Blaze On: 2019 DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon Training Notebook – Week 5

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I’m back on the grind with another training notebook.  Here are my notes for my fifth 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.


1/28/19: Cross-training: Gym workout – Circuit training

1/29/19: 3.00 miles (10:28 minutes/mile)

1/30/19: 7.00 miles (9:15 minutes/mile)

1/31/19: 3.00 miles (12:07 minutes/mile)  

2/1/19: Cross-training: Yoga (45 minutes)   

2/2/19: 14.00 miles (8:51 minutes/mile)

2/3/19: 7.00 miles (8:54 minutes/mile)


This week was highlighted by a fourteen mile long run – my longest since the Cape Cod Marathon in October.  But it was also highlighted by frigid temperatures and icy conditions. Which explains the variability in my pace for the week.

On Monday, I was feeling particularly brave and went hard at the gym.  After a five minute warmup on the Jacob’s Ladder, I did eight rounds of my deadlift, kettlebell swing, and Assault AirBike circuit.  By the end of it, I could hardly stand up straight. Not as bad as the first time I ever did it with a personal trainer, but I definitely pushed myself.  Rather than extra weight, I focused on repetitions.

That was a theme for the rest of my workout.  David Goggins had put up a video a few days earlier where he explained how he got so much muscle while losing fat and not ending up with extra skin when he first lost all the weight.  He described his routine, which consisted of machine workouts where with very light weight he did 100 reps followed by 200 reps followed by 300 reps. Not that losing weight is my goal, but anytime that man speaks he has my full attention.  So I gave it a try.

The first exercise was flutter kicks.  I hit the first set of 100, but 200 and 300 proved to be too difficult.  But I still made it near 150 each time. After that, I wanted to try the same thing on the lat pulldown.  

It was a feeling I never want to forget.  The adrenaline that was coursing through my body during the 200 rep set and 300 rep set was tremendous.  Everything was on fire, but my cardio kicked in and I was able to focus on my breath. By the time I was done, my back felt swollen in the most satisfying way possible.  After a five minute cooldown on the rowing machine, I was ready to head to work. But I definitely want to try more of those high repetition workouts. I definitely see how it would work.  I don’t need my muscles to get bigger or stronger. I just need to work on the endurance aspect.

My first run of the week was a nondescript, easy three mile run along the boulevard.  The next two I had to succumb to one of my greatest enemies when it comes to running: the treadmill.

Much of the nation was hit with that polar vortex during the week.  While I wasn’t necessarily afraid of the temperature, the ice that had accumulated on the sidewalks made my two evening runs more perilous than they normally are.  The last thing I needed was to slip and fall on a patch of ice I wouldn’t be able to see in the dark. So I sucked it up and walked close to a mile to the gym. Believe me, this was a big sacrifice on my part.

I decided to try to maximize the treadmill as much as possible and use it as a tool.  During the seven mile run (which on a treadmill felt like it lasted FOREVER), I started slow but then gradually brought the pace up every thirty seconds until I reached close to my top speed, held that for four minutes, and then slowly brought it back down again.  During the three mile run, I utilized the same principle, but this time I kept a consistent speed for the most part. The variable this time was the incline, where I slowly brought it up to the maximum. And then I held that for a few minutes. This was easily one of the most painful runs I’ve ever had; my calves and hamstrings felt as if they were being seared with a branding iron.  But I stuck it out, and the walk back home felt amazing.

After a forty-five minute session with Adriene on Friday, it was time for my long run.  Without even planning it, everything was picture perfect. I had no idea what my pace would look like, and as my body was warming up, my first two miles clocked in at around ten minutes per mile.  But then I hit my stride and for the next ten miles, I fluctuated between eight and eight and a half minutes per mile. The thing is, I didn’t even feel like I was trying. My legs were in tune with my breath, and I felt like I could’ve kept going at that speed for awhile.  Maybe a full marathon? But I wasn’t going to find out. So for the final two miles I decided to dial it way back and cool down. It was a tremendously successful run, and I teared up a little when I realized it was my fastest pace at fourteen miles or over since the D.C. marathon almost a year ago.  No doubt, this was in large part due to a tremendously cathartic conversation I had on Friday night.

On Sunday, I wanted to mix it up and go trail running.  Since I don’t have work on Tuesday, I was planning a trip to Bear Mountain since it’s supposed to be beautiful, so I wanted to hit seven miles on an easy trail near my apartment (where I assumed my alter ego “Le Fou de Parc Lincoln”) to get ready for the difficult trails in Bear Mountain.  I’ve never gone running at Bear Mountain, so I don’t really know what to expect. I just know that trail running has a much different feel to it than road running does. My core, glutes, and adductors usually get a much more strenuous workout on the trails as opposed to the pavement. Because I’m much more used to the road, the seven miles was much more difficult than the fourteen I did the day prior.  Regardless, I’m glad I did it, because my body felt amazing. But it’s making me much more apprehensive about my trip on Tuesday.



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.

The last two weeks during my long run, I have taken an energy gel with me.  And each time, I come back home with the same energy gel and put it back in the box where it came from.

There was a time where I would be taking two or three energy gels while running that same distance.  Now, even though I go in with a plan to take it at the halfway mark, the moment comes and I just keep going.  Why bother if I’m not craving it or crashing?

I know this can’t and shouldn’t be my strategy for marathons and later on ultras, but for now, it’s working.  I’m not as reliant on the gels as I once was. It helps that I haven’t been so dependent on sports drinks, energy gels, sugars, and carbs in general, but I’m also curious if it’s a mental thing too.

When I started running, if I wasn’t taking an energy gel every five or six miles, I would start fading.  But now, after plenty of time on the trails, I haven’t gotten used to pushing my limits with very little in my tank.  

So during races, I’ll definitely try to stick to a plan, but in training, I think I’ll just continue to go based on feel.  I’ll still take that same gel with me, but if I don’t need it then all the better. Train fasted, race fed.



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!

During the week, I split time between the Ghosts, Vibrams, and Escalantes.  I wore the Altras during my long run, so they had the privilege of being the only shoes that were used twice in the week.

This week though, a new player has entered the game.  During my trail run, I wore Merrell Trail Gloves – a trail shoe I had bought awhile ago for when I was ready to go trail running.  I had only used them once, so I wanted to see how they would feel on a longer run in preparation for Bear Mountain.

I love the minimalist and light feel they provide.  I definitely didn’t feel like I lost any speed (though on trails you tend to go much slower than on the road) because of how lightweight the shoe is.  It shines on the packed dirt road and gravel, but on rockier and harder surfaces it was a little tricky.

We’ll see how it handles the technical terrain on Bear Mountain on Tuesday.  Worst case scenario, in a trail ultra it would be a good shoe to use for the easier dirt portions.  It definitely landed a spot in the rotation.



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

I learned this lesson as I was training for the Cape Cod Chowdah Challenge while also running the nine shorter races to qualify for the New York City Marathon.  And I see this lesson resurface many times throughout my life.

Focus.  On. One.  Thing. At.  A. Time.

I am a serial planner.  I found that out about myself when I was living on my own in college.  I couldn’t live without my whiteboard, calendar, and daily planner. Everyday has a to-do list, and it gives my day direction.

I’ve since backed off a little from it; I’m not a slave to it anymore.  However, one thing that I always felt when I would look at it and I was already feeling anxious or stressed or frustrated was how overwhelming the list felt.  I would set off to try and accomplish as much as possible, and it only compounded my stress.

This may seem basic, but when we have things to do – just focus on one thing at a time.  That first task on your list? Pursue it relentlessly. Don’t worry about how long your list is or any of your other tasks.  Just focus on that. It can be hard to do when we have a lot to do, but trust me, it’ll pay dividends because you’ll actually be more efficient this way.  Once that task is done, cross it off, clear it from your mind, and move on to the next.

I’ve definitely put myself in situations where I have too many irons in the fire.  As a teacher, I can especially feel this way at work. But it helps more in the long run to slow down, collect your thoughts, and tackle the problems one at a time.  Spreading yourself too thin will compound your frustrations and only add to the workload. Because you are now battling against yourself.



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

Not on the trails, but this took place in the gym on Wednesday’s seven mile run.  It was a reminder of why the machismo in the gym prevents me from going more often.

I was about fifteen minutes into seven mile dreadmill run when two “bros” get on the machines next to me.  I was going at a comfortable conversational pace at this point, but like I mentioned before was increasing every thirty seconds until I hit my top speed.  That was my plan from the start, and I wanted to stick to it for the duration of the run.

I noticed the bro immediately next to me also start out slow, but kept glancing over to the dashboard on my treadmill.  Every time I increased the speed, he’d do the same, but always managed the go one step faster than me. I roll my eyes to myself, because I loathe this kind of behavior.  Seriously, just leave me alone; not everything is a personal challenge. Try your best and don’t measure yourself up to others. I had a plan, and it wasn’t dependent on him.  

But on the other hand, I also thought to myself “Oh, honey…”, because this fool had no idea what he was about to be in for.  He was clearly the typical alpha male you might see at the gym: there for only certain muscle groups and more interested in lifting for looks.  You can tell this was probably the one day he would allott himself for any cardio work. Because cardio is for sissies, as is the bro mentality.

I kept with my plan, and he kept on trying to outrun me.  Until I got well under nine minutes per mile, which was when he started grabbing onto the handrails to keep himself going.  I was generally unaffected and more or less kept my unfocused gaze on the “American Dad” rerun that was playing on the television screen in front of me.  

At a certain point, it was clear he had to bow out, because like a machine I just kept on pushing the button every thirty seconds and now my pace was under eight minutes per mile.  He brought the speed way down and walked while heaving heavily. When I reached my top speed of somewhere around six and a half minutes per mile and held that speed for four minutes, I heard him say “Oh, damn” over the music emerging from my headphones.  

I wasn’t looking for competition, but here we were.  Just stay in your lane bro, and I’ll stay in mine.   



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.

This week, I spent a few days incredibly anxious for uncertainty that awaits my girlfriend and I for the next few years.  Mostly what I am going to be doing and where we are going to be living. The job prospect from a few weeks ago planted a seed in my head that I’ve had a tough time shaking.  

I always talk about living in the present, but I couldn’t help but pay rent on the future in my head.  I even took it a step further and made some actual moves (but more on that later). But I felt like over the course of a few prep periods and some nightly conversations with my girlfriend, we had more or less planned our lives for the next three years.  A rough skeleton. Vacations, races, where we’re looking to live, looking to work. My plans for my writing. Vacations. Races. Mostly vacations and races.

Like I said, I’m a planner.  And we have to focus on one thing at a time.  But sometimes I have these manic bouts of planning that set up my path and allow me to live in the present so I can focus on attainable goals.  Or at least things that I have to work towards. And believe me, I now have plenty of things that I have to work towards. Because apparently two marathons and two half marathons this year, plus updating this website while I’m an Official Blogger for the Pittsburgh Marathon and then whatever comes after it, plus all my actual job responsibilities isn’t enough.

I’m excited to share these things on here little by little as they come up and become official, but just know that while I’ve been training in the present for the immediate task at hand (Pittsburgh, but before that the Hampton Half Marathon), I’m already setting up bigger goals for after that way off in the horizon.  I can’t let up for a second and let complacency consume me. But I’m not going to lie that once we had everything figured out, I had the biggest grin on my face for the rest of the week.



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

“No matter what you or I achieve, in sports, business, or life, we can’t be satisfied.  Life is too dynamic a game. We’re either getting better or we’re getting worse. Yes, we need to celebrate our victories.  There’s power in victory that’s transformative, but after our celebration we should dial it down, dream up new training regimens, new goals, and start at zero the very next day.”


– David Goggins “Can’t Hurt Me”



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.

“If We Were Vampires” Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit “The Nashville Sound”

Sitting down and talking to my girlfriend about the future, I couldn’t help but think about this song.  

Even though I had recognized his name, I had never listened to any of Jason Isbell’s music until this past September.  My girlfriend and I went to see The National at the festival they were holding at Forest Hill Stadium, and Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit was one of the opening bands.  Instead of listening before the show, I decided to go in blind, because sometimes I have more fun that way.

I loved the energy of the music and found myself trying to remember lyrics to certain songs I was hearing, so I can search for them and listen later when I got home.  Then I remembered that it’s the 21st century and I can just look up setlists after the show, so I stopped caring and just enjoyed the show.

This song closed their set.  While most of the songs they played were fun and up tempo, this was a melodic ballad and Isbell busted out the acoustic guitar.

Without even really understanding the words and comprehending the narrative of the song (as is often the case when you are at a concert and seeing an unknown band for the first time), the gravity of the song hit me nonetheless and I began to tear up.  It was a beautiful clear autumn night, and my girlfriend and I were getting ready to see one of our favorite bands on a rare night out for us. Just like Stephan Jenkins, apparently the four right chords can make me cry.

But later on when I got home and listened to song and read the lyrics, I began to sob.  The song had tapped into a fear and sentiment I have had my entire life and haven’t been able to put into words.  And it caught my off guard.

The song focuses on how ephemeral life is, and that maybe that is what makes love so powerful.  In the song, the immortality of vampires is used as a contrast to what we as humans experience. This expiration date is what drives us to have goals and dreams and plans and give ourselves completely to the people we love.  Because if we lived forever, we would see how silly it all is. He then laments that maybe after forty years together, one of them (him or his wife) would be gone, and the other would have to deal with the loneliness.

Like Isbell, I too think that maybe time running out is a gift.  Knowing that we don’t have forever is what made me feel a surge of anxiety this week concerning the future.  And it is what makes me enjoy the moments to the fullest when they do come.

I think about my grandparents and how long they’ve been together.  How dedicated they’ve been to each other and how in spite of this accident, they haven’t let on that fear has been consuming fear.  The fear that time may be running out. They may be the most practical and level-headed people I know when it comes to that kind of stuff.  

I think about how I haven’t had time to visit him since he moved into the rehab center.  Life just gets in the way. But maybe after I tackle Bear Mountain on Tuesday and force myself out of my comfort zone, I’ll head over to pay him a visit.       

“If we were vampires and death was a joke

We’d go out on the sidewalk and smoke

And laugh at all the lovers and their plans

I wouldn’t feel the need to hold your hand

Maybe time running out is a gift

I’ll work hard ’til the end of my shift

And give you every second I can find

And hope it isn’t me who’s left behind

It’s knowing that this can’t go on forever

Likely one of us will have to spend some days alone

Maybe we’ll get forty years together

But one day I’ll be gone

Or one day you’ll be gone”



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.


Speaking of forcing myself out of my comfort zone: Surprise!

I have a master list of races that I’m interested in.  The races in the North Face Endurance Challenge series were some of them for when I started getting into ultramarathons.  When I was thinking about future races, for 2019 I noticed that there was a four month gap between Pittsburgh and Virginia Beach.  I wanted to give myself enough time to recover, but right now that seems like overkill with how good I feel. And I want to be able to take advantage of how in shape I’m going to be after Pittsburgh.

I had originally wanted to do these races as ultras, but they have many distances.  I figured the only sensible thing to do (as sensible as running a marathon a month after running one can be) was to run a distance I had accomplished before since this is a mountain trail race – a first for me.  I don’t want my first race experience in a trail to be an ultra. So I opted for the Massachusetts North Face Endurance Challenge. Yes, almost exactly one month after I am running the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon.  

So now I have three races coming up in the next four months: the Hampton Half Marathon, the Pittsburgh Marathon, and now the NFEC Massachusetts Marathon.  It is one of the hardest courses in the series, with plenty of rocks and technical terrain. The winner from last year won with a time that is slower than my slowest marathon.  Five hours is considered a good time for this course. But hey, it’s going to force me to get out on actual trails and Bear Mountain (another race in the NFEC series) is graded at a similar difficulty.  Plus, the aid stations have actual food. And Dean Karnazes will be there!

 With three marathons and two halves on the docket, that might be it for my 2019 racing schedule…or is it?  Stay tuned to find out!



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.

On the horizon

Lies the key to happiness

The future is now



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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