Blaze On: 2019 DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon Training Notebook – Week 6

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After slacking and taking a week off, I’ve returned.  Here are my notes for my sixth week of training for the 2019 DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon.  Training notebooks are posted every Monday (well…) 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.


2/4/19: Cross-training: Gym workout – Circuit training

2/5/19: 3.50 miles (17:32 minutes/mile)

2/6/19: 7.00 miles (8:57 minutes/mile)

2/7/19: 3.00 miles (9:02 minutes/mile)  

2/8/19: Cross-training: Yoga (45 minutes)   

2/9/19: 10.00 miles (8:33 minutes/mile)

2/10/19: 7.00 miles (10:37 minutes/mile)


This week was another step back week in mileage, but the biggest variable is perhaps the pace of each of the runs.  As always though, there is a reason for it which I will get to later.

A new wrinkle that I wanted to incorporate was to include a yoga routine on the weekday mornings of the days I am supposed to run.  I want to be able to increase my flexibility, while also giving me a much needed boost in the morning before work. I miss going working out before work; running before work with my new schedule just doesn’t work, but I certainly miss the mental clarity that getting a sweat on early in the day produces.  So everyday began with a quick meditation and then yoga sequence. I went through a sequence for runners, a sequence that targets the psoas, my usual favorite deep stretch routine, and a routine for the feet. Each day I woke up, quickly scanned my body to see which area needed some extra love and attention, and then fired up the corresponding YouTube video.  I felt like this was one of the most productive step back weeks ever for me, because instead of getting antsy because of the perceived lack of gains, I took extra care in maintenance (though this isn’t to say I didn’t go hard: at the gym on Monday, I went back to the well with reps of 100, 200, then 300 of chest presses, lat pulldowns, and leg presses before “cooling down” with 100 flutter kicks).       

On Tuesday, I went through with my planned excursion to Bear Mountain since I was off from work.  It was an absolutely gorgeous day (I was actually able to wear shorts), so I definitely wanted to take advantage of the weather and the day off.

After the hour long drive, I parked near the inn and made my way over to my planned route.  Since it was my first time there, I figured I would take the most popular path: ascend on the Major Welch trail before descending on the Appalachian Trail.  The entire loop was about four miles, and while I only needed to run three that day, I figured I would hike the last mile and enjoy the day.

There were a few unanticipated speed bumps along the way.  The first one hit me as I started making my way to the trail from the parking lot: the Major Welch trail was closed due to icy conditions.  It was so beautiful that it hadn’t occurred to me that there may be ice still on the trails. Fortunately, the AT was still open, so I decided to make my way up the mountain that way before returning when I couldn’t go anymore.  

That’s when I encountered my next surprise.  That section of the AT is particularly rocky with a series of long stone steps.  It made running especially difficult, even more so when you factor in how steep it was in parts.  I went in overconfident and started running, until the steps ground me to a halt.

After the first mile or so, I started getting more comfortable.  Everything I had read about trail running kicked in: I started power hiking when I couldn’t run and then started running whenever I hit any straightaways.  Oddly enough, running felt like a rest considering the amount of climbing I had to do. The most frustrating part was getting into the rhythm of a nice jog before having to stop when coming face to face with what felt like a vertical climb.  

The next speed bump came a little before I hit a mile and a half.  I could no longer make my way up the mountain because of ice. I headed back and noted to myself just how much easier it felt.  Maybe I was getting the hang of it after all? Then I remembered that I was now going downhill. Of course it was going to be easier now.

Not feeling quite satisfied, I stopped about midway down the mountain to try going up it again.  It didn’t get any easier this time, but I powered through it. I returned to my car with an extra half mile logged, and the realization that the trail marathon I had signed up for a month after Pittsburgh might be harder than I originally anticipated.  But I was prepared for the challenge.

The next day I did an interval workout for a total of seven miles.  One mile warm up, and then 400 meters around the track and fast as possible before two laps around it in a slow jog to bring my heart rate down before sprinting another 400 again.  I did this until I hit six miles and then ran the final mile back home. It was my first time ever working out sprints into my runs, and I absolutely loved it. I can definitely see the benefit of including different workouts into your routine, whether it is hill, tempo, interval, or recovery runs.  

Speaking of which, the next day I absolutely needed a slow recovery run.  But I went back at it on my long run on Saturday where I pushed the pace on most of the run.  And then on Sunday, I went trail running again, but this time closer to home at Palisades Interstate Park.

I had to do seven miles and didn’t know what was awaiting me.  I had planned running a few miles along the Shore Trail before heading up the cliff to the Long Trail, reaching three and a half miles and then turning around.  

This run gave me my confidence back that was zapped after my Bear Mountain run.  I felt more comfortable running on dirt, gravel, rocks, and roots even though I felt much more susceptible to a sprained ankle especially when compared to road running.  I was happy with my pace, especially when you consider I stopped on multiple occasions to enjoy the view and a 350 foot climb was thrown into the mix. My final mile was even under eight minutes as I hit the dirt path on the Shore Trail back to my car.  I hadn’t been on these trails since I hiked them with my dad when I was really young, but I definitely want to come back as much as possible. It will be excellent practice for me.

For the future, I want to also continue including yoga sessions as much as possible.  I also want to keep mixing up my runs: either on trails or hills and incorporating some speedwork as well as recovery runs.  But I also want to hit the gym not only harder, but smarter. I want to be able to include home exercises like push ups and flutter kicks before bed, perhaps instead of beating up my upper body on Monday.  I was sore for most of the week because of it, so I just need to keep experimenting in order to get the right balance. Overall though, it was an extremely encouraging step back week.



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 week was punctuated by various social outings, a rare change of pace for me.  I visited my grandpa twice, saw some friends over the weekend, and ate out with my girlfriend on a few occasions which we usually don’t do.  

In situations like these, I am often pressed to have to deviate from what I normally eat when I cook for myself at home.  Not that I’m on any strict diet, but I was guilty of what can be considered a few “cheat meals” this week. And I am usually the hardest on myself when this happens.

But I was reminded that we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves after cheat meals.  The important thing is to not let that one unhealthy snack completely derail the progress you have made.  Enjoy it for what it is, and then go back after it the next day. Just don’t make a habit of it – continue to get after it.    

I don’t believe in a weekly cheat meal, because that is also unnecessary.  But when the situation arises or you are forced to make an unhealthy choice, it isn’t the end of the world if you indulge.  Sometimes it can remind us of why we enjoy living a healthier lifestyle.



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!

At ten and a half miles logged during the week, my Merrells were my most used shoe for this week – which is no surprise considering I went trail running on two occasions.  They shined on straightaways and easy trails, but became problematic on rockier sections. Regardless, I can’t even imagine not wearing minimalist shoes on the trails. It gave me so much more of a feel for the ground.  

The other three usuals during this training plan all assumed each of the roles that have slowly taken shape for them.  I used the Vibrams during the interval training where I wanted to focus on speed. I used the Altras on my long run when I wanted something more durable and with more support.  And I used my Brooks on my recovery run when I wanted to give my feet and muscles a little bit of a break.



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’ve been getting home from work with a lot on my mind, and it has been hard to shift gears and then go out for a run.  In order to recharge the batteries and give myself a mental reset, I’ve been taking quick twenty minute power naps. Not quite meditation, but it gives me the same benefit.  I feel awake, alert, and now have a purpose. I quickly get my chores, run, and do whatever else I need to get done.



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

During my ten mile run, I ended up running the final four miles at the heels of another runner.  It was pure coincidence that we had the same exact route. He was clearly much faster than me, but I was able to stay with him for most of it.  When he realized I was keeping up with him, he would then go faster. I felt like we brought out the best of each other.



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.

At some point in the middle of writing this – I’m not sure if it was just thinking back to the freedom I felt on the trails or the freedom I feel now sitting on my couch while on winter break or the freedom I feel since I don’t have work all week – I decided that this is going to be it for the training notebooks.  

It doesn’t make sense for me to be fighting the shackles I feel in my everyday life while creating shackles of my own.  The notebooks and posts have given me a schedule to live by, but it has stifled and boxed in my thinking. I can’t just contain my innermost thoughts in this one section when they are what inform and fuel my running.  Thoughts don’t have a structure. I have to let them roam free.

Writing has felt like a chore.  And it has never been for me. I set out for this to be a journal so I can look back on this chapter when I’m ready to write my book.  But when I read my actual notebooks, everything is scattered and certainly not as neat or tidy as these posts. I need to be true to myself and stick to my formula.

There’s still many things I want to share.  They’re just going to look a little different.  Stay tuned.



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


“Freedom requires constant vigilance.”


– Graffiti on a rock in Palisades Interstate Park



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.

“All I Want is You/Where the Streets Have No Name” U2 – September 1, 2001

From their concert DVD “Go Home: Live From Slane Castle, Ireland”, I’m not sure there’s a better song(s) to retire this section of the training notebook on.  The transition is amazing, the build up is chill-inducing. This is just pure bliss. I can’t even imagine what it must have felt like witnessing this live.



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.



I couldn’t get higher up because of the ice, but this is the photo I earned on Bear Mountain that day.  Now, I have something to work towards. This is what I deserved. Nothing more.

I will work towards getting to the top.  But this is a good place to start.



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.


Marathon notebook

Is now retired, run its course

Get ready for change



Make it a great week everyone!  This has all been wonderful, but now I’m (actually) 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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