Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Huntsville Half Marathon Race Report

My first half marathon is officially in the books, and it went better than I hoped for.

I rode up to Huntsville with Kelly and Jessica, as Jen, Coop, her brother, Tim and his wife, Nikki, drove up later to wait for me at the finish line. It was very cold (reportedly 28 degrees) when we arrived at about 8 a.m. Fortunately, we had drop bags, so we all bundled up nicely and hung out on the bus until they kicked us off after shuttling us up to the starting point.

When the race started, Kelly hung back with Jessica and I for a few miles. Since he is a much faster runner than both of us -- much to our dismay -- he kind-of pushed us to go a little faster than we originally wanted to. Eventually, he took off and we knew he was going for his goal time of less than two hours. From that point, Jess and I had a pretty smooth run.

Seeing Coop in this goofy outfit at the finish line was a perfect way to cap the race. I ran all 13.1 miles in 2:12:16.
My knee pain arrived about six miles in, which scared the shit out me. Usually, when the pain comes, I'm forced to stop and walk and I knew I wasn't going to reach my goal time of 2:25:00 if I did that. I pushed through it for about a mile and the pain gradually wore off entirely. The course was as beautiful as everyone said it was, and having Jessica there as a running partner was such a blessing. I think we kept each other honest at a solid pace and neither of us wanted to be the one who stopped and walked. It felt like we both hit a wall around the 11-mile mark, but there was a lot of entertainment (bands, cheerleaders, and other various live music) that peppered the final few miles of the course and that kept our minds occupied for the remainder of the race.

I sprinted the final 250 yards or so, even though I told Jess I wasn't going to. ;) Sorry, Jess. My competitive side kicked in a bit at the end. I couldn't find Jen, Coop, Tim and Nikki when I finished, but I located them just after I received my medal and cut the timing chip off my shoe. Kelly was there waiting, too, and he said he finished in 2:01:00, which was just over his goal time. I'm sure he would've gone under it if he didn't hang back with Jess and I for the first two or three miles.

All smiles after the race. Kudos to Jessica, who has always been my favorite running partner.
We snapped a few photos, got our stuff, said goodbye to Kelly and Jess and ate some lunch at the Huntsville Barbecue Company. When I got home, I looked up my finish time online and I clocked 2:12:16, which was almost 13 minutes faster than my goal. That time isn't going to turn any heads in the running community, but I am proud of myself for doing it. Despite fears about cardio and knee pain, I performed much better than expected. I truly don't enjoy running, but now I can say I've completed a half marathon and ran the whole way. And no, I don't have plans to do a full.

Three days later, I still feel like I was hit by a truck. My calves have never been so sore in my life...

Total distance: 13.1 miles running

Friday, September 27, 2013

Re-examining my priorities

I'm alive and well. I promise.

Due to an incredibly busy schedule, I haven't been able to update my fitness blog for about a month. I'm back though, and here's an update. The half marathon is tomorrow and I'm incredibly nervous about it. I haven't been this anxious about an event since my Bear Lake Crossing more than a year ago. Training was going very well until a little over three weeks ago, when my knee started hurting again after a long run with Jessica. Her and Kelly will be running the race, too.

Time for a run? No thanks. I'll watch Star Trek with my son instead. Maybe, if I'm lucky, he'll fall asleep.
I backed off my running a bit and amped up my workouts during swim class. Although I didn't stop exercising entirely, my dryland training came to a screeching halt, and I'm not entirely sure I'm ready for tomorrow morning's race. I never ran more than nine miles at once during my training, and somehow, I'm going to have to muscle through 13. Knowing that I never quite reached my training goal for Bear Lake, and still somehow managed to pull off that event does give me some hope that tomorrow will be OK, though. Even if it's just false confidence.

Work has been incredibly busy and my free time isn't really "free" as I am trying my best to spend that time with my family. Every new father thinks they know what is coming, and no matter how much you read in advance, you are never fully prepared. Despite all the diaper changing, play time, crying and simply trying to give Jen a bit of a break from the duties of motherhood whenever possible, it really has been an enjoyable experience thus far. But it has forced me to re-examine my priorities.

Fitness is very important, and I need to make sure I don't stray from it. However, I don't think intense training -- often sucking up multiple hours per day -- is a great thing for me or for my family right now. Now that Cooper is here, I find it very selfish to spend too much of my free time training for monster fitness events. He and Jen need me far more than I need these selfish "accomplishments." There is always more to every story, and every person has different circumstances in their lives, but I just don't see how people with multiple children can train for and participate in all of these marathon events (for any sport) and still give their families the attention they need and deserve. Somehow, I need to find a balance between staying fit and healthy, but not getting caught up in too many races, which are more of a hobby. Needs vs. wants, if you will.

Anyway, enough of my personal anecdotes. In a perfect world, I will finish tomorrow's half marathon in under 2 hours and 25 minutes with little or no knee pain. That probably won't happen, but who knows. ... maybe I'll get lucky.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Half way to the Half

I'm officially half way through my half marathon training. I pulled off an 8-mile run on Saturday, which is tied for the longest I've ever done on foot. Jessica met me at the Weber River Parkway in Riverdale and we went for it.

The sweet bottle-opener medals
for the half. I'm excited to earn one.
The last time I ran eight miles was more than two years ago -- the first time I attempted to train for a half marathon -- and it ended badly. That day was when my knee pain first arrived, so naturally, I was nervous about Saturday's run. However, I managed the whole thing without too much discomfort. Some pain arrived in the final half-mile or so, but I'm feeling good in the immediate days after, which is a good sign. Running with Jessica was also nice, as we are very closely matched as far as pace and distance goes.

This week's "long" run is only five miles, so that will give me a nice recovery before jumping up to nine miles next week. Also, this semester's swim class begins tomorrow, so I'll be more vigilant about doing my cross training like I'm supposed to.

Anyway, there's not a ton of new stuff to report other than that. I did hit the 500-mile mark last week, which certainly is an accomplishment when stacked on top of the swimming and cycling mileage I've covered since starting this blog.

Weekly total distance: 13 miles running

Monday, August 12, 2013

Half Marathon Training: Week 2 Report

Last night, Jen gave me the biggest confidence boost I've heard in many years. I was changing after getting out of the shower, and while feeding Cooper on the other side of the room, she said, "Matt, I can see your abs right now." Although I certainly don't have defined abs or a six pack, her unsolicited compliment really lifted my spirits. I guess over time, you may eventually see a small measure of results if you stick to your training and diet.

Jen stroked my ego, complimenting my abs. This is probably what they really look like.

Anyway, I'm more than two weeks into my half marathon training plan, and all is going according to schedule, so far. I haven't missed a single workout and my times continue to improve. For example, in Week 1, I ran a 2-mile speed interval in 18:45. Today (Week 3), I ran it in 17:33. I pulled off my first 5-mile run in 53:54, and on Saturday, I clocked my second one in 50:30.

Swim class ended last week, so for the next two weeks -- until the next swim class begins -- I'm going to have to find an alternate cross training method. It shouldn't be an issue, as there are all sorts of things I can do.

I officially registered for the Huntsville Half Marathon today, so there is no backing out at this point. Even if the knee pain re-emerges, I'll have no choice but to at least walk the entire race. But so far, my knee his holding up OK, although I haven't logged any serious (6-to-11-mile) runs yet. Saturday will be the next test at six miles.

Weekly total distance: 10 miles running, 1,500 yards swimming

Monday, August 5, 2013

New kicks and new training plan

Last week, I officially started my half marathon training. Jen bought me a new pair of running shoes for my birthday, which I badly needed. We went to Striders in Layton and got my feet, positioning and running style checked out, as they fitted me with a pair of shoes that fit me best. Hopefully, that will limit the knee pain I've been plagued with during long runs this past year.
My new kicks. Probably the most money I've spent on a pair of shoes since I was in high school.
I mapped out a nine-week training plan, that involves five workouts per week leading up to race day. I will do two shorter runs (3-5 miler, 2-3 mile speed run) and a long run (starting at 5 miles, working up to 11) on Saturdays. Two days a week will be devoted to swimming and two days are for rest. I think stretching and using my foam roller regularly will be key to not injuring myself in training. That's what I did last time I attempted to train for a half, as I was running too much, too fast. This will be a gradual increase and not actually reaching the full 13-mile run until race day itself.

Anyway, I started training while on a work trip in Boston and tested out the new shoes on the treadmill in the hotel gym. I wanted to go out and about and run around the city, but I was instructed not to run outside in the shoes until I tested them out, or else I wouldn't be able to return/swap them out for different ones. Everywhere I went, people were constantly running up and down the sidewalk streets and through the parks. Running seems to be a big "thing" in Boston, which I suppose makes sense, considering the most popular marathon in the world is held there every year.

I knocked out the first "long" run on Saturday with five miles at Planet Fitness, and the shoes passed with flying colors. My knee was a little bit uncomfortable toward the end, but not painful.

Total distance (for the week): 10 miles running, 1,100 yards swimming

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

200th Blog Post!

Although I've been backing off with daily updates of mundane workouts, today marks my 200th blog post since starting "Swimming Upstream" in October 2011. It really has been a fun way to keep track of my progress (and regression) throughout the years, even if it comes at the cost of annoying my friends and family on Facebook every time I share a link to a post. To that end, I'm sure I have been "unfollowed" on many people's social media feeds. Oh well ... I use it as an accountability tool. I don't really expect people to read through my musings about my personal health. It's incredibly narcissistic and kind of weird, I know.

A fist pump for 200 blog posts!
Anyway, today was another day of swim class and another day of me sucking wind. Since Cooper was born about six weeks ago, my diet has completely fallen apart and my exercise has mostly been limited to my twice-weekly swim classes. That has resulted in me gaining back 7 of the 12 pounds I lost during my 12-week diet and decreased stamina in the pool. I need to get back on the wagon soon, as the Huntsville Half Marathon is sneaking up on me and I have to take training seriously. At the same time, I need to continue working with the Weber State Masters team to prepare for the SDRC Meet in November.

Jen will get the OK for exercise from the doctor any day now, so we are excited to start setting new goals together and help each other out with our eating habits. It's so much easier when you and your spouse are on the same (or similar) page.

Total distance: 700 yards swimming (butterfly day)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

New swim bag

On Sunday I got an unexpected treat. Jen's parents bought me a new swim bag for my birthday and I got to use it for the first time, today. It came just in time as my old one was falling apart at the seams, the zippers were broken, and it was an all-around piece of crap. This new one is actually geared for swimmers, rather than a cheap generic gym bag.


It's the AquaSphere Wet/Dry Swimming Duffel and it has two sides. One is for dry clothes and the other is for wet items. Having that waterproof barrier is fantastic and the "wet" side (wet and dry are labeled on each side) even has a small vent in the bottom of the bag, so the items won't necessarily stay wet and get all stinky inside of the pocket. Within the wet side is a smaller pouch for goggles and other small swim items. The bag is super roomy and I don't even have enough stuff to fill it out, so as I accumulate more swim gear, I will still have extra room.

It opens up much larger than this image show, but you can see the smaller pocket for goggles and what-not within.
Nifty little vent in the bottom corners of the "wet" side.
I took it with me to class today, and could barely fit it in the locker as it was so big. I guess that's a good problem to have. As far as my swim goes, we worked on unconventional strokes, which I'm not a big fan of. Combining dolphin kick with breaststroke pull and whip kick with backstroke pull isn't my idea of a good workout. I can see the merit in mixing it up in order to work on my timing and coordination between my kicks and pulls, but in the end, I just wasn't feeling it. Hopefully, Thursday's class will be better.

Total distance: 500 yards swimming