The Running Spirit

Determination, conviction, perseverance, dedication, grit whatever you want to call it, if you find someone who has run a marathon, they have it. If you find someone who has run a marathon and then run another one, they have a ton of it. In 2013, I ran 3 marathons. In fact, I ran 4 marathons in the span of 14 months. That is why I am having so much difficulty processing the difficulties I’m having training for marathon number 5.

I didn’t run a marathon in 2014, because my wife gave birth to our gorgeous daughter. Time and sleep were not going to be on my side. I did, however, continue running half marathons and a weekend long run usually consisted of between 12-15 miles. So, when I decided to pick up marathoning again, I didn’t expect to have too much difficulty ramping training back up. Unfortunately, I seem to be having setback after setback lately.

Back in December, my foot hurt so much that I had an MRI to confirm that I didn’t have a stress fracture, and I took a week off of running. That healed. Shortly after, my “good” knee started hurting, and I’ve been dealing with moderate pain for about a month. 2 weeks ago, I failed my 20 miler, because I felt a painful tug in the arch of my foot. I stopped immediately not wanting to cause severe plantar fasciitis. So, I am still dealing with that. I was out for redemption this past Friday night pursuing 20 again. Unfortunately, it was very cold and for some reason I couldn’t catch my breath. I managed to hyper-ventilate for 11 miles before calling it quits. I added another 5 miles on the treadmill the next morning to try to make myself feel a little better about it. This has honestly been my toughest training season ever.

To compensate, I’ve removed 1 run per week from my training and replaced it with a leg strengthening day in hopes that these injuries are just being caused by muscle imbalances I can fix with some strength training. I’ve also started going to bed by 9PM every night thinking that more sleep may help my body recover better. I also have a tennis ball at work that I use to roll out my arch while I’m sitting at my desk. Ice and a foam roller were already regulars in my daily routine. I possibly could try to improve my eating habits, which aren’t horrible. I am always trying to do that.

Physically, I’m doing everything I can to train and recover. Mentally, I am more than determined, but doubt is creeping in. However, one piece I have completely neglected is spiritual. It may sound weird to discuss the spirit in this format, but I believe a person is made of 3 things: a body, mind, and spirit. If one aspect is weak, it impacts the others.

When I started running, I ran to get in shape. Then, I found that as I pushed myself longer in miles, I found I had time to be alone and think about things. Sometimes my legs felt heavy, and I found myself praying. The longer the miles got, the more I prayed for a tailwind or praised God for a gorgeous day.  The praying turned into a habit. I talked with Him about anything and everything. It was my time alone with Him, and I treasured it. In church last week, I realized that I had gotten away from that in the past year. Training runs weren’t difficult, and I filled my alone time listening to podcasts like the BS Report and the Dan Patrick Show. Instead of focusing on what was important, I was distracting myself from the monotony. I forgot why I really enjoyed running. I plan to be more intentional about my thoughts while I’m running. Boston is on April 20th, less than 2 months away. Maybe if I concentrate on rekindling the spirituality of my running, my body will heal, and doubts will go away. My goal is to make it to Hopkinton healthy and enjoy the trip down Boylston.

On Saturday, I ran 20 miles for the first time in about 16 months. Success! 2 more 20+ milers are left until the taper. It’s time to make them count.

Boston Marathon Training Update:

Well, this whole blog post has been a training update, but it has been so crazy cold this week that I have been confined to the treadmill. I usually don’t have trouble running in the cold, but when there is a negative sign in front of the temperature, I stay inside. Anyone have a job in a warmer climate available?

Date Workout Mileage Pace (Min/Mile) Elevation Gain
12 Feb Yasso 800s x 7 5.75 Miles 7:37 Repeat
10:24 Rest
27 Feet
14 Feb Failed 20 Miler 6 Miles 9:47 388 Feet
18 Feb Easy Run (Treadmill) 8 Miles 9:41 0 Feet
20 Feb Failed 20 Miler 11.1 Miles 10:39 392 Feet
21 Feb Additional Miles from Failing (Treadmill) 4.9 Miles 10:00 0 Feet
23 Feb Easy Run (Treadmill) 5 Miles 9:45 0 Feet
24 Feb Easy Run (Treadmill) 10 Miles (Treadmill) 9:34 0 Feet
27 Feb Pace Run (Treadmill) 5 Miles 8:35 0 Feet
28 Feb Long Run 20 Miles 9:38 1134 Feet
3 Mar Easy Run (Treadmill) 6 Miles 9:29 0 Feet
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I Have a Shoe Fetish

Five years ago, I had no idea shoes were measured based on profile (height), forefoot cushioning, heel cushioning, stiffness, stability, weight, and something called “drop”. I used to look at a shoe and say, “Yep, that looks cool and feels ok. I’ll buy it.” Now, I find myself reading through shoe reviews and technical specifications.

Yes, shoes do cushion more on the heel or your forefoot, and that only really matters to you if you know how your running stride is. I, for instance, never touch my heel to the ground, so I don’t care about heel cushioning at all. I also know that there is a massive difference between 12mm drop and 0 mm drop. Go look how small 12mm is… seriously. I also know that I prefer 4mm drop in my shoes. That means that the forefoot sits 4mm lower than the heel. Some other things I’ve learned in the past few years are that my toe box is wide, but my foot measures normal. So, when I go to the shoe store, I measure a D width, but my toe box is more of a EE width. I’ve also learned that “stability” has nothing to do with a shoe being stable. It relates to how your foot hits the ground. Do you hit on the outside of your foot, flat, or on the inside of your foot. Unless you land flat, you may want “stability” shoes. I, luckily, don’t need them.

Why am I bringing all of this up? I just used up my favorite pair of running shoes, and they no longer make that exact shoe. It’s a sad day. When I started running, I just put on an old pair of running shoes and ran out of the door. I’ve evolved since then. I’m a gadget nerd. I now have a GPS watch, a RoadID for identification and emergency contacts in case I’m hit by a car, a phone for emergency and entertainment, Yurbud headphones so my earbuds don’t fall out when it’s windy, toe socks to prevent blisters, and compression socks thanks to a lesson I learned when I pulled a calf while marathon training. Of course, I didn’t get there on day 2. It was a gradual yet rapid curve that brought me to my current point of running nerdity.

After running for about a month, I started having hip pain, so I did some research. I found out that I was heal striking and that is bad. (Disclaimer: that really isn’t bad, but I read an article that said it was. In reality, your running form is your running form as long as it is comfortable and sustainable for you.) So, I bought some Vibram Five Fingers since they promised to change my running form and prevent injury. I gradually worked them in and starting running off of my heels. I loved their feel, but I couldn’t run more than 2 miles without having toe pain. So, I needed something else. (Yes, I took advantage of the class action law suit against them.)

Next, I was professionally fitted at the local New Balance store and scored a pair of 890s. I loved them and ran my first half marathon in them. Also, I benefited from the Vibram training and wasn’t hitting my heel anymore. However, they wore out, and I didn’t like the feel of the updated version of the 890, so I upgraded to the 1080v2. I loved this shoe too, but it had a side effect of not draining well, so on my long 20 mile runs in the summer, my feet squished like I was running in puddles. So, those didn’t work either. Then, I saw an ad for the Saucony Ride. So, I bought those. I ran my first marathon in them, but the toe box was too tight and the shoe didn’t come in anything besides a D width, so I ended up blistering badly during that race. I basically had the skin peel off of two toes. Seriously. I’ll spare you the picture.

Saucony Kinvara 3s that I wore for a previous half marathon PR

Saucony Kinvara 3s that I wore for a previous half marathon PR

I noticed that the Saucony Kinvara 3 came in a wide width. So, I bought it. This was the first shoe that I bought over and over again. I think I owned 4 pairs of Kinvara 3s and ran 2 full marathons in them and a handful of half marathons. I loved them. In fact, my 5K and 10K PRs were run wearing them and still stand today. However, then Saucony made changes… just like New Balance. I tried the Kinvara 4. I literally ripped the side out after 100 miles. So, I had to find a new shoe.

I went to the local running store and described the type of shoe I liked and my toe box problem. The runner/salesperson recommended I try Altra or the Brooks Pure line. Both have anatomical form to their shoes, so they are wider in the toe than the heel. What a novel concept? A shoe actually shaped like a foot. It’s amazing it has taken the shoe industry so long to figure that out. I tried both. The Altra Torin felt like I was running on a board, very stiff. However, the Brooks PureFlow 2 felt better than the Kinvara 3s. I hopped on their treadmill and fell in love.

Brooks PureFlow 2 (Orange) and PureFlow 3 (Yellow) sure look the same, but they aren't.

Brooks PureFlow 2 (Orange) and PureFlow 3 (Yellow) sure look the same, but they aren’t.

I actually lost track of how many pairs I have purchased of the PureFlow 2 (all of them in construction worker orange… bright colors make you fast. It’s a scientific fact.) I have been running in that shoe for over a year and a half. I have set Marathon and Half Marathon PRs wearing them. I have scoured the internet. They are all gone in my size. They are supposed to only last 250-300 miles. My last pair survived 418 miles, but it is time for them to go. I don’t want to let them go, but it’s time.

I now have a pair of Brooks PureFlow 3s. They don’t feel the same. They are highlighter yellow though, a definite plus! They may be serviceable, but they aren’t the same. Why do shoe companies ruin perfectly amazing shoes for the sake of trying to make changes? I’ll never know. Stop ruining my running shoes!

If you have any shoe recommendations based on the description of what I like, let me know in the comments below. I may be in the market very soon.

Boston Marathon Training Update:

I’m not sure if it is the weather, life stress, or training stress, but I am struggling with training. It’s hard to get out of bed and out the door in the morning. I have a 20 miler this Saturday, and I am not looking forward to it. My last marathon was in November 2013, and I don’t remember training being this difficult. Hopefully, the tough training will make the race easy.

Date Workout Mileage Pace (Min/Mile) Elevation Gain
23 Jan Hill Repeats 6 Up, 2 Down 4 Miles 8:32 Up 6:47 Down 535 Feet
24 Jan Long Run 14 Miles 9:58 798 Feet
26 Jan Easy Run (Treadmill) 5 Miles 9:37 0 Feet
27 Jan Easy Run 9 Miles 9:57 338 Feet
30 Jan Yasso 800s x 6 5 Miles 7:19 Repeat 10:30 Rest 19 Feet
31 Jan Long Run 19 Miles 9:41 897 Feet
2 Feb Easy Run 5 Miles 9:19 150 Feet
3 Feb Easy Run 9 Miles 9:26 309 Feet
7 Feb Long Run 14 Miles 9:22 811 Feet
9 Feb Easy Run 5 Miles 9:01 150 Feet
10 Feb Easy Run 10 Miles 9:26 346 Feet

The Cold War

Well, it’s January, and it’s 40 degrees outside. Ohio weather is crazy. Literally 1 week ago, schools were closed due to wind chills approaching 30 below zero. My training runs during that cold spell were generally performed on the treadmill. I hate the treadmill. Thankfully, I could run while watching the NFL playoffs and some good movies to keep my mind off the fact that I was running in the same spot for multiple hours. Occasionally, the temperature spiked above 10 and I took advantage by running outside. Of course, once was actually right after a snow storm that closed down schools and my office. After reflecting on this crazy running weather, I decided that my training so far in January has resembled the Rocky IV training montage: Treadmill run, snow run, treadmill run, ice run, treadmill run, etc. So, enjoy… (The running portion starts at 2:30 of the video, but honestly, who doesn’t want to watch this entire cinematic masterpiece?)

I even probably have a slight limp like Rocky from being sore.  Although, I don’t remember climbing a mountain, but then I saw my elevation gain from my 18 mile run on Saturday. Maybe I did.

Boston Marathon Training Update:

Right now, I am in the grinding portion of marathon training.  Runs are extremely long, the weather is generally horrible, and my body aches.  Some mornings, I am struggling just to get out of bed.  So, I’m looking for someone to help me with motivation and sponsor me for $1 per mile I run the last 2 weeks of January.  It should be between $70 and $80.  If you want to help out, send me a message.

Date Workout Mileage Pace (Min/Mile) Elevation Gain
2 Jan Yasso 800s x 4 3.5 Miles 6:38 – Repeat
10:30 – Rest
25 Feet
3 Jan Long Run (Treadmill) 17 Miles 10:00 0 Feet
5 Jan Recovery Run (Treadmill) 4 Miles 10:00 0 Feet
6 Jan Easy Run 8 Miles 9:45 266 Feet
7 Jan Easy Run (Treadmill) 4 Miles 10:00 0 Feet
9 Jan Pace Run (Treadmill) 4 Miles 8:42 0 Feet
10 Jan Long Run (Treadmill) 13 Miles 9:50 0 Feet
11 Jan Recovery Run 4 Miles 9:28 153 Feet
13 Jan Easy Run 9 Miles 9:29 303 Feet
14 Jan Easy Run 4 Miles 9:52 127 Feet
16 Jan Yasso 800s x 5 4.5 Miles 7:09 – Repeat
10:14 – Rest
37 Feet
17 Jan Long Run 18 Miles 10:04 1144 Feet
19 Jan Recovery Run 4 Miles 8:50 131 Feet
20 Jan Easy Run 9 Miles 9:54 351 Feet

 

Running Year in Review

Well, it’s that time of year for a retrospective. It has been a crazy year. My year actually started with continued shoulder rehab after I had to have my labrum surgically repaired. That was extremely frustrating and the reason I started this blog. This was a year of overcoming obstacles and tremendous gifts.

Once my doctor cleared me to start running after surgery, I literally ran the very next day. Then, I ran at least one mile for 73 straight days totaling 232 miles in that time and 35+ hours of running. What made me stop? My daughter was born. I spent the day at the hospital with my wife in labor and then with my daughter. Running just didn’t seem as important that day.

Brew Hog Beer Mug

Brew Hog Beer Mug

As far as racing goes, I competed in a couple of Race Series. I ran in a 3 race series called the Christian Moerlien Beer Series. Moerlien is a brewery in Cincinnati, and they sponsor beer themed races throughout the year. It consists of the Bockfest 5K in March, The Little Kings Mile in May, and the Hudepohl 14K in September. If you complete all 3 races, you are invited to a special happy hour, receive a nice commemorative beer glass, and can call yourself a “Brew Hog.” It was definitely a fun series with 3 great, well-organized races, and I even ran a PR in the Little Kings Mile clocking a 6:11 mile.

The other race series I competed in was the Skyline Chili 3-way Challenge. It consisted of running the Flying Pig 5K and 10K on Saturday and the Flying Pig Half Marathon on Sunday. (For the truly tough, you can compete in the 4-Way instead. It is the same concept, but run the Full Marathon instead of the Half Marathon.) I love the Flying Pig races, and have run in them the previous 3 years. I will keep coming back.

In August, I completed my second Tough Mudder with some friends from work. Considering I wasn’t even a full year removed from shoulder surgery, this was an awesome experience. If you’ve never competed in one, grab yourself a big team and go have a blast. They are about having fun and pushing each other rather than competing.
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I finished the racing year in October running the Columbus Half Marathon, which has been on my list as well. It supports the Columbus children’s hospital where one my friends is a doctor. They have patients at every mile marker to cheer you on. It was just a tremendous experience. The fact that I PR’ed running a 1:46:33 might also help my fond memories.

Finally in November, I received a tremendous surprise and honor by being selected to run the 2015 Boston Marathon as part of the Dana Farber Marathon Challenge team. I am currently raising money for Cancer Research. To learn more, you can check out my fundraising page here.

1278 miles from my house.  I could have run from my house to my buddy's in Albuquerque, NM!

1278 miles from my house. I could have run from my house to my buddy’s in Albuquerque, NM!

I finished the year running for over 200 hours, traversing 1278 miles, and climbing 45,809 feet of elevation (More than Mount Everest, 29,029 ft, and Pikes Peak, 14,114 ft, combined). I’m not sure what all of that means, but considering I started the year in a sling, it sounds like a lot. I’m not sure what next year holds. I know I’m committed to running the Boston Marathon and finishing my third Tough Mudder. I may tackle another full marathon in the fall as well. Whatever is ahead, I’m looking forward to it. I hope everyone has a very Happy New Year!

Boston Marathon Training Update:

Training has been progressing well, and so has fundraising. I officially passed the $1000 mark for raising money for cancer research. It warms my heart to hear everyone’s stories of how cancer has impacted them. This has been a tremendous experience, and I have a ton of motivation to keep pushing.

Date Workout Mileage Pace (Min/Mile) Elevation Gain
23 Dec Easy Run 8 Miles 9:42 264 Feet
24 Dec Recovery Run 4 Miles 9:49 139 Feet
26 Dec Hill Repeats
5 Up, 1 Down
3.5 Miles 8:29 Up
6:37 Down
462 Feet
27 Dec Long Run 12 Miles 9:49 658 Feet
28 Dec Recovery Run 4 Miles 9:02 136 Feet
30 Dec Easy Run 8 Miles 9:20 258 Feet
31 Dec Recovery Run 4 Miles 9:17 135 Feet

 

Silent Night

Many people don’t like running in the dark, but that is my specialty. All of my mid-week runs take place in the dark, and most of my long runs on weekends are at least partially in the dark. It doesn’t bug me. Although, there is one stretch where I have about 100 yards that I run on a paved path through the woods. I used to have fears of a deer jumping in front of me, or a crazed owl attacking my head. I’m over that… finally. I’m used to my path. I know how to avoid cars. No problems. Just me and peaceful starry skies every morning.

I discovered something new this winter. My runs in the dark are almost exclusively in the morning, so I can get my run completed before work and before my wife and kids are out of bed. It was pouring down rain on Tuesday morning, and I just couldn’t muster up the strength to run 8 miles on the treadmill in my basement. I HATE the treadmill. So, I switched my run to the evening. What I found was extremely unexpected although I felt dumb when I noticed it.

Running at night between Thanksgiving and Christmas gives an amazing opportunity to explore Christmas lights! I can’t believe I didn’t do this before. Of course, Christmas lights are out now, but I rarely go searching for Christmas lights this time of year. My parents used to take us sightseeing as kids, but I haven’t done it in years. I had an amazing 8 mile tour of Christmas lights in my neighborhood. I never realized how many people turn their lights off when they go to bed. So many more houses are decorated at night than in the morning. I snapped a few pictures along the way. Here are some of my favorites. I’m not sure the pictures do them justice. However, do yourself a favor this week, switch your run to the evening, brave the cold, and go exploring.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!
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Santa Rex says “RAWR RAWR RAWR, Merry Christmas!”
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Boston Marathon Training Update:

I bounced back the past 2 weeks with some good runs. I even ran one time at 2:00 am since my daughter woke me up crying, and I couldn’t get her back to sleep. I left her in her crib to cry it out, but that meant I couldn’t sleep. So, I ran 5 miles in the middle of the night. (My wife was home… don’t call child services.) I’m not sure if that is what makes me sane or insane.

Date Workout Mileage Pace (Min/Mile) Elevation Gain
9 Dec Easy Run 7 Miles 9:34 218 Feet
10 Dec Recovery Run 3 Miles 9:47 90 Feet
12 Dec Hill Repeats
4 Up, 1 Down
4.15 Miles 8:03 Up
6:52 Down
283 Feet
13 Dec Long Run 14 Miles 9:53 796 Feet
14 Dec Recovery Run 4 Miles 9:11 142 Feet
16 Dec Easy Run 8 Miles 9:54 258 Feet
17 Dec Recovery Run 4 Miles 10:22 144 Feet
19 Dec Tempo Run 5 Miles 8:12 159 Feet
20 Dec Long Run 16 Miles 9:58 954 Feet
21 Dec Recovery Run 4 Miles 10:10 134 Feet

 

Honoring Loved Ones

With so many charities out there to help with cancer research, I always knew that cancer touched the lives of many people.  However, I never really realized how many until I started raising funds for the Claudia Adams Barr Program in Innovative Cancer Research at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.  As part of that fundraising, I’ve reached out to numerous people.  I am amazed at how many have been directly impacted by cancer.  One of my friend’s grandfathers just passed away from cancer.  Another’s dad is currently battling a very aggressive cancer. The list goes on and on.  I have been completely touched and blown away by the stories and support.  In the past month, I’ve raised close to $700 towards my goal, which is pretty good for only 1 month, especially when that month is leading up to Christmas and people are saving money to buy presents for their loved ones.

I started on this journey for a few reasons.  One was to honor my wife’s grandfather who is battling colon cancer.  The other was to run the Boston Marathon for the first time.  Both are still my goals.  However, I have found another.  I want to honor your friend, mom, dad, brother, sister, grandparent, aunt, uncle (etc) who survived, is battling, or fell victim to cancer.

Here’s what I am going to do.  I will write the name of your loved one on my race singlet and run the Boston Marathon with that person’s name for all to see.  After the race, I’ll find a way to get you a picture of the name on the singlet as a memento.  All you need to do is provide a donation through my fundraising page.  I was going to offer to do that for a specific amount of money, but honestly, $25 to someone is $100 to another.  So, I’ll just ask you to give what you feel is appropriate.  Once I am notified of your donation, I’ll reach out and ask who you would like to honor.

Your donation goes directly to cancer research and is completely tax-deductible.  You will get a receipt in your email shortly after you donate.  If you donate before the end of the year, you can even take it off this year’s taxes even though the race isn’t until next year.  Thank you all for your support.

Click here to learn more and donate: www.runDFMC.org/2015/mattbeck

Boston Marathon Training Update:

Week 2 of training is behind me.  I attempted to run 15 miles Saturday.  However, it was pouring down rain and in the 30s.  I didn’t feel like being that miserable, so I popped in a movie and ran on the treadmill in my basement.  I’m pretty sure it is calibrated wrong, because I was struggling at an easy pace and only made it 10 miles.  The next day I ran 3 miles much faster with much less effort.  Who knows.  Maybe Saturday was just a bad day.

Date Workout Mileage Pace (Min/Mile) Elevation Gain
2 Dec Easy Run 7 Miles 9:38 201 Feet
3 Dec Recovery Run 3 Miles 10:25 90 Feet
5 Dec Tempo Run 5 Miles 8:14 151 Feet
6 Dec Long Run (Treadmill) 10 Miles 10:00 0 Feet
7 Dec Recovery Run 3 Miles 9:05 82 Feet

 

Turkey Trot … or Not

Every year, I look forward to Thanksgiving. Not just for the food, but because I enjoy the local 5 Mile Turkey Trot. It is extremely popular, so it is a huge race where I always run into somebody I know. Also, they generally provide great long-sleeved tech shirts that are perfect for cool morning runs. I can’t have enough of those. I was really looking forward to this year’s because they changed the course a little bit to make it more than an out and back race. Also, I wasn’t able to run last year thanks to my shoulder surgery (which was heavily chronicled on this blog).

shirtAbout a month ago, I signed myself up for the 5 mile race. There is also a shorter, 1 mile fun run/walk as well. I talked to my wife, and we decided that she could push the baby in the stroller and walk with our son in the 1 mile event. He always wants to run races with us, so this could be a good way to get him moving and get some energy out before going to my parents for our first Thanksgiving.

Notice that I just wrote “first Thanksgiving”. This is another reason I love the Turkey Trot, it helps me burn off some calories before going to 2 thanksgiving meals, one at my parents for a brunch and one at my in-laws for a “linner”. (Is that a thing?). I’m not complaining. In fact, it’s the opposite. I have no self-control on Thanksgiving, so the more exercise I get that day, the less rotund I’ll look and feel.

So, the day before Thanksgiving, I took my son to the expo to pick up our race gear. He was so excited to get his very own race number and shirt. We even raced from the expo back to the car. However, I was getting worried. The temperature was supposed to drop that night and it was going to be very cold in the morning. I talked to my wife, and we agreed that it was too cold for the baby, so she would stay home with her. That meant that I had to decide whether to leave my son at home and run the 5 mile race or bring him with me and run/walk the 1 mile with him. It wasn’t a hard choice. I grabbed my wife’s number for the 1 mile race and decided that my son and I would run/walk that together.

The morning of the race, it was 20 degrees. I bundled him up. I made sure he was wearing a compression thermal base layer, a middle layer, a light weight coat, and (of course) his race shirt over top. I even made sure he had 2 pairs of pants on. He had a hat and gloves and was ready to go. We arrived an hour early to get a parking space and he played Star Wars Angry Birds on my phone in the car while we waited and stayed warm. Then, it was time to head to the start line.

We hopped out of the car, and immediately I knew this was probably a mistake. He started saying his face was too cold, and I didn’t have a facemask for him. I told him he’d warm up once he started moving, and we made our way to the start line. By the time we made it to the start line with 10 minutes until race start, he was just too cold. I tried to get him to hang around for the start, but he wanted to go home. I asked him 3 times to make sure before we left, and he was sure. His fingers were like ice cubes even inside his gloves. So, we wouldn’t be Turkey Trotting this year. However, we did make our own little Turkey Trot. We ran from the start line back to the car. It was about a quarter of a mile. That was good enough for him, his very first Turkey Trot. Maybe next year he’ll get in the full mile.

Boston Marathon Training Update:

Boston Marathon Training officially began the day after Thanksgiving!

Date Workout Mileage Pace (Min/Mile) Elevation Gain
28 Nov Hill Repeats:
4 Up & 1 Down
2.75 Miles 8:08 Up &
6:04 Down
353 Feet
29 Nov Long Run 12 Miles 9:45 561 Feet
30 Nov Recovery Run 3 Miles 9:06 93 Feet

Help support my run and a great charity, the Dana Farber Cancer Institute at www.runDFMC.org/2015/mattbeck

Boston Bound

Every marathoner’s dream is to run the Boston Marathon at least once. Unfortunately, I need to cut about 50 minutes off my PR in order to qualify, or I need to be about 30 years older without losing speed. So, qualifying is highly unlikely any time soon. However, I know a lot of people have run Boston as part of the charity partner program. In the back of my mind, that has always been an option, albeit an expensive one, since race registration is more expensive and there is a fundraising commitment in the thousands of dollars.

boston logoFor the past few years, I have felt an overwhelming urge to run Boston. Why? I don’t know. Pride, ego, desire, a lot of things ran through my head why I should, but nothing ever seemed like a good reason to make that commitment. My sister, who lives in the Boston area, also has been encouraging me to run it. So, this year I decided it would be a good excuse to take my family on vacation to see my sister’s family. I decided to apply and put everything in God’s hands. Whether I was accepted or declined would be in His hands, and I’d accept His will.

I started researching the various charities, and decided to apply for Tedy’s Team in support of the American Stroke Association. There is a history of strokes in my family. Also, one of my friends at work suffered a major stroke a few weeks prior. Tedy’s Team seemed like a logical choice both to support my friend and possibly support a charity that one day could help save my own life. I told my sister about my decision, and she was excited. She also encouraged me to research another charity that she has supported in the past.

It was the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. I found that Dana Farber offers the Dana Farber Marathon Challenge (DFMC) where its runners support the Claudia Adams Barr Program in Innovative Cancer Research. I read about all of the great breakthroughs that the program has contributed such as discovering genetic causes of lung cancer, discovering new cancer cell death pathways, discovering new brain cancer treatments, and many, many more.

Pap and his great granddaughter

Pap and his great granddaughter

Literally the next day, I found out that my wife’s grandfather, “Pap”, potentially could have cancer. My decision was made. I drafted my application for the Dana Farber Marathon Challenge the very next day, and I started waiting. 1 month passed, and I found out that Tedy’s Team had passed on my application. During the weeks of nauseating anticipation, we found out that Pap does indeed have colon cancer, and he started chemotherapy. The worrying for Pap ramped into high gear across the entire family, and my conviction to run this year for DFMC solidified. However, my application was still in limbo.

After 7 weeks, an email came in from the Dana Farber Marathon Challenge, and it read “Congratulations…” My arms thrust into the air. I ran to show my wife the email. I am part of the team.

That week, my family and I visited Pap to see how he was doing, and tried to cheer him up. I expected to see someone upset and nervous about having cancer. If he feels that way, I couldn’t tell. Pap was upbeat, open about discussing his illness, and completely positive about beating it. He smiled, asked us about our lives, talked to the kids, and made them laugh. He was the same old Pap he has always been. He just lives to bring people joy.

So, now I am running the 2015 Boston Marathon for the Dana Farber Marathon Challenge in honor of Pap. I have started fundraising, and we exceeded my goal for the first week raising $500. On the heels of that success, I issued a challenge on Facebook. This month is No Shave November, and I totally missed the boat on it. However, next month is “Decembeard” to support bowel cancer awareness, which seems especially relevant to my quest. Therefore, if I can reach 25% of my goal ($2000) by the end of November, I will grow my very first beard… ever. Nobody, not even me, knows what I would look like with a beard. This could be disastrously hilarious. Of course, there will be many pictures for everyone’s amusement. If you want contribute to a great cause and an ugly, humiliating beard, here is the link to my fundraising page. 100% of your donation goes directly to cancer research, and it is 100% tax deductible. Please consider helping my quest to help conquer cancer. If you can’t donate, please forward this blog and my fundraising page to your friends and family. You never know who will be able and willing to help.

Please keep track of this blog. I will try to update it weekly with training and fundraising progress, related stories, ugly beard pictures if we meet my challenge this month, and chronicle my path to Hopkinton, MA on April 20th.
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The Road to a Marathon: Air Force Marathon Race Review

The Journey to the Start

Full Marathon Course

Full Marathon Course

Deciding to start running a marathon is not an easy decision, but somehow it was for me. The only race I had run prior to that decision was a 5 mile Turkey Trot. Yet, a marathon didn’t seem that daunting. I had been running regularly, and I was training for a half marathon the year before until I missed the sign up window. I didn’t want to pay the cash if I wasn’t sure I could finish. I reached 10 miles as a maximum run in 2011. That told me that I could take on a race longer than a half marathon. I call it optimism, but I think it was more like ignorance. It made sense at the time. Either way, on January 1, 2012, I signed up for my first marathon, The Air Force Marathon located at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, OH. At the same time, I signed up for my first half marathon as well, The Flying Pig Half Marathon in Cincinnati, OH.

Half Marathon Course

Half Marathon Course

I googled free training plans and found one to start following immediately. I used Hal Higdon’s novice half marathon training plan to get me ready for May. However, I couldn’t follow it religiously, because I had also decided to sign up for a Tough Mudder in April. So, I ran 3 times per week using Hal’s principles of gradually increasing my long run length, and then twice per week, I ran half of the long run distance. The other days, I did various P90X workouts to prep for the Tough Mudder. Prepping for all of these races at the same time, didn’t seem to be too much. I had the running bug. I was invincible, I could do anything!

10K Course Map

10K Course Map

I suppose at this point I should back up. I started running, because I needed to shed some unwanted sympathy weight from when my son was born in 2009. I looked at Christmas pictures, and I looked like my body was swollen from some sort of infection, but I wasn’t sick. I was just fat. The scale cracked 200 pounds, and that was enough. I used to love running, but my knees were degenerating, and I was forming arthritis before the age of 30. When I was 20, I had my ACL repaired and lost a lot of cartilage in a nasty flag football injury. My doctor advised me to stop running. So, I did. However, I HAD to lose weight. So, I started running again. I thought if my knees only have so many miles on them, I might as well enjoy them while I can, and I kept running. My knees started feeling better. I went to the Orthopedist to have my knees checked, and they hadn’t worsened. So, I kept running.

The Tough Mudder was awesome, and I learned a lot running the Flying Pig Half Marathon as my first significant race. I cranked up the training and modified Hal Higdon’s Novice Marathon training plan. I plugged away and ran the 20 miler and tapered. I was so excited that I had trouble keeping my taper runs at a normal pace. I couldn’t help but run fast. Before I knew it, I was ready for my first Marathon!

Free Stuff

2013 Tech Shirt

2013 Tech Shirt (picture courtesy of Air Force Marathon)

I went to the expo 2 days before the race and zipped by all of the vendors. I’m not a big vendor person. I feel like they are trying to sell me things that I don’t need, and the discounts aren’t very significant. I’m sure many people feel otherwise, but it isn’t my thing. However, there were quite a few vendors there from the local area. In the past few years, I’ve come to realize that the expo is actually quite good from a vendor perspective. It is the same every year, and if you are an expo person, this is a good one with a lot to purchase. The major running stores in the area set up large spreads along with tons of other vendors. The bib and t-shirt pick-up is very organized if you bring your bib number with you, because everything is organized by number and not last name. Every year, you receive a tech t-shirt and running hat. In 2012, 5k and 10K participants received regular t-shirts, but in 2013, they received short-sleeved gender specific tech shirts. Similarly, the half and full participants received long-sleeved gender specific tech shirts. I like them for my workouts. Overall the expo is very nice and organized, and since it is at a basketball arena, there is plenty of parking.

On Your Mark, Get Set…

Parachutists

Parachutists at the start

…and get there EARLY on race day. They usually open the parking lots 2-3 hours before the start of the full marathon and the 10K. I recommend getting there within 30 minutes of the gates opening. There is ALWAYS a huge line of cars waiting to park as the gun goes off. Do not forget that you are parking on an active Air Force base, so security is very important. There are 3 entrances to the parking area and each has a long line if you don’t arrive early. You will also have a long walk to the start line. It can be close to a mile depending on where you park, so be prepared for that. You will walk past the United States Air Force Museum on your way to the start line. If you aren’t too tired, be sure to take a recovery walk around the museum after the race. It is free and definitely worth your time. There are plenty of portable bathrooms set up between the parking lot and the start line. I’d skip the first line of them as you walk from the parking lot. These are always jammed, and there are more than enough right next to the start line, so don’t waste your time in a long bathroom line when you don’t have to.

B2

B2 flyover at the start

As you get close to the start line, there will be an area for runners and spectators to have any bags searched. You can thank the issues in Boston for this, but I find it to be only a mild inconvenience. Again, you are on a military base. Safety will always come first.

If you get there as early as I do, you will have plenty of time to check your bag and rest. Feel free to bring an old mylar blanket you received at a previous race or a grungy sweatshirt to put on the ground and sit to rest your legs. There are no corrals, so there is no need to go claim your spot at the front of the start corral. There is plenty of room. You start on an old airplane taxi-way/runway, so there is no need to elbow your way to the front. The road is very wide at the start.

F-35

The featured aircraft for 2014, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (picture courtesy of Air Force Marathon)

There are signs that give suggested places to line up according to your pace. There will also be pacers that arrive close to the start time and line up. You can use their spacing as well to gauge where you should be standing. If you are using a pacer, feel free to go say hi to them. You’ll be with them for a few hours, you might as well be friendly.

When it’s time to start, the announcer will let you know, and assuming federal funding permits it, there will be a flyover of the featured aircraft for the race. My first was the B2 Stealth Bomber. Pretty amazing if you have never seen one flying. This upcoming year, it will be the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Here’s hoping for a flyover.

…GO!!!!

...and they're off (Picture courtesy of Air Force Marathon)

…and they’re off (Picture courtesy of Air Force Marathon)

BOOM! Woh! That isn’t your normal start gun. Was that a cannon? Yes, yes it was. The race starts down a very wide old runway. This portion of the base used to be an airfield, but has been changed into an office park over the years. Luckily, the wide runway still exists, so there is plenty of room to let the race thin out. Save your energy in this long straightaway, because you are about to hit the hill. Within the first 2 miles, you will ascend a hill that is roughly a 300 foot elevation climb that lasts a mile. I know this hill well. I use it in my weekly training. If you don’t believe me, look at the race elevation chart below. Conserve your energy here. This is the largest climb, but if you burn out now, you’ll never make it up and down the series of hills that mark the final 6 miles of the race. More on these later.
Full Elevation Chart

Full Marathon Elevation Chart

After the hill, you continue to circle Area B of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB). As you are beginning to exit Area B, the Full Marathon and 10K will split at Mile 3. The 10K will head back to the Air Force Museum and the Full Marathon will turn towards WPAFB Areas A and C. It’s a couple miles to get there, and there are some small hills here. Make mental note of them. You will be running the other way on your way back to the museum. They don’t seem like much now. They will hurt later. Before you enter Area A, you will take an on-ramp to the highway. As you probably can guess, it is a pretty tall one. So, take it easy up the hill. You will also be coming up the other side on your way back much later.

Once on base, you will run past the Air Force Materiel Command headquarters. Then, you will run through some brick base housing. There will probably be a few officers and their families out cheering for you. However, in general, this marathon is not a spectator marathon. They do not let people on the base just to watch the races. A person has to have a valid military ID in order to gain access. Otherwise, people can see you in only a handful of places: at the start and finish, on the course by Wright State University, and in Fairborn where the largest crowd support will be located. The people that come out in those areas are great. However, the rest of the race is relatively spectator-less. The race does excel at trying to find entertainment along the way for you, and the hydration stations hold a contest for the best station. So, you will see plenty of fun things from them. One of my favorites last year was the station dressed up as minions from Despicable Me dancing to the movie soundtrack. It was pretty funny, and I was partially delirious. It was a nice combination.

marathon face

This is what mile 20 of your first marathon looks like

Once you leave Fairborn around mile 10, you will reach the boring part of the race. Miles 10-20 are mindless. You will run around the back of Area C and have a nice view of the flight line and the hangars where some C-17s are stationed. You will also pass right by Huffman Prairie where the Wright Brothers perfected their airplane design. Then, you are out of the base at Mile 21 and climbing the highway again. This hill is tough. Slow down and take your time. You will come back down the other side and have some time to recover before you hit the Kaufman Rd hills that you already ran up on the way to Area A. However, your legs are heavy now, and you will see many, many people walking. Fight the urge. I didn’t and gave in during my first marathon. I noticed I was going up the hill for the highway very slowly and decided I could walk the same speed. Once I did that, I lost my stride, and I ran/walked the rest of the way. My time suffered horribly. It was my first marathon. I’ve learned a lot since then.

I survived

I survived

Once you pass the stoplight and see the old power plant on your right, you are done with the last uphill of the race. It is literally all downhill from there. Let gravity and the crowd carry you home.

Where’s the Bling?!

2013 Finisher Medals

2013 Finisher Medals (picture courtesy of Air Force Marathon)

Congratulations, you are done! If you need medical assistance, there are people waiting to help you as you cross the finish line. Don’t be shy or too proud. These volunteers are amazing. If you are able, make your way to one of the uniformed officers who will hang a medal on your head. Colonels and Generals frequently volunteer to hand out medals. It’s one of the things that make this race special.

Exhausted Satisfaction

The face of exhausted satisfaction

Once you have your medal, get your picture taken or head for the free food. There is always a ton. There are usually sports drinks, water, chocolate milk, cookies, bagels, bananas, and La Rosa’s pizza. All free. I usually do skip the pizza. It is the last thing I want after running. However, I do take advantage of my free beer ticket. There is also a ton of more food to buy. LaRosa’s also sells pizza, and Chick-fil-a is usually there as well.

Once you are semi-recovered, you can go grab your official results at the results tent, grab your bag from bag check. Hopefully, you brought a change of clothes. Go change your clothes and walk around the Air Force Museum proudly displaying your medal to let all of the lactic acid flush from your system.

Final Thoughts

Overall, this race is top-notch. My two complaints are the lack of spectators, and the hills are in the worst spots. Otherwise, it is a pretty flat race, and it is extremely well-organized. Last year, I ran the 10K and half marathon instead of the full marathon. The 10K starts an hour earlier than the half marathon, so if you can finish that in under an hour, you can run both. However, you can’t wear both bibs at the same time, or you won’t have your time recorded for one of the races. My wife was my pit crew last year, and I switched bibs between races. It worked out well. I’d probably do that again. Since this is my hometown race, I’m admittedly biased, but it is definitely worth running. Just make sure you arrive early, and you train on some hills.

In case you were curious, the run/walk up the hill to the highway destroyed my time. I was on pace for a 4 hour marathon, and I ended up at 4:34. Not bad, but not good either. If you are going to only run 1 marathon. This is a good one if you live close, but I’ve always said if you are going to only run one and only one, it should be in Disney World. That may be my next race review. Also, I may change my mind as I run more Marathons. I learned a lot during this race. I also learned that running a full marathon isn’t twice as hard as a half marathon. It’s more exponential than that. However, the satisfaction of running a marathon is exponential as well.

I thought I was invincible before I started training for a marathon, but now I’m a marathoner. My invincibility disappeared around mile 20. I’ve gained perspective. I may not be invincible, but I’m certainly at the very least hard to stop.

For more information on the Air Force Marathon races, please click here.

Requiem For a Run Streak

You never realize the commitment it takes to wake up every day and run no matter what. I had delusions of grandeur this year. I was going to run every day throughout the whole year. It’s March, and it is already over. I don’t consider the experiment a failure though. On the contrary, I gained a lot of respect for people that do run every day, especially this guy who apparently ran every day for 45 years!

I suppose my goal was over before it started since my surgeon didn’t clear me to run until January 8. However, once cleared, I started running and never looked back. I woke up at 4:30am and ran before work. I woke up before the sun rose on weekends and did the same. I ran before my family’s day started, because I knew I was being selfish by running. So, if I could run while they were asleep, I could still be a good father and husband.

-2 degrees apparently freezes eyelashes

-2 degrees apparently freezes eyelashes

I ran through rain, sleet, dangerous wind chills, snow… so much snow. We had more snow this winter than we had my entire life. Seriously. The last time we had more snow was the winter of 1977-1978. I wore my yaktrax so much that I actually broke a spring. I was training to get back into half marathon shape. Before I was forced to sit for 2 months due to shoulder surgery, I was in the best shape of my life and ran my fastest marathon ever. After that, I told my wife, I’d dial it back. However, I still ran every day. I didn’t run as far as I had, but every day I laced up my shoes and covered at least a mile… usually more.

Our gorgeous daughter

Our gorgeous daughter

So, why did my streak end? It’s actually pretty simple. At 2:20am on March 23, my wife’s water broke, and our daughter was born 12 hours later. After she was born, I thought briefly about running a mile, but it just seemed silly. I was a father again, and I didn’t want to leave my wife or daughter. As my daughter was born, my run streak died, and I don’t even miss it.

Run Streak Stats: 73 Days, 232 Miles, 35+ hours
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