The Lows of Running

Posted in Article, Running with tags , , , , , on December 17, 2010 by charlie207

Recently, I came through a month-long running lull, a “low” if you will.  Nothing was physically wrong with me and I didn’t even perform that poorly, in fact, I had some great runs.  I just had a bad attitude and I really had no idea why.  I’ve experienced these lows in the past and sometimes they have claimed victory over me to the point that I didn’t go on a planned run for no other reason than I didn’t feel like it.  Of course, in my mind, I made excuses as to why I could justify skipping the run.  However, that’s all they were, excuses, or as I like to refer to them, pure BS.

I’m sure many runners out there have experienced these lows and I was curious how they come about and if they are avoidable.  Is it just human nature to start questioning doing something that you don’t “have” to do?  I mean really, how many people do you know that don’t run and they seem perfectly happy, right?  They don’t have this desire and need to take a perfectly good hour or more out of their day and go do something that doesn’t come naturally to them.  Why can’t I just be like that?  Am I really going to run 30 miles a week for the rest of my life?  These are all questions I start asking myself when I’m in a low.

The questions have no purpose other than to give me some kind of justification for not running.  I’ve spent a lot of runs lately trying to get to the bottom of these lows and developing strategies to avoid them.  I tried to tap into that place that I’m in now, where every run is a blessing and I can’t wait to get to the next one.  These strategies might not apply to every runner because your mental state of mind is very unique.  So the first step into mental recovery is to recognize what is causing the mental breakdown.

The first thing I came to realize is that I needed to do some  serious analyzing and the place I do this best is on a run.  I recommend a long, slow run and just let go of all other issues and focus on the last few runs and try to remember when was your last great run.  Then work forward from there.  Did something happen in your life?  Did you have a bad day at work?  In my case, it almost always hinges on how well I’m eating.  I have to admit I have a little obsession with how well I’m eating and if I’m not eating well, there are a lot of bad results.  This last low was probably set in motion by events surrounding Halloween, which included a trip home and lots of chocolate.

I had spent over a month focusing on eating well and getting to a certain “goal” weight.  I had come within 2.5 pounds of my goal and it had been very hard work.  All of a sudden, 2.5 pounds seemed like 25 pounds.  I have no idea why.  Maybe it was all the candy surrounding me that I was forcing myself not to eat.  Maybe it was a fear of reaching my goal weight and not knowing what I would do once  I reached it (I’ve yo yoed several times in my life).  Something just happened and I seemed to give up.  I gained about 8 pounds in a couple of weeks and was a real wreck mentally.  Instead of isolating the mental mess to the dinner table, it seeped into other aspects of my life including my running.  Suddenly it wasn’t as fun and the questions and justifications started weighing in on me.  Fortunately, I’ve gone through this same situation seemingly thousands of times before in my life and started applying my experience and was able to snap out of the drudgery.

Second, tap into your running community.  No matter how big or small it is, your running community is a key to re-discovering the love of running.  They know what you’re going through and they can help you.  If there is one thing I like as much as running, it’s talking about running and listening to others talk about it.  A race report from a friend, a funny story about one of their runs or even some tips shared back and forth through a running forum may be just the thing you need to get your mental state of mind back in check.  So often people like me, who run alone and don’t have a running spouse, shut out our running friends.  Often not on purpose, it just happens.  You get busy with life and suddenly you’re on an island where you’re the only runner and that is when you start questioning if all the hassles of running everyday are worth the efforts.  Well, they are and you need someone to remind you of that.

Third, get out of that routine.  I have a very set routine to my running schedule.  I’ve employed it for a couple of years and it can become quite repetitive.  I try to spice it up occasionally, but generally it’s the same week in and week out.  I became very aware of this when I started having issues with my Garmin Forerunner, which tracks my runs.  I realized that I probably could live  without the info because I do the same runs day in and day out and I could just fix the issues on the online calendar I keep.  It struck me that I might be bored with the routine.  So I told myself to just ignore the routine for a bit, which was hard for me because there is certain comfort in the routine.  I know what to expect, my family knows what to expect.  I did some different length runs and even ran on the treadmill once.  I ran without my Forerunner and just ran for the joy of running.  The little tweak of variety was a huge key in my mental recovery.

Finally, there is no better way to re-discover your love of running than to share your love of running with new runners.  This happened to me quite by accident because I had a friend that was wanting to start running again and she came to me for advice.  I’m not sure she was quite ready for the deluge of information I poured on her, but it was all quite therapeutic for me.   Knowing that someone else is just starting to experience that same love you have for this sport has great healing qualities.  So seek out new runners, at running clubs or try to convince someone who asks you about running to give it a try.  There’s no enthusiasm quite like fresh enthusiasm and a great way to experience it time and time again is to inspire and help others.

The reasons for dipping into a running low are numerous, but if you employ one of or all of the above tactics, I’m sure you will find the love of running come gushing back.  Before you know it, you’ll be itching to get back onto the road and running as much as possible.  Let me know if you have other tactics you use to break out your lows.  It doesn’t even have to be a running low…everyone that tries to maintain a healthy lifestyle with diet and exercise experiences these lows and I’d love to hear how you manage them!


Garmin Connect – Activity Details for Fort Vancouver 15k.

Posted in Long Run, Reports, Running with tags , , on March 29, 2010 by charlie207

Garmin Connect – Activity Details for Fort Vancouver 15k..

This was my first race in a long time and a spur of the moment decision to run the 15k distance (thanks Cindi).    I really enjoyed this race and was happy with the results.  I ran it in an official 8:23 minute/mile pace (my garmin apparently is a little off).  I was planning for a 9 minute mile pace and my body was telling me I could do much better on race day so  I listened and went for it.

Everything fell together perfectly.  Overcast day, not to hot or cold with the rain stopping long enough to complete the race.  Beautiful course mostly situated along Columbia River Waterfront  and great Sponsors (Fred Meyer, The Rock Pizza and Jamba Juice).  It seemed well organized for a second year event.  I’m worried that next year will have a  lot more runners as most of what I heard was positive and word of mouth is the best advertisement for races.

I then ran in the kids 1k which started after all the adults finished.  That was the one negative about the day.  We had to wait about 40 minutes longer than scheduled to start the kids because they wanted to get all the adults finished from the 5, 1o and 15k races.  Jeffrey seemed to have fun, though he was surprised by how long the race actually was and he has real issues with pacing 🙂  It’s either sprinting or walking with him.  Hopefully, he’ll want to run others in the future.  Ethan really wanted to run so  I think I’ll take him on the next one.

I finished 3rd in my age group, but I also finished  last in my age group.  Funny.  I have a 3rd place/last place bronze medal to show for it and I will wear it with pride (those two other guys are really fast plus I was the oldest in my age group).

Seattle Rock and Roll Marathon Race Report

Posted in Long Run, Reports with tags , , on July 12, 2009 by charlie207

Late is better than never…right?  Truthfully, I was very disappointed with my race and I have really dreaded doing this race report.  I tried to get all goals out of my head due to the injury issues I had before the race, but when face with the awful truth…I was upset.  I’ve gone over the race in my mind several times and I just don’t think I did myself any favors.  I will list them right off the bat just so I can get them over with and move on to the actual race report.

1.  Taking my video camera.  I was playing cheer leader and using a lot of energy to get people pumped up for the camera.  I was running a lot of extra distance by crossing the road, dodging other runners and putting strain on my legs to get in “good” position to film bands or cheerleaders.  I wasn’t watching the road and actually tripped and fell once.  I was running in an ackward position by carrying the camera.  All that just to get some marginal footage at best.  It was choppy and really hard to follow.  That will be my last time filming a race. 

2. Wearing my fuel belt.  I ended up losing most of my water bottles and there was more than enough liquid along the race course.  It was nice to have my phone, but there are easier ways to carry a phone.  It was sliding around on me and just generally getting in the way.  It also makes for bad pictures.  Just uncomfortable and added unneccesary weight and bulk.

3. Eating too late and too much.   By the time my wife and I got to eat, it was already about 6:30 at night and we went to Olive Garden.  Despite my better judgement, I ate quite a bit and that haunted me in the race as I had to make a pit stop on I-90.  I then walked around the mall a couple of times before going to the motel to try to get some sleep (which proved difficult next to the elevator).

So there are the mistakes.  Live and learn.  Not that any of them are surprising, but I didn’t think it would take such a high toll.

I didn’t really have a good feeling about the race from the start.  I couldn’t go to the bathroom, which meant I probably would have to on the course at some point considering the meal I ate the night before.  Also, it was pretty warm from the start.  I was in my running outfit…shirt and shorts and I was not cold at all, which is a bad sign at 6 in the morning.  Then as I lined up I noticed my heart rate was already at 85 beats per minute.  My normal resting rate in about 50 BPM so I knew I was in trouble just due to adrenaline.  Then as the countdown began…it went up to 110 BPM.

I was in the 9th corral so I started about 10 minutes after the official start of the race.  I started out pretty well.  I did have to pee again almost immediately so that sucked.  I kept a pretty conservative pace and did not go too fast.  I felt pretty good so I skipped a few of my walk breaks because I thought I might be able to make a run at 4 hours.  I mamanaged to keep on pace for a four hour marathong for about nine miles and then the Olive Garden struck with vengeance and on the I-90 bridge no less.  I had to make a pit stop for about 7 minutes.

I then got back on the road and was encouraged when I passed a 4:15 pace group, but they probably started in a later corral.  I was still feeling pretty good at this point.  My heart rate was a little high and that was discouraging.  I then noticed that my half split time was about 2:11, which was very discouraging and, the way I was feeling, a realization that I was not going to make 4 hours.  There was no way I could make up that 11 minutes considering the flat part of the race was over and the hills were looming.

I think I was beat up pretty badly in the I-90 tunnel, which has a pretty steep bank in it and the uneven running took a toll on my legs.  I wished I was like some people who ran on the sidewalk to avoid the bank, but I thought the concrete of the sidewalk was an equalizer.  I then entered downtown Seattle, which I was looking forward to for some time.  There were large crowds and a lot of cheering. 

At about the 14th mile, I was filming a band and not paying attention to the road.  I thought it was a smooth road, but then I forgot it was a city road.  I hit a lip in the road and totally hit the deck.  Fortunately, I have a lot of experience in falling on my butt so I rolled into the fall like an expert.  I scraped up my elbows a little and my gps gauged my wrist a bit, but the was no other damage.  That really marked the end of the “fun” part of the race. 

About a half a mile later I notice my right calf seemed tight…like it was about to start cramping.  I don’t know why I always cramp during runs and I really don’t know why I did in this race.  I drank plenty of water.  Stretched well.  It was hot, I fell, the video camera there were all kinds of possabilities and I still don’t know why and it bothers me.  Probably a combination, but there I was cramping at just over halfway in and the huge hills loomed in front of me.

At mile 16 or 17 a mile long hill kicked my butt.  Followed by a calf-wrenching down hill stretch and then another gut wrenching up-hill and then a long stretch where you can see 3 miles in front of you and it looks like forever and you can still see people running.  I was downtown Seattle and the turn around was the West Seattle Bridge and it looked so far away that I just could not picture myself running that far.  You don’t realize how far 3 miles is until you can see the entire 3 miles stretched in front of you.

I had to keep stopping to stretch and every time I stopped my toe would curl up under my foot and I would have to stretch it out.  Then at mile 24 my toe curled under my foot and I could not get it straightened out.  I was standing there trying to get it stretched out, but my foot and brain were not on the same wave length.  I could not think clearly enough to take my shoe off and straighten it out with my hand so I waved down a medic who was passing by on a bike.  He was great.  He told me to take my shoe off and then he had me do some stretching and it was like he unlocked another 5 miles from my calf.  I took off and was able to run at about 9:10 pace and felt wonderful.  That lasted about .75 miles.

At mile 25, right before the last hill, I noticed a guy bent over the on ramp and he was not doing well.  Someone had stopped and was asking him if he knew where he was…he didn’t and then he started dry heaving.  I was filming so I caught a little of the “lows” of a marathon on video.  Then you can hear a woman telling her running partner that she will start running at the 50k mark, which is well beyond a marathon (about 31 miles).  I thought that was funny and told them I would start running in July (we were all walking).  Then I had a moment where I could not remember if it was June or July.  It took me a minute to work it out and finally had to remember the start date of the race and then figured it was probably still June, though I seriously thought it could have been a day later.

The end of this marathon is pretty great.  You get to run down the off-ramp of the via-duct to 1st avenue and then right past Quest Field to the finish.  It’s very narrow and filled with screaming encouragement.  I crossed the finish line and the timere read 4:40 something so I figured I finished around 4:30.  My GPS was not accurate because we ran through several tunnels and I had not turned off the auto-pause feature so it was not a reliable source so I had to wait for the official results to post.  It was 4:36:59 a pr but only my second marathon.  

As I analyzed it, I thought I made  a lot of silly errors and was not as careful as I should have been.   In truth, I had fun for the first half and then it was just pure determination to get through to the end.  I’m glad I ran the race and I learned a lot from it, but I want to do another just to see if I can improve and get, at least, to the 4:15 mark.  I think if all goes well I could post a sub-four hour time.  Maybe not.  I think I have to lose at least 20 more pounds for that to be a reality.  But I ran a ten miler at 8:19 pace at one time earlier this year so I have to think it can be done.

The race itself was well-organized.  It was a little hard for spectators to watch and there were long stretched towards the end of the race where there were no spectators at all as it was on highway 99 and closed off to traffic.  I have to say the oranges at the end of the race were heaven sent and I could have ate about 20 of them. 

I have a lot of thanks to pass out.  The biggest go to my mother-in-law, Joyce, who watched the kids on most of my runs.  I could not have done it without her.  My wife for putting up with all the running.  It takes a lot of time and effort and that takes away from “family” time so my two boys for sure deserve some thanks.  I also have to thank a co-worker who turned in some of her vacation so I could take the time off to run this race, so thanks Stephanie.

Also the people who ran with me…the podcasters:  2 Guys, 1 Brain, Running in the Center of the Universe (Dave you’re awesome and a total inspiration…congrats on the Strolling Jim BTW), Running with the Pack and, of course, Running Stupid for all the humor and reminders that there is nothing wrong with running at the back of the pack.  I don’t know how you all do a podcast on top of your busy lives and schedules but I’m grateful for them and will keep tuning in…thank you!

Pre-Race Report

Posted in Reports with tags , , , on June 26, 2009 by charlie207

It’s finally here!  It seems like it’s been a long time coming.  When you don’t run many marathons, it seems like such a long wait to race day.  I don’t think waiting for anything else really compares.  You don’t have to practice packing and traveling when you are waiting to go on a vacation.  You don’t have to get your hugs in perfect condition while you’re waiting for a loved one to return.  The marathon, however, requires a very active waiting period.  Nearly every day you have to think about it and worry about it and train for it.  At the beginning, the event seems so far away and the effort is so great that it hardly seems worthwhile.  Then by the end, you have put in so much effort and are in such great shape that you really don’t want the event to end.  The days will seem empty without the big goal looming in front of you and no schedule saying, “run this far today or else…”

I’d better move on or post-race depression may set in early.  I have been training as scheduled.  I just have too much else going on to really concentrate on the blog right now.  Besides, I’ve been tapering and all my runs are pretty much the same…shorter and shorter, slower and slower.  I think I only ran about 13 miles total this week.  Typical of all taperings, it has left me questioning whether I’ve done enough to prepare for the run. 

So, how do I feel?  Physically, I’m not perfect.  My ankle seems 100% or a least 95%.  My left knee seems to have some stiffness or something going on, but I think it’s a result of a tight muscle in my back.  It’s one of those things that affects my entire left leg.  When I hit the affected muscle, my leg kind of tingles and everything is temporarily better.  So I don’t think that will affect my running and the muscle tends to loosen up while I run.  I’m a little sore because I helped my neighbor move a chicken coup into his back yard…long story, but essentially we had to lift the entire coup over his fence because it was pre-build and would not fit through his gate.  I probably should have opted out of that exercise, but it’s my neighbor and maybe I’ll get some fresh eggs out of the deal. 🙂  Overall, I’m in pretty good shape and should be able to run without breaking down.

Mentally, I’m nervous.  I can’t decide if I want to try and go for four hours or just lay back and take it easy.  I’m a little uneasy without having a solid plan and I probably won’t make up my mind until well within the marathon.  I’m going to start out with about a 9:20 pace and see how I feel.  I will probably have to get to 4 hour pace (9:15) by mile 3 if I’m going to make a run at it.  There are some pretty good hills in the middle stages and I would love to be ahead of the game before I get to them.  If I can get to 9:10 or better by the 6th mile, I should have a pretty good shot at it.  I’ll have to keep track of my heart rate.  In the first half, anything over 160 will require me to back off a bit.  I’m hoping the walk breaks will be helpful, but I’m also worried about them slowing me down.  I’m not going to be disappointed with a slower time, though.  I do want to beat my last marathon, which was 5 hours.  Not beating that time would piss me off.

I have been drinking tons of water and carb loading the last couple of days.  I should be well hydrated and full of energy.  I’m going to have a pretty bland diet today so hopefully there will be no stomach issues.   My nerves will be bad enough.  I don’t need other issues piling on top of that.   I also have been getting a lot of sleep lately so that will help.  I had to get up early today, but hopefully that will inspire me to get to bed by 9 p.m. tonight.  I’m planning on waking at 5 am and then getting to the race site around 6 am.  I will probably down a banana and half a bagel right when I wake up and then just try to relax and get in tune with my body.

Stay tuned as I will try to get a race report up within a day or two.  I will be posting my forerunner info on Facebook as soon as I get home.  There will be a link and you can see the route I ran and see all the info my watch gives me.  It’s pretty cool.  Thank you to everyone supporting me and to everyone taking time to read this.  We’ll talk again in a few days!

3 Mile Runs on 6/11/09, 06/12/09 and 6/13/09

Posted in 3 Mile Run, Running with tags , , , on June 13, 2009 by charlie207

Hello all.  I’ve had a pretty stressful week at work and I’ve fallen behind on this so I’m going to combine my three work week runs into one post.  I think I’m the only person upset about this, but I don’t want to fall any further behind and I have to go to bed soon.

My first run on the 11th was an untimed run because I forgot Ramblin’ Red (my GPS).  I don’t really remember it because that was the day that things got very complicated at work and I kind of forgot everything about that day before the incident.  I do remember that I was not concerned about time at all and that I finished a lot faster than I thought I would have.  I usually am a little late back from the run to work, but I was early that day.  I remember thinking that my ankle felt pretty good, but that I was still pretty sore from my 14 miler a couple days prior.

Then, my second run and my third run were combined on my GPS because I forgot to reset it after the second run.  So when I list the stats, it will look like one 6 miler but it’s actually two 3 milers.  It’s been that kind of week folks and I’m a little beyond caring at this point.


Once again, an unmemorable run.  I took it easy and just went with the flow.  I know I had to stop for a bathroom emergency so it was a bit interrupted.  Hmm, can’t think of anything else.


Today was a nice weekend run.  I like running on the weekend because there is no one in the locker room and I can relax and gather my thoughts before going out to run.  I took it easy because I was planning on going to the track to run after work.  As it turned out, I did not got to the track because my ankle was a little tender (nothing like last week or even close to three weeks ago).  I don’t want to push it at all, though because the marathon is so close. 

I had a lot of energy left for my run so that was nice.  I only have a 12, 5, 7,  a couple 3’s and a couple more 5 to 6 mile runs.  Pretty much done with the training and ready to go.  I’m so happy that race day is coming.  I really want to enjoy this marathon.  I’m not worried about the distance at all (probably because I did away with my time goal) and I’m looking forward to this race.  It’s going to be so fun and I can hardly wait to get it going.  It’s like my big summer vacation or something and I really want to enjoy the entire experience.  Much different that how I felt about Portland 6 years ago.  It’s interesting.

Anyhow, here are my stats from the final to runs:

  • 6.41 Miles
  • 55:33
  • 8:40 Pace
  • 1145 Calories
  • 154 BPM

14 Mile Run on 6/9/09

Posted in Long Run, Running with tags , , , , on June 9, 2009 by charlie207

Bring on the taper!  I have finished all but one long run.  Next week I will run 10-12 and I will be officially ready to run 26.2.  I’m not sure how I feel right now.  I’m proud of getting through the training, but I’m upset that I’m probably not going to get in under 4 hours.  As I start to analyze my training, I have realized that there were some things I could have done a lot better.  That’s for a later blog entry however.

I was nervous about today’s run because I forgot my hat and I forgot to take some Ibuprofen at the beginning of it.  I needed the hat too because it was sunny today and I ended up with a bit of a burn on the forehead.  I really should put on sun block as I get older.  It just seems like it would make for some discomfort while sweating.  Anyway, I was not fully prepared.  My ankle hurt for a bit at the beginning of the run then I settled in and didn’t even notice it for the last part of my run.   It makes me wonder if I should even take Ibuprofen before the race.  There’s the benefit of less pain, but I think it makes my stomach upset.  I’ll have to see how much pain my ankle is in over the next few runs and make a decision.

I ran a bit faster today than I planned.  I felt I could push it a bit, though because I felt so good.  I really was happy with how I felt so I decided to work on some conditioning.  I know I’m tapering right now and not suppose to be working on conditioning, but I felt I could use it with the lack of running over the last month.  Today was  the first time that I felt like I was actually starting to get back to where I was condition wise.  That made me happy so I tested the legs a bit and they responded well.  I’m still nowhere near the magical 9:15 which is where I should be to break 4 hours.

I used the run 9 walk 1 minute method today.  It really doesn’t feel right to start walking in the middle of a run.  It feels good, though and give me something to look forward to.  It usually is effective in dropping my heart rate down at least 9 – 10 beats per minute.  I hate feeling like I’m losing time, though.  I will use this in the marathon.  If I’m feeling good in the last third and making a run at 4 hours, I might drop it and go for the goal. 

There are so many things to think about. 

I got in some good warm weather running today.  I was hot, but my body really reacted well to the heat.  I think I’m starting to acclimate to it, which will help on race day.  I really hope it doesn’t get above 70 before I end the race.  I’m sure my wife has a different opinion as a spectator, but it all about me…right?  No?  That’s alright, I’m used to it.

I finished my run in a decent time and then went and pushed my 3-year-old around the crowed zoo today.  I then came home and played some kick ball with the six-year-old.  I was on my feet pretty much the entire day.  My feet are really not impressed about this right now so just sitting here typing feels pretty good.  I don’t really have much to add, though so I’d better throw out the stats:

  • 14.04 Miles
  • 2:15:05
  • 9:37 Pace
  • 2408 Calories
  • 158 BPM

4 Mile Run on 6/8/09

Posted in 4 Mile Run, Running with tags , , , on June 8, 2009 by charlie207

I wanted to go for a 5 or 6 mile run today but we had some car work to do (we is my dad and I…mostly my dad) so I cut it to 4 miles.  My legs were pretty sore anyway so I didn’t want to overdo it on the night before my long run.  I’m planning on 12 to 14 tomorrow.

I went out and felt pretty good so I decided to push the pace.  I ran a little faster to try and get some of my conditioning back.  My heart rate was pretty high for most of the run.  I went around the neighborhood so that introduced me to some hills again.  The hills really got my heart rate up so that was nice.  I really slowed down my pace during the second half of the run as one of the steeper hills took quite a bit of energy out of me. 

I did not employ the run/walk method on this run as it was only 4 miles.  I will definantly use it for the long run.  I’m curious about how my body will respond as I’m pretty sore in the upper legs.  I want to get in plenty of water today as I think that is raising my heart rate with the added heat of summer.  I can really start to count down the days to the marathon now…19 days.   I found out that there are going to be 44 bands along the course as well as several cheer squads (cheer leaders competing for prizes) so there should be plenty of entertainment.  I am really considering running with a video camera.  Not sure of the logistics of it but it would be a nice memory.

Here are the stats:

  • 4.03 Miles
  • 34:29
  • 8:33 Pace
  • 708 Calories
  • 168 BPM