Tobacco Road Marathon

When I 1st started training for the ATT marathon, I had a goal of 3:15.  (ATT = American Tobacco Trail, which is what I tend to call the marathon, even though that’s not its name!)

I knew 3:15 would be a big stretch for me, but I thought with Lucho coaching me, I might have a chance.  However, throughout training, it seemed like 3:20 was going to be more realistic.  But I never fully gave up on the 1st goal.  Even when, about two weeks out, my legs felt a bit achy and tired on every run, especially when I bumped the speed to under 8:00/mile pace.  And even when, a week out, my lungs started feeling congested and wheezy.  Two days out, and one day out, I was definitely on the upswing.  So what was in store?

I’ve not got a lot of pictures — only the ones Kelly and the kids took of me at mile 19 or so, and at the finish.  But here I am at 19, still looking happy!

mile 19

I came up on Tom, who has an amazing story as a brain cancer survivor.  I was really surprised to see him, as I figured he’d be under 3:15, but there he was.  We didn’t run together long as he was struggling a bit with too fast of a start, but still finished in a BQ time of 3:22.


So, what happened to me?  The splits tell the story…  I put the mile splits from my GPS next to the perfectly even splits of a 3:15, and show the time difference…

Now this isn’t quite fair — the mile splits are from my GPS, which was slightly off.  It showed a total of 26.44 at the end, not 26.2.  But this shows I had a conservative start (negative difference for the 1st few miles).  In fact, I jumped in behind the 1:40 half marathon pace group for the 1st couple of miles — until they split off south on the ATT and the marathoners headed north.    And then the differences pick up, where I’m fairly far ahead of a 3:15 as much as 2.5 minutes!

At the point the half marathoners turn south and the marathoners turn north, it’s a slight downhill — if you can call any rise or fall on the ATT a hill!  As an old railroad bed, it’s never more than 1 or 2% grade max.  But I let gravity pull me along, and even tried to hold back a bit.  I wasn’t wearing a heart rate monitor, but just ran by feel.  And the pace felt solid, but good.  I know come mile 18 or 19 or 20, that pace would no longer feel so good, but it’s at that point when you have to rise and hold it..

I did have the GPS on so I could use that as a pacer, and I steadily saw my average pace go down, down, down.  All the way until about mile 21, when it was 7:18/mile.  And I thought “I’ve got 3:15!  Unless I have an epic collapse!”

I even thought briefly at that time that 3:10 was within reach, but I wisely decided not to push it at all.  In fact, I thought I’d back off a touch, to preserve the 3:15.  But little did I know that the “climb” at mile 22 – 25 would do me in…  It got really hard to hold the pace, but I was doing it!

And then we left the ATT and hit the roads.  And there was this little hill, but this killer head wind. And I had to walk.  Twice!  You can see it in the elevation profile and pace graph below the splits.  And you can see in my splits… I began to really suffer, and the buffer I had built faded oh so quickly…

Mile Split Cumulative 3:15 Marathon Splits Difference
1 0:07:45 0:07:45 0:07:26 -0:00:19
2 0:07:27 0:15:12 0:14:52 -0:00:20
3 0:07:17 0:22:29 0:22:18 -0:00:11
4 0:07:15 0:29:44 0:29:44 0:00:00
5 0:07:04 0:36:48 0:37:11 0:00:23
6 0:07:23 0:44:11 0:44:37 0:00:26
7 0:07:05 0:51:16 0:52:03 0:00:47
8 0:07:16 0:58:32 0:59:29 0:00:57
9 0:07:01 1:05:33 1:06:56 0:01:23
10 0:07:09 1:12:42 1:14:22 0:01:40
11 0:07:12 1:19:54 1:21:48 0:01:54
12 0:07:16 1:27:10 1:29:14 0:02:04
13 0:07:29 1:34:39 1:36:41 0:02:02
14 0:07:28 1:42:07 1:44:07 0:02:00
15 0:07:18 1:49:25 1:51:33 0:02:08
16 0:07:03 1:56:28 1:58:59 0:02:31
17 0:07:20 2:03:48 2:06:26 0:02:38
18 0:07:31 2:11:19 2:13:52 0:02:33
19 0:07:06 2:18:25 2:21:18 0:02:53
20 0:07:42 2:26:07 2:28:44 0:02:37
21 0:07:19 2:33:26 2:36:11 0:02:45
22 0:07:37 2:41:03 2:43:37 0:02:34
23 0:08:04 2:49:07 2:51:03 0:01:56
24 0:08:08 2:57:15 2:58:29 0:01:14
25 0:07:52 3:05:07 3:05:56 0:00:49
26 0:08:31 3:13:38 3:13:22 -0:00:16
27 0:03:07 3:16:45 3:15:03 -0:01:42 26.44 vs 26.2

That last line shows the unfairness of using the Garmin mile splits, which were steadily increasing past exact mileage.  Otherwise it would imply I lost 90s on the last 0.2 miles!

See those two jumps on the blue line?  Just a few seconds of walking…  You can see after I stopped kicking myself for walking I did pick up the pace back to sub 7:30, at least on the downhill, but it was too late…


Ah, it was so good to be done.  The last 2-3 miles, I was hurting.  Not a bonk — nutrition was solid, but I was so tired.


So, was I mentally weak?  Or was the body really done?  I feel I’m strong mentally — when it’s just about keeping going.  Paddle for 38 hours straight?  Sure.  Run 24 hours around a 5k loop? Sure.  But hitting that last 800 on an 10×800 interval session?  That is hard!   Or fighting through the pain and fatigue on mile 25 of a marathon at sub 7:30?  Ugh.  So I will be working on that aspect of my running!

Here are the official numbers.  I’m quite happy with all the placings!official results 2

And official splits:official splits 2

Now I am in no way disappointed with a 3:17.  3:15 was always a big stretch for me.  And yeah, to almost get it, only to fade so quickly — bummer.  But I am happy with 3:17!  An 11 minute PR!  And such a great run for the 1st 2:50 or so.  🙂

(I really did want the cool BQ shirt, though!)

kelly kids

Chi Running. Danny Dreyer.


As most of you know, I have a history of knee problems, though I do seem to be getting better and better.  I am runing faster than anytime in the past 4 years (but still about a minute per mile slower in a 5k than before my knee got really bad).  And I’ve heard good things about the style of running described in Chi Running, so I wanted to read the book.  There is a lot of common sense information here, and I really need to take the time to put it into practice, work on the exercises and the form, before I can say whether this form is going to “fix me.”  Overall my form is not that bad per se, but I have biomechanical deficiencies… Now which came first, I can not say — i.e. did my bio mechanics change to prevent the pain, or did the bio mechanics cause the pain?

Anyway, reading this makes me want to also get the DVD, but even more so sign up for one of the Chi Running workshops.  There are some as close as Raleigh, but since Danny lives in western NC, I may try to get into one he teaches himself in Asheville.

The book is full of philosphy from T’ai Chi that are applied to both running and life.  (Many of the philosphies are similar to Yoga…)  Anyway, here are some such tidbits of information:

It was weird to find a quote fomr Cecil DeMill regarding his film “The 10 Commandments,” but there it was:

It is impossible to break the law ourselves.  We can only break ourselves against the law.

(Here Dreyer was referring to “moving with nature,” not against it.  Or using gravity to propel your running (via a forward lean) rather than the power of your own muscles.)

Relaxation is the absence of unnecessary effort.

A tansition is a conscious pause.  It is a time to take stock of yourself and thing about the run before you are about to begin.  The space before a run is like the pause between breaths.  It’s the thoughtful momemnt that precedes movement, when you set up your intentions of what you’d like to do during your run.  It’s your opportunity to ponder what you’d like to focus on, whether it is pacing, focuses, weak areas of form,….

Our culture offers us little in terms of training us how to live and appreciate life from the inside out.  So much of our focus is on the external that little attention is put on considering what goes on internally…

Q1 Workuout update

Below is my fitness spreadsheet update for Q1…  I still enjoy tracking workouts this way — it keeps me motivated!  🙂

As you can see, it was close, but no cigar.  I always make these “stretch” goals so they will be difficult, but I would like to actually complete every goal one day.   I ended up a lot higher on “other aerobics” and “strength” as I started doing some P90x workouts such as plyometrics, core synergistic, etc…  For hiking I set the goal at 300 before we had planned on an AT trip in March.  When that trip fell through, I still got out for an over nighter where I was able to hike for 30+ miles, thus the large number for hiking.


For my specific goals, the ones in green I completed, the others I did not:


I ran 23:36 on a 5k in mid January (on a treadmill), so I was close and thought that would be an easy one, but I tried a couple of times after that, and never quite made it.  Still a far cry from when I was consistently running 20:00 – 20:30 in 5ks a few years ago (pre knee issues)!  😦

And I only got out to vista point once, when I ran for an hour.

I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I want to do in Q2.  I know I am going to remove the specific targets on push-ups, pull-ups, and squats — a ton of those are part of P90x and I do plan to incorporate more P90X workouts, both cardio and strength/toning.   I am also singed up for The Bear, a 5 mile run up grandfather mountain, in July, so I need to do some running hill work.  And finally we moved the AT hike from March to May, so I should get plenty of hiking in.

Q4 Workout Goals Final Post.

This post is a bit late, but better late than never.  I won’t continue to bore everyone with my workout goals by quarter, but since I had originally posted the idea and spreadsheet here, I thought I should at least post the final numbers.  As you can see, I did pretty well, though fell quite short on yoga.

I hope to improve that in the current quarter!  My new goals have more push ups, no dips (though I will still do them), more running, squats/lunges, I have separated hiking from other aerobic, and things like that.  I  have also added other more concrete goals like run a 23:30 5k on the treadmill (a far cry from a few years ago when I was consistently in the low 20:00’s, but I am slowly getting better), trail run for 1 hour, etc.


Quick update on workout goals

Half way through the quarter and things don’t look too bad for reaching my goals:


I had outlined my goals for this quarter and this tracking spreadsheet here…  The spreadsheet and accountability of posting it helps keep me motivated!

This snapshot was tacken on 11/15, or the mid-way point of the quarter.  I was hoping to be more than 50% done on most goals, because with the Holiday season coming up, I’m not sure I will be able to keep up.  I’m really only significantly behind on the biking goal — and it has gotten really cold here the past few days so that is not likely to change!  I am not a big fan of riding in the cold (though other cold weather workouts like running and hiking are fine)!  But I am only just one decent workout away from getting back on track.

Tracking Goals and Workouts, part II

This is part II…  Find part I here.

At the end of that article, I said I would jump into the pros and cons of my little spreadsheet, so here goes:


  • It is nice to set goals and work towards them.  Goals make it more likely that I won’t skip workouts.
  • The tracking I have set up lets me know exactly where I am in my progress towards the goal, and lets me know how far behind I am (if when I do get behind).
  • I made a “static” goal and an “adjustable” goal, in case I was too aggressive (or not aggressive enough!) in my targets.  For example, just a couple weeks in, and I can tell that the push up goal will be fairly easy to reach, while the running goal may not be.  That will depend on if my knee and hip can handle that amount of running…


  • I am combining push ups, pull ups, and dips into my bodywork/strength column.  So while I have specific strength goals for those three exercises, and an overall time goal for general strength work, I am not tracking a lot of other exercises I do such as squats, or curls, or whatever.   So I will have to be careful not to let the 3 specific exercises dominate my strength training time just to meet those goals.  If I continue this approach over time, I will try to rotate different exercises into to the spreadsheet, or perhaps just add a couple more to get a more rounded list of exercises in there.
  • I can already see that I am going to have to be careful to not let the spreadsheet dictate to me what I should be doing, but let my body dictate — especially in terms of pushing my knee/hip too hard.  The running goal is probably a bit aggressive, so I will have to be careful not to run just because I am behind in my tracking, if my knee does not feel up to it.
  • I typically have one or two big events a quarter — something like a 2 or 3 day back pack trip on the Appalachian trail.  Those are going to be a little hard to fit into this model, but I will figure something out.

No matter what, I am still having fun with this method, and that is a good thing.  As long as I am having fun, I am more likely to keep at it.