Blaze On: 2019 DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon Training Notebook – Week One

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Week one is in the books!  Here are my notes for the first week of training for the 2019 DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon.  Training notebooks are posted every Monday and summarize the previous week: notes, quotes, and anecdotes. 

Let’s get this show on the road, shall we?


Set the Gearshift for the High Gear of Your Soul – Here is where I outline my training for the week.  The miles, the pace, where I ran, how I felt. All the logistics.


12/31/19: Cross-training: Gym workout – Kettlebell exercises, Stair Climber, stationary bike

1/1/19: 3.00 miles (8:38 minutes/mile)

1/2/19: 5.00 miles (10:15 minutes/mile)

1/3/19: 3.00 miles (9:33 minutes/mile)  

1/5/19: 10.10 miles (9:42 minutes/mile)   

1/6/19: 5.00 miles (8:37 minutes/mile)


The training plan I chose for the 2019 DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon is Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 2 Marathon plan.  I had used his Novice 1 training plan in the past, and it served me well. But at this point, I know I could afford an increase in weekly mileage considering what I was able to accomplish at the Cape Cod Chowdah Challenge.  I’m not going as fast as I used to in training, my running form is much better, and I am much smarter about taking care of my body.

The only modifications I made to the plan is that instead of a full rest day on Friday, I would do some yoga.  Also, I flipped the Saturday and Sunday runs, so I would have my long run on Saturday rather than Sunday. From experience, I prefer the long run to be followed by a shorter run – in this case exactly half the mileage of the long run – rather than the other way around.  There are many benefits to gain from a recovery run when your legs are tired from the long run the day before.

The workouts on December 31st and January 1st were both after Phish concerts, so I was basking in the post-show glow.  But I was also dealing with tired legs from dancing and standing for hours over the course of a few days, and also all the secondhand cigarette smoke I was forced to inhale being in such close quarters.  Plus, I was exhausted from staying up way past my normal bedtime. Still, I got both workouts in.

The first run of the training – three miles on New Year’s Day – was particularly special for a few reasons.  The excitement of the very first training run cannot be overstated, but we were also blessed with a sixty degree day in the New York metropolitan area.  I wore a t-shirt and shorts, and even took advantage and busted out my sandals – a rarity for this time of year around here. Even though I aimed for a comfortable speed, the weather pushed me to a pace of slightly above eight and a half minutes per mile.  

The next day wasn’t as smooth.  My original plan was to run before work during the week in the neighborhood where I work in the Bronx.  But the night before, I got cold feet. I knew I was going to feel much more comfortable running in Jersey City after work, even though I preferred exercising before.  The only issue is I get home much later in the day this school year since my school had altered its hours. It was going to be more of a hassle, but I preferred avoiding the logistical nightmare that running in the Bronx would entail.

I felt terrible during this run, even though it was my usual route near my apartment.  I was antsy getting home from work and being stuck in traffic, and I suffered the consequences during the run.  I felt like I was plodding, and even though I was rushing to finish, I went much slower than normal. Yet, I still felt out of breath.  I knew I would have to get used to running in the evening again after a long day of dealing with sixth graders.

The next day, I decided to listen to my body.  I was tired from trying to catch up on sleep since the Phish concerts and returning to work after the holiday break, so I took a quick thirty minute nap upon getting home.  When I woke up, I felt energized and ready to run. I felt nimbler and lighter with each step, and even though I ran along the major thoroughfare near my apartment – and stopped at every red light to stretch before starting again when it turned green – I was much quicker than the previous day while barely breaking a sweat.

After skipping Friday’s yoga session to visit my grandparents for a couple of hours, it was time for the Saturday long run.  P3R was holding a Kickoff Training Run for the marathon, but because I worked Friday, there was going to be no way I could get to Pittsburgh in time for it.  So instead, I was there in spirit and held my own Kickoff Training Run in New Jersey, participating virtually.

I had heard it was a beautiful day in Pittsburgh, but that wasn’t the case over here.  It was a rainy and gloomy morning, but that never stopped me in the past. I had an enjoyable run, where I felt fully present in my body.  

That’s the biggest difference between long runs and shorter distances for me.  During short runs, I’m always thinking, “Is this almost over?” whereas for long runs, I’m just along for the ride.  I felt so good that when my running watch beeped to tell me I had reached ten miles, I was at the bottom of one of the steepest hills near where I live.  I continued up that hill to conclude my run, hence why my log says 10.10 miles. Since I know the course in Pittsburgh is especially hilly, I have to take every opportunity to tackle a hill.

Sunday’s run was a culmination of everything I had done during the week.  It felt effortless, and I wasn’t trying to go fast, but my body had gotten used to running again.  Naturally, my pace picked up even though I was still putting the same level of effort in as the other days.  

Most of all, my legs feel fresh, and I have no lingering effects from past injuries.  I consider this a good sign and a promising start to the training.



Got a Clif Bar and Some Cold Green Tea – Here is where I write about nutrition for the week – usually something that is working for me or an issue that has come up in training.


I’m a big proponent of intermittent fasting – especially running while fasted.  It helps me use fat as fuel and not rely heavily on carbs.

Unfortunately, this is going to be especially tricky to do during the week since I am running in the evenings.  I’ll already have eaten my lunch – which consists of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a small bag of pretzels – by the time I start running.

In order to combat this, I have decided to control my portions during the week, especially when the mileage is still relatively low.  I don’t want to add unnecessary weight by eating too much. In addition, on weekends when I can run fasted, I will also incorporate a cyclic ketogenic diet.  Basically, I’m limiting my carb intake to only immediately after runs. So far, it has worked pretty well this week, and I have had plenty of energy on each of my runs.  The real test will come in the following weeks as the mileage increases.



Whatever You Do, Take Care of Your Shoes – Here is where I discuss what shoes I ran in during the week – if I ran in shoes at all!


I ran in my Luna Monos twice; the two occasions bookend the week in training.  It was the only two really nice days in the week, so I knew those were my only chances to run in sandals.  I would’ve considered barefoot if it wasn’t for the cold and wet ground from the rain. To be honest, going completely unshod will have to wait for the spring, and I’m totally OK with that.  

I ran in my Brooks Ghosts, Vibram FiveFingers, and Altra Escalantes one time each.  Naturally, I felt lightest in the FiveFingers and probably felt the most mindful as well.  I like how the other two shoes complement each other, working out different areas of my legs.  It’s part of the reason why I cycle through different shoes. While I probably had my “worst” run in the Ghosts, I know it was my mindstate that caused it.  It wasn’t the shoes’ fault. In fact, they probably helped mask my shoddy form.

I know I could run a marathon in the Monos, Ghosts, and Escalantes, but I’m curious to see how far I could get in the FiveFingers.  That might be a focus of mine during this training.



If Life Were Easy and Not So Fast… – Here is where I offer tips in mindfulness and staying present.  In running and in life.


A lot of times when setting off on a run, it can be particularly tricky to block out all of the noise – the responsibilities and chores that await you at home, your work life, the grueling commute.  But now, I have the added task of being an Official Blogger. I’m writing for this blog and also posting on social media for the first time during marathon training. I had gotten the hang of letting go of all of the stresses of everyday life while I ran.  Now, I have to deal with stresses that are directly related to running. How am I going to be able to cope?

Honestly, this challenge was part of the reason why I applied to be an Official Blogger.  Every moment is an opportunity to practice mindfulness. I can’t be thinking about an Instagram post or a tweet or a blog post while I run.  I have to be completely present in the moment, because running is what got me here. I can’t lose sight of that. I have to block out all of that noise to be able to train effectively.

Part of that is definitely due to the fact that I was away from social media for so long.  I have deprogrammed myself from its gravitational pull, and I am able to check in and out when needed.  

So my recommendation to you is not to go completely cold turkey as I did.  Instead, I want you to take note of the moments you do go on social media. Are you aware of what you are doing?  Are you on social media for a particular purpose? Or are you just mindlessly scrolling? Make a note to yourself of the instances you do go on and how long.  By holding yourself accountable, we can use social media as it was intended – as a tool to connect to others – rather than as an isolating piece of technology.

If you do start to see that it has become an addiction and you can’t control these impulses, deactivate your accounts for a time and use that to recalibrate the way you go about living.  But before you do that, be sure to follow me on Instagram (at barefootboyfriend) and on Twitter (at barefootbfblog)!



…On the Soul Planet – Here is where I share thoughts on the encounters with other runners along my running trails.


Ah, ‘tis the season of all the New Year’s resolution runners.  I came across many during this week and the numbers will surely dwindle as the frosty New Jersey winter starts rearing its ugly head.  

While many regulars experience this at gyms across the country and hope and wait for the crowds to disperse, I have the opposite reaction on the running trails.  I hope and pray that the new runners stay. That they find something they can cling to. Something they enjoy and keeps bringing them back for more. It’s a difficult, yet rewarding path if you stick with it.  And starting in the dead of winter certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. That already takes a certain mettle and resolve that many people don’t have. Certainly more than working out in the comfort of a heated gym.

So when I come across these runners – many of them in bulky cotton sweatshirts and sweatpants – and they avert their eyes in shame to avoid having to acknowledge me – the runner fully garbed in moisture wicking clothing, carrying a handheld, and in sandals – I make sure to smile and offer a friendly, “Good morning!”  You’re one of us. You joined the club and get all the perks. You don’t get a patronizing, “Good job!” or “Keep it up!”. Or worse, the intimidation you might feel at the gym.

It is my duty to be an ambassador for running.  It has changed my life, and I know that it can change other people’s.  I gain nothing by acting like the type of runners that I hate coming across on trails.  Maybe that is all they need to stick with the habit. Let them know to, “Come on in, the water is fine!”  The trails are big enough for all of us. And I want everyone to be able to enjoy.

Because maybe I didn’t start running on January 1st.  But two years ago, that was me. And everyone has to start somewhere.   



Concepts I’ll Ponder – Here is where I discuss one pressing thought that has come up in my training – either in the middle of a long run, in the shower, as I drive to work.  Usually a large scale problem I am tackling.


As I embark on yet another marathon training, I think back to one of my all-time favorite books: the Bhagavad Gita.

In this ancient Hindu text, Arjuna – the Pandava prince – prepares for war with the Karauvas.  He meditates on the effects of the impending violence and has a moral dilemma that he must grapple with.  What is his duty – or dharma – to his family?  What is his purpose?  He asks his charioteer, Krishna, for guidance and his reply and advice is what constitutes most of the Gita.

Just like Arjuna stood on the precipice of the battle, I stand on the precipice of mine.  Eighteen weeks of sacrifice and dedication and hard work. But I think about my dharma, my purpose, and what is right.  But unlike Arjuna, I don’t have Krishna as guide.  It’s just me.

These past two weeks I skipped out on holidays with family, so I can write and exercise.  I turned down invitations to social gatherings, because I was too busy or tired from work.  I spent time focusing on Pittsburgh and P3R when I could’ve been spending more time planning and perfecting lessons for my students.  I wasn’t even able to help one of my closest friends move into her new apartment. And between now and May 5th, there will be more of the same.  And it’ll only get worse once I start training for ultramarathons.

Is this selfish?

In my path to enlightenment and self-actualization, I am going to have to make difficult choices, just like Arjuna did.  Training for marathons is a commitment. So is writing. And they are also two of the most solitary activities humans can take part in.  But while I have to make tough decisions at times where I have to choose between myself and others, I remind myself that I do this for me.  So I can be fulfilled. And through that, I can fully give myself to others in those moments when I am able to. Completely unencumbered. Free.            

I want to be there for others.  Entirely. 100%. Running and writing allows me to do that.  It takes up a good chunk of my time, but it allows me to completely enjoy those few instances of respite with the people I care most about.  Whether that is a quick conversation at my grandparents’ house on my way home from work or a board game night with close friends. This gives me meaning and purpose and fills me with love that I am able to channel to others.  



The Writings of the Helping Friendly Book – Here is where I provide a quote of the week.  Usually from whatever I am currently reading.


“Even the best pep talk or self-help hack is nothing but a temporary fix.  It won’t rewire your brain. It won’t amplify your voice or uplift your life.  Motivation changes exactly nobody.”


– David Goggins “Can’t Hurt Me”



Scents and Subtle Sounds – Here is where I serve up a jam of the week.  A song that pumps me up and gets me ready to run.


“Harry Hood > Passing Through > Harry Hood” Phish – December 31, 2018

I am a total sucker for any “Harry Hood” jam, and while this wasn’t the best one I have seen live, it was definitely one of the most memorable.  My girlfriend and I had our best seats for any New Year’s Eve show at The Garden – just a few rows behind the stage. They hadn’t yet played the song during the four night run, so I knew it was probably coming this show.  When I heard the unmistakable beat emerge from Jon Fishman’s drum set towards the end of the second set, I knew it was on.

For anyone who hasn’t been to a Phish concert, there are some songs in which the fans have a “glowstick war” where hundreds upon hundreds of glowsticks are thrown into the air.  “Harry Hood” is one of them; during a few moments in the song, you’ll see the crowd in the arena light up in the fluorescent hue of the glowsticks.

One of those moments is the quiet part right before the jam.  As glowsticks were thrown into the air and the music mellowed, I couldn’t help but feel pure joy.  I had never seen “Harry Hood” played live at a New Year’s Eve show, and I think that added to my feeling of nostalgia in that instance.  The amazing year I had. The memories of the 22 other Phish shows I had been to over the years – many of them in this same arena. All of us there to listen to our favorite band.  But also to celebrate life.

As the jam builds and then slowed to a crawl, I saw Trey walk over to Page – we were maybe seventy feet from this interaction – and mouth something to him.  The end of “Harry Hood” is usually jubilant and triumphant, so when the jam started losing steam, I knew they had something up their sleeves. When they started playing one of their new songs – the fictional Kasvot Växt’s “Passing Through” – my suspicions were confirmed.

One of a few mashups on the weekend, it worked well, because the song fit “Harry Hood”’s general vibe.  It wasn’t a subtle transition into the song – certainly not as smooth as the mix of “Wolfman’s Brother” and “Party Time” three nights earlier – but it fit thematically nonetheless.  The chants of “Hey, way oh, way oh” echoed through MSG.

But I will be the first to admit that we as the audience dropped the ball, because it was clear the band wanted us to continue singing as they brought it back into “Hood.”  It made for an awkward transition as Fishman even feebly tried egging the crowd on with a quiet “Hey, way oh, way oh.” But all was forgiven when the familiar D-A-G chord progression signaled to all of us that “Harry Hood” – and set two – was about to go out with a bang.  

The final three minutes is why I love Phish, and they bring so much happiness to my life.  These type of jams are what got me into the band and got me into long distance running. The peak, the absolute bliss.  As Trey is wailing on his guitar and Page then brings the song back to the memorable outro, the crowd cheered loudly, and I couldn’t help but tear up because of the overwhelming happiness I felt in that moment.  A perfect way to cap an excellent year. You can feel good about Hood, indeed.

I listened to this song before heading out on my ten mile run on Saturday.  Sometimes we don’t specifically need pump up songs before working out. A specific song that carries significance in our lives is even more effective.   



A Picture of Nectar – Here is where I insert the photo of the week.  I hate taking my phone on runs, so usually there is only one contender.


A selfie with my cat, Carson, after my long run on Saturday.  This clown has so much personality, and here his grumpiness jumps out as if to say, “I’m hungry and instead of feeding me, you’re taking a photo with me?  I hate you, human.” Keep in mind, I had already fed him before stepping out the door, and I was only gone for less than two hours. After taking this photo and feeding him, my cats had already eaten twice in the day before I even put anything into my stomach.  I may have scored this cool photo that would’ve netted me a bunch of points if I was playing Pokémon Snap, but let’s be honest.  He knows how to play me to get what he wants.  I may have had a great kickoff training run, but he’s the real winner here.



The Final Hurrah – Here is where I conclude with a poem for the week.  Sometimes about running. Sometimes about something I thought of while running.  Haikus, tankas, sonnets, limericks – everything is fair game.


I wrote this tanka when I was in the sixth grade.  As I contemplate the dilemma that faces me on the dawn of another training – being present in others’ lives versus focusing on individual objectives like a marathon – this too also surfaced.  Even at such a young age, it seemed like I had a glimpse of what was in store for me years down the line.  


Friendships are fragile,

They can break into pieces

Destroyed forever.

Some will flourish as you grow.

That is a treasure of life.  


Make it a great week everyone!  This has all been wonderful, but now I’m on my way.




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