Thursday, May 8, 2014

Spring Recap

Some of the medals from my spring races.

It has been a busy spring for me with a lot to catch up on so I will just dive right into it.  After Louisville Lovin' The Hills I ran into some issues with my training. It wasn't just the harsh winter that refused to go away but I had some injury problems as well.  LLTH definitely put me through some pain. The hardheadedness that runs in my family kept me on my training schedule regardless of pain. Little did I know that it was a big mistake!

The week after LLTH I felt like I was OK to run but I started having some hip pain.  I had a 5k coming up so I just took it easy until then. When the 5k came around, the hip pain really intensified when I tried to run hard. I had signed up for a lot of spring races so I knew I had to get it fixed. I talked to a few friends and decided to see a chiropractor. After an X-Ray he said my legs were uneven and the lower vertebrae in my back as well as my hip were locked up.

I decided to go on a 9 visit plan to see if he could help me. I continued running through the treatment and I don't know if it was because of the adjustments or if I was overcompensating for the hip but I started having knee pain as the hip pain got better.  In fact, I was out on a 20 mile run when I saw a friend of mine and stopped to talk to him.  When I went to start my run again, my knee locked up completely.  I was able to loosen it up enough to continue running but when I got home it locked up again.  I continued to have knee pain for a while and couldn't run more than a mile before I had to stop.

At this point I knew I was in trouble.  Training wasn't going well, I was in pain, and my spring race schedule had already started.  After some research I decided to start using my foam roller on my legs every night and use some heat therapy as well.  I also bought a compression knee brace which really helped get me through longer runs without as much pain.  I was able to fight through a 10k, 10 miler, and half marathon with the rolling and the brace but I had to back down the Derby Marathon to a half.

I had 2 marathon's planned for this spring, The Kentucky Derby Marathon in Louisville and The Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati.  I had run the Derby Marathon before but I was really looking forward to The Flying Pig because I had never done it and I had heard how big it was.  I decided to focus on The Flying Pig so that meant backing down the Derby Marathon to a half to make sure I was healed enough and had enough time to get in some more training.  It was a hit on my pride to back it down to a half especially since it cost me another $40 to do so.  But, I really wanted to do well at The Flying Pig and now that I look back on that decision, it was the correct one..

Luckily, I was able to resolve most of the pain by the KDF Mini-Marathon.  I still wore the knee brace because my knee still hurt but I was able to finish with a good time.  It wasn't my best time but after all I had been through in the spring I was happy with it.

The week before The Flying Pig I felt a lot better about my knee.  I was able to get my training runs in without the brace so I took the trip to Cincinnati without it. I was amazed at the effort put into the weekend events in Cincinnati.  The expo for the marathon and half was huge!  The kid races (which both of my boys participated in) were really well organized and they even gave all the kids medals.

The race itself was unlike any marathon I had ran.  If you have ever been to Cincinnati then you will know what I am talking about.  I knew going into the race that there would be some hills I would have to conquer but I had no idea how many!  I remember getting to the 20 mile mark and thinking it should be all downhill now to the city so this must be the last hill.  I think I said that phrase "this must be the last hill" 5-6 more times before realizing that there was a final climb up to the finish line.  By that time I was pretty proud of my finish because I hadn't stopped to walk one time during the entire race.  With the hills, lack of training, and injury, I was able to finish in 3 hours and 36 minutes.  It wasn't my best time but it may have been my best effort yet.

The best part about The Flying Pig was the fan support.  I cannot say how amazing it was!  I had never seen so many people out to support the runners than I did that day in Cincinnati.  There were parties going on at houses all along the course.  People were handing out water, fruit, Vaseline, wet towels, and even beer.  There were people dressed up as pigs, Elvis, and superheroes.  There were signs, bells, motivational quotes chalked on the road, as well as bands playing all along the course.  The hills brought a challenge but the people there made sure lack of motivation wasn't a factor.  I left very impressed with the people of Cincinnati as well as the massive effort and support of the Flying Pig organization.

So it was a rough start to the spring racing season but it ended pretty well.  Now it is time to focus on getting faster over the summer so I can attempt to qualify for Boston in the fall.  Hopefully I am done with injuries for the year and can finally make that goal!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Louisville Lovin' The Hills 2014

The first race for me this year was this past weekend. Louisville Lovin' The Hills has a 6 mile, 15 mile (which was actually 16 miles this year), and a 50k option. I opted for the 15 mile option because of a few reasons. First, I had never ran this race before. Second, I figured there were a lot of hills because of the name (Lovin' The Hills). Finally, with the harshness of this winter I have really had a hard time keeping a consistent training schedule going. By the end of the race I was very glad I didn't do the 50k!

I have ran a few trail races since I started running a couple years ago. I did a 9 mile trail race in the snow and an 8 mile that I got lost and ended up running 12. I have been getting some long runs in on the weekends during this winter so I figured a 15/16 mile trail race would be a decent challenge.  What I didn't know was that it would end up being the hardest 16 miles I have ever ran!

I already mentioned about the harsh winter in the area but let me lay out the scenario for this race.
There was probably 3-4 inches of snow and about 3/4 an inch of ice on the ground.  To top it off, race morning temperature was 20 degrees (which froze the opening of my water bottle during the race).  I had seen a post about the trails the day before and they said there were a ton of trees and branches that were either weighted down by the ice into the path or completely broken into it. The race organizer said the forestry tried to clean up what they could but there wasn't much time between the ice storm and the race.

Here is what I encountered.  As you can probably guess, running through 3-4 inches of snow and ice is going to slow you down a bit. I had already planned for this as I had been through it before. What I hadn't been through before was the ice.  There was ice on the ground, ice on the trees, ice on the bridges, ice on everything (as you can see in the pictures).  There were so many trees and branches crossing the path that I had to constantly switch between watching my footing and what could possibly smack me in the face.  I even fell a few times by either slipping or tripping on down limbs. Not bad enough for injury but I would be lying if I said they didn't hurt.

Then there was the hills.  There were so many hills on this run that it really was humbling at times. Some of them were so steep that everyone walked up them and just accepted that it couldn't be run up. The crazy part about the hills is that because of the snow and ice, going down the hills was just about as much work. If you got going to fast you could slide right off the trail. There was one hill I remember that as I got down to the bottom was a solid sheet of ice.  The bottom of that hill was one of the times that I busted my rump on.

Just to give you an idea what the hills were like, here is the elevation chart for the 15/16 miler.

I don't really know what mile I was on but I am assuming a little past half way when I started getting cramps in my calves as I climbed a steep hill.  I could work out the cramps and run when it was level or downhill but every uphill pretty much forced me to walking.  By the end of the race I had a guy who had caught up with me tell me he would carry me up one hill if I couldn't do it. I finally had to tell him to go on because my calves and quads were cramping in BOTH legs at the same time! (and there was no way I was letting anyone carry me)

The good part about having to walk a few of the hills was the scenery.  I got a chance to take a look around and see how beautiful the course was with the ice and snow on everything.  It was truly breathtaking.  I also have to hand it to everyone who had a part in making this race happen.  The aid stations were fully stocked and everyone was extremely friendly and helpful.  The food after the race was outstanding as well. Chili, cookies, coffee, hot chocolate, and bagels were just a few of the refueling options after the race.  

All in all, I consider this an epic run which I fought through the ice, snow, down trees, and cramps to my worst timed 16 miles ever!  (3 hours and 21 minutes).  The trail was marked well despite the conditions and there was a nice finisher medal unlike any other I have seen.  I can honestly say that it was a race unlike any other I have ever seen or attempted as well.  Maybe I can attempt the 50k next year!

***Some of the pictures in this post I got from the race website (***

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Why training is much more difficult as a parent.

Training for anything is hard work. Whether you are training for a new skill at your job, your first 5k, or a marathon, there are a lot of barriers you have to overcome to successfully complete that training.

I consider the training that I have put in the past 2 years to be pretty tough. The toughest part for me isn't the 3+ hour runs on the weekends or the intervals of pushing to your max performance, it is juggling the time with my kids and my training.

Those of you who know me know that family is a huge part of my life. I said when I first started running that I wanted to make sure that I tried my best to take as little of my time away from my kids as possible.  Yes that meant getting up at 5 in the mornings sometimes so I would be back before they woke up.

We'll this weekend was one of those reminders of what is important and what is not.

My training schedule had me doing a 20 mile run this weekend.  Because of other things we had going on Sunday, I knew I had to get the run in sometime on Saturday.  We'll with the ice and snow and brutally cold temperature this morning.  I decided to wait until nap time to get my run in.

So after my son's soccer game, my plan was to go home and get ready for my run. It had warmed up pretty good and was looking perfect for a good long run. We got home and put the littlest one down for a nap.  As I  was starting to get ready for my run, my oldest comes into the room and says "Dad, will you please play with me?"

There wasn't a doubt in my mind as I replied "What do you want to play buddy?"

Looks like my training this weekend will just have to take a back seat. It isn't the first time and won't be the last I am sure.

Monday, January 20, 2014

2013 - The year of PR's!

I hope this kid is making a killing off of all the internet pictures of him.

The 2013 race year was huge for me.  It was my second year of running races and I matched or improved on every race that I ran.  I lined up for 10 total races including 2 marathons.  Here is what the numbers looked like and how much better I did.

Date              Race                  Better
2/3/2013       Shelby Trail        1st 9 mile trail race
3/9/2013       Anthem5k           0:02:51
3/23/2013     Rodes10k           0:03:48
4/6/2013       Papa 10m           0:07:17
4/13/2013     TripleC                0:13:56  (total of all 3 races)
4/27/2013     KDF Marathon 0:06:27*
6/8/2013       Barnyard 10k       0:04:49
7/13/2013     Otter Creek         1st 8 mile trail race
10/13/2013   Iron Horse 1/2      0:15:48
11/2/2013     Indy Marathon      0:28:13
11/28/2013   Fast Fred 5m       same
*I ran the KDF Half-Marathon in 2012 so I compared this race to the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon I ran in 2012.

It was a very successful year for me but to be completely honest, I had trained so hard through the year that by the time the holidays rolled around I was a little burnt out.  I decided to take a break from running for a bit before I started training for the KDF Marathon in 2014.  This is why I didn't have any posts over the holidays as there wasn't much to post.  I got out a few times, did some small runs, and played a few pickup games of basketball, but I felt like I needed to take time to be with my family and away from the computer and hard training.

Unfortunately, that meant it was very hard to get back into training again (and back to eating better).  Getting up on the cold mornings wasn't a part of my routine any longer and this winter the mornings have been COLD!  The good news is this past week was the first week that I got in all of my training runs so at least I am on the right track now.  Here's for hoping this cold weather doesn't stick around much longer so training will get easier.

Hopefully in 2014 I will see the same improvement that I did in 2013 which would mean a Boston Qualification!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

2 Years Ago...

My first run and my most recent marathon.

Wow.  Amazing how much difference a few years make. My first run where I couldn't make it an entire mile without stopping (and walking) compared to my latest marathon.  As I try to type this tonight, I keep thinking back about those first days of running and how hard it was to even get out and start every morning.  I remember forcing myself to keep trying harder, keep fighting that asthma, keep facing that cold winter air.  

And now look how far I have come.

2 years, 50 pounds, 385 workouts, 2223 miles.

All that hard work lead up to a pretty satisfying performance for me at the Indy Monumental Marathon this past weekend.  To be honest, I wasn't sure how it was going to go.  I had been training with this new SMART plan which had me resting more than the previous marathon plans I had used.  I had run some of my best long runs during that training and even had a great half marathon race at Iron Horse.  I knew I was getting faster but how would that translate to race day as I tapered down my training leading up to it?

I tried to figure out what pace I should be able to run.  I really had no idea.  Could I pull off the 7:13 pace that I did for the Iron Horse?  That pace would put me very close to Boston qualifying, could I possibly qualify already?  I came back to reality.  That was a half marathon and if I went out at that pace, I would be done by mile 15. However, I knew I should be able to run faster than my last marathon... but how much faster?

I didn't really decide on how fast to start out until race morning.  I got up and was getting ready when I noticed I didn't have my armband for my phone.  We had packed up things rather quickly that day before we drove up to Indianapolis so I figured it had separated from the rest of my running things.  After some time searching I came to the realization.... I had left it at home!

You have to understand, I had used my phone to track EVERY SINGLE run/race/walk/workout since I started that first day in the winter of 2011.  I have my running playlist of music on it as well as the notifications of what pace I am running for every mile.  I had recently been debating about running without it and just going with how my body felt since I had read that people have ran their best races that way.  This day my decision had been made for me!

As I headed into the race corral that morning I remembered that Indy Monumental had pace runners. Basically there are runners who are confident in the time that they are going to finish and carry a small sign with that time on it.  Runners can run with them to try to achieve their goals for finishing times.  I knew my last marathon in Louisville earlier this year I had posted a time of 3:44 so I figured a good goal would be 3:30 for this one as it was a flatter course.

I started in that group around the pace runner but noticed that my body kept wanting to run faster.  I figured I would listen to it since I could tell my heart rate wasn't too high and I felt pretty good.  I pushed ahead of the group and before long, I caught up with the 3:20 pace runner and group.  I settled into that pace and it felt about right, until I got to about mile 20.  By this time, I could tell that I had been running faster than normal for that distance (and it hurt).  I figured I was already ahead of my best time so I just told myself to try to keep a steady pace and I would be happy with the results.  I fell a little behind by the time the finish line came around but I still finished with a great time of 3:22 which is about a 7:45/mile pace.

I think I am going to run without my phone or music for every marathon from now on.  I had a lot of comments on my St. Jude Hero shirt which allowed me to talk with a few folks along the way.  Being in the pace group was a good experience as well.  The pace runner that was with the 3:20 group was great at it.  You could really tell that he enjoyed running by the way he interacted with the group.  There was also great crowd support with plenty of cheering, bands, cowbells, and hilarious signs so I never really felt bored during the entire race.  A good experience all around.

The 3:22 finish puts me 17 minutes away from Boston qualifying.  That really makes the goal seem more obtainable doesn't it?  Especially when I realized that I improved 31 minutes from the same race last year.  I now have a training plan that I can adapt as I improve and know for a fact is working.  Hopefully 2014 is the year that I pull it off!

Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

New Best at Iron Horse Half Marathon

This was only part of the beautiful course.

As some of my Thompson family would say - "What a great day!"  I got up early Sunday morning and made the trip to Midway, Kentucky with my parents for the Iron Horse Half Marathon.  We hit a little traffic coming into Midway (it is a pretty small town) but we were able to find a parking spot on a side road not too far from the starting gate.  The rest of the race went as smooth as the start for us.

This was a really beautiful course.  I was a little worried about the course map at first and this is why I say that.  If you look at it, you run out a few miles, turn around, run back through town and out a few miles, turn around, run back into town, and finish.  I usually don't like races that turn around and run the same road more than once, but this half marathon was rated one of the best in the country so I figured it was worth a shot.  I am really glad I did.

The scenery in this race is so wonderful that you don't even think or notice that you are running down the same road.  The roads are country roads with no markings on them and they are either lined with fences to horse farms or trees.  At one point during the race, there was a herd of horses that seemed to be running with us.  They would go back and forth from one side of the fence to the other.  It was great to watch them gracefully run up to one side and then all at once, turn around and head the other way.  

This race probably isn't the best race to try to get a personal best.  It seemed like the whole race was either going up a hill or down a hill.  I know at each turn-around a small part of me said to myself "I have to go through those hills again??"  Luckily that thought passed rather quickly as the scenic view takes over.

All in all it was a well put together race which I really enjoyed.  Both my father and I earned our best half marathon times and enjoyed every minute of it.  There were plenty of refreshments at the end of the race, nice long sleeve technical shirts, and a good looking medal.  There was a band playing at the end and a pretty good turnout of people cheering in town as well.  I believe we will both be signing up for this one again next year.

Pretty good finish for a hilly half marathon.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Training is paying off!

That's right! :)

16 weeks of training. 9 weeks down and 7 left to go until The Monumental Marathon.  Training has been going pretty good since my last post.  I am hitting all my major runs and getting some easy runs in between.  

This past week, I could really tell my training was in full effect, both negatively and positively.  I started the week with my normal interval run and tempo run.  I finished them but my legs were really feeling it for both of them.  This has happened to me before in each of the other marathon's I trained for.  During peak training weeks your legs just turn to mush.  I didn't finish those runs at the time that I would have liked but I pushed myself to finish them none-the-less.  On Friday I had a nice easy 3 mile run which felt really good.  When you run 6-7 miles on most training days and 15-20 on long run days, 3 easy miles just feels awesome.  I think that small 3 mile run kind of rejuvenated me in some way.  I ran without my headphones, didn't care what pace I was running, and really just enjoyed getting out in the cool morning air.  

Since I hadn't hit a pace I wanted all week and my legs actually felt pretty refreshed on Sunday morning, I decided to see what I could do.  

My training plan had a goal for me to run 20 miles at a 7:47 pace (I have never hit one of my long run pace times during this entire training plan).  I figured if I could keep it around 8-8:15 I would be doing pretty good.  I started off at a good pace (7:49) and kept a similar pace through the first 5 miles which somewhat scared me as I thought I might be pushing a little too hard.  At mile 6, I came around a corner to a long stretch of road and saw another runner about a quarter mile in front of me.  Of course at that time my goal completely changed to passing that guy :). I kicked it in gear and was able to pass him, also recording my best mile during this run (7:14!).

Now by this time I am really worried about keeping pace and making it through 20 miles.  Not only was I going at a pace faster than what I was used too, but I just used quite a bit of energy to get past the other runner I saw (which was totally worth it by the way!).  Especially since I was just about to hit the hilly part of my run.

As the hills came, I just kept my eyes focused about 10 feet in front of me and tried to keep the same foot turnover that I had been doing (grinding it out).  I just kept thinking, push up the hill and you can rest going down.  I slowed a bit through those hills, but still kept my time right around 8:00/mile. 

After the hills, I just kept the same mentality through the rest of the run.  I made it through 20 miles in 2 hours and 38 minutes and not only beat my 20 mile best of 2 hours and 45 minutes but beat my half marathon best by 1 minute and 51 seconds.  What a great feeling it was when I hadn't been able to hit a pace all week and then really crush it on my long run.  Like I said before, I could really see the training starting to pay off.

This has somewhat changed my goal for The Monumental Marathon.  I had been pushing for an 8:20/mile pace but I am debating about pushing that to 8:00 or below after this weekend.  If I could pull that off I would be ecstatic!  That would be a pretty big improvement over the 8:44 pace I did last year.

I also signed up to be a St. Jude Hero for the Monumental Marathon.  I figured since I am already running, why not put it to good use?  If you are not familiar with St. Jude, they are an organization that helps children with cancer and other diseases.  Please consider donating to this wonderful organization and help me reach my goal!  You can donate or learn more on my personal site for St. Jude -