It’s been a stressful few weeks, but now I’m finally caught up. Here are my notes for my fourth 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 Soul – Here is where I outline my training for the week. The miles, the pace, where I ran, how I felt. All the logistics.
1/21/19: Cross-training: Gym workout – Circuit training
1/22/19: 3.00 miles (9:55 minutes/mile)
1/23/19: 6.00 miles (9:47 minutes/mile)
1/24/19: 3.00 miles (10:06 minutes/mile)
1/25/19: Cross-training: Yoga (45 minutes)
1/26/19: 13.00 miles (9:33 minutes/mile)
1/27/19: 6.00 miles (8:38 minutes/mile)
This week, the mileage jumped up by five miles total – all of which came on Saturday. Which means that on Saturday I practically ran a half marathon. Which was a reminder that I’m on five weeks away from the Hampton Half Marathon – my first race since Cape Cod.
I needed the extra yoga last week, but I missed the strength training at the gym. I didn’t have as much power in my legs last week, and my body just felt weaker in general. I made it a point to get back into the gym for my usual Monday session (it helped that I was off from work due to the holiday).
I eased my way back into it with barbell back squats, pull ups, hanging leg raises, goblet squats, kettlebell swings, push ups, and some time on the battle rope and elliptical machine. Even after just a week away from the gym, I definitely felt the layoff in my muscles. Because of it, I was glad I got back into the gym and vowed to do everything in my power not to miss another session. After skipping yoga two weeks ago and now strength training, I realized just how essential both are going to be in the training. I’d almost rather skip a run if anything!
For the next two days, I continued my strategy of running alone the main road and stopping to stretch at every traffic light. My hamstrings were tender and sore from the kettlebell swings on Monday, so I was running on tired legs the entire week. In spite of this, I was fairly happy with my splits, especially since I wasn’t going my fastest. Plus, my legs felt like they were getting stronger as the week progressed.
I decided to incorporate a hill workout on Thursday. I chose the biggest hill near my apartment – more than 100 foot climb over the span of a quarter mile – and just did repeats up and down until I hit the required three miles. Considering this was my first ever workout strictly on a hill, I felt I did alright – even though I looked like lunatic going up and down.
After another Yoga With Adriene deep stretch video on Friday, it was time for the Saturday long run. Saturdays and Sundays are the days when I could run in daylight, so I take advantage by running along my favorite paths: Lincoln Park and Liberty State Park. Since I’m not close to vehicular traffic for the most part during these runs, I also try to take advantage and run as much consecutively as possible since during the week I’m stopping at major intersections.
Saturday felt incredible. It was a reminder why I prefer long distances over short ones. I felt so good that I didn’t even consume the energy gel that I brought along with me. I went at a slow, comfortable pace and even still was able to manage about nine and a half minutes per mile. I had participated in a Reddit AMA with one of my favorite runners, Camille Herron, just a few days earlier. She had mentioned that she liked to run her longs runs at a pace of eight to nine minutes per mile. Hey, if it’s good enough for a world record holder then it’s good enough for me.
I work up the next day with the greatest soreness in my calves. I can’t even describe the feeling, it just felt like they were getting tighter and stronger. Nothing was bothering me: knees, hips, adductors, heel. All the usual trouble spots. I knew I was ready for more miles. So I set off with the same idea of taking it slow. But my legs carried me to a pace of eight and a half minutes per mile. Any doubt I had about whether or not I was getting faster with my new strategy had vanished. Because I could have pushed the pace much much more. I was hardly out of breath when I finished the run. My legs and body feel the healthiest they’ve been since probably as long as I can remember. It was a week where everything clicked, and I know I am ready for the miles to start piling on as long as I continue exactly what I’m doing.
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 had to make a major tweak this week as far as my diet is concerned. This one thought I think has some staying power.
One of the many problems that I’ve been running into with running at night during the week is my diet. I’ve made it no secret that I enjoy running on an empty stomach in the mornings, so my usual lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with some pretzels and energy bars has proven to be way too much. I feel bloated during my runs and then feel full again after them when I have dinner right before I go to bed soon thereafter. I feel great on the weekends when I can go for my morning run after a cup of tea, but I needed to figure out something during the week.
I tried to extend my intermittent fast to encompass lunchtime, but that was too excessive. I couldn’t consume enough calories in the evening to last me until my run the next day. So instead, I looked at my schedule and borrowed some of the things that had worked for me before in the past.
On the days I would run during the week, I would go back to a sort of cyclic ketogenic diet. Instead of carb laden PB&J sandwiches, my lunch would consist of jerky, cheese, and nuts. Any carbs would have to come after my workout.
My issue with the keto diet when I tried it was that I wasn’t able to consume enough calories to sustain my long runs. But that wasn’t going to be an issue during the week, where the mileage on a single run would top out at ten miles – and that wasn’t until a few months from now. I preferred a cyclic ketogenic diet, but just didn’t want to be constricted by what and how I eat. Since this would only be for three days out of the week, it would give me plenty of flexibility.
The results were immediate. I felt much better on my runs. It possibly also contributed to not needing to take an energy gel during my thirteen mile run on Saturday since I wasn’t so reliant on carbs.
In general, now that I’m no longer a pescatarian/vegetarian, I have also cut down on my carb intake drastically. I focus more on balance in my meals: meat, carbs, veggies, and healthy fats. But the biggest change has come with switching up what I eat for lunch three days out of the week when I can’t run in the morning. I certainly get some strange looks in the teacher’s lounge as I munch on slices of cheese, but considering I’m usually sitting alone in a corner browsing Reddit, I’m definitely not concerned with winning any popularity contests at work.
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!
The big piece of news in this department is I did what I set out to do last week: I wanted to test out my Vibrams on the thirteen mile run.
After running to two three milers in my Altra Escalantes and used my Brooks Ghosts during my six mile run (I opted for the Brooks because of how sore my legs were from the gym two days prior and wanted to give them a little bit of a rest with the extra cushion), it was time to take the Vibrams out for a spin.
The most I had ever run in my FiveFingers was somewhere around seven or eight miles before my feet started blistering and the top of my feet started getting sore. But I realized that this was early on in my barefoot adventure. I had learned so much since then and had improved my running form drastically. So I applied some Foot Glide on the problem areas on my feet, slid on my toe socks, and then put my Vibrams on after that.
I can honestly say that the first mile felt almost no different than the last mile. The lightness and effortlessness was no surprise, but at no point were my feet sore or hurting or blistering. Even the temperature didn’t bother my feet. I had successfully completed nearly a half marathon in the FiveFingers and knew I could’ve done more. In my eyes, they are on par with the Altras and Lunas as far long run options go. If I don’t get racing flats before the Hampton Half, then I might just go with the Vibrams.
Speaking of the Lunas, it was warm enough on Sunday to give them a go the day after my long run. I easily put the six miles on them and achieved the fastest average pace of the week. It led to a very balanced week where the final tally was six miles each between the Altras, Brooks, and Lunas with thirteen miles in my Vibrams. I can’t recommend switching between shoes enough; my feet and legs feel fantastic thus far.
If Life Were Easy and Not So Fast… – Here is where I offer tips in mindfulness and staying present. In running and in life.
One of the things that has come up recently is how impatient and anxious I feel when things are coming to an end and I’m waiting for the next thing. This was especially true for the last few weeks at work when I thought that potentially I would be working elsewhere at an undetermined date in the near future. It made my days feel longer and more unbearable than usual. I was crankier with my students, I had zero work ethic, and the minutes dragged on and felt like hours.
I realize where else I have felt this way, and it should come as no surprise if you’ve been reading so far. You guessed it: on the running trails. Shorter runs have always been more difficult for me than longer ones, because I am constantly glancing at Cleo hoping she tells I have reached the end. Even on the longer runs, the last few miles are always the most difficult – not because I am physically more tired – but because I am waiting for the end to come. This was especially true during my first half marathon and in my first marathon.
When we see that the end is in sight, it is human nature to get impatience and anxious. Take a step back and listen to how you’re feeling. Listen to your body and your breath. Knowing the endpoint causes us to feel this way, but what if we stop thinking about that endpoint? Nothing changed from one minute to the next – just what’s going on in your head. If we don’t know the distance or time or when it is going to end, our brain is forced to recalibrate. We automatically bring ourselves into the present, rather than push ourselves into the future.
Like magic, once I got word that I was no longer being considered for the job, work got a little more tolerable. My students became funnier. I actually wanted to plan my lessons (well, wanted is maybe a strong word…I did it at least). The passing of time had resumed its normal speed.
Be sensitive to triggers in your life such as waiting for in a long line at the grocery store or having to suffer through a grueling commute or even just waiting for your laundry to dry. Listen to yourself, but instead of resisting the impatience you feel, just recalibrate the endpoint. By shifting our expectations, it creates space in your head to focus on the more important thing: the present moment.
…On the Soul Planet – Here is where I share thoughts on the encounters with other people along my running trails.
It’s clear to me that a lot has been on my mind. It’s clear to me as I read over the training notebooks for this week and last week. Couple in that I missed the update last week, and alarms should be going off that something is definitely up.
I won’t go too deep into specifics. It’s always different for me talking about something while going through it it as opposed to after having gone through it. But for this section, my most important encounter(s) with others did not come on the running trails. Here is the SparkNotes version:
My grandparents were taking down and putting away their Christmas tree that they put up every year. It is an elaborate display with collections of ornaments that span many years. My grandpa was taking down one of the boxes full of ornaments when he lost his footing on the staircase and hit the back of his head on a hard wooden stair.
He suffered what was originally diagnosed as a minor skull fracture, broken neck, and concussion. But the most troubling thing was the internal bleeding into his brain. If it would’ve continued, he would’ve died, and they weren’t exactly painting a pretty picture for my grandma when they first took him into the hospital.
Luckily he is much better now. He needed a plate in his skull and a spinal fusion to his C1 and C2 vertebrae, but he has a collar and is sitting up and walking around. He is extremely lucky to be alive, never mind have full function of all his extremities.
As I mentioned in the last training notebook, it almost impossible for me to see the forest for the trees. In the third week, the big dilemma I had to overcome was not getting a job. This week, it was this. But these events no doubt have an influence on my training and impact my story of the Pittsburgh Marathon. It’s just hard to tell it in real-time when I can only do what I have learned thus far in life: to just march forward. Just know that all of the interactions I have had with family members during this period is what will endure when this is over. It’s just hard to tell the story when you don’t have an endpoint yet. These are just notes for me – mile markers – that I can look back on when it is time to tell the entire story.
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 mentioned, these two training notebooks have been the toughest for me to write. The least of my problems was not getting a job I was pretty excited to get. My grandpa had a nasty spill, I was in and out of the hospital, had to navigate through family drama that has a tendency to surface when something like this happens, still managed to get my training in and keep my focus, and spent an entire weekend writing two blog posts while my head is spinning. This will make subsequent training notebooks and post seem like a cakewalk.
When I set out for my first series “The Eternal Saturn Return” I didn’t have a goal in mind. I just wanted to share my story, so I had a record of it. What I have been through. And it gave me a compass for where I am going next. For this series that chronicles my training, I am posting as things happen, so I don’t have the luxury of hindsight or seeing things from an omniscient point of view. It leads to a much more disjointed narrative and resembles what I actually set out for this series: a notebook of my thoughts.
This isn’t a finished product. Hell, my first series isn’t a finished product. Because now, I know more or less the direction I want to go. This blog will merely act as notes for the bigger project that is yet to come. I have already had the advantage of living through all of the other stuff I wrote about. I just had to tap into the memories that had been locked away for so long. Now, I just need to write about the things that come up. This isn’t the final destination, but it will help give me a road map for where I want to get to.
I always knew the Pittsburgh chapter in my life would be about duty – as a partner, son, grandson, brother, teacher, friend. And honor. Responsibility. And purpose. A confluence of everything I have learned in life thus far. Uniting a family. Improving my running. Contemplating the future. Especially when it comes to my career and my life with girlfriend and the family we want to start together. And what I want to do in the future and does that come in conflict with it all. Self-actualization.
Who knew it only took a few weeks for things to get so real? And for all of those themes to already start manifesting themselves.
So please excuse the mess as I collect myself. Like in a game of “Pictionary”, it may not make much sense now. But there is definitely a plan that is starting to take shape.
The Writings of the Helping Friendly Book – Here is where I provide a quote of the week. Usually from whatever I am currently reading.
“You don’t stop running because you get old, you get old because you stop running.”
– Christopher McDougall “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World has Never Seen”
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.
“Daughter/It’s OK” Pearl Jam – August 3, 2000
When things got really heavy with my family, the music of Pearl Jam was the soundtrack and helped me ride those waves. The words of Eddie Vedder and his experiences acted as my muse when I was too lazy and depressed to give my turmoil and heartache a voice.
During a time like this when I am forced to confront my past, I would expect other Pearl Jam songs to emerge from the recesses of my mind. Instead, during a run late one night after getting back from the hospital – that acted more as a way to blow off steam than anything – this particular version of “Daughter” popped into my head. Not so much the song itself, but the “It’s OK” refrain that accompanied it.
Any Pearl Jam aficionado knows that one of the most heavily sought after tags is Dead Moon’s “It’s OK” inserted into their song “Daughter.” They will sometimes embed Dead Moon’s song into their own, and it becomes a cathartic and euphoric moment that can transform a show.
According to their website, they first did this mashup in 1996. But that was probably the first performance of note. It was the band’s first show after the tragedy at Roskilde, where nine people died during their set at the festival. Because of this, the band seriously considered retiring at this point and it dramatically altered the course of their career.
As this section of the song begins, Vedder asks the crowd to do something. He laments that the last time he asked a crowd to do something it was under completely different circumstances. Emotion oozes from him as he interacts with the crowd, but he welcomes the opportunity to start anew.
My mom and I used to watch movies together when I was a kid. The last movie we watched together before that fateful night eight years ago was Pearl Jam Twenty.
My grandfather’s recent accident was seven years to the day of my brother’s car accident.
Vedder asks the crowd to “sing loud because it’s outside, to sing loud because you’re still alive.” And that’s exactly what I did on that run.
Because whether it’s the words of one of your favorite frontmen or your own, sometimes we just need to hear that it’s OK. And like the band did all those years ago, we can all start anew.
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.
After taking my grandma one day from the hospital to her house so she can get changed and shower and gather up extra clothes and toiletries before heading back, it became apparent that she needed more than that. She needed to decompress, to talk, and to heal. Not just from the incident, but from just so many years that she hadn’t had that chance.
In that moment, I saw her as a person. Someone vulnerable, with flaws, and with hurt. It was a great talk for both of us, and by just someone actually communicating openly with her, a lot of positives for came about in the grand scheme of things.
In spite of all that was going on, she went downstairs to send some extra food home with me, despite my pleas to just keep it here. As I walked down the stairs to her basement – the same stairs my grandfather just a few days earlier has slipped and fallen on – I saw this photograph of my grandparents, my younger brother and sister, and me. Since I don’t have many photographs of my family or of myself for that matter, I pulled out my cell phone and took a quick photo to just try and capture what I was feeling at that exact moment.
I felt a tremendous amount of sadness. Of course because my grandpa was hurt. But also because he got hurt doing something so pure and innocent. Something that he loved doing, and that they did every year. It was one of the ways they bonded. And we used to love to go there as kids and see their Christmas tree.
The photograph has probably been there since it was developed twenty years ago or so. In fact, my grandparents’ house has stayed more or less the same for my entire life. Just as neat and organized as I remember when I was a kid. We live in a society where people change just for the sake of it. We update our cell phones every two years. Get new furniture just because. Change our diet, get a tattoo, whatever. But my grandparents have always been the same.
They have always been content with their lives. I want that. And I think I’m getting there. In fact, maybe it’s one of the reasons I still have the same ratty futon I bought when I first moved into my apartment. It’s not the “stuff”, it’s not the exterior. It’s what inside. All of the memories.
I want to bottle this genuinely happy moment between all of us. And I want to continue to provide them with GENUINELY good memories in their lives. Like when my girlfriend and I go out to dinner with them at P.F.Chang’s or whatever other chain restaurant they enjoy.
I want to show all four of them – like I did from my great-grandfather – that their work, their sacrifice, and their love was not in vain. I’m not talking about just getting an education and being a professional. I want to be more. I am capable of more. We all are.
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.
Buried feelings resurface
Lean into the wind my friend
Watch the weather change
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.