Pay Attention to Warning Signs?

View from the top

This morning we went of what was to be a 7.18 mile hike in the Santa Monica Mountains. We’ve done this trail many times, but not in the last four years. I was looking forward to experiencing it in a new way as I am much more fit than I was the last time I recorded time and distance, December 8, 2012 (2:25:50 or 21:42 per mile).

The original plan for today was to run or hike in whatever areas seemed appropriate for each activity. My coach, who is helping me train to qualify for Boston, said “no running, just enjoy the hike.” He also assigned a long run of 11 miles yesterday. So hike it was, but still with a goal to do better than last time.

The first sign that all was not well with our plan.

When we arrived at the trail head, Megan and I started out and soon stopped as Matt started looking at a sign. It told us that a portion of the trail was closed. The sign had been there awhile so se decided that surely the trail was open again and we continued with our plans.

The hike was beautiful and we were averaging an 18:23 pace so I was happy. Then we came upon a larger sign… actually a fence with a sign that said basically “don’t go any further”. The problem was that we had already traveled 6 miles and weren’t too interested in going back again. So we decided to keep going on what was always the most difficult part of the trail (scary rocks).

A half mile later we came to the end of the trail. I wish I had taken a photo but no. Anyway a couple men were trying to come up where we wanted to go down. They couldn’t find a path as the rock had all slid away. Megan and I turned back for the long trek but then we heard shouting. The men had found a way and they were now on our side. By the time we returned, Matt had crossed over. Megan started and I followed.

For the first time that I can remember I froze. I couldn’t make it across as all I could envision was falling and bouncing off the rock wall that we were trying to cross. So I said, “I’m sorry, I can’t. You all go, take Megan home so she can get to her show, then come back for me.” Nobody argued with me as I think they all saw the terror in my face. So they went down and I started on the 6.5± journey back the way we came. I don’t regret this decision because I’ve learned to listen to my instincts. I had no fear they Scott, Matt, and Megan couldn’t make it… just me.

That is quite the out and back!

The trip back was actually kind of nice. I decided that although I wasn’t supposed to run, I couldn’t bear to walk that far so I went for an easy jog for all but the steepest portions. And I made it back in 1 hour 45 minutes with an average pace of 15:35 and only one mishap. The entire hike ended up being a 17:40 mile pace.

The mishap was my first lesson in trail running. PICK UP YOUR FEET. I was running along this very easy section through a meadow and next thing I knew I was on the ground. I have a few scrapes and a couple bruises but otherwise was unhurt. I picked myself up and continued.

My second lesson in trail running was, I LIKE IT. So, I think I need to invest in some trail running shoes and get out on some truly open trails once or twice a month. It will certainly help me learn to pick up my feet and running up and down hill can’t hurt either.

Happy running… umm hiking!

A few graphs. The drop off in the pace in the middle was encountering the washed out trail, turning around, trying to cross, giving in to fear, and starting again.

March 14 – Path

 This trail has some of the most beautiful ocean views that can be found anywhere.

My son and I have decided that we will run/hike part of the Backbone Trail and La Jolla Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains this Saturday. The first time we did this hike was almost 5 years ago and we had just done the Backbone Trail portion (this is actually just the beginning portion of that long trail). Anyway, I vividly remember my first incursion here. As Matt and I hiked, I was huffing and puffing so much that I could barely talk. Then, much to my amazement, two women passed us while running and chatting.

For me, barely breathing at a slow walk, this was a major wake-up call. I decided right then that I had to get back into shape, to take a new path. I started running that very same week.If you can call huffing and puffing for 30 seconds, followed by walking for two minutes, running. I kept at it because it was actually easier than hiking up a hill. Slowly I made the transition from barely moving, to running marathons. That its taken me 5 years to get here is ok because I’ve realized the spiritual benefits of the physical exertion and that is far more beneficial than anything else. I’m looking forward to taking this path again on Saturday, noting that as I climb I’ll be huffing and puffing, but I’ll be going much faster!

I’ve Come This Far… A Kind of a Flashback Friday

This morning was an absolutely beautiful morning for a run along the beach. There was (for California) a crisp coolness in the air, the sky was wonderfully blue, the Channel Islands were beautifully visible, and the surfers were out in mass. I ran a very easy five miles and just enjoyed everything around me.
When I returned home I remembered  that back when I first started running, I’d go maybe four miles, drive home, and then barely drag myself out of my car on stiff and tired legs. With this memory in mind I thought that I’d look at the very first run recorded on my Garmin. It was December 26, 2011… so now you know what I got for Christmas that year.

Many people can walk faster than my combined run/walk four years ago.
Many people can walk faster than my combined run/walk four years ago.

This first run (on my Garmin) was in my old neighborhood. It was a run/walk and not too easy. I also weighed almost 60 pounds more than I do today.

So what about today?IMG_0339

As I previously mentioned, this morning’s run was to be short and very easy. The assignment for today was just that, slow and easy. So how does it compare to my running ability of four years ago?

Pretty nice improvement! My next goal is to get my easy run to a 10 minute mile, and my marathon race pace to 9:00. Well actually my next goal is to complete the Surf City Marathon (Huntington Beach, February 7) in 4:45:00 or better. We’ll see. It seems a bit daunting right now but actually running and finishing a half marathon seemed a bit daunting at one time too.

Happy running everyone!

A Race Day Recap

I think this was mile 2
I think this was mile 2

Last Saturday I ran the Lexus LaceUp half marathon in Ventura. It was a lovely day and not too hot.

This race occurred 6 weeks after the Ventura Marathon. Back in August, when I signed up for the Lexus race I thought, “no big deal.” But then as my miles decreased substantially for my marathon race recovery I became concerned about my readiness for a half marathon.

It is at this point that I am thankful that I have been working with a coach on my training plan. I know that if I had been on my own I would have tried too much too soon after the marathon. But he had me easing pretty slowly (it seemed) back into a training routine.

Scott and me before the race. He did his first 10K.
Scott and me before the race. He did his first 10K.

My longest run prior to the latest half was 8 miles on October 17. During the week before the race I was a bit nervous as I wondered if I’d be able to jump from 8 to just over 14 miles (including warm up). I had to keep telling myself that this distance in my pre-marathon training was pretty easy, so I’d be good to go.

Race Day: this was my 5th half marathon and it was the first time I’d ever done a pre race warm up that actually consisted of running, another benefit of someone experienced giving me direction. So at 6:15am I ran a slow mile, hit the restrooms, did some dynamic stretches, followed by 4 strides. I was ready to go.

In lining up for the race I made the mistake of lining up towards the back of the pack (still feeling like a newbie?). The problem with this was that I had to start the race trying to get around a lot of people who were slower than me. This was a bit frustrating and totally my fault. Next time I will line up in a better position.

A strategy for my long runs and marathon is to walk for about 30 seconds every half mile. I usually do this for the first hour in an effort not to go out too fast. I actually did it for the entire Ventura Marathon because it was working for me in the heat (at least for 20 miles!). So I started my race with the same plan. I missed the first walk at .5 mile because it was too crowded to walk. I then walked at 1, 1.5, 2, and 2.5. Upon realizing that I was speeding up to make up time, I decided to just run.

This was a very easy course with a gradual uphill for the first 7 miles. When we returned (downhill yeah!) I was able to run at what for me is a pretty fast pace.

I started to fade at miles 12 and 13 and was trying very hard to stay on a good pace. It was hard but when I looked at my split times I didn’t fade as badly as it seemed. This is good as I’m trying to finish strong. In the last 100 yards I managed to sprint across the finish line!

After all this I’m happy to report that my official time was 2:13:11, almost 10 minutes faster than my last half marathon time of 2:22:56 (last December).

I’m doing another half marathon November 7th. Its another Saturday race. Yeah! It has lots of hills. Yikes!

The race included a coupon for a food truck item. I was able to enjoy an almond milk, banana, and date smoothie. Yum!
The race included a coupon for a food truck item. I was able to enjoy an almond milk, banana, and date smoothie. Yum!

Learn to enjoy the slow – Part 2

I'm looking pretty slow here at mile 21 of the Ventura Marathon.
I’m looking pretty slow here at mile 21 of the Ventura Marathon.
Last month I shared this blog post about my own need to slow down on my easy and long runs:

Upon further thought it is time to add a little bit more… that going slow is not everything! No, in addition to those slow and easy runs, we also need to run fast! For me this means one day a week of really hard track workouts, plus the occasional race pace runs.

I’m still pretty new to attempts to run at varying speeds. Last week it was running at the speed with which I would race a mile (400 or one lap), followed by a 5k race pace(1200 or three laps), and then repeat the sequence a couple more times. Sometimes the workout is longer distances at maybe a 10k pace. Usually my first thought is, “I don’t really know my mile or 5k or 10k or whatever pace.” That’s because I don’t run too many races and I feel as if I’m getting faster each week (maybe its all in my head!).

The important point is that to improve as runners we need to run at a variety of paces…with the majority of runs done at an easy pace. I’ve been running for about 4 years and I never really understood this.

So the advice for today is to learn to enjoy the slow, but don’t forget to season with some speed.

As I think about this running advice I can’t help but think about how this might apply to other areas of my life. Slow…slow…slow…fast…slow…slow…slow…fast. It’s a nice pattern and a nice reminder that we don’t always have to do everything the same way. Some days we rush and others we don’t. Sometimes we are hanging out with lots of people and other times we cherish our alone time. Some days our prayers are filled with conversation with God and other days we commune in silence. Slow…slow…slow…fast…slow…slow…slow…fast.

What kind of patterns do you see in your own life? How has running (or other physical exercise) helped you in other areas?

Learn to enjoy the slow

I have a love/hate relationship with this shirt. In fact the other day I had decided that it was time for the shirt to go. My logic was that I can now consistently run faster than a herd of turtles. But then I remembered that I continue to struggle with running a slow pace.
I have a love/hate relationship with this shirt. In fact the other day I had decided that it was time for the shirt to go. My logic was that I can now consistently run faster than a herd of turtles. But then I remembered that I continue to struggle with running a slow pace.

Want to run faster? Then learn to run slower!

As a pastor I often counsel people to slow down and learn to enjoy each day that comes. Part of that enjoyment is found in learning love the journey and to not be in such a hurry to get to the destination. When it comes to running, its taken me awhile to apply this bit of wisdom.

Here’s a little back story:
I have been running for almost four years. When I started I was doing intervals of walking and running. Even this was a bit hard but each month the running portion got longer and longer. My first 5k was completed in 36:16 on July 4, 2012. I can still remember how hard it was to run this race!

Since then I’ve improved and my last two half marathons were completed at an average pace of 10:45. Not a bad improvement! Now theoretically (with adequate training) I should have been able to complete a marathon about 5 hours. So last year I tried my first marathon with a goal of finishing (and not dead last). I met my goal but my time was closer to 6 hours than 5. (5:50:54, avg pace of 13:20, all due to collapsing the second half). While happy that I finished, I thought I could have done better.

This year I signed up for the same race, the Ventura Marathon, September 13. More importantly, I signed up for a training program that started May 3rd. Not having ever trained with anyone and only using training plans from the internet I was pretty excited…and a bit nervous.

Surprisingly for me was the first bit of training advice/instruction was to “run slow”. We were told to look at a long run pace calculator (I didn’t even know these existed!) Much to my surprise my train pace was 12:16, which is very close to the pace of my very first 5k. A tip for determining if you are running slow enough while training is the conversation test. Can you comfortable talk to someone? In complete sentences? If the answer is “no” then you need to slow down. Running alone? I once read a suggestion to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. I do this periodically (while wondering what others think!). I don’t advise trying to sing along to whatever music you may be listening to as that I’ve discovered is a bit difficult.

My initial reaction to this instruction to run SLOW was a whiny in my mind, “No! I want to get faster, not go backward.” But, having paid the money for the expertise of the coach I decided to try it. It was very hard at first. (Who am I kidding a slow pace is still hard for me!) But I discovered that my legs were much happier; I could indeed run longer; and recovery was easier.

Thankfully the training program also includes some fast running: tempo and threshold workouts some of which were a series of 5k races over the summer. I’ve been enjoying these, especially as I’ve been able to get a bit faster each week.

One week I sent an email to the coach expressing my happiness with these faster runs and his response was something like, “you need to learn to enjoy the slow.”

He’s right! And not just in regards to running. Let’s all try and slow down a bit… take some time to enjoy our families, our friends, the scenery around us, even the little things that we do each day. In doing so the rest of what we do might just get to be a bit easier.

Happy Running!