles on the go, nothing beats an Add a Day roller. I love mine!

Add a Day Roller

6. Handheld water bottle – Eventually, your runner is going to need to take in some water on the run. I love my handheld bottles and have found a couple great options. Consider the Nathan Quickshot, or the one from the Amphipod line. Both are secure, small, and useful. Get one with a pocket for more storage. Side note – here are my tips for cleaning the bottle once you get it.

7. Pace band – Does you runner have a goal race coming up? Get them a pace band. These nifty little bands list the splits required to hit a selected finish time. They come in half marathon and full marathon distances.

8. lululemon accessories – I love all things lululemon and their winter running accessories are some of the best on the market. Wicking, comfortable, and chafe-free thanks to flat seams, your runner will love a beanie, headband, or gloves from lululemon.

9. Mantra band – Mantra bands are a fun accessory for the female runner. Featuring inspirational statements on a delicate sliver band, the Mantra Band is a great small gift.

Finally, for those of you looking to spend just a bit more, consider #10. A Garmin Forerunner. With low holiday prices, you can’t beat a Garmin. Tracking runs is easy and the new web-based Connect platform makes viewing runs, and learning from their data, a breeze. Hop on over to Clever Training and use the discount code above for a 10% discount!

What are your favorite running gifts?

Troy Conquers 26.2: Pushing Boundaries

Two weeks ago, I sat down to write about setting a new PR for distance: 14 miles.  Prior to that, the longest distance I had ever run was 13.4 miles during the Walt Disney World Marathon in Jan 2014.  Running the half hurt and I was not physically prepared for the run thanks to plantar fasciitis.  The DrRachelRuns training plan for Dopey obviously pushes beyond this boundary, so a few weeks ago I hit 14 miles and a new PR.

The week before (three weeks ago), I had limped home after running 12 miles and collapsed on the floor – much to the amusement of my wife.  I hadn’t run 12 miles since July and went out too far before fueling, didn’t carry enough water, and ran too fast through the middle of the run.  I took a day off to contemplate why in the world I was putting myself through such misery then got back to work.  The next weekend, I went out and put up 14 miles.  I was foolish though… again.  At mile 11, the cold and snow had set in along with desperation to finish before my Garmin™ ran out of battery power.  I sped up and lost all semblance of pacing during the last three miles.  I hit both a new distance and new half marathon PR (2:35 woot!!), but at the cost of suffering. These 12 and 14 mile runs were not great but they were done.  I couldn’t bring myself to finish the post as I went out to get ready for my next run; sure that it would be another complete study in misery. I was afraid that all I would have to say was how horrible running is and to abandon hope all ye who enter into this dastardly pastime.

Old Record

Old Record

New Record

New Record

Last week was 16 miles – new territory again.  I went in having learned from 12 and 14; a clear pace goal and fueling strategy based on the previous weeks failures.  As the miles piled up, I was amazed at how good I felt and how well the run was going.  I cruised through mile 10 and felt great through mile 12.  Even mile 14 was feeling pretty good.  The wheels fell off at mile 14.5.  I shuffled and moaned for another 1.5 miles to reach the finish line and immediately texted DrRachel that I would never run again.

Pace Map

I will be out there next week running again and this time 18 miles.  What I have come to realize, these long runs have really helped me to identify issues in my fueling and pacing strategies for long runs.  Each time I feel like death by the end of the run I can pick apart what I did wrong and where.  Going from 5K to Half changed my ideas about running kits and what equipment I need.  Going now from Half to Full I am learning more about strategy.  I had a good strategy to get to 14 and now need to revise to get to 18, 20, and ultimately 26.2.

Recovery the Dr. Rachel Way

All runners have to be mindful of rest and recovery, being sure to allow the body time to rest and heal after hard efforts. I’m not always the best at recovery, but as a coach, I have to help my athletes find the best recovery strategy for them. I’ve tried pretty much everything. Recently, I was recounting a few of my less-than-perfect ideas …

The time I waded in the frigid ocean.

Hood to Coast oceanOr swam in the equally cold Lake Winnipesaukee.

Lake W

“Getting the legs moving” by walking around Disney’s Magic Kingdom all day.

Disney

Or Washington DC.

DC

I’ve tried yoga.

Yoga

But my favorite recovery method? Eating all the calories I’ve lost!

Guacamole

Bread

Starbucks

Coconut

There you have it. My confession – I (foam roll and) eat. And that’s the way to recover!

 

Hot to Trot (and Shop!)

I love themed races and, even more than that, any race where I can wear a costume. Thanksgiving is the perfect time to run in costume and be part of a big theme race. I’ve written about my love of the Turkey Trot before, but I think it merits revisiting. In fact, the entire Thanksgiving weekend is my favorite time of year. I love the food, the events, and, truth be told, the shopping.

This year, like many other years, I ran the Manchester Road Race, a local race that happens to be a famous event. It is run every Thanksgiving Day in Manchester, CT. I love the Manchester Road Race and the great camaraderie it inspires. First, I made the big decision of the day – which turkey hat to wear!

Turkey hats

I got bundled up for the cold and headed out to the race. I found my friends and got lined up for the race.

MRR

This year was a great example of runners united. As we were lining up for the race, the organizers experienced some problems with the public address system. The sound was cutting in and out throughout the morning announcements. When the National Anthem began, the sound system cut out. Thousands of runners united to sing the remainder of the song. It was a great moment.

The race got started and I finally made my way across the start line. As always, the race was crowded and I ran-walked the first several miles. Things finally got going and I ran the final two miles at a respectable place. I always enjoy the great crowd support at the Manchester Road Race. All along the course spectators were cheering, partying, and having a great time. The whole atmosphere was festive and I loved it.

When I got home, I got to cooking and prepared my Thanksgiving dinner. It was delicious!

Thanksgiving

After eating a massive quantity of turkey, I took my time to read the Black Friday ads. I love reading the Black Friday ads. It’s great fun to see what the hot toys will be, and what the prices are on a random assortment of electronics. I made my shopping list (gloves, Rubbermaid containers, and knives) and got organized with a shopping plan. I’m never one to engage in the crazy rush hour of early morning shopping – or late night shopping as it happened this year. I like to get up at a nice, leisurely hour and then make my way to the mall. As much as I love Black Friday shopping, I don’t love the pushing and shoving that seems to come with it. I like the respectable, calm shopping that comes a little later in the day. I got the items on my list and had a great time wandering around the stores.

Rubbermaid

All in all, it was a great weekend. Happy Thanksgiving!