Saturday, March 31, 2012

Preparing for the 10K

Today, I will run in my 8th straight Ukrops Monument Avenue 10K, sponsored by Martins among others. The race is still called the Ukrops 10K despite the Ukrops family selling the grocery chain to Martins several years back. The family is still prominent in charities and businesses in this area, and might still own a bakery which provides goods to Martins. I think they also help sponsor the race financially. One of the fears when the grocery chain was sold was that Martins would not sponsor this huge community event, something like the sixth biggest foot race in the good old US of A - but we need have feared not!

My first several times in the 10K, I walked it. I think 2008 was when I first ran part of it, and then in 2009, while training for the Country Music Half Marathon as a runner - walker, I ran a good bit of it. That was when I set my personal record of something over 63 minutes, which I hope to break today if my legs and especially my left knee are up for it.

I was going to run in my purple TNT jersey as I did at Shamrock 13 days ago. But yesterday, I changed my mind. Instead, I will run in the shirt I had made for the Komen 3-Day which honors my sister Ann. I have been thinking of her more and more lately with the first anniversary of her death approaching, and I miss her always. Because of how the photo of her on the shirt is, I have to wear my race number lower, so I won't have my camera with me on the race course for the first time in years. That will feel strange. But the water belt I wear to hold the camera would cover my race number (which also includes the timing chip on the back.) On the other hand, not stopping to take photos could give me the edge I need to hit that PR!

This shirt is covered with the names of my honorees for the Komen 3-Day Walk. And on my shirt will be pinned photos of four special honorees for the race. Two of these folks, Bill and Faith, were also on my Shamrock race shirt as honorees. For the 10K, I've added Nancy and Ed. Nancy was recently diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and had surgery for this, and started chemo this week. She is starting her battle resolutely and with determination to kick this thing's ugly butt! Ed is a veteran cancer warrior, and at age 42, is fighting cancer for the fourth time. It has been really rough for him with this melanoma that has been relentless for the past two and a half years. A dedicated athlete and TNT Triple Crown winner, Ed is in no shape to run right now. So I will be doing the running for him today, and for Nancy, Bill, and Faith - and of course, my beloved sister.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Checking my Math

The other day, I wrote about calculating new run / walk intervals that might allow me to set a PR in the upcoming Monument Avenue 10K. My intervals are 2.5 minutes running and 0.5 minutes walking. The good news is that I think my math was right. The bad news is that I didn't sustain those intervals for my 4 mile training run.

The first 1.25 miles of my training took 12.66 minutes, which is right on course to finish 10K under 63 minutes. However, I got tired and had to walk extra several times on the 4.15 mile training run, which took 45 minutes, or an average of 10.8 minutes per mile. This would come out to a 67 minute 10K. With the race just days away, that may be about as well as I can do. But as a character in a book that I was reading to my granddaughter the other day was saying "We shall see!"

Friday, March 23, 2012

Thinking Ahead to the 10K

After a lot of preparation - maybe not enough, but a lot all the same - the Shamrock Half Marathon at Virginia Beach is in my rear view mirror. Just ahead, just around the bend, is the Monument Avenue 10K. It is my eighth time participating in this run, but for the first time, I am coming into it from the standpoint of having already completed a much longer event. So it gives me a unique opportunity to look on this 10K as a short race, and see where that leads.

My PR was set three years ago, at a time when I was less than a month away from running the Country Music Marathon in Nashville. So I was used to longer runs, as I am now. But this time, I have the added advantage of having completed a half-marathon just five days ago. I hope that will give me a psychological edge of treating the 10K differently. I'll still respect it - hell, 10K is a long way to run, a distance that frankly I doubt the majority of Americans could do - but I am going into this race thinking PR!

Nearly two weeks ago, I used my last pre-Shamrock training run of 6.3 miles in 68 minutes to use basic math, with some assumptions, and compute my running pace. Who needs a fancy GPS when you have a stopwatch and math? And from that, I have calculated that if I change my run / walk splits to 5 minutes running and 1 minute walking, I can attain a PR of less than 63 minutes. For the half marathon, I basically ran 1.5 minutes and walked 1 minute, so this is a dramatic change almost overnight. But to make it less dramatic, I will try this in a training run this weekend: run 2.5 minutes and walk just half a minute. If I can handle that for say 4 miles, I am going to think I can for 2 more miles next Saturday. I think I can handle this, because for most of my training the last couple of months, I was running 2.5 and walking 1.5 minutes. This got really tiring after about 6 or 7 miles, but with a 10K, that is not an issue.

Time will tell if my strategy will work. I've not run all week, so anything might feel like a lot. But that is my plan, and I'll see if I can make it work and go for a 10K PR on the 31st. It would be a great way to celebrate 10 years surviving cancer once again!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Reflections on the Shamrock Half

Time goes by so quickly. It seems like weeks ago instead of more than three months when I decided that running the Shamrock Half Marathon last Sunday would be the first big thing I would do to celebrate 10 years of surviving cancer this year. I came off a year where I did very little running because of foot problems, so I had to gain a lot of ground in three months. I feel like I did.

I missed a personal record by about 45 seconds and although my main goal was just to finish the race, I am disappointed to have been so close and not attained a new PR. On the other hand, it was my best long run of the year. In all of the others - about 4 or 5 of them - I totally faded about 7-8 miles in and was crawling at the end. In the Shamrock, I did get tired but it was after 10 or 11 miles, and I hung in there with a stronger average speed for the whole race. My times in my other training runs would have been 10-15 minutes slower than what I did Sunday if they had applied. So all in all, I gave it my best running effort of 2012, by far.

My knee didn't hurt much or slow me down. On the other hand, my effort to keep going resulted in really sore quads since Sunday afternoon, and they have just today started to be less painful. I have not run a step since Sunday. With a 10K in 9 more days, I need to start up and get in at least 3 runs, preferably at least one of 5-6 miles.

The spectators were great at Shamrock! There were a lot of them out cheering loudly and ringing cowbells. Some of them were coaches and teammates I knew out cheering or coaching. It was great to have the support. I hate to mention names because I always forget someone, but Debbie, Kate, Barb, Jane, Chuck, Jamie, and Susan were all out there cheering or coaching - or both!

There was a lot of bling at this race - a really great race shirt and finisher sweatshirt, a cool finisher hat, and a great medal - which doubles as a bottle opener. Yes, Yuengling was the major sponsor and there was beer! Not just beer at the finish - of which there was lots - but on the course, there were three beer stations passing out shots of Yuengling! Now how cool was that? Water, gatoraide, AND beer! It would have been rude to refuse, so I didn't. At the last one at about mile 11, I wavered, and then the guy called out, "Art! You look like you need a beer!" Who am I to contradict the judgment of someone who is clearly an expert?

So, now my first adventurous celebration of year 10 is over! It felt good to be in the race with my friend Nicki, a 15 year survivor, because we were both running for similar reasons. In addition, Nicki fundraised for TNT. Next up for me to celebrate by is the Monument Avenue 10K. After that? Well, I'm not sure. But I have wanted to run Shamrock for several years and am so glad I did, PR or not! Because when one has looked at maybe pushing up shamrocks 10 years ago, running any distance - let alone 13.1 miles - now feels pretty damned good! This was also my first long race as a 60 year old, and although there is no way I am keeping up with the 30 or 40 somethings (not even mentioning 20 somethings), I do have to wonder how many of my contemporaries could do a half-marathon? 5 percent? 1 percent? 1/10 percent? I don't know the answer to that, but it likely not a huge number, but I am one of them that can!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Did I Set a Shamrock Course Record?

Is it possible that I set a course record* in the Shamrock Half Marathon today? I know I missed a PR by less than a minute. My legs felt like lead for the last three miles. It was a lot of fun, though, running as a 10 year - less about a month - cancer survivor. That is why I did this, not to set a PR (which, I admit freely, would have been the cherry on the sundae!) I slept mere hours last night, and was awake for good by about 3:30. I finally got up at 4:45, shaved and grabbed a quick shower, smeared on some Body Glide, dressed, and hit the road at 5:20 - bagel in hand. It took a while to find a parking space, but by about 6:20, I was parked and walking the mile to the start of the race. Along the way, I ran into three TNT pals - Holly, Amy, and Pam. Holly told me she signed up for another 50 miler! Ouch! (I also saw Amy after the race before her polar bear plunge into the Atlantic - double ouch!) Moments before the start, I saw my teammates and fellow cancer survivors Nicki and Sheri in my coral. Here we are, from left, Sheri, Nicki, and me:
As I reported the other day, I had three special honorees for this race: Bill, Nicki, and Faith. I wore their photos on my shirt:
Nicki also honored Faith, gone way too soon and too young, with her run:
Just after 7AM, we were off. It was a good day for a run - cool and cloudy, but not cold. I ran way too fast during the first mile, the adrenaline taking over, and I paid for it later. During the first couple miles of the race, I encountered Cheryl and Bill, who were in Alaska with me in my first ever TNT event. What a great surprise!
We ran along Shore Drive for several miles. You can see lots of green celebrating the Irish. It was near this point two years ago that several of us came to cheer the runners. Included in that group was Faith, recently deceased. I felt really sad as I came up on that spot and remembered her being with us so recently.
From the road, the field ran through Fort Story for several miles:
In Fort Story is the oldest lighthouse in the United States, the old Cape Henry Lighthouse, commissioned by none other than George Washington and since replaced:
With about a half mile to go, the field turned onto the boardwalk at Virginia Beach. I felt like I was running through sand, and just could not kick it up:
King Neptune watches over the finish line:
Afterwards, as I strolled towards the tent to claim my beer and Irish stew, there was this cool sand sculpture with Neptune in it:
So, did I get that Shamrock Half Marathon course record?* I don't know, but it doesn't matter. I wore my Irish green and my TNT purple, I completed my third half marathon as a cancer survivor and my first as a sixty-something, I celebrated 10 years of surviving Hodgkin's lymphoma, I caught up with friends, and I ran in honor of many people. That is quite enough, course record or not. And afterwards, I celebrated by drinking one of my four allotted Yuengling lagers (very tempted to drink the others but I did have to drive), and by buying 20 pounds of ice and taking a refreshing (?) 15 minute ice water bath back at the condo!

* course record for 60 year old males celebrating 10 years of surviving Hodgkin's lymphoma

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Final Pre-Shamrock Thoughts

So, here it is, the eve of my sixth long distance event, and my first not with Team in Training. That feels a little strange, but knowing that I will be wearing my race shirt from Seattle is a comfort. Plus I have friends running for TNT, most notably my friend Nicki, and others that will be out their cheering. And I will also put on a TNT tattoo on my face.

I don't feel totally ready to run this. My last training, my six mile taper run last Sunday, went really well - except for this continuing pain in my left knee. I am pretty sure I have some IT band syndrome going on. It hurts some even to walk. After Sunday's run, I should have done two more three mile runs during the week, but decided to just rest the knee. A coach once told us: "There is nothing you can do training-wise in the last week before a race to improve your performance, but there are lots of things you can do to damage your performance." So I thought of his words and decided that resting and saving my legs for Sunday was the prudent thing. I did a little walking and also some pool work instead.

It's been an incredibly warm week, with highs in the 80's F several times. The unseasonable weather continues for the weekend, although with highs in the 60's. There is a chance of thunderstorms tomorrow. I brought gear for warm or cool temperatures, not totally trusting the weather forecast.

Tomorrow morning, I will get up at 4:45 and hopefully be on the road by 5:15. With luck, I can find a place to park not too far from the start or finish by 6:oo and then make my way over to the race start well before 7AM. Maybe I will run into a friend or two along the way. I keep thinking how 10 years ago, how healthy I felt. I had no idea that deep inside my chest and abdomen, tumors were growing that would be life threatening. I would find this out the end of April, 2002. Now, 10 years have gone by in a flash, and I am strong and healthy again. I intend to celebrate that fact tomorrow morning by - slow or fast - running 13.1 miles. Running for myself, and for others - those that can't, a few who can run, and for those that are no longer here, like my sister Ann and my friends Judy and Faith. Running as a 10 year survivor of cancer!

Friday, March 16, 2012

10 Great Reasons to Run the Shamrock

In about 33 hours, I’ll step out from the starting line to run the Shamrock Half Marathon. I thought of 10 good reasons to do this.

# 10 - Drinking a Yuengling Lager after the race

# 9 - Running at the beach with lots of cheering spectators

# 8 - All the green for St. Patrick’s Day, including Coach Bob dressed as a leprechaun

# 7 - Drinking a Yuengling Lager after the race

# 6 - Great hot Irish stew!

# 5 - Drinking a Yuengling Lager after the race

# 4 - A flat race course

# 3 - Drinking a Yuengling Lager after the race (did I already say that? Well, we get four beers – hopefully not full size - at the end, so…)

# 2 - Running in the same race as my TNT pal Nicki, who is celebrating 15 years as a lymphoma survivor

And the # 1 reason to run the Shamrock Half Marathon this Sunday – Celebrating 10 years surviving Hodgkin’s lymphoma in a strong and grand fasion!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Who I'm Running For

In less than two and a half days, I'll step off the line to run - with some walking - in the Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach. I'm not fundraising for this event. Instead, I am participating in this race as the first event this year to celebrate surviving Hodgkin's lymphoma for 10 years. I could be pushing up shamrocks right now. Instead, thanks to a lot of luck and medical science, I am running for the shamrocks instead.

I'm not officially part of Team in Training for this race. But I will be wearing my purple Team in Training singlet from the Seattle race in June 2010. My shirt is covered with names of people that I honored in that race, and so by extension, I will honor them in the Shamrock as well. But I have three special honorees for this race, representing the hope, the success, and the failure of cancer treatments. I will wear a photo on my race shirt of each of these three folks as I run along for 13.1 miles.

The hope for cancer treatment will be represented by my good friend Bill Zettel. He is currently battling stage 4 colon cancer, and will be having really significant surgery on his liver in a couple of more weeks. This is on top of initial surgery a couple of months ago, followed by chemotherapy. He will be getting yet more chemo later this spring once he recovers from the surgery. Stage 4 cancer is very serious, but we are all confident that Bill is going to beat this, and I will try my best to honor him with my feet on March 18 in the Shamrock.

The success of cancer treatment will be represented by my friend Nicki Morgan, who will be running the Shamrock Half, too. I wrote about Nicki a couple of weeks ago when she hit her 15 year mark of surviving certain death from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma after a bone marrow transplant. As I run my race to celebrate 10 years of survival, Nicki will be celebrating 15 years with her efforts.

The failure of cancer treatment will be represented by my friend Faith Eury, who died just over two weeks ago from stage 4 Hodgkin's lymphoma. I was lucky enough to survive Hodgkin's, but Faith was not, living just three years after her diagnosis. I had hoped to wear Faith's photo to honor her fight, round two in what we believed would be a victory. I am quite sad to wear her picture in her memory instead, and as a reminder that even the so-called "curable" cancers are not nearly curable enough.

Cancer being an awful, relentless thing, I've added a few more names to my Seattle shirt: in honor of Taquisha Jeffries - in recent remission from lymphoma - and my neighbor Nancy, recently diagnosed with a very serious cancer. Then of course, my good friend Judy Zettel, who was alive and quite healthy at the time I ran Seattle, was diagnosed with myeloma just months later and died 14 months ago. Then, my dear sister Ann, alive at the time of my Seattle race but dying from breast cancer 11 months later, will also be on my mind during this race.

I'll have plenty of company on the run - special honorees Bill, Nicki, and Faith, as well as the dozens of names from Seattle 2010 and the names recently added. I will do my best to honor all of them with my run this Sunday.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Better Late Than Never?

The Shamrock Half Marathon is just 11 days away - 10, really. I am in my taper after this past Sunday's last truly long mileage day. So is this when I should be screwing around with my basic pacing intervals? Well, I think so - not ideal, but I think it has to be done.

In all my long runs this year, I just got totally gassed in the second half. For example, if I had to go 10 miles, my last five miles would take at least 5-8 minutes longer than the first five miles. I am doing a mixture of running and walking, and as distance progresses, I tend to cheat more and more on the run interval of the long workouts. I'll trim it - often by a lot. My pace slows.

Last week with Lelia, I flipped the run and the walk, and then cut the run in half to accommodate what she is training for. So instead of doing what I had been doing, 2:30 run intervals and 1:15 walk intervals, Lelia and I did 2:00 walk and 0:30 run intervals. The running felt so easy. I mentioned to Lelia (who I still sometimes think of as my coach, since she was my walk coach the first two times that I did Team in Training) that maybe I should reduce my run intervals. It just seems that if I don't try something different, I am going to run out of energy and strength coming down the stretch in Shamrock.

The problem is, here I am in taper. It is very late to try such a major change and guess whether it will work or not. But tonight, I tried it. I ran with a 1:20 run interval, and I also shortened my walk interval to 1:00 for my four mile run/walk. So out of every two minutes and 20 seconds, I am running 1:20 of it. It felt pretty good. Every time it was time to run, I felt ready to run. It also felt good to walk more frequently just as I was getting a little out of breath. I felt like my pace picked up during my run portion. In fact, even though I did less running, my overall pace was better - a shade under 11 minutes per mile for the 4.2 miles, as opposed to about 11:20 a mile that it had been for the first five miles of my longer run intervals. I stuck to the new intervals religiously tonight and didn't "cheat."

So right now, I am going to try this with my remaining training, which is only four more runs, starting with tomorrow night's two miler. I'll evaluate how it is working out during the Shamrock. Ideally, I will feel strong for the second half of the race, and I can consider bumping up the run interval a bit for the last 3-4 miles. Yeah, it is a lot of experimenting with how I should do things so late in the training schedule - but if it works out, better late than never!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A "Thank You" to Team Shamrock

Last night, TNT Richmond had its send-off dinner for the Shamrock Marathon and Half-Marathon teams. I wrote a thank you to the team, and Kate asked if I would read it last night to the assembly.

To “Team Shamrock"

You’ve worked very hard, putting in lots of miles
In cold and damp weather, but usually with smiles
And now you can see that your goal's within reach -
In two weeks, you’ll take a long run at the beach

You’re up before dawn, running while it’s still dark
Meeting teammates and coaches for a run from the park
But it’s not about running, it’s more for the cause:
Ending cancers that kill without pity or pause

Others rise before dawn, but wake up filled with dread
For later that day, in a chair or a bed
Into their veins deadly poisons will flow
Will they live strong or die? Right now, they don’t know.

For those who can’t run you are running your race
Helping them reach the dreams that they desperately chase:
To live as survivors, to be healthy and strong
But for so many with cancer, the odds are too long

In the fight against cancer, you’ve now joined the ranks
We survivors, all over, give you our deep thanks
But remember, Shamrockers, as you fret about pace
It's not chip-time that counts but your time at the race!

I’ll be proud to be running alongside – well, okay, maybe behind sometimes – you in this race on March 18 as a nearly 10 year Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor: thanks to cancer research and a lot of great luck. Thank you most sincerely, Shamrockers!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Final Long Pre-Shamrock Run

Yesterday, I drove to North Carolina with my friend Nicki to attend our friend Faith's funeral service. It was a sad thing, especially to see more people who were older than the deceased than people who were younger. Why does someone that young with so much to live for have to die from a type of cancer that became curable more often than not 30 years ago?

Nicki and I are both running the Shamrock Half Marathon in two weeks, and since we missed Saturday training to go to Faith's funeral service, we decided to train this Sunday morning together. On the agenda were 12 miles, and we were joined by the first eight miles by Nicki's friend Maria. The 12 miles - 11.5 actually - were fairly uneventful. I continue to have left knee pain but it was not bad during the running. It does hurt more now that the run is finished. I am wondering if I have some ileo-tibial band issues going on? At least my legs did not act like the extreme left wing and extreme right wing that I poked some fun at the other day.

For our route today, we picked three separate four mile loops, each starting and ending at the lake. Despite snow coming in early tomorrow, we are in serious early spring right now in this area, and I enjoyed seeing the splashes of color as we ran along, with some walking on my part.

Our first circuit ran along Douglasdale and Portland through Windsor Farms, back through Carytown, and back to the park. Windsor Farms is an upscale and beautiful neighborhood, and color was provided by the spring flowers and by some quirky art work:
Our middle four mile loop went past the little lakes in Byrd Park, past Maymont, and through some of the neighborhoods. The photos are from Maymont: "Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam..." Scenic view of Maymont:

Our last loop, which we shortened to 3.5 miles, went into the fan and by VCU. I liked these colorful row homes, as well as the color provided by Mother Nature.