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Preview: Running Down My Dreams

Running Down My Dreams

Chronicling my pursuits, adventures and challenges in one of my favorite constants in life: Running.

Updated: 2018-03-06T05:40:42.737-08:00


Cruising along


I've got a few events lined up as I gently get back into the elevated mileage weeks I enjoyed over the past couple of years. I re-started the 18-week 70mpw Pfitzinger cycle two weeks ago to line up with the Newport Marathon on June 2nd. I'm also scheduled into the highly sought and totally sold out Big Sur Marathon on April 29th.

So far, I'm nailing these workouts. Week #1 was 100% perfect. Week #2 was near perfect. My only minor blip was this week was because I had to jockey the schedule due to extensive business travel/meetings, and ended up hitting 54 out of 56 miles.

OK, so I can't deny that I'm feeling a little hint of failure. I read most of the book Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald. As I read through it, I decided I would target a body fat % in the range of 11-12%, down from my 13-14%. My thinking was that I really wanted to push the envelope and set a new PR this year at age 36 or even 37.

Can I tell you how much I hate tracking food intake and obsessing over calories? So I won't. Screw it. I ran a 2:58 in Chicago at my current weight. I just need to use common sense.

Up next is the Bay Breeze Half Marathon this coming Saturday. It will be a good time trial for me. After my 3:22 in Maui last month, I need to see where I stand with my fitness.

Full steam ahead


I've taken some time to enjoy the fruits of my labor since my 21st marathon on Jan 22nd. We loved our trip to Maui.

I am considering the Maui Oceanfront Marathon a success. For the record, I ran a 3:22. This race was HOT. Running on Maui is a different ballgame. 3:22 is not even in my top ten of finish times. But, that's OK, it was paradise and I've got 13 states under my belt. I celebrated my finish by jumping into the Pacific Ocean. What a way to cap off a race.(image)

It's full steam ahead on the Pfitzinger 70mpw plan toward the Newport, OR Marathon. Here's the kicker, however: I will run the Big Sur Marathon on April 29th. That's right, the most beautiful marathon in the world will serve
as a training run.


So far, so good... early on, that is, in week #1 of 18. Ultimately, I want to have a go at a PR on June 2nd in Newport, OR. That is, I need to break 2:58.

I'm 36, and some may ask if my fastest races are history. Maybe, but just tell that to Meb Keflezighi, who at age 36 (he's 3 months younger than me) won the Olympic Trials in Houston a few weeks back and set his PR while doing it.

Aloha... Maui or bust


Geeetings from SFO where Jennifer and I await the plane for our first leg to Maui. We are kid-free on this journey, thanks to Nana and Papa, and are ready to enjoy some running and more importantly some sunny paradise.

I will run the Maui Marathon on Sunday, which is slated for a 5:45am start out of Wailea. Jennifer will run the 5k, which starts at mile 23.1. If I run a 3:05, we could finish together! While that does sound romantic, sorry folks, not going to happen. I'm not trained up for that type of time this cycle and plus it will be temps in 70s to low 80s by the time we finish.

After the race, we will hopefully find a beach bar that has NFL Conference Championship football for the better part of a day.

This leg to LAX is delayed, so we are at risk of missing our connection. It's going to be really tight. I hope we don't have to spend the night at LAX. That would suck.

Resurgence in 2012


re·sur·gence - noun \ri-ˈsər-jən(t)s\ - a rising again into life, activity, or prominence

As I do at the dawn of every new year, I am taking stock and re-evaluating my values, goals, habits, aspirations and the overall sense of well being in my life.

2011 was a year of many different emotions. I have some great memories and moments with my family, especially those moments of wonder with my 3-year daughter and my 21 month-old son.

We bought a new house here in California last January after a big career move. In retrospect, career-wise, there was a period of uncertainty and some futility that wore on me in my daily work life in 2011. But I've risen above it, have grown as a result, and am now in a fantastic position to make a huge impact in 2012.

Specific to running, I have to admit that 2011 was one of my least productive of the last several years. I did just one single marathon, which was Boston and the subject of my last post here in May. I have done at least two or more marathons for five straight years from 2006-2010.

I also gave up my focused tracking of all of my mileage, for some reason. I think I encountered a period of burnout with all the change in my work life. I'm guessing I did somewhere over 2,000 total miles, but I can't be sure. Compare this to 2,600+ in 2009.

My fatigue was clearly evident in September after a flu bug hit during my training for the Morgan Hill (CA) Marathon. Days after recovery from the flu, I simply lost my drive and felt tired of running. I took some time off and backed down to the half marathon. I ran a respectable 1:31, which was far better than I expected after some major down time.

In summary, the year was not a total loss in the realm of running. I did run a pretty decent Boston Marathon. I put up some major mileage in and around the Napa Valley, which made for some great scenery. I did compete in my first two trail races, one of which was a 25k that I won. I've got some solid momentum going into 2012.

Despite the decline in number of marathons and total mileage, running was in 2011, and continues to be in 2012, a cornerstone of what defines me and my lifestyle.

Now, I am ready for a resurgence in 2012. Not just in running, but in several aspects of my life.

I just recently joined 50 States Marathon Club, with 12 states under my belt.

Right now, I am entering the taper period of what has been an abridged training cycle for the Maui Marathon. I'm also locked into the Big Sur Marathon, which I've read is the most beautiful, most enjoyable marathon on the planet.

Confirmed races:

  • Maui Oceanfront Marathon - January 22 - Marathon #21 / US State # 13

  • Big Sur Marathon - April 29 - Marathon #22
Races under consideration:

  • Newport (OR) Marathon - June 2

  • Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon (WA) - July 15

  • Mesquite (NV) Marathon - October
I am reading the book Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald at the moment. It's clear that my nutritional habits is a weakness for me. I am going to make a commitment to really get to a new level of peak fitness this year.

When I started this blog over six years ago, I lived in Connecticut, hence the "eastcoastrunner" URL. I've since journeyed from CT on to the Chicago suburbs and now Napa, CA for the last year. I continue to grow as a runner with the experience and joy of tremendous geographic reach.

I'm now 36 years old. I believe that some of my best running is ahead of me.

Reflecting on Boston ... now what?


It's been over 3 weeks since the Boston Marathon. I have very fond memories of my third Boston experience and my 20th marathon. I ran a 3:09 - almost exactly as planned. The day was remarkable and I feel very proud to be a part of what was a very historic day for the Boston Marathon. Heck, I ran on the course the same day that the fastest marathon was run EVER.

I've all but abandoned regular blogging on running, though running remains a part of my life. Our move to California and our current stage of having a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old has changed me.

Still, I feel that deep desire to set some form of goal to motivate me again. I'm 35 now and have run 20 marathons in 12 different states. I've exceeded my wildest dreams with my running by breaking 3 hours twice in the marathon.

Now what...? I've let go of running since Boston quite a bit. I needed some time off and I had a medical procedure (um, we're done having kids), which required some recovery. Again, so, now what?

I've been plotting to try to go after one more marathon PR. Then do I want to push myself that hard over the coming months? Should I just enjoy running leisurely in the Bay Area since I'm still so new here?

Much to contemplate.... for now, I'm going to try to get back in shape.

What a difference a year makes


Hi runners... It's been just over an entire year since I lasted posted on this blog. "Where have you been?" one might ask. A lot has changed. I made a choice last year that I needed to invest my time in family, work and running, and this meant that blogging would need to take a back seat.

Next, let it be known, that I did not accomplish my goal of the 2:54 at Little Rock that I wrote about last year on my last post. I was on track at the mid-point with a steady 1:27 first half, but I couldn't hold. The wheels fell off and I limped in at a 3:04. It's been a year now, but I can tell you that I hurt more after this marathon running a 3:04 than I did in both of my two sub-3 hr performances, and most other races that I can even remember. So I licked my wounds, went home and readied myself for the birth of my second child.

The positive news is that I have had a great 12+ months since last wrote on February 21st, 2010. My son, Landon, was born on March 31st, 2010. He is a superstar champ and on the verge of turning one year old. My daughter, Alivia, is nearly 3 and amazes me every single day with her beauty and charm.

As of this past fall, I relocated to Napa, California with the company for which I have been working for the past 7+ years. This was a major life decision and, in the end, we decided that we could not pass up the experience to live in such a beautiful part of the country. I have continued to run throughout 2010 and completed the St. George, UT Marathon in October, as I moved my family to California. I turned 35 in August, so my 3:13 at St George was another BQ!

And I am now a Napa Valley Runner. I started this blog back in 2005 and called it "East Coast Runner" when I lived in the great state of Connecticut. Shortly thereafter, I moved to the Chicago suburbs for 4 1/2 years, and now we are enjoying Northern California.

I am presently training for Boston, which will be my 20th marathon and close to my 10th anniversary of marathon running. This is a landmark marathon. I on track for somewhere around a 3:10 or better.

After Boston, I plan to run some shorter races in Northern California and, in particular, in the beautiful Central Coast region of California. I want to enjoy the serenity of running in Northern California and spiritually connect with the amazing nature we have here. I will exploring opportunities to do so as we enter the Spring running season.

So, in closing, running is still as important in my life as ever. I've had to make a lot of adjustments to my training approach and time management as kids have entered my life. But I still marvel how running has been a very strong constant in my life, since that first marathon in Pittsburgh in May 2001.

Run onwards, friends...

Aiming for a 2:54 at the Little Rock Marathon


I am excited to share that all training indications suggest that I am in, once again, the best marathon shape of my life. Bring on marathon #18!

It is will documented that my running blogging career has plummeted to an all-time low. Nevertheless, I keep running onward, which my training log will clearly show.

So far, in 2010, I have run 506 miles, of which 90% have been run on a treadmill. I am pleased to report that they have been extremely high quality miles, to say the least.

Mark my words: I will run a 2:54 or better at the Little Rock Marathon in exactly two weeks from today.

Bold prediction? Sure, it is. But why not, right? Why shouldn't I just lay it all out there? I've run my ass off the last twelve weeks.

A couple of my major highlights include running a simulated 10k on the treadmill at 37:04; as well as running a 15 miles at race pace of 6:40 with several incline intervals throughout the run. And that's just a couple of indicators.

Bottom line is that I have been nailing all of my key workouts consistently such that even Pete Pfitzinger, my training counselor (unbeknownst to him), would be beaming with pride.

I set my personal weekly mileage record not once, but twice, in recent weeks. In January, I celebrated a 78-mile week. Not to quit there, just last week, I finally achieved that seemingly implausible target of 80 miles in a single week. And yes, 100% of those miles came on a treadmill.

I live in the Chicago suburbs and it can get cold, snowy, windy and downright nasty here. The treadmill has become a running way of life.

Some may think that all of these treadmill miles might not translate to race results. I had that exact same concern last year - just before I smashed my PR by 7 minutes at Austin 2009 after doing 90+% of my training mileage on a treadmill.

OK, have I put myself under enough pressure? Whatever happens, it's been a great training season in the comfortable confines of my basement training room.

Recap of 2009 - Looking ahead for 2010


Happy 2010. Well, I have not been back here to post weekly as I have planned. Nevertheless, I am pleased to report that I rang out 2009 pretty successfully and am right on track for my next running goal.

First, here is a brief set of highlights of my running from 2009:

- Total miles: 2,800 (53.6 miles/week average). This was a substantial increase from the 2,262 miles that I ran in 2008. God has blessed me. I was not injured at all in 2009 and I was able to live my life pretty much the way I wanted to while getting in the runs. This includes a whopping 296 miles in the month of December, which I hope puts me on track to shatter my marathon PR in March.

- Despite the huge PR in annual mileage, I am a marathon runner and all of my training was centered around the long run. Thus, my total race count for 2009 was a paltry eight; down from 11 last year. However, I ran 8 strong races and PR'd in 6 of them. You might say that I like to make them count.

- I ran four marathons which included my first ever two sub-3's races. I ran wonderful marathons in the great cities of Austin, Boston, San Francisco and my current hometown of Chicago. My average time was 3:01:42 for these four marathons.

- Outside of the marathon, I set major PR's in the 1/2 marathon, the 10-miler and the 5k, in which I finally broke 19 minutes.

Now, what is in store for 2010?

As I posted in late November, I am being very careful about making running commitments for 2010. I have a second child due in April and I need to be sure that my running does not interfere with my value of being a dedicated parent and husband. I also have career goals and realize that running 10 hours per week does have an impact on my work-life balance.

The number one goal I have in 2010 is to run a sub 2:55 at my next marathon, which is confirmed to be on March 7th, 2010 in Little Rock, AR. I am now registered and gunning for this goal. Achieving this time will get me guaranteed entry into the 2011 NYC Marathon, which is one I still aspire to run.

Outside of this goal, I am not sure what to set. My other planned goal was to complete the Naperville Triathlon on August 8th, which will require me to learn how to swim and ride my crappy Schwinn. However, I am slightly reluctant since I do not want to put pressure on my family as I train. Maybe this is a short enough event that I can just show up and do it?

Someone asked me recently about how the running group that I started in my town is going. I have to be honest and say that things started out strong but became challenging late in the summer/early fall timeframe. I realized that I wanted to put my training first; and not necessarily spend time on the planning and organization required for the club, which seemingly was not as effective as I had hoped.

At this point, I still do want to play a role in organizing runners in my community. However, I do not want to be the sole leader for doing so. I also am trying to be encouraging of newer, beginning runners; without sacrificing the time necessary to achieve my own goals. I learned that this is much harder to do that it initially sounds.

I will end by saying that I am very proud to be the runner that I am; as well as that I am very gratified by how running has shaped me over the past nine years since that first marathon. I have been blessed with a few talents in life, a couple of which are a bias toward planning and discipline to do what I commit to do. These skills, and to a far, far lesser degree my physical ability, have allowed me to run in a way that has exceeded my wildest expectations.

Ramping up for marathon #18 with an eye on the future


The handful of you that check in on this blog from time to time may have noticed that it has been seven weeks since my last post. Fret not, friends. After a brief recovery after Chicago, I have been running quite well as hopefully my training log will demonstrate.I simply was not feeling all that verbose about my running. Simply put, I wanted to just run and not talk or write about it.For the weeks leading up to the Chicago Marathon, I promised myself that I would not commit to another marathon until after I gave it my all on October 11th. I held true to that commitment. I was able to put up yet another PR and savor my accomplishment.Immediately following the Chicago Marathon, I decided that I would carefully evaluate my next running endeavor. This task has been fresh on my mind ever since October 11th, and not surprisingly, I have been waffling over a few options.This time around, I wanted to fully recover and take a full 18-week cycle to make a big dent in my Chicago PR. That's why I wanted to push my next race out to March.During the last several weeks, I realize that I need to be careful so not to take running for granted. The major impending change in my life is that my wife and I are expecting our second child in April. I am thrilled, and realize more than ever that I have a lot of responsibility to be a family man.Right off the bat, this eliminated any consideration to go back to Boston this year. So, all along, my thinking has been I need to prepare to absolutely crush one more marathon before the baby comes.I also have been giving my career a lot of thought and want to make sure I allocate enough time to accomplish my goals there. I also have been trying to broaden my horizons spiritually and in other areas in my life. Bottom line: I think that this upcoming marathon cycle will be about the most amount of running that I can afford to fit into my priorities.The goal I have been thinking of setting is to qualify outright for entry into the NYC Marathon on November 7th, 2010. However, I do not want to take my chances in a lottery, which I lost out on 2008. I want guaranteed entry with a qualifying time.What is the qualifying time, you may ask? For men 39 and under, it is a staggering 2:55 flat. And, unlike the Boston qualifying standards, there is no 59 second grace.Disappointingly, I learned yesterday that a race in March will be too late to get me guaranteed entry into the 2010 NYC Marathon. Apparently, you need to have raced by January 31st, 2010. I will push this detail aside and press on. Running a sub-2:55 will get me into NYC in 2011.I narrowed it down to two marathons on the weekend of March 5th, 2010: (1) Albany, GA and (2) Little Rock, AR. The factors that went into my narrowing it down are (not listed in order of importance):Date of race - It needed to be before April and later than Feb 28th to allow for a full 18-week training cycleLocation / ease of logistics - I am going by myself, and I am Platinum on American Airlines, so it needs to be somewhere I can get to cheaply and easilyCourse ease (or difficulty, depending on how you look at it) - To go for a sub-2:55, this sucker needs to be flat!States in which I have not raced before are preferred - For when I decide to go for the 50 states club later in life (Texas and Florida are out, which made this tough for Feb/March)The race must have reasonably favorable reviews on now, I am training toward the goal to run a 2:54 at the Snickers Energy Bar Marathon on March 6th, 2010. Little Rock, although it has stellar reviews and is easier to get to for me due to a direct AA flight, may be a bit to hill to achieve that sub 2:55. Currently, I have completed 4 weeks of an 18-week modified Pfitzinger training plan that will get me up to a new peak of 80 miles per week in week #15 in February.While visi[...]

Marathon #17: Wonderful PR in Chicago 2009


It was a marvelous day to run a marathon today.  Everything went very smoothly as I knocked out the splits pretty consistently today, which are listed below along with my unofficial result.I feel very satisfied.  I ran exactly how I had hoped and achieved my "A" goal, which was to PR with a 2:58.  I am currently undecided on my next goal.  I need to savor this a bit.  Running four marathons in the span of 8 months with an average time of 3:01 (w/ two sub-3's) in all major regions of the USA (West Coast, Midwest, East Coast and Southwest) is more than I would have ever imagined possible for myself.SPLITS BY THE MILE - CHICAGO MARATHON - OCTOBER 11TH, 20097:006:456:436:306:476:446:496:496:486:486:446:536:490:44 - 13.1 mi - HALFWAY -- 1:29:00 6:07 - Balance of mile 146:486:446:506:486:506:536:536:476:556:536:496:431:23 - final 0.2 miFINISH TIME: 2:58:28PersonNameNied, Ryan (USA)BIB574Div30-34SplitTimeSTART TIME07:30:1905K00:21:1310K00:42:0315K01:03:1120K01:24:24HALF01:29:0025K01:45:3230K02:06:4335K02:28:0240K02:49:25TotalPlace (total)699Place (Gender)642Place (Div)128Total (Net)02:58:28Total (Gun)02:58:54[...]

Chicago 2009: Ready to Roll


Just a touch above the freezing point with winds around 6 mph.  That's what is expected for conditions as we line up tomorrow for the Chicago Marathon.  Far more comfortable than the heat and humidity that runners felt the past two years.

I hit this week's mileage exactly as I had planned: 25 miles at relatively easy pace for the most part, with exception to a couple of miles at goal pace.  

Unfortunately, I had a really busy week with travel and a couple of poor night's sleep.  Also, my diet was not as strong as I would have like it to have been as I approach a marathon. 

It's all good.  I have put in the training.  I am in pretty good shape.  

I'll be running with the 3:00 pace group tomorrow.  Hopefully, I can sneak out in front of them as we approach the final miles and hang on for a sub-3.  We'll see.  

This will be my 3rd Chicago Marathon and my 17th overall.  I am excited that the conditions will allow us to leave it all out there tomorrow; unlike the last two years.

Marathon #4 of 2009 is here.  Time to go get it...

Celebrating the taper with a 5k PR


Chicago is a mere 13 days away.

Taking a look at my training right now, I feel like I am in pretty good shape for Chicago.  I am in comparable shape to Austin and the good news is that Chicago is a faster course.

Giving me even a little more confidence was that I finally broke 19 minutes on a 5k this weekend.  OK, so I have not run a 5k in over a year.  That's why I decided to enter the local Plainfield Harvest Fest 5k to see if my speed work was progressing.

My goal was to run an 18:30.  I was really nervous on whether or not I could do this.  I haven't run intervals over 1200m and I simply not as strong on the shorter distances.  

Did I tell you that I hate 5k's?  They f'n hurt.  The good news is that I achieved my goal and ran an 18:22.  (Official time was later posted as 18:25 - but I trust my watch).

I ran splits of 5:48, 6:02, 5:56 and the final 0.1 mile in 0:36.  This earned me another 3rd place age group finish.  More importantly, this time lines up with a 2:59:03 marathon time, if you ask Greg McMillan anyway.

If I take this 5k result and compare it to the strong 22-miler that I knocked out last Sunday, I am feeling pretty good about my progress.  

The takeaway on the 22-miler was not necessarily the pace of the splits, but rather how I felt so strong toward the end.  Granted, I wasn't running race pace until the final couple of miles.  Nevertheless,  I felt stronger on this run that I have on any other training run of this distance in recent memory  -- and it was at the tail end of another 70 mile week.

I feel like I am right on the brink of a 2:59.  It's all about rest, recovery and mental preparation from this point forward.

Tuning up for the Chicago taper


Wow, where has the time gone? There are just over 3 weeks until the Chicago Marathon. I have a plan to nail about 68-69 miles this week and then it's taper time for the 4th time in 2009.

I am starting to build some confidence that I am on the cusp of another sub-3 hour marathon in Chicago.

I ran the Batavia Half Madness 1/2 Marathon about 10 days ago. I wanted a sub 1:25. I came up slightly short. However, I will say that I was happy to have finished as strong as I did.

I ran a 1:25:48, which lines up with a 3:00 marathon. It was a PR by about 50 seconds. I placed 3rd in my age group and 18th overall out of just under 1,000 runners (see results here). OK, so I was little pissed as I struggled to hold 6:30's. You can check out my splits here.

In retrospect, I could have pulled out the excuse monkey and had him say the humidity was very high that day (over 90%), that my weight was up (nearly 170 lbs) and I had a poor diet the night before (thanks to me caving into my neighbor's invite for dinner, since my family was out of town... ribs, chicken, cookies, etc) and that it was the last, tiring run of a 70-mile week (which it was).

But I didn't let the excuse monkey out of his cage. I chalked it up to more work to do.

Since then, I have been running pretty strongly. However, I will say that I have put in a ton of treadmill mileage due to my schedule and my all-weekend daddy duties. It's great fun to nail an 18-mile treadmill run (w/ 15 miles at 6:49/mi pace) while watching my daughter nap on a video monitor right next to me.

I am hitting the workouts. The indicators are there. I am right on the fringe of another PR. I would have felt better had I ran a 1:24 at that half, but I honestly think it wasn't my best day.

Regardless of what happens, it will be my best year of marathoning.... ever.

Margaritaville + Marathon Training = ?


I am continuing to make progress toward a sub-3 marathon run at Chicago on 10/11/06.

I've been able to keep up with the Pfitz plan pretty successfully -- even with numerous distractions, work travel and family obligations.

I did complete 70 miles the week before last even with my business trip to Miami. One of the nights in Miami included a night out at the bar with co-workers until 1:45 AM. No, I didn't get up and run before our 8:30 AM meeting, but I managed make it up in the evening and get back on track the following morning. This included a strong tempo run on the Hilton treadmill for a total of 12 miles. Not bad, right?

Last week, I hit 63 out of 64 planned miles and completed all the speed work. The toughest part was over the weekend. Friday night was my birthday and we had neighbors over late and celebrated. I killed a simulated 10k race on Saturday on the treadmill in 37:58 (which lines up with a 2:58 marathon) with a minor hangover.

On Saturday night, I went to my first Jimmy Buffet concert. I didn't see any others at the show that appeared to be attempting a sub-3 marathon next month. I did 18 miles on the treadmill on Sunday afternoon at an avg of 7:33/mi - with a slightly stronger hangover.

All in all, I am on track. Just got back from a Connecticut trip. I hit my 11 miles this morning - however, I did not get in the 6x1000m repeats on the treadmill as planned. It was 80+ degrees with high humidity in the Hilton fitness room. I did two of the intervals and then headed outside to beautiful temps and completed the final 9 miles in 7:29/mi avg pace. Enjoyed the hills of my former town that I last lived in!

I am pumped for the Batavia Half Madness 1/2 Marathon on Sunday. I should be in position to P.R. My goal is a 1:24:30 and I think it's very doable.

Off to bed so I can get up for a 15-miler... trying to stay on track for a 70-mile week (or something close).

Getting back on track toward sub-3


With recovery over from San Fran, I am back to following Pfitizinger's up to 70 mpw plan.

Last week on Monday night, I wasn't feeling so hot. I was on business travel to our HQ in Connecticut attending a dinner with colleagues, when I had to excuse myself. I felt suddenly very sick. I ended up leaving dinner right as the entrees were being served and headed to the hotel.

I don't know what hit me but it carried over a couple of days. I didn't miss any work, but I did miss last Tuesday's 10-miler. I felt extremely fatigued and had bouts of diarrhea.

On Wednesday, I was back home, had a great night sleep and ventured out on an 11-miler. I struggled through the back half. I felt weak and had a couple of brief rest stops. Having no choice but to finish the run (I took myself far out from the house), I dropped back to 8:30's.

Whatever bug I caught worked its way out of my system by Thursday. Fortunately, I resurrected myself later in the week on Friday when I nailed a pretty solid tempo run.

This week brings a test: Escalate to 70 miles. This week has three core runs out of the six. Today brought a 15-miler, which I completed pretty strongly. Friday brings a 12 miler with 7 at tempo and then Sunday brings a whopper at 22 miles. I have run 25 miles in the last 36 hrs and am right on track so far.

I am headed to Miami this afternoon for work. I am hoping the Airport Hilton has an A/C'd fitness room so I can nail the 6:25-6:30/mi tempo miles needed.

Seven weeks until Chicago.

Hungry for a sub-3 at Chicago


I am near recovery from my race in San Francisco and motivated to prepare for Chicago. I have nine weeks to get ready for what I hope will be my strongest race performance of the year.

I have been browsing the forum string called "Goal of sub-3 marathon". It's obviously a popular topic as it was initiated back nearly 1 year ago and has 133 pages of replies. I have found some inspiration as I read of others who are chasing and have nailed the sub-3 goal.

Yes, I achieved it earlier this year. But I want to do it again. I am feeling hungry after struggling in San Fran. Chicago is flat. Austin, Boston and San Fran all have substantial elevation changes.

As I write this at 7:03 PM local time, it's 87 degrees at 71% humidity, which makes it a "feels like" of 98. These conditions make it tough to nail long runs - even before 7 AM. Today was a prime example. I met up with my group and cut my run short so I could finish up inside on my treadmill. I was dying out there this morning.

I proved to myself this past winter during my Austin cycle that treadmill training is far more effective than dealing with poor weather elements. I set a PR with 90% of my mileage on the belt.

Today was the end of my final comeback week after San Fran. I nailed 50 miles and feel like I am ready to step back into Pfitz's 70mpw plan. I will follow this plan as closely as I can for the next nine weeks.

Up next: The Half Madness 1/2 Marathon, in which I hope to put up a 1:25 or better. I have a lot of work to do in the next 4 weeks to make this possible. It's a lofty goal, but I am going to go for it.

Lovin' the Bay area -- San Fran Marathon recap


Jen and I are back in the Chicago area after a wonderful jaunt in San Francisco and the Napa Valley wine country this past week. We had a memorable time touring the entire area. Some highlights:We toured five different wineries and tasted countless delectable varietals of wines. (It pays to be in the industry.)We saw Adam Duritz and the Counting Crows, one of my favorite bands, perform at the Greek Theater in Berkeley on UC's campus- after spending the day touring that interesting town. What a great show and a great venue.We saw beautiful scenery in both rural and city settings - including breathtaking views of San Francisco from various angles; not to mention beautiful views of wine country from atop Sterling Vineyards in Calistoga, CA.We stayed in a fabulous spa/hotel on Bodega Bay, which is a quaint little out-of-the way bayside town to celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary. We even rode horses on the beach looking out into the bay.We saw all the major landmarks in the city. (The one disappointment was that the Alcatraz tours were sold out for the entire 7 days we were in the area.)We saw the comedian John Heffron (Last Comic Standing champ) and laughed our butts off.Oh, you asked about the marathon? I almost forgot!Well, I finished in a respectable time of 3:06 after putting up a 4 1/2 min positive split.I finished in 86th place out of 5093 in the total field. You can see my splits (which are quite jumbled due to missing mile markers) and further race finish details here.The hills caught up with me late. The Golden Gate bridge out-and-back (miles 6-9) was the steadiest, longest up and down and, while I didn't know it at the time, it may have been my undoing. Unfortunately, the damn fog prevented any reasonable view of the city.Tack on mile 10 right after the bridge which was a killer, steep downhill. I ran it in 6:28, which shredded my quads, then I had to pound back uphill on 11. Though the hills varied in size/grade, it seemingly was an unending cycle.When a well-intentioned spectator tells you "it's all downhill from here" at mile 20, he or she is not telling you the whole story. While the total elevation change is downhill, there are still numerous ups and downs. I was slipping into the 7:30+ pace range the last few as I clung on for dear life.I said I'd be surprised if I didn't put up a 3:05 or better and I came up short, so, there you have it... I am a bit surprised -- especially after a 1:31 first half! Nevertheless, it goes to show how the hills can zap you if you are not trained for them, which I simply couldn't do enough of where I live.Anyway, that's three marathons down in 2009 and one to go. Here are my two remaining major goals for this year:1. Put up a new PR for the half marathon on September 6th ( Break 3:00 again at Chicago on October 11th. I feel the need to tear up a flat course after San Fran and Boston on the last two![...]

Countdown to San Francisco


The taper has gone as planned: 55 miles last week, 45 miles this week -- with some decent speed work and plenty of recovery miles.

All of our travel arrangments are finalized. We fly out of Chicago on Friday morning. We will be staying 0.9 miles from the start.

My mother-in-law, bless her heart, will be traveling to our home from Pittsburgh to stay with our daughter. This will be our first time away from her since she was born 15 months ago.

No doubt, I am stoked to run this marathon. Afterward, I am totally pscyhed to visit San Francisco, Napa, Sonoma and the vicinity. Post-race, we have a great itinerary lined up including several winery tours in Napa/Sonoma, a Counting Crows concert, a Giants game, Alcatraz and lots of great dining and scenery. I call it a pretty good day when you run a marathon in the morning and see one of your favorite bands ever in the evening.

As far as predictions go, it's a tough call. I will say that, despite the elevation change to contend with, I will be surprised if I don't run a 3:05 or better. I think I would be chasing sub-3 on a flat course.

I'm in pretty good shape. Really good shape, I should say. I am going to soak in the thrill of running over the Golden Gate Bridge.

Temperatures will be in the low to mid 50's -- perfect. Can you believe this race starts at 5:30 AM on Sunday?

Ready to run the Streets of San Francisco


Legendary actor Karl Malden died this past week and was perhaps best known for his work in the classic TV series The Streets of San Francisco. Recounts in the news of Malden's role with Michael Douglas chasing bad guys reminded me that I am bracing for my own experience in the Streets of San Francisco.

I've received a number of comments warning me to lower expectations on my finish time due to the difficulty of the course in San Fran. It's not lost on me that the elevation change in San Fran is pretty significant -- even greater than that of Boston.

This is my first try training for a summer marathon. It's going reasonably well, I must say. My most successful training run was my 20-miler of two weeks ago, which was run entirely on a treadmill. I ran much of the pace mileage at 4-7% incline. I ran the entire workout in 2:19 and finished extremely strong at the end. It was a true progression with over 15 miles at race pace through significant incline intervals.

Today, I capped off a 70-mile week with a pretty strong 21-miler - albeit not as intense as the one from two weeks ago. I did this run at the I&M Canal with running partners Nate and Dave. Nate and cruised the final five miles of the 21 in 34:10. Now, granted, this path is pancake flat.

I know the hills will be daunting, so I recognize it's a stretch to aim for a PR. Nevertheless, I will go out there and give it my best and try to run 3:00 pace and see what happens. If I decide to back off to the 3:02-3:05 range, so be it. I'm confident that I am in pretty good shape to run my third strong marathon of 2009.

Bring on the taper... three weeks to go.

Slacking in blogging, but not running


If you have perused this page in the bast, then I suppose it's been obvious. I've somehow drifted away from my past diligence of updating this running journal at least on a weekly basis. Perhaps it's because I've found new pressures placed on my time, and this blog was one of the weekly tasks that got pushed down the list.

Nevertheless, the good news is that I am running as strong as ever, which my runningahead log hopefully indicates. Reflecting on 2009 to this point, I am extremely pleased with my running. Right now, I am six weeks out from my third marathon of 2009, which I will run in San Francisco.

Lately, I've been running weekly mileage in the mid-50's consistently, with plenty of solid long runs, tempos and now interval training this past week. For this week, I finally got back into the 60's for the first time since the week of March 23rd.

From a scheduling standpoint, it's been tough to get the mileage back up to where I was in the winter heading into Austin. I've been doing long runs on Saturday with my running group, which then requires a rest day for me on Sundays. My personal schedule really would allow me to nail more mileage if I did long runs on Sundays and took Mondays off. The gang is running Saturdays for now, so I'll need to adjust.

My plan is to have a really strong three week training period - then begin a three week taper for San Fran. I'd like to have the upcoming three weeks range from 65-70 miles each. If I hit the tempos, a long pace run and a solid 22-miler, I'm confident that I will be in 2:59'ish shape again for San Fran. Then I can figure out how to go for a PR in Chicago in October.

I also want to concentrate on nutrition and stretching. I know, I've said it before. I really want to make some improvements here. My weight has been hovering over 170 lbs recently. I feel I can run faster if I can get it down to 165 lbs, so there's a goal.

For 2009, I figure if I can run four marathons, in four large cities (Austin, Boston, San Fran, Chicago), in four different parts of the country (Southwest, Northeast, West Coast and Midwest), with times of 3:02 or better for all four -- then that's a pretty damn good year.

Soldier Field 10-miler - Looking ahead


(image) For the second year in a row, I ran the Soldier Field 10-mile race along Chicago's lakefront path. Since Boston, I have been trying to recover and ramp up for the San Francisco Marathon.

After last week's 17-miler, I felt an usual level of fatigue. I will confess that trying to get focused for my 3rd marathon in a 5-month span has been challenging.

For this race, I decide to take a full two days off in advance. This race would really tell me if I have maintained my fitness level since Boston 5 weeks ago. I've not done really any speed/tempo work - with exception of a 4-mile tempo run a few weeks back. I really did not know what to expect. I was hoping to break 1:05.

I had really good race. I was able to hold 6:25's for the race. I wi(image) ll say that one of the miles on the course felt a bit short to me. You can see which one if you look at my race splits. Nevertheless, it was a successful race - and a monster PR for this distance by about 3+ minutes. I ran a 1:04 flat, which lines up with sub-3 marathon conditioning.

This race is becoming very popular. They capped it at 9,000 runners this year - and it sold out. I wanted to finish in the top 100. I came up slightly short finishing in 104th place.

I've got 9 weeks until San Fran. I don't think I will race until then. Here are some pics of my beautiful family, who came out to support me.

Ambitious running agenda


Is it May 14th already? This has been my longest stretch of not posting ever, I think.

Since Boston, it's been quite hectic. Outside of running activities, my daughter turned one year old and we had a big family party. We've got our basement finishing project well underway and it's about 65% complete. Then there are the usual work stresses, which are relatively under control at this point.

As for running, I've smoothly resumed getting back to a decent marathon training base. I am building back towards 60-mile weeks, which I should hit next week. I don't feel in the shape I was before (most likely due to my non-stop chowing of pizza, beer, sweets, etc.)

I've also kicked off the Plainfield Road Runners Club, which has required quite a bit of planning and organizing from time to time.

The PRRC has been a great experience so far. However, we've got such a long way to go. I'm learning about how to "sell" running to people, particularly those that are interested but are not experienced.

I'll be running the Soldier Field 10-miler next Saturday. Last year, I ran it less than one week after the Green Bay Marathon. I expect to be able to put up a far better time - hopefully a PR.

In June, I'll do the Downers Grove 10-miler for the fourth year in a row.

All of this is leading up to my next marathon in San Francisco, which is scheduled for July 26th. Not to mention an excellent vacation in wine country also on the agenda afterward.

Boston Marathon recap - April 20th, 2009


Well, it's been 6 days the grand event and I am finally getting around to a recap of the Boston Marathon that I ran last Monday.Results:First half - 1:29:27Second half - 1:32:52 Finish time: 3:02:19Click here to see my race mile splitsGoing into the race, I felt like I had a chance at a 2:59, and that was the goal. However, in the back of my mind, I wasn't sure if I was in the shape as I was for Austin nine weeks earlier.Getting into Hopkinton is stressful. Since we had a rental car, I decided to have my wife drive me to Hopkinton from our hotel on the edge of downtown. This allowed me about an extra 1.5 hours in the morning and made it easier to handle our daughter.Jen dropped me at a school where race organizers had "runners only" buses carting people over to Athlete's Village. It took at least one hour to be able to get off the bus. We sat in the bus just outside the village for at least 1/2 hour due to sheer volume of buses.Once in Athlete's Village, I was too late to have a prayer to use a port-o-john. The lines were extremely long and it was 55 minutes to race start.I texted my friend, Aaron, to meet me at the start. I dumped my gear at the check. I'm not proud to admit that I found a secluded, yet illegal, open urinal along with several other runners. However, in fairness to me and hundreds upon hundreds of others, race organizers still do not have enough port-o-johns to handle the pre-race surge.I was in the 4th corral based on my Twin Cities time of 3:06 last October. I probably could have gotten to corral 2 if I had sent in a new time from Austin. I didn't.The weather was near perfect. I was very comfortable, although, I knew the winds would catch us later in the race.The race kicked off and the cattle drive began. First several miles were very crowded. My first mile was a 7:15 and I had to work through much traffic for it.In the first 8 miles or so, I will say that I did not have the "pop" that I felt I would need to run sub-3. I felt a little drained early on. The first energy gel really helped and I was on a true high as we approached Wellesley College.My 1/2 marathon split was 1:29:27. This is right where I would want to be for the first half for most marathons on a sub-3 attempt, but I knew this was Boston, and the second half is often slower. Running a negative split in Boston means you are sandbagging heavily on the front end.As I approached mile 17 and the Newton Hils, I was definitely daunted. However, I recovered after the first major climb. I told myself "you can do, this, Ryan".Enter Heartbreak at mile 20, where I was barely holding on to pace for 2:59. The Newton Hills did their damage. Heartbreak got me and, afterward, I could not again pace back down to 6:50 even in the downhill terrain.For the final 10k, I wanted to make sure I didn't blow achieving my second best marathon time (3:06 in Twin Cities). I was able to muster 7:10's-7:20's as I took in the final stretch with all of the fantastic crowds. When I made the turn toward Boylston, I was ready to celebrate. And you know I did.Losing sub-3 was frustrating and humbling, but I am too way experienced at this point with the marathon to respect the distance. However, I will say that I am proud that I hung on for a 3:02. Around 21, I was in a place where I thought I was totally going to fall part. That's what is very special about Boston. The final stretch is such an adrenaline rush with the fan support.I am pleased with my perfor[...]

Two Days 'Til Boston


I am spending time with family in Rhode Island this weekend in final preparation for Boston on Monday. We are going to go to the Providence Zoo today with my in-laws.

I've done the usual final taper mileage up to this point. I am going to skip today's run so I can feel extra rested for Monday. I'll do a few tomorrow in Boston sometime after we check in.

This has been a 9-week marathon cycle, so it feels very different. Since running Austin on February 15th, then recovering, then ramping back up, it's going to be interested to see how my body responds on Monday.

It's hard to know if I've retained 100% of my fitness since Austin. My best runs were my last two 20-milers, one of which included 15 miles at goal pace. I also had a couple of strong simulated 10k races, and a decent half marathon.

My half marathon of 1:26 came up a little slower than what I would want for a sub-3 marathon predictor. However, it was at the back end of a 70 mile week and I faded in the race.

I feel optimistic. I will be rested. I hope my daughter sleeps well in the hotel room on Sunday night. Whatever happens, it will be great to run my 2nd Boston and my 15th marathon overall.

Fighting back toward a sub-3 at Boston


I hit a minor stumbling  block this past weekend on my road to a sub-3:00 Boston performance.  After watching my MSU Spartans clinch a berth in the national championship on Saturday night, I came down with a sudden bout of what I think was the flu.

At first, I blamed my condition on one too many celebratory beers and too much Tabasco on my pizza the night before.  As my Sunday progressed, something didn't feel right.  Citing the windy cold rain and in direct spite of my better judgment, I decided to go ahead with my planned 17-miler on the treadmill anyway.  

Bear in mind, with Monday set as marathon day, I had a day of cushion.  But long runs on Mondays are rough and I figured I could fight through it.  I wasn't planning on pushing pace too hard.  All of the hard work had been put into the bank, anyway.

I didn't finish the 17-miler.  I felt like I was running in a lethargic haze with no purpose and I was counting every 0.01 increment as the odometer clicked onward.  I fought through 9 miles and had to retire due to exhaustion.  

Later, I had a few bites of dinner and realized my appetite was gone.  I went to bed at 6:45 PM and, with several bathroom incidents and Ibuprofen doses in between, my wife woke me at 6:45 AM on Monday.

I found my lack of appetite and diarrhea stripped off 5 pounds overnight.   I called off work on Monday and, if I wasn't comatose, I laid hopelessly in bed in despair wondering how I would break back into the outside world in such miserable shape.

Enter Tuesday at which point my sheer will forced me out of bed.  It's funny how our exaggerated sense of self-importance takes over under these circumstances.  "My people need me at the office.  The company will shut down if I'm not there," we think.

I helped my daughter get off to daycare with my wife, cleaned myself up and got myself to the office.  I drank several Coca-Colas throughout the day to rid myself of my pale appearance.  I still had no appetite, a highly dynamic body temperature from various fevers and no interest in running.

Finally, today, Wednesday, I broke back into running.  After all, we are only 12 days out from the Boston Marathon.  I did a solid 10-miler on the treadmill in 1:13.  Call it a fartlek mixed with several interval inclines and the final two miles at goal marathon pace.

One bit of positive news.  Before all of this sickness crippled me, I nailed an outstanding simulated 10k race in 37:54 on Saturday.  McMillan tells us that lines up with a sub-2:58 marathon.

Now, I will stick to the Pfitz up to 70mpw plan from here on out.  I went over the plan by adding those two GMP miles today, but I needed to push it a little after falling down on Sunday. 

I need to believe that blowing that final 17-miler will not affect my time on April 20th.  And I do believe it will not matter.  I had solid twenty-milers each of the two preceding - one of which I nailed 15 at goal pace.

Onward to Boston, folks ... and my second sub-3:00 race in roughly two months.  This will truly be a spectacular accomplishment if and when I nail this race.