Blaze On: 2019 DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon Training Notebook – Week 3

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I’m going back in time to recap Week 3, since I had to take a week off of writing last weekend (more on that later).  But don’t worry, Week 4 is coming right after. Without any further ado, here are my notes for my third week of training for the 2019 DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon.  Training notebooks are posted every Monday (usually) 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 SoulHere is where I outline my training for the week.  The miles, the pace, where I ran, how I felt. All the logistics.


1/14/19: Cross-training: Yoga (45 minutes)

1/15/19: 3.00 miles (9:27 minutes/mile)

1/16/19: 6.00 miles (10:08 minutes/mile)

1/17/19: 3.00 miles (9:46 minutes/mile)  

1/18/19: Cross-training: Yoga (1 hour & 15 minutes)   

1/19/19: 8.00 miles (9:05 minutes/mile)

1/20/19: 6.00 miles (9:09 minutes/mile)


A few things immediately jump out when you look at the schedule for the week.

The first thing is the total mileage.  Every third week on most of Hal Higdon’s training plans are “step back” weeks, where you cut mileage a little bit to allow your body to recover.  But more importantly, it helps you get ready for the increase in mileage the next week. One step backwards to take two steps forward essentially.  Scheduled step back weeks are crucial to any training plan; I didn’t incorporate any during my training for Cape Cod and ended up paying the price. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake this go around.  

The next thing that jumps out is I skipped cross-training at the gym on Monday, and instead opted for a little bit of extra yoga.  After skipping my planned yoga session Friday of the second week, I noticed my body was a little tense after the weekend long runs.  So I opted for flexibility and recovery over strength and explosion. It was a reminder that everyday serves a purpose and to avoid skipping days if at all possible.  So on Monday I focused on a deep stretch, pranayama routine that helped clear my mind after a long day at work and heal my muscles. Even though I did yoga on Monday, I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again and skip Friday’s session.  I went back to it and even included some work on my feet in the routine. My plantar fasciitis predicament is nearly completely resolved, so I figured a little extra love couldn’t hurt in the healing process. If that wasn’t enough, I did some pre-run and post-run yoga routines before my run on Saturday.  Especially with all the hip openers I incorporated, I definitely felt the difference on my runs.

The final thing that jumps out is probably the most significant: what happened to my pace?  

This is probably the most encouraging thing about this week.  After the previous Sunday’s five mile run where I averaged a shade over eight minutes per mile (where I even ran a sub eight minute mile on the final one), I knew what I had to do: I completely shut it down and lay off the throttle.  There is absolutely nothing for me to prove during the training. I can’t let my ego get in the way. I have to make sure I’m going slower and taking my time in order to avoid injury. I need to save my effort for race day.

But of course, I can be my own worst enemy.  When Cleo beeps and lets me know what my mile split is, it’s human nature to want to go faster.  So I need to put measures in place to stop myself. During the week, I am now exclusively running along the major boulevard near my apartment.  It can be monotonous running on the same sidewalk there and back, but it essentially becomes an improvised fartlek workout. I use the traffic lights to dictate my speed and pace.  When it tells me to stop, I take the opportunity to stop and stretch, maybe walk around a little. So with stopping to stretch and varying my speed along the way, it’s possible these weekday runs are serving me better than if I was just running in the park at an 80% effort week after week, risking injury.  We’ll see if it pays off in the end, but my performance on the weekend runs keeps me hopeful. I definitely wasn’t even close to pushing myself and my pace hovered around nine minutes per mile.

Overall, this was an extremely important week in the training, and I felt like it could’ve even been a turning point.  When I noticed my speed was starting to return, I had the sense to dial it back and focus on maintenance. As they say, sometimes the best ability is availability.    



Got a Clif Bar and Some Cold Green TeaHere 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.

This is a problem I’ve dealt with for most of my life.  It probably stems from the fact that I come from a Hispanic household, where it is imperative that you finish your plate.  My friends: I’m talking about the affliction known as overeating (who am I kidding, I also just really love food).

That was part of the reason why I really took to distance running at first, especially in contrast to weightlifting or other forms of exercise.  You mean I could eat and drink practically anything I wanted with little or no repercussions? Sign me up!

Not so fast.  Especially so early in my training, I’ve definitely feel the effects a day after I really stuff myself.  I’m talking multiple large plates of pasta, full roasted chicken with a tray of rice – really swinging for the fences here.  

It’s tricky to make sure you are getting enough calories to fuel a run where you may be burning over a thousand, sometimes two.  But too much is no good, and it starts to be detrimental.

I’ve introduced a novel concept during mealtimes that has completely changed the way I eat and how I feel during runs: I stop eating when I’m full.  Mind blowing I know, but it has been an absolute game-changer. I’m not starving myself and watching what I eat, so I have enough fuel for my runs. But I’m also no overdoing it.  So when I do run, I feel much lighter. Even though it’s not my goal, maybe this will lead to me losing weight. But more importantly, I don’t have that terrible feeling after I eat a gigantic meal where I feel like someone has to roll me around.  

It all comes down to slowing down and listening to my body.  I overeat when I am stressed and especially when the food is delicious.  By slowing down, my stomach has time to send my brain the signal that I’m actually full and to stop shoveling stuff down my gullet.  No matter how tasty it is. And if I get hungry later, then I’ll just have a quick snack to hold me over.

Besides, I’m looking to become the next Hal Koerner, not the next Joey Chestnut.  I don’t need to spend $20 every time I go to Taco Bell; save it for after the race.       



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

There were only two shoes I brought to the dance this week, and it should be no surprise if you’ve been following thus far.  I alternated between my Altras and Vibrams, totaling fourteen miles in the former and twelve miles in the latter. At this point, they are 1A and 1B; the Altras are the workhouse – that top of the rotation innings-eater – while the Vibrams have been offering speed and a focus on my foot strike and form.  If the marathon were tomorrow, I truly don’t know which I would choose (and to further complicate matters, I am very seriously considering racing flats). Luckily, there are still fifteen weeks to go to make that decision. Plus, I’ve never put serious miles on the Vibrams. Perhaps the thirteen mile run that awaits me in Week 4 will be the perfect opportunity to put them to the test…              



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

Sometimes I don’t listen to my own advice.  Especially during times like these. So this is more for more me than it is for you.

Meditate.  Even when you don’t think you have time.  Especially when you don’t think you have time.  You may have a ton of other things to do. But when you’ve had a moment to yourself, the load feels a lot more manageable.  

Our lives are so busy.  Take a second to slow down.  It makes a big difference. Clarity.  You deserve it. A moment of relaxation before bed isn’t enough.  

When you reach for your phone instinctually – without purpose, without any clear reason for doing so – take a few deep breaths instead.  You’ll be thankful you did.



…On the Soul PlanetHere is where I share thoughts on the encounters with other people along my running trails.

I got my first words of encouragement during a run for the training.  It came during one of my weekday runs along the main road.

Since these runs take place in the evenings after work, I am usually the only one running.  Actually, I’m always the only one running. It’s cold, dark, and no one else besides me is going to run the sidewalks of Jersey City at that time of night.  But there are plenty of people walking – either on their way home or from the grocery store or heading to the bus stop to get home. My cheerleader was one of these.

I used to be scared of hecklers when I first started running.  Especially running in a city and especially since many of my trails take me near high schools, this is only logical.  But I’ve found in my experience that the people who cheer you on come from a sincere and authentic place, rather than a sarcastic one.

I used to not know how respond when I was greeted with a,”Way to go!” or a “Keep it up!”.  I would just smile and wave and go about my business. And this is what I usually do. Except when I come across someone like I did this past week.  

As he was headed my direction, before we locked eyes with each other, it was easy to tell from the bag he was carrying, the look on his face, and the way his shoulders slumped that he was coming from work.  When he saw me, his face transformed: he smiled and gave me a: “Keep it up, way to get after it.”

I smiled back, and responded with the same thing I awkwardly say to the guy who rips your tickets at the movie theatres when he tells you to enjoy your movie before I have a chance to catch myself: “You too!”

Except it’s not a slip.  I truly mean it. In that moment, we’re both tired.  Me from my run, him from work. It would certainly be easier to not even bother: for me to skip my run or for him to take a day off of work.  But we’re both putting in the hours and putting in the miles.

His face brightened when I said it.  He understood what I was putting down.  

Let’s not forget to wave hello to the non-runners out there on the trails.  There are lessons all around us – people we can learn from – if we are open to the experiences and not shut off in our own little worlds.                



Concepts I’ll PonderHere 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.

So I have a confession.  I’m just going to come out with it, because that’s just my style.

I recently had an interview for a job that would’ve forced us to move from New Jersey.  It may have contributed to my thoughts and feelings in last week’s notebook, and it definitely influenced this week’s training.  Even this notebook to an extent as I reread it. It’s difficult seeing the forest for the trees where you are in the midst of it all.  

Spoiler alert: I didn’t get it.  I’m not exactly heartbroken, because it did come up at a pretty inconvenient time – especially in the middle of the school year.  It also just came up out of the blue; it wasn’t something I was actively seeking.

Still, I’m not going to lie and say that a small part of me isn’t bummed.  It’s no surprise that my girlfriend and I are looking to one day leave this area, and this would’ve given us a pretty nice setup.  If I closed my eyes and envisioned the future, this alternate future definitely seemed like a very real possibility. And we were intrigued, even excited by it.

But that’s what makes me who I am.  I know, more than most, that the path to success isn’t linear.  We all expect it to be. But it ain’t. When we’re working hard and everything is looking up in our lives, we are expecting for that final satisfying payoff that is supposed to come after the montage.

But life doesn’t work that way.  It would’ve made too much sense after all the work I put in and what I have overcome to get a close to ideal job that sends me away from the New York City metropolitan area.  That would’ve been too easy.

No.  There is more work to be done.  I’m not finished. I’m not there yet.  And that’s the mentality I need to take.

Marathon training is the same way.  We might not see the improvements, the small victories.  Sometimes the negatives are more apparent than the positives.  It’s easy to get discouraged when you aren’t getting to the payoff.  

But progress isn’t linear.  Instead, sometimes we just have to trust the process.  We might not see those small improvements because we don’t have that big payoff, but that doesn’t mean that you’re doing something wrong.  That it’s not working. Sometimes the biggest thing is to block out the noise and self doubt and just keep at it. Either at work, applying for jobs, or training for a marathon.  

I can focus on the small bump in the road.  Or I can choose what to give importance to. I trust the process.  I trust where I’m going. I just have to keep at it. One step at a time.   



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

Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive then in a fog, and I believe running helps you to do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life”


– Haruki Murakami “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running”



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

Animals” Pink Floyd

If I’m going to put Pink Floyd in here, I can’t really just put one song; I have to put up an entire album.  This is the only way to properly consume the band. And there’s no better one to stick in here than 1977’s concept album Animals, one of their more underrated works.  Sure, it’s hard to call an album that topped the charts in both the United States and United Kingdom “underrated”, but anything that’s not The Dark Side of the Moon or The Wall is underrated in my eyes.  Besides, it’s my favorite Pink Floyd album, which is definitely not a popular opinion.

When I was in high school and first got into the band, I immediately fell in love with The Wall.  The themes of isolation and abandonment resonated with what I was feeling at the time.  As the years went on and I became a part of the workforce, I definitely began to gravitate towards Animals and its Orwellian undertones.

There are only four songs on the album (five if you count the two parts of “Pigs on the Wing” as separate), and each is characterized by a different – you guessed it – animal.  They are meant to symbolize the various classes in society.

The “dogs” are the everyday businessmen: an empty existence, a loss of individuality, and simply following the orders of their master or superiors.  The unaware “sheep” who are satisfied with grazing in the field, enjoying the spoils of this life. And the greedy and ruthless “pigs” who rule over it all.  I mean, it really is no wonder teenage stoners everywhere bond over this band. But this album strikes a really dark and haunting chord when you are older.

I don’t intend to write a Sociology 101 paper here or debate the social commentary of the album.  The thing that looms over me – especially during a week that I’ve had to confront the future as far as my career and profession is concerned – is how do I balance that idealism from when I was younger with the practicality of the real world.  Almost everywhere I turn, I see people defined by their jobs and completely burnt out by the stresses. I see myself naturally gravitate towards mindless activities that help dull the ache. How do we stop ourselves from becoming dogs while also not succumbing to the temptation of becoming a sheep?  

Running and writing definitely help, but as the pressure mounts, it is hard to disconnect enough to be able to do this.  It takes a little more work and effort. Everything becomes a chore.

We are meant for more than this.       



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

medal monday

Courtesy of my girlfriend’s office Secret Santa – we now have a place to hang up (some) or our bibs and medals.  It’s been great motivation having to pass by it every time I step outside for a run, reminding myself of what I have accomplished.  But more importantly, what I have yet to accomplish. What hardware I am going to add to the collection. An exciting 2019 awaits, and I have even more things I’m brainstorming for the following year.  Buckle up, we’ve only just begun.



The Final HurrahHere 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.


Dogs, pigs, sheep, and me

We are all just cogs in it

Follow your own path



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


Why stay on the sidelines?  Join me in Pittsburgh! Sign up for the 2019 DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon and receive $10 off with promo code MARTINEZDSGPM19.  You can also use the promo code for the half marathon.


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