My adventure of a lifetime: The 32nd Marathon des Sables (2017)

The 32nd Marathon des Sables (MDS) was an incredible lifetime experience.  My friends and I trekked, marched, and sometimes ran 237 km over 6 days, across the Moroccan Sahara Desert.  MDS is a self-sufficient race where all entrants are required to carry their provisions in a backpack during the race (meals, clothes, trekking poles, required kit composing of compass, knife, anti-venom pump, lighter, sleeping bag etc).   The backpack has to weigh between 6.5 kg (minimum) to 15 kg (maximum).   The only provisions provided by the race organizers were water and a tent and facilities for extended bathroom breaks.

Picture 1: The start line for each stage at MDS

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My friend Danni Suskin (we met at Comrades 2014 and 2015) encouraged me to do this race with him.  During the journey of getting ready for MDS, I met Steve Holder, and also got acquainted with Penny Boettiger, and Graham Dance. I  also got introduced to the Bristol Convocations Running Club (BCRC); an incredible group that Danni and Steve are part of.  During the course of the training, Danni, Steve and I met up in Nashville to run the 2016 St Jude Rock’n’Roll Half/Full Marathon.  Danni and I also did one-week training together in Atlanta in preparation for the race, including four back-to-back runs with a heavy back pack.

Coach Lindsey Parry (Comrades official coach) guided me through the training process.  His help proved valuable during times of despair.  Training with a backpack was tough, and I hurt my back several times during the process.

Fast forward towards race preparation and the race itself 🙂

D-day minus 2 weeks

After months of a pipe dream of getting my back pack down to 6.5kg, I finally accept that I will be at 10 kg, of which 5.8 kg are my meals.  Later at the weigh session in MDS, after attaching other required items (GPS transponder, water bottles, etc), I am closer to 11 kg.  In training, I ran/walked with no more than 7 kg.

Picture 2: My gear

D-day minus 3 days

Danni, Penny and I meet in Marrakech and take the shuttle to Ouarzazate (pronounce Warzazat); 5 hour bus ride with other participants. There we meet our other tent mates -Nancy, Krista, and Mike- and father and son duo (Matt and Calvin).  We spend the night in Ouarzazate, where we meet up with Justin Brewer, our other tent mate.   We took buses the next day over to our race-site biouvac , which is 6 hours away from Ouarzazate.

Morocco is such a scenic country.  We see a lot of greenery and mountains along the way.

Picture 3: On our way to Ouarzazate

Picture 4: Penny, myself, Justin and Danni on the way to the biouvac.  This is the last known picture of us looking spic and span before the race.IMG_1216.jpg

D-day minus 2 days

We arrived at the Biouvac and get situated in our tents.  Below are pictures of our mobile home for the next 8 days.

Picture 5: Tent #165 ( aka the coolest tent in town)

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Picture 6: The biouvac with participant tents.  The black tents were for participants.  White tents were for volunteers, medical and email facilities

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Picture 7: Below is our mobile toilet for extended bathroom breaks.  Special thanks to Kia motors for providing a translucent cover.  The trash can outside is for……..(you get the point).  The rest of the grounds are for quick bathroom breaks, when needed.

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During the two days prior to the race, the MDS organization; from the Race Director Patrick Bauer and the wonderful volunteers; welcomed us, and fed us a magnificent lunch and dinner.  We were now getting comfortable and complete the check-in process. Our bags are weighed, our EKGs are thoroughly checked by the medical staff, and our pictures are taken.  It is at this point, we start being self sufficient on the race, depending on our meals and supplies.  Water will be provided every morning.

Picture 8: Graham and Steve paying Danni and myself a visit prior to the race start

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D-day- Stage 1: 30.3 km
(10 hr time limit to complete)

Tent 165 wakes up to a freezing morning.  The desert is a cold climate in the morning and gets hot by mid morning (120 – 140°F).  This cycle repeats itself every morning.  The general routine is for the Berber volunteers to dismantle our tents in the morning, and we get dressed for the morning adventure:

Picture 9: Tents getting dismantled in the morning

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Picture 10: Tent #165 getting ready to kick some butt….I mean some sand!

From left to right: Danni, myself (Hari), Patrick (19 time finisher), Krista, Penny, Mike, Nancy, and Justin.  We are just looking dapper and can’t wait to tackle the day

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As is the routine everyday, the race director, Patrick Bauer, gives a speech welcoming all the runners, giving an overview of the day ahead, and also announcing the birthdays.  He starts of each daily stage with AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell”.  How appropriate!  At least the weather feels like Hell.  The experience however of trekking in the desert is awesome.

Picture 11: Patrick Bauer and his English translator on top of the Land Rover giving details of the day ahead.  We even get a demonstration on this day on how to use the loo, from Patrick himself (fully clothed of course).  The translator at some point is embarrassed to translate, but we got the point.  We all have a good laugh!

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Picture 12: Yours truly feeling awesome on the first day.  It really can’t be this bad, can it??? Hmmmmm!!!!  Let’s see how I feel at the end of the day.

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Day 1 goes smooth.  Moving with 11 kg on my back and using the walking poles was taking some getting used to.  I spend most of the time with Danni and Justin.  We took it easy.  We had been forewarned not to exert ourselves, as Day 2 was supposed to be much harder.  We finished strong, happy and content.  It got hot during the day.  It is so hot, that I can hardly felt any sweating.  The evaporation was so rapid in the dry hot environment.  We finished in a little over 6 hours.

The MDS volunteers have checkpoints along the way to stock on water, and to rest.  Medical Teams are at the different checkpoints to assist any runners in need.  Never during the race, did I feel helpless.  There are volunteers in their Land Rovers across the course and 2 helicopters overhead to address any medical emergencies.

Day 2 – Stage 2: 39 km
(11:30 hrs maximum time to complete)

This is the supposed to be a tough day, and it definitely lives up to its reputation.  It felt unusually warmer than Day 1.  I employed my poles very frequently on this stage.  We traversed so many areas of sand.  In the last third of the course, we climbed a rocky mountain peak, which took forever to peak.  With the incredible heat of the day (someone later says it hit 140°F that day, however I have no way of proving it), I took several breaks.  My nose started bleeding.  According to the Strava/Garmin maps, we ascend from a 2300 ft elevation going up to 3100 ft.

We got a consolation prize of descending on the other side of the peak, which is a mighty sand dune.  Nothing felt more awesome than descending down a 1000 ft of sand.

Picture 13: Descending a massive sand dune

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After talking a 15 minute break at the last checkpoint, I proceeded to walk 4km to the biouvac.  I was so happy to have made it through Day 2.  It took me close to 10hrs to finish this stage.

Day 3 – Stage 3: 31.6 km
(10.5 hrs maximum time to complete)

I felt little better today.  Justin, Danni and I went out together.  We was thinking that this stage is going to be easier than Day 2.  But Patrick Bauer had other plans for us.  We climbed and descended 4 major peaks.

We saw one of the major peaks in the distance, and I jokingly told Justin, that we will climbing up to the top of the peak.  Justin said, “no way.  I don’t think so”.  So of course were aghast when we discovered that we had to climb all the way to the top in the heat.  At this point, I was thinking to myself, “where did it say we had to include mountain climbing as part of our training?”  Thankfully all of us made it to the top.  I took a little over 7hrs to complete this stage.

All of us now were thinking about the long stage tomorrow.  We went to bed early , so that we can wake up early.  The long stage would start early.

Day 4 – Stage 4: Long stage of 86.2 km
(35 hrs maximum to complete)

Justin, Danni, and I started out together.  We thought that today’s course should be easier, given the distance.  After all we got through day 2 and day 3 with all the mountain peaks.  Tough luck with that thought process.  We had several sand dunes that we climbed, and the course was mostly sand dunes and not the rocky hard surfaces that we read from previous blogs.  Walking on these sand dunes zapped every ounce of energy from my body.  Although theoretically my backpack was lighter, it did not feel that way.  As I climbed every dune, I could feel my shoulders hurting.  I was getting irritated with the poles, but found them quite useful when trying to push myself up the dunes.

The elites started a few hours after we did, and caught up with us in no time.  It was amazing to watch Rachid el Morabity (overall winner) and Elisabet Barnes (1st female) charge up the slopes in the heat.  This was one of the two times I saw them on the course.

The 3 of us get separated along the way and eventually grouped together in the evening.  We have been on our feet for 12 hours and were miserable and tired, but still found the energy to crack an occasional joke.  As night time approached, we were given glow sticks to attach to our bags, and we turned on our headlamps.

The three of us walked hours and miles through the energy zapping sand dunes, taking occasional 5 minutes breaks in the night.  I don’t think I would have made it without the company of Danni and Justin.  At the 4th checkpoint, we stopped to have dinner. Justin was gracious in getting hot water ready for our freeze dried meals.  At the 5th checkpoint, we stopped for tea, which is quite refreshing.  I am touched by how helpful the MDS volunteers are.  They ask us about how we are feeling, and take note of our physical condition.  I can’t help feeling how tired they must be, standing around the whole day.

We pushed off and trek another 9km towards the 6th checkpoint.  The Sahara at night is so beautiful with the full moon.  We see several large beetles in the sand.  Occasionally we see runners sleeping on the desert floor.  By this time, I asked Danni and Justin that we sleep for 20 minutes at the next checkpoint.  By now have been on our feet for about 19 hours and were are getting delirious.  We finally make it to Checkpoint 6 and collapsed in a tent for a 30 minute nap.  I started thinking about what possessed me to sign up for this event.  Prior to falling asleep, I wondered if I would ever sign up for a 100 mile race in the future (I am still wondering the same as I write this race report ……….)

We get up, I felt somewhat refreshed with a 30 minute nap, and we all decided to push off to the finish line which is about a half marathon (21.1 km) away.

We finally get through the Checkpoint 7 (last checkpoint), rest and spend the last 10km getting to the biouvac.  I could see the biouvac from 5km away.  It is the longest 5km in my life.  I mentally “thank” Patrick for making the statement of “so near and yet so far”, a glaring reality in MDS, especially when it comes to where the biouvacs and finish line are visible from miles away……..

We were so happy to complete the long stage in a little less than 26 hours.  What a long day and night!   It is quite hot when we finished, and we ended up taking an afternoon nap to recover.

Picture 14: Justin, myself and Danni walking past a village fresh in the morning

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Picture 15: Danni, Justin and myself during the night on the long stage

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Stage 5 – Marathon Stage: 42.2 km
(12 hrs maximum to complete): Medal awarded after this stage

At about this time, all of us in the tent couldn’t wait for the MDS event to be over.  After several days of wearing the same clothes, without a shower, we couldn’t stand the smell of ourselves.  This was a good thing, as you could not smell anyone else 🙂

I had gotten through the race with hardly any blisters on my feet (thank you to MyRacekit gaiters and gurney goo), however I was chafing so badly between my legs.  I  was waddling like a penguin by this time.  I should have gone to the medical tent, which I eventually did after this stage.

I started off the stage walking with Ed Mafoud, who was in the next tent.  We spent a couple of hours talking with each other.  I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with Ed.  I mostly walked this staged quite slowly. I was tired and chafed badly.  Two and a half miles away from the finish, I got a second wind, and decided to run into the finish line.  This was probably the only time on the course that I ran and what a pleasure it was to run right to the finish line.

Picture 16: Last section of stage 5

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I was greeted by Patrick Bauer (and so was every finisher) with a hug, a kiss on the forehead and cheek, and a congratulatory message on accomplishing the Marathon des Sables race.  Patrick then proceeded to put the medal around my neck!

Picture 17: The coveted 32nd MDS medal!

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I went to the medical tent to get my chafed legs taken care off!  After 45 minutes of work, I was good to go, with a nice big bandage on each thigh.

All of us were very happy to complete the 32nd Marathon des Sables!  We only had the 7.7km charity stage left the next day.

Picture 18: Below is a picture of Danni, Steve and I celebrating with a beer that night.  It was so good to have a cold one.  We also went to cheer on the last finishers of the MDS. (It was a custom to cheer on the last finishers of each stage.  All of us felt emotional watching the last participants come through)

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Last stage – Charity stage: 7.7 km

What a relief!  We made it.  After 6 days of wearing the same shirt, the organizers gave everyone a yellow t-shirt to wear.  We all walked together across the beautiful sand dunes.  Below are some pictures of the dunes

Picture 19: Undisturbed sand dunes – not for long though

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Picture 20: Walking on top of the dunes

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Picture 21 and 22: Camels waiting on tourists to descend from the dunes

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Picture 23: My shoes have taken a beating from the rocks and sand!  The lugs are loose and some of rubber melted

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We made it to the finish line and then got on to buses on the 6hr ride back to Ouarzazate.

Picture 24: Danni and I on the bus back to Ouarzazate.  We both are sporting thick beards

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Picture 25: Clean shaven 7 hrs later!  So happy to be done. Wait, I already said this!

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Picture 26: Picture with Lahcen Ahansal; 10-time winner of Marathon des Sables

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In  conclusion, what an amazing experience MDS was!

I don’t think I have been more happy to complete a race.  I consider the Marathon des Sables to be more of an adventure requiring survival skills, rather than aiming for a specific finish time.  There are many variables to control when participating in a multi-stage event- nutrition, hydration, pain/blister management, heat acclimation, and then being able to do this day after day after day after day after day after day.

I had the opportunity to see several amazing people on the course, who had a much more challenging set of circumstances to overcome in the race.  I was fortunate to see Duncan Slater (British veteran and double amputee) from England during the race and also the award ceremony.  Duncan lost his legs in Afghanistan, and completed MDS on his second attempt.  I saw a blind runner and also a runner with no arms, participating in the race.  I also got to meet a 16 year old girl and her father (from England, and living in Monaco) on every stage of the race. They completed it successfully.  I talked with many amazing participants, some of whom succeeded on this round, after previously being unable to complete the race.  When I see such people participating in these events, it motivates me to put aside all of my excuses, and do what it takes to get the job done.  Due to participating in events like this, I feel I am stronger in my personal life and feel equipped to handle various situations accordingly.

Acknowledgements

I would like to acknowledge many friends and family on this journey to complete MDS

  1. Danni Suskin, my Comrades buddy!  Without you, I would not have dreamed of participating in this race!  Thank you for helping me realize that we need to live our lives to the fullest extent!
  2. My wife Nirisha and son Jay and my parents and other family – thank you for encouraging me down the path of doing this event and supporting me all the way
  3. Coach Lindsey Parry – thank you for sticking by me and revising my training plan to accommodate all the injuries I sustained along the way, and encouraging me as I started to succeed.  I would have given up in December 2016 due to all my back pain, but was able to pull through
  4. Richard Maas – my massage therapist.  Thank you for the countless hours spent on working on me.  Without your help on my back, I would not have made it to the start line.  I know that this was a journey
  5. Tent #165 (aka coolest tent in town) – Danni, Penny, Patrick, Nancy, Krista, Mike, Justin.  Although I was largely quiet in the tent, I truly enjoyed the conversation and jokes cracked, during the 1 week we spent together.
  6. The BCRC group: thank you for stalking us and sending messages of encouragement throughout the race
  7. My friends in Dallas: Heather, Angela, Liz, Bill.  Thank you for wishing me the best prior to my journey to Morocco!
  8. My other friends (and wife’s friends) and Jay Batchen, who sent messages of encouragement during the race. These messages gave me the necessary boost to carry on for another day
  9. Finally Patrick Bauer and the incredible team of doctors and volunteers of MDS.  What a highly organized and memorable event you put together.  I never felt scared at any point, knowing that there were volunteers close by to come to the rescue.  Also the volunteers were exemplary when it came to providing help for the runners.  I would highly recommend this experience to any adventurer out there.
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Week 15 and Week 16: Training for the 2014 Dallas Marathon: Brooks Hanson Method

I have become busier in the last few weeks and have neglected to publish Week 15 of my training.  The light is at the end of the tunnel, and I will be running the Dallas Marathon in two weeks time.  I have improved both physically and mentally as a runner in the last 15 weeks.  My current plan is to start taking it easier prior to marathon day.

Below is a short summary of my Week 15 and Week 16 Training:

Monday

Nov 17th:  Cold morning.  Ran 8 miles at 9 min/mile avg

Nov 24th: 6 miles at 9:33 min/mile avg.  Tired after Sunday’s run.

Tuesday

Nov 18th:  1.6 mile warmup, 3 X 2 mile repeats with 800m recovery followed by 1.7 mile cooldown.  The repeats were done at 8:08 min/mi, 8:09 min/mi, 7:54 min/mi.  Total of 9.18 miles

Nov 25th:  1.6 mile warmup, 4 X 1.5 mile repeats with 800m recovery followed by 1.6 mile cooldown.  Total of 10.9 miles.  Repeats done at 7:47 min/mile, 7:29 min/mile, 7:37 min/mile and 7:36 min/mile

Wednesday

Nov 19th:  Rest!

Nov 26th: Rest!

Thursday

Nov 20th: 1.6 mile warm, followed by 10 miles at 7:55 min/mile avg, 1.54 mile cooldown

Nov 27th: 1.57 warmup followed 10 miles at 7:47 min/mile avg. 1.72 mile cool down.  Definitely not going to run my marathon at a 7:47 min/mile.  My calf was nagging a bit and I was tired!

Friday

Nov 21st: 7.01 miles at 9:06 min/mile avg

Nov 28th:  6 miles at 9:21 min/mile avg

Saturday

Nov 22nd:  4 miles with friends at 10:06 min/mile avg followed by 4 mile tempo at 7:57 min/mile pace

Nov 29th:  Ran with my friend Viresh.  12 miles at 8:31 min/mile average

Sunday

Nov 23rd: 16.12 miles at 9:12 min/mile pace.  Last long run.  Warm and humid today!

Nov 30th: 10.5 miles at 9:06 min/mile avg.  Warm and humid today!

Total miles week 15: 63.5 miles

Total miles week 16: 59 miles

Thoughts for the week.  Need to get through a 55 mile week next week (week 17) and the following week is marathon week (Week 18).  Although the plan for week 18 is to still get in 6 runs, I may decide not to run after Wednesday, and let my body heal up and rest for marathon day.

Week 14: A week of perfect weather! Training for the 2014 Dallas Marathon: Brooks Hanson method

This was a week of great running weather.  Granted it got windier and colder, but after having a mixed bag of heat, humidity, cold, and wind for the last 13 weeks, it was a blessing to have one week of consistent weather.  Another positive note was being able to get in my 6 runs this week with minimal issues from my left knee.  During this week, I also discovered new running routes in Allen, and now have identified my route for my remaining three 10 mile tempo runs.  This week’s training went as follows:

Monday 11/10/14 – 6 miles at 9:27 min/mile pace

Although the weather was great, my legs were tired this morning (as all Monday mornings).  Before Monday’s, I accumulate 4 days of running, of which, one is a Tempo run on Thursday and the other is a Sunday long run.  Needless to say, I have stopped pushing myself on Mondays.  It is a sort of “run for joy” day.

Tuesday 11/11/14 – 8.6 miles, 1.5 WU only, 2 X 3mile repeats with 800m recovery

Wow it was cold!  Brrrr!!!!!  Not sure from where did this wind descend upon us?  I dressed up as warmly as I could, and went for my standard 1.5 mile warm up.

After coming home, I got Dunbar and we took off to execute our strength workout of 2 X 3 miles with 800m recovery.  For my odd reason, Dunbar was in a playful mood and just dragging me everywhere today.  While it was funny, it was also a bit annoying.  Anyway, for my marathon goal, the target was to complete each 3 mile repeat at 8:15 min/mile pace.  My results were as follows

1st 3 mile repeat: 8:16 min/mile

2nd 3 mile repeat: 8:10 min/mile

As it was so cold and windy, I decided to skip the cool down phase.  I spent 20 minutes in the shower thawing out.

Wednesday 11/12/14 – Thank goodness for a day of rest!

Thursday 11/13/14 – Tempo run day – 11.7 miles

Today the combined warm up and cool down was 2.7 miles.  As it was cold, I shortened the cool down portion of the run.  Dunbar and I completed the 9 mile tempo run at a 8:11 min/mile pace.  Was quite satisfied with this run.

Friday 11/14/14 – recovery run day – 6 miles at 8:56 min/mile pace

The weather was great again.  Did some yoga prior to the run.  Ran at what felt like a relaxed pace.  Surprised to complete this run at a sub 9 min pace (I usually complete the Friday runs at 10 min/mile pace).  I think the yoga prior to the run really helped loosen my legs and back muscles.

Saturday 11/15/14 – 10 miles at 8:45 min/mile

Got to sleep in this morning.  Before the run, I did a bit of yoga.  Ran with Dunbar again from our house to Market Street and back home.  Ran into my old work colleague Paul Barker from my previous job, and we chatted for a few minutes.  Paul has been running for only 2 years and has already done a 1:33 half marathon.  I was impressed!  Ran home and completed the run at 8:45 min/mile average

Sunday 11/16/14 – 10 miles at 8:50 min/mile

It was wet and drizzling, however I dressed up quite warmly and ran again with Dunbar, who keeps following me around to make sure that I do not leave the house without him.  We checked out a new route in Allen today, and I will be using this route for my last three 10 mile tempo runs.  This was a bit of a challenging route with some long hills.  Finished at 8:50 min/mile pace.

Takeaways from this week’s training:

1) With colder weather, my running is becoming more consistent.

2) Skipping a running day last week to deal with a nagging knee discomfort, was a wise decision.  This week my discomfort reduced, and I was able to complete all 6 days of running

3) I did yoga on Friday and Saturday before the run, and felt great on those two days.  On Sunday, where I skipped yoga, it took longer for my legs to feel comfortable with running.  I will need to find a way to fit in 15 minutes of yoga prior to beginning my runs next week.

Total miles for the week: 52.3 miles

Total miles for the last 30 days: 232 miles

Week 13: Training for the 2014 Dallas Marathon: Brooks Hanson Method

13 seems to be an unlucky number.  This was a tough week for running, but at the end of the day I got through one more week of training.  I have 4 more weeks of hard training, before taking some easy time prior to the Dallas marathon.  In addition to a hectic week at work, I was nursing a sore knee, and had to take a day off to recuperate.  Below is how my week went

Monday 11/03/2014: 8 miles with Dunbar at 8:52 min/mile

Had an additional hour of sleep today due to daylight savings.  What a difference it made for my run.  Dunbar and I had a great run this morning and average 8:52 min/mile pace.  What was not exciting was everybody still has their sprinklers on in this cold weather.  We dodged several of these sprinklers, only to get rained soaked at the end of the run.  Also my left knee was throbbing after the run.

Tuesday 11/04/2014: skipped run

Got up this morning, feeling discomfort in my left knee.  Decided to not run as I was not prepared to risk all the training I had put in so far.  I am determined to run the Dallas marathon, so skipping one day is not going to kill me.  Had an all day offsite training at work, and ate like a king at a team dinner at the end of the day.

Wednesday 11/05/2014: Day of rest

Wednesday is the day of rest!  My knee still felt out of whack, so I did not mind taking another day of rest.  Again had several meetings at work including another work dinner, where again I ate again like a king.

Thursday 11/06/2014: Tempo run – 12.2 miles (1.6mWU (10:49 m/m), 9m Tempo (8:14m/m), 1.6m CD (11:15m/m))

Decided to test drive my knee today.  I was quite tired this morning.  Eating like a king on Tuesday and Wednesday made me feel very sluggish.  I was happy to see that my knee was holding up.  Ran the warm-up at a 10:49 min/mile pace, and then came home to pick up Dunbar for the Tempo run.  After not running for two days, Dunbar was chomping at the bit.  We took off like a bullet and I succeeded in positive splitting this run (average pace of 8:14 min/mile).  We completed the cool-down at 11:15 min/mile pace.  The positive thing from this run was that my knee felt fine.

Friday 11/07/2014: Recovery run – 7 miles at 9:01 min/mile pace

I did some yoga before this morning’s run.  Had a great run this morning with Dunbar.  Usually I run Fridays at a 10 min/mile pace, but I guess that skipping the Tuesday run plus doing yoga prior to the run helped a lot.

Saturday 11/08/2014: 16 miles in Allen (9:26 min/mile pace)

Tried out a new route today.  Ran with Dunbar to Celebration Park on the East Side of Allen.  Note to self, Exchange Rd in Allen is the worst road to run on!  We kept looking for areas to run and then crossed over the US 75 highway.  Dunbar did not enjoy running on the bridge at all due to all the noise of the cars on the road.  We got to Celebration Park and then ran back home all the way on McDermott Rd.  This was one long uphill, and my back definitely felt it all the way.  We were both happy to make it home!  Ate like a king again tonight.  We had some guests over, and one of them brought a home made chocolate pecan pie.  It was incredible.  It also made me feel sluggish for my Sunday run 🙂

Sunday 11/09/2014: 8 miles (9:09 min/mile)

Woke up early this morning, did some yoga again prior to my run.  Dunbar and I went for 1.5 miles and I then dropped him home.  I wanted him to rest after running 16 miles yesterday.  Dunbar is ready to run at anytime, however sometimes I think he does not know when to rest.  We ran the 1.5 miles at a 10:15 min/mile pace.  I then ran the remaining 6.5 miles by myself.  Finished the run strong.

Takeaways from this week’s training

– While I am obsessed with making every run on the schedule, sometimes listening to your body is important.  Taking a couple of days off this week helped me get back on track

– I need to not eat too much of rich food.  I felt like my runs were tougher this week.  Next week I am going to get back on the bandwagon and be disciplined about my eating

Number of miles for the week – 51.5 miles

Average miles for the last 30 days – 237 miles

Week 11 and Week 12: Training for the 2014 Dallas Marathon: Brooks Hanson Method

Last week was quite busy and I could not get a chance to publish my blog for Week 11.  It was also my birthday week, as I commenced into a new decade of my life.  As I committed to recording my weekly progress towards training for the 2014 Dallas marathon, I will be documenting both Week 11 and Week 12 training into this post.

I have 6 weeks more weeks left till Marathon day.  The end is almost in sight!

Monday – Recovery from the weekend

Week 11: 10/20/14 – 8 miles at 9:20 min/mile pace

Week 12: 10/27/14 – 6 miles at 9:19 min/mile pace

Tuesday – Intervals!

Week 11: 10/21/14 – Fantastic weather this morning.  Saw a couple of shooting stars this morning.  Ran 6 X 1 mile repeats with 0.3 mile recovery in between.  I had to program 0.3 miles into my watch because my Suunto watch could not program 0.25 miles intervals.  Supposed to target 8:15 min/mile.  Splits were as follows;

8:12, 7:43, 7:55, 7:50, 7:51, 7:39.

Ran 1.5 mile warm-up prior to and after the workout.  Total of 10.85 miles

Week 12: 10/28/14 – A week later it was incredibly humid.  I am not sure how I survived the workout this morning.  Today I did 4 X 1.5 mile repeats with 800 m recovery.  Goal was to complete each 1.5 mile repeats in 12:20 min (8:15 min/mile pace).

My splits were as follows: 12:19 (8:12 pace), 12:08 (8:04 pace), 11:54 (7:55 pace), 12:07 (8:03 pace)

Ran 1.5 mile warm-up prior to and after the workout.  Total of 11 miles

I was exhausted, but I learned something today.  Despite the humidity, my body is getting programmed to run a certain pace and I am getting better at holding that pace over distance.

Wednesday – Yes! a day of rest

Thursday – Tempo run day

Week 11 10/23/14: Supposed to do 8 mile Tempo run today, however as I was doing the Double Trouble race in Grapevine (5K followed by a 10K), I decided to incorporate one 11 mile regular run.  Ran the 11 miles at a 9:05 min/mile pace

Week 12 10/30/14: Did 9 mile tempo run this morning (did 1.5 mile warmup and 1.5 mile cooldown also).  Total of 12 miles.  Ran the 9 mile tempo at a 8:10 min/mile average pace.  Great weather this morning for a run.

Friday – always a recovery run

Fridays’ are always my slowest day

Week 11 10/24/14: Did 7 miles at a 10 min/mile pace.  Felt completely blah in this run

Week 12 10/30/14: Did 6 miles at a 10 min/mile pace.  Also felt tired during this run.

Saturday

Week 11 10/25/14: Met my friends Angela and Heather at Grapevine to run the Double Trouble race.  Raced the 5K in 22:20 min and 10K in 48:54 min.  The course was quite hilly, and it warmed up during the 10K.  Happy with the results as they were both PRs.  My next goals will be lower my 5K time to 21 minutes.  Total of 9.3 miles of running today.

Week 12 11/01/14: Met Angela to run around the 10 miles around the lake.  It was a great run overall with great conversation and wonderful weather.  Fall is here!

Sunday

Week 11 10/26/14: Turned 40 today!  The weather was not exactly great.  Ran 7 miles at home with Dunbar, and then went with my buddy Viresh to run another 7 miles at Erwin Park.  It was a great trail run.  Came home and ran another 2 miles with Dunbar for a total of 16.14 miles.

Week 12 11/02/14: Met Viresh to run 10 miles.  Had a great run again today.  We ran on the Chisholm trail and back.  We had a beaver sighting by the bridge close to Parker.  Did not know that we had beavers up in Plano.  Total mileage was 10.12 miles

Total mileage Week 11: 62.5 miles

Total mileage Week 12: 55.5 miles

Week 10: Training for the 2014 Dallas Marathon: Brooks Hanson method

This was an eventful week for training.  Week 10 was a ramp down week for mileage.  My legs were tired after 9 weeks of training 6 days a week, and having to skimp on sleep daily.

In order to balance family and work responsibilities (because I believe that there is a life outside of running), I have discovered that the only time I have for running is early in the morning.  If I am not done by 7 A.M. in the morning, I am not going to get my runs in.  However, I do recognize that I enjoy my running tremendously and am willing to make the sacrifices necessary to get my training completed.

Without further ado, below is how my training went this week

Monday 10/13/2014, 6.02 miles at 9:25 min/mile pace

I had to wait this morning for the rain, thunder, lightning and wind to subside.  Surprisingly my dog did not seem to be worried about the weather.  Just to be safe, we went out, once it stopped raining.  It was nice and cool and we had a relaxing run.

Tuesday 10/14/2014, 7.47 miles, track work at Allen High School, 3 X 1600m with 600m recovery

I was at the Allen High School track at 4:15AM.  I began my customary 1.5 mile warm-up around the track, and saw a shooting star in the sky.  I was quite fascinated with the trail of light it left behind.  Anyway, back to running, I was supposed to target a 7:20 min/mile pace for each 1600 m repeat.  Below were the splits that I managed

7:18, 7:11, 7:15

I met my goals for the morning.

Wednesday 10/15/2014 – Thank God again for a rest day!

Thursday 10/16/2014 – 11 miles (1.58 mile warmup, 8 mile tempo, 1.57 mile cooldown)

It was quite difficult to get up this morning.  After having conference calls that lasted till 10:45 pm the previous night, I got up at at 3:00 A.M.,0 as I had another early morning meeting at work.  I went for 1.58 mile tempo (10:47 min/mile pace) and came home to pick up Dunbar.  We then went for our 8 mile tempo run.  Target was to hit a 8:23 min/mile pace.  I decided not to look at my watch during the entire run.  Our splits were as follows: 8:19, 8:10, 8:10, 8:06. 8:06. 8:05. 8:25 (uphill), 8:05, 8:08.

I was satisfied with the splits.  The lessons learned from this run, were that with colder weather (and not paying constant attention to my watch), I can manage more consistent splits, based on running my feel.

 Friday 10/17/2014 – ran a 6 mile recovery run with Dunbar at 9:29 min/mile pace

Saturday 10/18/2014 – 10 miles at 9:03 min/mile pace, followed by 0.35 mile recovery

Ran with Dunbar today.  This was in essence, a run with tired legs.  I had some difficulty pushing my pace today.  At the 6th mile, I stopped at Russell Creek park to sip some water at the fountain.  There were a ton of soccer games in progress.  Several soccer moms were looking at Dunbar, and of course, he proceeded to embarrass me by peeing on the water fountain.  We quickly left and ran home.

Sunday 10/19/2014 – 10 miles at 9:15 min/mile pace

Ran 10 miles on a different course with Dunbar.  We stopped at the 5th mile to talk to a lady who also had a Great Pyrenees mix (with Anatolian Shepherd).  We chatted for 20 minutes, and then Dunbar and I took off home.  As I was having dead legs again today, I decided to take it easy.

Total miles for the week: 51 miles

Mileage for the last 30 days: 230.7 miles

Next week, I will most likely skip the tempo portion of my Thursday run and keep my legs ready, for the Double Trouble race on Saturday, in Grapevine (5K followed by a 10K race).  I am quite interested in seeing how I perform after the last 10 weeks of training.

In memorial – Henry Zoch III

I would like to also take this time to remember one of Dallas’ finest runners who passed away in a fatal auto accident on Thursday.  Henry Zoch III was one of the greatest runners our running community had ever seen.  He always had a smile on his face.  I had the fortunate experience of getting to see Henry in races around the country, whether be it in Oregon, Dallas or New Mexico (half marathons, marathons and ultras).  He also was a former Marine who served his country in Iraq and Afghanistan, and would have celebrated his 33rd birthday today.

I thought about Henry a lot during my runs this weekend, and remembered the positive attitude he exhibited at all times.  I therefore dedicate this week’s write up to Henry, and will follow his example of being disciplined during the rest of my training.  May you Rest in Peace, Henry!  The running community will miss you!

Week 9: Training for the 2014 Dallas Marathon: Brooks Hanson Method

Last week I was so happy with meeting the milestone of completing 50% of my training.  Then I went back to my training plan, and discovered that it was an 18 week program and not a 16 week program.  Therefore, after completing week 9 today, I can confidently say that I completed 50% of my training.  Only now I have another 8 weeks to go.

This was another week of intermittent weather, where most of the week was quite humid.  It set the stage for some difficult runs.  During this week, I also got my weekly mileage close to 60 miles (58 actually), and also managed to do my Sunday 15 miler, without consuming any energy supplements (or eating breakfast)

Below is a summary of how my weekly training went:

Monday 10/06/2014 – 8 miles at 9:40 min/mile

Starting this week, the Monday runs increase from 6 miles to 8 miles, which means I need to start getting up earlier on Mondays.  Oh well.  Dunbar and I had fun running at a relaxed pace.  There was no shortage of lightning in the sky, and we had a brilliant display of it throughout the run.  For the rest of the day, my eyes had issues adjusting to the lights in the office.  Happy with this run.

Tuesday 10/07/2014 – Allen High School Track, 7.56 miles

Back to waking up at 3AM, and getting to the track at 4:30AM.  Ran 6 X 800m repeats with a 400m recovery in between (warmup and cooldown was extra).  The target was to hit 3 min 40s for each 800m.  Nailed the workout.  Below were my splits

3:42
3:29
3:29
3:28
3:25
3:31

Very happy with this workout

Wednesday 10/08/2014 – rest day!  Thank God!

Thursday 10/09/2014 – Tempo run, 1.57 warm up, 8 mile tempo, 1.57 mile cooldown

What a humid morning.  The warm up (10:47 min/mile) was miserable.  Came home and picked up Dunbar.  We took off on the tempo run, with the target of hitting a 8:23 min/mile pace.  It was pretty hard.  Dunbar and I took a break at mile 4, and then headed home.  Ended up with a 8:12 min/mile pace.  The cool down run was more of a death march (11:12 min/mile pace).

Although the results were satisfactory, I really hope that we will not have this weather on marathon day.  I don’t think I can sustain the distance and pace in these conditions.

Friday 10/10/2014 – 7 miles at 9:40 min/mile pace

Dunbar and I had a relaxing run this morning.  I had no energy in my legs after yesterday’s workout.

Saturday 10/11/2014 – 9 miles

Ran with my friends at White Rock Lake (Angela, Bill and Ellen).  We ran at a relaxed pace around the lake.  Ended up with a 9:57 min/mile pace.  The weather was perfect

Sunday 10/12/2014 – 15.39 miles at 9:17 min/mile pace

Started running with Dunbar this morning.  We ran from home over to Skaggs Elementary school (5.7 miles), and I dropped Dunbar with my wife.  I met my Comrades training buddy Viresh, and we ran down some trails in Plano.  I was quite surprised that Plano has some beautiful parks.  We discussed our strategy (run more hills) for the Comrades Up run in 2015, and then ran back to Skaggs.

The highlight of this run, was that I ran with on an empty stomach.  I had a cup of coffee before the run, and ran the entire distance just on water.  Although I carried energy supplements, I did not use them, as I wanted to see how long I could go.

I was quite happy that I finished strong.  On this run, the big lessons learned were that with proper pacing, you can comfortably run long distances.  My eventual is to run 20 miles on just water, and rely on the stored energy in my body.

Thoughts on week 9

I have learned more about running in these last 9 weeks.  Running on a training plan and learning to pace yourself correctly is the key to being prepared for a marathon.

If I have to run fast, I reserve those efforts for the track and tempo workouts, and run at more appropriate pace the rest of the week.

Also getting into a disciplined routine helps to increase your self confidence and consistency in training is the key to making improvements in your running.

Today one of my running friends, Martina Crevecoeur, finished strong at the Chicago marathon in 3hrs 37mins.  She trained on the Brooks Hanson plan (I believe this is her 2nd or 3rd time following this plan).  I have hope that I will do my best to meet my goal.

Total miles for the week: 58.11 miles

Mileage for the last 30 days: 228 miles

Looking forward to starting Week 10 of training tomorrow morning!

Week 8: Training for the 2014 Dallas Marathon: Brooks Hanson Method

Week 8 Training is complete!  I have made it through 50% of my 16 week training program.  This was a week of see-saw weather, where the beginning of the week was humid, and starting Friday through the Sunday, we had incredible weather.  Dunbar and I had a great time running together.

The training for this week went as follows:

Monday 09/29/2014 – 6miles @9:29 min/mile pace

Had some difficulty getting up this morning.  Went out to run at 6AM with Dunbar.  The weather was a little pleasant.  Dunbar and I had a relaxing run and ran an 9:29 min/mile pace.  Came home, showered and went to work.  Thank goodness for these morning runs.  The traffic on 75 South is just horrendous, and I need serenity.

Tuesday 09/30/2014 – Allen HS track, 3 X 1600m, 600m recovery – 7.4 miles @9:01 avg

Standard Tuesday track workout.  Was up at 3AM and at the track by 4:20AM.  On the menu was 3X1600m with a target pace of 7:20min/mile.  Although it was almost 10 degrees warmer than last week, it was a great workout overall.  I nailed my splits.   The secret was to not look at my watch.

The splits were as follows

1st 1600m: 7:11min actual, target 7:20min

2nd 1600m: 7:06min actual, target 7:20min – not sure how I sped up

3rd 1600m: 7:20min actual, target 7:20min – right on the dot.

Track workouts always wear me out, but today I felt great

Wednesday 10/01/2014 – Restday, thank heavens, I needed it

Thursday 10/02/2014 – 1.57 mile warmup, 7 mile tempo, 1.56 mile cooldown

Was just not feeling it today.  Where did this blasted humidity come from?  The thought of not running crossed my mind.  However, I had promised myself from day one, to not make excuses for missing my runs, unless under extenuating circumstances.

The 1.57 mile warm up felt like I was eating a uncooked tasteless appetizer.  I came home and got Dunbar and we went for the 7 mile tempo run.  Oh no, it was not pretty.  Definitely a lot of huffing, puffing, and finally having to stop for a couple of minutes in the 6th mile.  We finally made it home.  Average pace was 8:15 min/mile (target was 8:23 min/mile).  Although I was on target, I did not enjoy this tempo run.

The 1.56 mile cooldown was more like a death march.  My energy was gone, but I just dug in and finished the cooldown.

Friday 10/03/2014 – 6 miles at 9:22 min/mile average

The weather was much nicer today.  Dunbar and I ran a different 6 mile route today.  We just had fun.  Glad it was Friday.

Saturday 10/04/2014 – 10 miles at 8:48 min/mile average

46°F in the morning at 8AM?  WTH, this was just awesome.  I overslept, but Dunbar and I knocked out 10 miles.  It was a great day to be alive and free.  We finished 10 miles at an 8:48 min/mile average pace, and walked the last 0.5 miles home.

Sunday 10/05/2014 – 10 miles at 8:45 min/mile average

Ok not 46°F but it was 55°F at 8:30AM.  Dunbar and I went on a different route.  During the first mile, we ran into my friend David Lassiter, who is an incredible athlete.  We ran together for a mile and then Dunbar and I took off down Watters Creek trail.

Dunbar is doing better dealing with other dogs on the trails, though he does get riled up with a couple of dogs on the way.

The first five miles were downhill.  We turned around and ran back home.  Pushed the pace on the way back.  We ended up with an 8:45 min/mile average.

I was really pleased with this run.  Dunbar ran like a champ this whole week.  There is an incredible joy that one feels when they run with their dog.  They are just so happy to be running with you.

Here is my standard Sunday morning selfie with Dunbar

another selfie

Thoughts for the week

– Made it through 50% of the training program.  I feel I have a high probability of completing the 16 week program.  Despite the fluctuations in weather, I am somehow successfully executing my track and tempo workouts

– I need more sleep during the week.  The last couple of weekends I have been getting up at 8AM.  I used to be able to get up at 4AM on Saturdays and Sundays, but these days it is getting harder.

– In the last 30 days, I have run a total of 215.4 miles (average just a little over 7 miles/day).  I am ramping my weekly mileage successfully with no major issues.

Looking forward to week 9 starting tomorrow.

Week 7: Training for the 2014 Dallas Marathon: The Brooks Hanson method

This was an incredible week for training.  We had some cool weather days in Dallas finally, although it started to warm up in the weekend.  I have successfully completed 7 weeks through my 16 week Brooks Hanson advanced training plan.  At the end of next week, I will hit a major milestone of getting through 50% of my training.

Highlights from this week included nailing my track workout on Tuesday and my Tempo run on Thursday.  Also I got my weekly mileage into the mid 50 mile range, after a few months of running mid 40 mile weeks.

The training for this week was as follows:

Monday 09/22/2014 – 6 miles @9:11 pace

This morning was quite humid.  Dunbar and I some just squeezed through this run.  I have discovered that running on Monday’s immediately after a Sunday long run, is not as bad.  The overall theme I have discovered in my training is that Friday is worst day of the week, especially after the Thursday run.  We were done before sunrise.

Tuesday 09/23/2014 – Allen High School Track – ladder workout – 9.24 miles total

Got up at 3AM so that I could get to the track by 4:30AM.  The weather was just fantastic.  I later on found out that it was in the mid 50’s.  The workout on the menu today was a 1.5 mile warmup followed by a ladder workout (with 400m recovery) and a 1.5 mile cooldown.  The track workout was a success!  Below is how it went

1.5 mile warm up
400m: 1:50 (target), 1:47 (actual)
800m: 3:39 (target), 3:32 (actual)
1200m: 5:27 (target), 5:20 (actual)
1600m: 7:20 (target), 7:16 (actual)
1200m: 5:27 (target), 5:24 (actual)
800m: 3:39 (target), 3:29 (actual)
400m: 1:50 (target), 1:45 (actual)
1.5 mile cooldown

Overall I was happy and done by 6AM.

Wednesday 09/24/2014 – a day of rest.

Thank heavens, the Tuesday workout wore me out!

Thursday 09/25/2014 – 1.5 mile warmup, 7 mile tempo, 1.5 mile cooldown

Another morning with great weather!  I started with a warmup run of 1.57 miles at 9:29 pace, and then came home to pick up Dunbar for the 7 mile tempo.  The target for the 7 mile tempo was 8:23 min/mile.  I was amazed at the results of the run (I did not look at the watch during the run)

mile 1: 8:12

mile 2: 7:50

mile 3: 8:04

mile 4: 7:46

mile 5: 7:50

mile 6: 8:01

mile 7: 7:55

I finished off with a 1.57 mile cooldown at 10:07 pace.

I learned from this run that with better weather, I could get more consistent splits.  Last week was hot and humid, and even though I beat my target pace, I slowed down the last 3 miles.

Friday 09/26/2014: 7 mile recovery run

Ran with Dunbar for 7.07 miles.  I was definitely tired after yesterday’s run.  We ended up running a 10:11 min/mile average.  I did not push the pace today.

Saturday 09/27/2014: 8.70 miles

Ran 6.35 miles with Dunbar at an 8:33 min/mile pace, and then came home to run with my son for 2.35 miles.  The two miler was the highlight of the workout.  I was very proud of my son for taking the initiative to push himself throughout the run and finishing strong (he had a soccer game in the afternoon, where he also did great).  I forgot to use bodyglide and chafed pretty good on this run

Sunday 09/28/2014: 14:00 miles at 9:13 min/mile pace

Got up late…arrggh!  Started running at 8:30AM with Dunbar.  It already warmed up.  Ran 6 miles with Dunbar on the Watters Creek trail, till we got to Market Street (mile 6).  My wife picked him up, and gave me two bottles of ice cold Tailwind 🙂  Ran back home with a couple of detours.  I was chafing so bad (apparently even the 2Toms gel does not work), so I ran the last 8 miles shirtless, with the sun baking my skin.

The first few miles were slow, but I gradually increased my pace towards towards and managed a 7:50min/mile pace for the 14th mile.  I was so glad to be done, and walked the remaining 0.25 miles home.

Total miles for the week: 55.15 miles  (ran 1 more mile than the planned 54 miles)

Thought’s for this week

1) The better weather this week definitely resulted in more consistent running from a pace perspective.

2) Another consistent theme from my training is that Friday is the toughest day to run, especially after a Tuesday track workout and Thursday tempo run.

3) The Friday recovery run may be the slowest, however my body recovers in time to do the Saturday and Sunday runs at a faster pace.

4) I am accumulating more miles with training on this plan.  In the last 4 weeks I have run 194 miles.  But I am gradually increasing my mileage, versus making a sudden increase in mileage.  So far it all feels good.

5) If we have great weather during the Dallas marathon, I have a good chance of hitting my goal of a 3:40 hr finish.  I just need to be consistent in my training for the remaining 9 weeks.

I am looking forward to starting Week 8 of training tomorrow!

Week 6: Training for the 2014 Dallas marathon: Brooks Hanson method

This was another interesting week of training, as in training with no shortage of humidity.  On the bright side, it gave me an another opportunity to train in adverse weather for one more week.  I also retired my second pair of Hoka Stinson Tarmac shoes, after accumulating 607 miles on them.

My training this week was as follows:

Monday 09/15/2014: 6 miles easy run

Yes, Mr. Humidity had to make his presence known.  Ran with Dunbar and tried to run as easy as possible.  Ended up with a 9:16 average pace for the 6 miles.

Tuesday 09/16/2014: 4 X 1200m repeats, 400m recovery

Got up at 3:15AM to go the track.  Was at the Allen HS track by 4:15AM.  I had the the entire track to myself for the first 45 minutes.  Today’s workout was to do four 1200m repeats in 5:27 (1.5 mile warm up and 1.5 mile cooldown).  Below is the results from my workout

1.5 mile warmup

1st 1200m repeat: 5:33, ….not shabby

2nd 1200m repeat: 5:17, ….wowza, what happened here?

3rd 1200m repeat: 5:23, ….starting to calibrate

4th 1200m repea: 5:33, ….got a little tired here.  1200m repeats ain’t easy

1.5 mile cooldown.

I was happy with workout overall and was done by 5:35AM.  This was one hard workout!

Wednesday 09/17/2014 – Rest day

Thank goodness.  My body was just tired!

Thursday 09/18/2014 – Tempo run – 1.5mi warmup, 7 mi temp target 8:23min/mi, 1.5 mile cooldown

First thoughts this morning….man I am too tired for this, but I any ran the warm up 1.5 miles at a 11:15 pace.  It was simply too warm and humid.  I was dreading the tempo run

I came home and picked up Dunbar and we went for the 7 mile tempo run.  No it was not easy, but we just took off without stopping.  We ended at 8:20 pace average.  Although we nailed it, I later on looked at my splits and saw that we started the run too hard and slowed down towards the end.  I was not sure if it was the effort or the brutal weather.  The splits were as follows:

8:16, 8:03, 8:14, 8:07, 8:27, 8:37, 8:40

The last 3 miles involved hills, but perhaps next time I am going to focus and try to run more consistent splits.

I dropped Dunbar at home and took off for the cool down run of 1.5 miles.  I was beat and walked for the last 5 minutes.

Friday 09/19/2014 – 6 mile recovery run

Ran a slow recovery run today at 9:51 min/mi pace.  My body needed a break after yesterday’s tempo run.  Weather was slightly pleasant this morning

Saturday 09/20/2014 – 10 mile run

Ran 10 miles this morning at a 9:09 min/mi pace.  It was quite warm.  Dunbar was a great sport and we finished the run together strong.  Man oh man, it was hot by the time we were done.

Sunday 09/21/2014 – 8 mile run

Dunbar and I took off again when it was toasty.  We ran together for 6 miles.  My family came and picked him up, and I ran the remaining 2 miles by myself.  Another warm day!  Below is a selfie taken during our run 🙂  I was sweating hard and he was gasping hard!  Ended up with a 9:08 average pace.  Happy with this run!

running selfie

Thoughts for this week

This was another hard training week.  I think I am getting mentally stronger with training in the heat and humidity.  So far I have survived 6 weeks of warm and humid weather, and still going strong.  I just checked the weather this morning and see that next week is going to be cooler in the mornings!  I cannot wait to see what next week’s training looks like!  On the menu for Tuesday is the ladder workout on track!

Next week, let’s see how Week 7 pans out!

Total miles for the week: 47