Training Ruts are for Losers

I’ve got some catching up to do. First things first, let’s talk Training Ruts and how to break them – mostly because I’m in one, I’m a loser.  More importantly I need to break out of it and ditch this loser status.  It would help to establish what leads us down the path of a training rut? Maybe it’s the lack of progress that slips us up (I know this is a major factor in my training), maybe it’s lack of motivation? The mornings are my preferred times for training, but it’s been really hard to leave my comfortable bed – and as I lay there knowing I should be running, it all goes away as soon as I close my eyes. Just another 15 minutes.

So what’s your downfall? Mine is a combination platter of the slight lack of progress and motivation.

On Lack of Progress
I love technology, and I love my running tech, I know I’m not the only one guilty of this – but for the love of God give it a rest!  I was glued to my fitness tracking Garmin, if I didn’t get my steps I became cranky, irritable, and would load myself up with doubt.  If my run time was falling behind, or my heart-rates were out of control it would lead me further down the rabbit hole.  So what did I do?  I left my Garmin on (physically on my wrist), and let the battery run out. It was painful and as my Garmin gasped for power and alerted me that it’s battery was low as I pressed on without it.  Can I tell you something?  After about a week of not being constantly reminded of how many steps I took, or any metrics from my workouts, I found myself de-stressing.

But seriously though, I charged up my forerunner after the week and it was like a breath of fresh air.  I still apologize to it now and again.

On Motivation
It’s easy to give into temptation of just laying in that comfortable bed, or saying “I just don’t have time for this today”, or coming up with an excuse not to train.  Excuses are easy, your Lizard Brain (more on this later) doesn’t want you to train. Here’s how you can beat the lizard brain.

Step 1:
Just Do it (picture 
Shia LaBeouf yelling in your ear).
Sounds easy and cliche, but when you are thinking of excuses to not train – take this moment to recognize these excuses and make a mental note that these excuses are negative thoughts. Not only are these thoughts negative, but they aren’t productive. Just Do it.  Force yourself to be productive, get moving.  As soon as your lizard brain rears its head, beat is back with the willpower to just do it.  Bonus points if you run in Nike Shoes.

Step 2:
Change it up and Make it Fun.
If you find yourself slogging through the miles in agony, time to re-think your training.  Make it a point to change things up – I get into a rut where I run everyday on the same treadmill, at the same time, listening to the same songs.  I’m putting myself to sleep just thinking about it.  Time to add in some cross-training or *gasp* taking the run outside.  If you are entered in an off-road race with hills and obstacles, then train off-road on hills and obstacles – what’s the treadmill preparing you for?

Real life example: The Hot Chocolate 15K, in Philadelphia, is relatively flat so the treadmill is perfect for training for this race.  On the other hand the Hard Cider Run is off-road, through the hills and fields of a local winery, the course weaves in and out of the orchards – nothing a treadmill can prepare you for.  By the way, shameless plug for the $5 OFF discount code for the Hard Cider Run – KENNYB5

Also, if you haven’t done a Virtual Race before, I suggest giving one a try.  There are a TON of virtual race apps out there (we use US Road Running), but all of them are pretty straight-forward. You can register for a race, record your times via the app and receive some cool swag. I’ve done 4 virtual races this year and found they were perfect for making some of my longer training runs fun.

Step 3:
Reward Yourself.

Seriously.  After my morning training session I come home and make the biggest, peanut butteriest, plant-powered-proteiniest, thickest, super smoothiest protein smoothie in the entire world.  I use this super smoothie as a reward for getting up and training and putting in the work.  On the days I don’t train, I don’t deserve such a reward, so I just have a bland smoothie that makes me sad.  Okay, not really, but I don’t reward myself for hitting the snooze.

Annnnd like I mentioned above, if Virtual Races sound cool to you, maybe some of the Virtual Run Metals and Swag can be used as a reward for all your work.

Anyway, enough of me yammering on. I just need to get up, just do it, and then reward myself for being such an amazing athlete.

Garden Spot Village Half Marathon

Well, here it is, my Race Recap of the Garden Spot Village Half Marathon – and I have two words for anyone considering this race: THOSE HILLS! Yes, oh my God, now I’m saying it too.

When I told people I was racing in the Garden Spot Half Marathon, everyone said the same thing; “watch out for those hills”. I heard that so much so, that whenever I told people which race I was signed up for – I would interrupt them and yes, “yes, I know, hills – but I ran the Hershey Half and dealt with my share of hills”.  I was confident I had trained well and was prepared.  However I learned, confidence only gets you so far.

First off, let me start by saying Garden Spot Village (GSV) does a race right. The venue is perfect, the accomidations – awesome, the staff and support – out of this world.  My hat is off to GSV for putting together such an awesome event. I enjoyed every detail before the race, I enjoyed every mile during the race, and I thought post-race recovery was done right.  Kudos to their entire team and sponsors.

Now, let’s get down to business and talk racing. I woke up bright and early the day of the race and had a decent breakfast protein shake (Vega Vanilla and Greens, Banana, Quick Oats, Cocoa Nibs, Maca Powder, and Peanut Butter). After taking the pooch out for a walk I came home and donned my running gear.

Typical of my pre-race ritual, I arrived early.  In fact, I was the first runner to pull up to the empty parking lot at 5:55am.  The parking lot attendants clapped and yelped and told me to park anywhere I wanted.

Arrive Early: Check.
Score Amazing Parking: Check.

I waited in my car, meditated, rested my mind – it was hard since I was pumped up and ready to go.  I waited until about 40 mins before the start of the race to emerge from my car and hit the porta-john before flocking over to the tents and excitement. Not that these are excuses, but I had two setbacks I feel like I could have avoided had I done better preparing on my part. I did arrive early and I made sure to use the facilities when I got there, but I forgot to make one last pit stop before the race started. I wanted to make sure I was hydrated so that extra bottle of water in my belly would come back to haunt me. When the race started I immediately had to pee… ugh, not how I wanted to spend the next few miles.  Every two miles GSV had setup a water station and bathrooms, and of course, the first stop was already occupied. Other than having to pee, I felt pretty good, I was breathing a little heavier than I would have liked, but this was a race after all and I will keeping a good pace of 9:30 min/mile among the crowd.

Miles 1 – 4 are pretty uneventful, aside from having to pee the course was proving to be somewhat hilly and challenging, but nothing I couldn’t manage. As I wrapped up mile 5 into 6 and feeling good coming down a huge monster hill it dawned on me that I was going to be turning around at some point and running right back up the monster I just traversed. At this point my body was not pleased with my bathroom choices and forced me to stop at the next water station to empty what felt like a gallon of water – and of course there was a little wait so this added more time to the clock.

Once I exited the porta-john I thought I saw the turn-around and my spirits instantly lifted.  I popped some Honey Stinger snacks into my mouth and enjoyed the sugary high they brought.  My joy was very (very) short lived once I realized that what I saw was not the turnaround, but another hilly drop ahead, with the realization that the second leg of the race was mostly uphill. I made it to the turn around and starting noticing that evil voice in my head telling me to just walk for a few minutes to catch my breath before the hillclimb from hell started.  I did my best to ignore this voice – my average pace was right around 9:45 – 10:00 min/mile and the thought of beating my 2:14:00 finish was in sight… or so I thought.

Mile 7 was the kiss of death, I hit that first steep hill and slugged my way up it. I quicken my pace but then used what energy I had and gradually ended up slowing down faster than I expected. Walking, my own personal no-no. My pace went from 9:53, to 11:26, to 16:00 min/mile and I hit the 9 mile mark with a lap time of 14:24 min/mile.

More Honey Stingers. Check.
More Nuun Water. Check

From that point on my moral hit rock bottom, I tried to quicken my pace to at least finish with my same personal best of 2:14:00, but with each slow step the goal grew further and further.  I finished in 2 hours, 27 minutes, and 40 seconds – 13 minutes longer than my personal best. I wasn’t upset, but I wasn’t happy with that time.

So what did I learn? First and foremost – Not all half marathons are the same! And you can never be too prepared – next year I intend on beating my time as this was not where I thought I would end.  I left that race saying “never again” only to find myself saying “next year” a few days later. GSV Half Marathon is no joke, train for hills… serious hills.  Also, I’m not sure carrying my own water was necessary – with water and Gatorade stations every 2 miles, what was I saving myself by toting that extra weight? Next year, I need to ditch carrying so much stuff.  Pee, pee, pee – make sure you pee right before you race even if you have to force it, bathroom breaks kill me. Oh and arriving 2 and a half hours before the event started was awesome – but being so close to home, it was a little overkill, next year an hour extra should suffice.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to the Hershey Half this fall, and I intend on beating my 2:14:00 finish – at least I know there won’t be the same hills as GSV. Now, back to training – The Hard Cider run is just two weeks away!

Hot Chocolate 15k – Follow-up!

Oh man, I’m I excited to share with you all my Race-recap of the Hot Chocolate 15k in Philadelphia! This is the second year I’ve run this race and I have had a great time so far!  Oh and best of all, this race counted as my long run prior to my half marathon so I basically got rewarded for training.

If you are planning on doing the HC15K in Philly, here are my tips for the newcomers:

  1. Parking is a horrendous nightmare! Get there early and look for parking near the backside of the art muesun. If you are daring, feel free to park on the street, bonus points if you make your own parking on the concrete islands that serve as lane dividers. Tip: This seems like a no-brainer, but- Get there early.
  2. The inflatables attract a lot of attention, so if you want your picture with the giant marshmellows, do it first thing when the crowds are small. Again, early bird gets the worm.
  3. If you arrive early and want to stock up on Merchandise- buy gloves and hats before the race because these are the first things to sellout. Tip: Wait until after the race to buy clothing (sometimes they’ll have a discount rack to move product faster).
  4. Bring layers! April in Philadelphia can be unpredictable, but so far every year it’s been biting cold and rainy in the morning and then getting nicer at the conclusion of the race. Tip: Wear old clothing you don’t mind discarding, they’ll donate discarded clothing to the local shelters. 
  5. When you have to use the bathroom, the port-a-johns closest to the starting gates are always packed. Tip: Take a few extra steps and walk toward the end of the long line of facilities and you’ll either have a short wait or not wait at all. 
  6. At the end of the race, collect your medal (you deserve it!) and head to the tents to collect your finishers mug! Tip: Again, take a few extra steps and walk away from the crowds to the lines furthest from the finish line- there’s usually never a wait.

Cheerish these tips, they have served me well! Now, about the race: the course is fairly flat, so this is a great time to turn up the speed! In my case this counted as a long training run before my half marathon next week, so I took it easy. I ran at an average 10:22 pace but found myself passing a lot of people along the way. If your like me and carry your own hydration, stay to the outside of the course and just keep moving along. There are several hydration stations and bathrooms along the way, and also the park is alongside the entire course so if you want to avoid the crowds or take a break there is a walking trail that parallels the course.

There were over 6,000 participants so the event can seem a bit crazy at times. Kudos to the event organizers for keeping things moving and keeping the crowds under control.

I usually start in the corrals near the back: One, I know I’m not super fast runner so starting in the front doesn’t mean much to me. Two, I like to pass people vs. getting passed repeatedly. 🙂 Lastly, it gives you a chance to walk around and take it all in.

I started off nice and slow, with an average pace around 11min/mile just to get warmed up and a feel for the pack I was running alongside. After the second and third mile I picked up the pace and started to focus on my cadence and breathing. In through the nose and out the mouth, feeling good. Miles 4 and 5 were closer to 10 min/mile pace- I wanted to go faster but just didn’t want to over do it.

Mile 6 into 7 I started to hydrate – I didn’t feel thirst, but I could tell my mouth wasn’t was moist and my nose wasn’t as runny as it normally was during the beginning of the race. My pace slowed slightly because now I was catching the large crowds that were in the corrals ahead of me. At some points during the congestion I was trying my best to navigate through the walkers and abrupt stoppers.

Mile 7 into 8 I started to feel a little tightness in my calves, but nothing that warranted stopping so I pressed on and picked up my pace a little.

Coming into the final stretch I realized that the course barely had any photographers- in fact it wasn’t until I approached the finish that I saw the event photographers. Not that I wanted photographers catching me every 10 minutes, but just an observation I picked up on from last year. The last and final approach is on an incline, so just remember to save a little bit of extra umph for a strong finish.

I had a great time, picked up a little extra swag afterward and enjoyed getting out and running the 15k for another year.

This Week in Running

Running Log Monday March 20th through Sunday March 26th
Miles Run: 13.3 

Well, I did it, I’ve officially began tapering for my upcoming 15K and 1/2 Marathon.  I’ve been keeping the mileage low to avoid injury and also, let’s face it – I’ve been slacking.  I’ve been struggling with finding the motivation to run lately – and trust me, it pains me.  I’ll jump on Instagram and see everyone’s running pictures and I’ll hear that voice in my head say, “you should be running” and I agree, I should be running…

But I’m not.  So let’s start with the not so good news.

Last weekend I decided to run in some new shoes, since then I’ve been getting wicked shin splints – an issue I’ve never had before. So I’ve been semi-nursing some sore shins while running, trying to “take it easy”.  To snap out of my funk, and while traveling for work in New York City, I thought I would take advantage and run along the East River.  The thought was awesome, but the logistics just weren’t in the cards (early morning start, long and late days).  An inside run in the treadmill would have to suffice, so before the rest of the guys were awake, I hit the gym and pounded out a little over 3 miles.  It was the longest 3.1 miles ever.

In better news, the weather has been cooperating and is fantastically warm outside so here’s the hoping a few outdoor runs are in order.

Hot Chocolate 15k!

ANOTHER RACE! Race season is rapidly approaching (or has already began) and I’m excited to announce that I’ll be running in the Hot Chocolate 15K this year to benefit the Ronald McDonald House Charities.  If you are feeling generous and would like to make a donation to the charity, please visit Hot Chocolate 15K Fundraiser

Muck Fest 2017

This seems to be the year of new things for me… and new races!  On race day, it’s amazing to see the crowds of people that turnout for the event.  Not only will we (mostly I) be running in the Hot Chocolate 15K on April 1st, also signed up for a 1/2 Marathon the following weekend, then the Hard Cider 5k at the end of April – but now we’ve added on Muck Fest! (Use code: TAKE15OFF to save $15 on your registration – expires April 3).

The greatest thing about all these wonderful races (aside from the bling and swag) are the charities they support!

MuckFest® MS is the fun mud run in support of a world free of multiple sclerosis. The run is pure athletic hilarity on a muddy course full of outrageous obstacles. MuckFest MS is something that must be seen to be believed.

Support Me and the National MS Society with a Donation
The “MS” part of MuckFest MS stands for multiple sclerosis, an upredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that interrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body.  Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, and MS affects more than 2.3 million worldwide. This is the reason we come together: to rally friends in support of people living with MS in our community. That’s why 100% of your donation benefits the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

You can support me by making a donation HERE

It’s greatly appreciated!

This Week in Running

Running Log Monday March 13th through Sunday March 19th
Miles Run: 15

This past week was a low mileage week – mainly for two reasons:
One, I am being extremely lazy (haha) and finding it very difficult to wake up in the mornings.
Two, my 15K is rapidly approaching, and the week after that is my 1/2 marathon, so I’m trying to dial back my training to not over do it and to hopefully keep injuries at bay.

Also, I’m in denial that I’m in a “runner’s rut” – for while I was pushing some good weekly miles, but lately I’m losing steam. New running shoes, new running clothes, all these thing “help” add motivation – I just think I need to see some sun.