Altamont 5k, look a hill…oh look, another hill :)


I wrote recently about enjoying my hill running since moving to South Carolina.  Well, if you want to get better at racing on hills, you have to go race some hills.  So I figured I’d start small…notice I said small, and not easy.  Upstate Ultras RD Matt Hammersmith has a knack for creating challenging courses, and this was a great one!  640 feet of elevation change for a 5k, now that’s a good workout! (the half marathon had over 4,000 feet of elevation change, and the marathon over 6,000 feet!)

Yay hills! 🙂


The day started bright and early, well not very bright at 6:45am, but definitely early!  This would be the earliest race start I’ve ever had, but luckily I live close by, so the drive was easy.  Even with a short drive, I arrived later than planned and did not get in my normal warmup (20mins w/strides), after only a half mile of easy jogging, it was time to start!

All three races were starting at the same time, but being the inaugural race, it was a small field, so this wasn’t a problem at all.  I lined up towards the front, behind some fast looking younger folks.  A short countdown and we were off!

Mile 1: 6:37

After the first turn, I started to pulled away from the younger group I had lined up behind, had to check my watch to make sure I wasn’t going out way too fast, a bad habit of mine. The pace seemed reasonable, so I kept at it.  It was then that I realized that I was in second place, much too early to know if I’d be able to hold that position, especially given the hills that I knew were coming.  Oh look, there’s the first one.  While I have enjoyed the hills during my training runs, racing on them is a different story.  A properly run 5k has enough pain to begin with, throw in hills and you start to question your sanity.  This first hill was manageable though, but I knew the second hill was worse.  The leader with his police escort was still in view, but pulling away steadily.

Mile 2: 6:36

Mile 2 brought a brief respite from the suckage with a nice downhill portion, quickly followed by the larger of the two hills that dominated the course.  I’ve found during my brief hill training period, that I really enjoy flying downhill, this was no exception, felt great!  As I climbed the second hill, I was passed by a younger runner who definitely seemed more comfortable on the hills than I felt, but he was still close enough that I might be able to catch him on the downhill that made up most of the last mile.  I should mention that while pushing up this hill, I had a fairly strong urge to vomit, good to know that I was pushing myself hard.

Mile 3: 5:57

This last mile, as evidenced by my pace, was entirely downhill, and fantastic!  After fighting through both hills, this mile felt great.  I opened up my stride, cycled my legs a lil faster and felt grateful for gravity’s assistance.  I had closed the gap to a reasonable distance with 2nd place, entering the park for the final portion, I might have a chance to catch him.

Mile .15: 55.70

Upon entering the park for a lap to the finish, I opened it up to see what I had left, turns out, not much!  As both of us started our kick, his was a bit stronger and he pulled away slightly while I pushed with everything I had left.  Once again, I felt the same urge I had while climbing the second hill, good, I’m laying it all out there.

Final time: 20:07, 3rd place overall

I congratulated the 2nd place runner, who I found out will be running Boston next week, good luck Dan!  Always nice when you have some good competition in a race to help you push yourself.  This was a great race, looking forward to it again next year, and more great events from Upstate Ultras!  Also, the hand made medals and awards were outstanding!


Hills, love ’em or hate ’em?

As a former flat lander, I’ve always hated hills, they would destroy me.  So I was dreading my move south and having to deal with hills on a regular basis.  But now that I’ve been running for a few days with hills, I’m finding that I actually enjoy them.  They really help break up a run, power up a hill, fly down the backside, it turns into a game almost.

I’ve always read that hills will make you stronger, which I’m sure is true, so that will be a nice benefit.  I can already feel some new soreness from my body adapting to the new stresses, which is good.  The only way to improve is to stress your body and allow it to adapt, so new stresses are always good (with the usual caveat of not overdoing it, of course).

Speaking of new stresses, I’m really looking forward to checking out some of the local trails later this week.  From my research they appear to be more technical than the trails I used to run, which were pretty much just flat dirt paths, so that should be really interesting.  There are a few races that I will be returning to Virginia to run, specifically my goal trail 50k this winter, so I’m hoping that all of these hills and more difficult trails will give me an edge against my former fellow flat landers. 🙂

And away we go…again :)

Ok, so I fell off the blogwagon, haven’t posted anything since my Richmond race report last November.  For anyone wondering, yes I’m still running, and my running is going very well.  I recently set a half marathon PR, running a 1:26:52 at Shamrock in Virginia Beach, a 1:18 PR.  I am very happy with that race, and very glad that I was able to run it and see a lot of my friends from the local running community before I moved.  Yup, I’ve moved, I’m now in South Carolina, and will be posting about my adjustments to the hills and all of the wonderful trails that I now have access to.  So stay tuned for regular updates as I continue along my journey of fitness, weight loss/maintenance and life in general.

Richmond Marathon, the good, the bad, the PR


After almost two thousand miles of training, in the heat, in the rain, on a treadmill while underway onboard an aircraft carrier (including a treadmill PR of 22 miles!), my second marathon is in the books.

The Anthem Richmond Marathon was everything I was told it would be; great course, awesome crowd support, and a fast downhill finish (almost too fast, more to come on that later!).

This was my first travel race, and even though I didn’t have to travel far, anytime you’re not racing from home, the logistics can be daunting.  I can’t give enough thanks to my dear wife, who made a checklist to make sure I wouldn’t forget anything I’d need on race day, and it worked flawlessly.  We arrived at the expo around noon on Friday, I’m not big on expos anymore, but we wanted to check it out, I ended up grabbing a hat and shirt.  Then it was off to the hotel, relax for a bit, grab some dinner and then early to bed.

Race day!  After months of preparation, it’s finally here.  The weather is absolutely perfect, cold, but perfect.  Forecast was for around 30* at the start, only warming to about 40* by the time I was hoping to finish.  I opted for shorts and a long sleeve shirt under my Running Etc Ambassador Team singlet, with a hat and gloves of course.  Turned out to be perfectly comfortable, just a touch warm towards the end of the race, but not bad at all.

IMG_1046 (1)

There was one glitch pre-race, which would end up haunting me later, even with my usual pre-race routine of oatmeal and coffee, I was unable to get the mail moving prior to the start of the race.  Oh well, no choice but to race and hope for the best.  After waiting in the longest port-a-potty line I’ve ever stood in, I barely made it up to my corral for the start.  No warmup for me.  Found my wife at the start, got a kiss for good luck, took off my throwaway sweats and did a lil dynamic warmup while waiting for the start.  Oh, almost forgot to mention, the 12yo girl that sang the National Anthem, did one of the best live renditions that I have ever heard, it was amazing.

And we’re off!  Who needs a warmup when you have race day adrenaline?  Had no problems getting on pace.  As I had been told by other runners familiar with Richmond, the first 10 miles are the easiest, I can definitely see how people get tricked into going out too fast.  Pace felt great, scenery and crowd support were awesome.  Love the neighborhoods and running along the James River.  There was a fair amount of wind coming across the Lee bridge, luckily I was in a group of about 10 or so people at that point, and we tucked in tight going across the bridge to help minimize the effect of the wind.  Unfortunately, I was on the wind side of the pack, but someone has to do it, right?  Overall tho, the hills and the wind weren’t bad at all.  I didn’t do any hill training and had no problems tackling Richmond’s rollers.  Saw my wife again at the turn at mile 16.5, where she snapped this picture, I’m moving so fast I’m just a blur (that’s me with my arm up, waving and yelling, “I love you!”, to which a woman next to my wife asked, “Do you know him?”, nope, just some crazy runner yelling “I love you” to random women along the course). 🙂


Remember that pre-race glitch I mentioned earlier?  Well, around mile 17 or 18 my body decided it was ready.  My pace started to slow, another runner caught up to me around mile 18, and started giving me some encouragement.  He helped keep me going and even blocked the wind for me at one point.  He got me through the next two miles, and I wish I could have stayed with him to the end, but at mile 20 I had to make a pit stop.  I knew at that point that my sub-3 was gone.  I had held a 6:46/mile average pace to that point, so I have no doubts that without the pitstop (and subsequent slowing), that I would have gone sub-3 that day.  After I got back on the course, it was difficult to get back on pace, but I was determined to finish strong.  Around mile 24, I felt like I needed to stop again, but then the 3:05 pace group caught up to me.  My B goal for this race was to go sub-3:05 for an open BQ.  I did a lil assessment and determined that I wasn’t at risk for catastrophic GI failure and I could push through the last two miles.  So I picked it up a lil and was determined to stay ahead of the 3:05 pacer.

I had been told that the finish was downhill. That’s an understatement. I spent the final stretch to the finish just trying not to fall down.  As I was approaching the final turn to the downhill stretch, I see someone who looked vaguely familiar calling out my name and telling me that I’m doing great and to finish strong.  I gave him a thumbs up and made the turn, then it hit me, that was Bart Yasso!  Pretty cool way to finish out a great race.  As I started down the hill and began to realize just how steep it was, I decided to let gravity do it’s thing; no braking for me.  Just keep the feet moving as fast I can, short strides, like riding a bike (I think I read that in article about downhill running).  Pretty sure I passed three or four people in that final stretch.  Looking at my Garmin data, I see a 5:09 pace, yowza!  That was mostly gravity, I definitely didn’t have that kind of kick in me.  Coming down the hill, I see the clock click over to 3:04, I did it, open BQ, which would be around a 10 minute PR depending on what my official time ended up being.

Official finish time:  3:04:03, BQ-10:57 and a 10:04 PR from my first marathon just eight months ago.  15th in my age group and 135th out of 5,094 finishers.

While I had hoped to go sub-3, my overall goal for this race was to secure a solid BQ so that I can run Boston in 2016, mission accomplished!  I do think that I’m in sub-3 shape, and will take another crack at it next fall.  I’m going to spend the first half of next year focusing on shorter distances before starting marathon training again for a yet to be determined fall race. (Hoping for the Marine Corps Marathon if I can get in, if not then maybe Philly.)  Right now it’s time to recover and get ready for the Seashore Nature Trail 50K next month!


What makes a real runner?

Days like today, if you ask me.

When it’s 40* out, 20mph winds and raining, most folks just want to stay inside and sit by the fire with a warm cup of coffee.  Trust me, I often want to be one of those people.  But then I remember that I have goals, and there’s only one way to reach those goals.  So I suit up, throw on a hat, gloves and my new waterproof shell (which worked perfectly), and head out the door.  Turned out to be a great run, as they often do.  Nothing spectacular, just a nice 15 miler as I’m tapering for Richmond.  But I think there’s an extra sense of accomplishment when you tough it out, whether it’s in the rain, the cold, the heat, whatever, but anything less than “ideal” conditions, always makes me a lil more proud of lacing up and getting out there.

As I near my second marathon, only two weeks away now, I’m getting excited, and a little anxious.  I feel much more prepared this time around, even though my first marathon went perfectly.  My mileage has been incredible, I feel like my endurance is through the roof.  I’ve also managed to drop 20lbs since my first marathon in March, which will only help.  Now I just have to hope that the weather cooperates.  This will be the first race that I’ve traveled for, and even though it’s only three hours away, there’s still a bit of apprehension about not running locally, being able to sleep in my own bed, eat my own food, etc.  I’m sure everything will be fine, but I have to worry about something, right?

Something wicked this way comes


Yesterday I ran the Wicked 10k, a great race put on by J&A racing in Virginia Beach.  I’ve been wanting to do this race for the last couple of years, but I haven’t been able to fit it into my schedule.  With the Richmond Marathon coming up in three weeks, I needed a tuneup race.  I was hoping for a half marathon, but couldn’t make it happen, so this had to do.  I hadn’t done any racing, or even fast running in a few months.  All of my training has been easy high mileage.  So I really had no idea what kind of pace to even shoot for.  Plan was to go out hard and try to hang on, turned out to be a pretty good plan.

Weather was great when I got to the convention center, nice and cool, in the high 40s, but it would warm up quickly when the sun came up.  Overall, still pretty good weather, wind wasn’t bad, which can sometimes be a problem on the boardwalk.  Warmed up for about 2.5 miles, with some strides, and then I was ready to go.  Lined up in Corral 1, where the announcer noted the lack of costumes among the “serious runners”.  Next year I’m dressing up, but it will still be a run friendly costume, because I’ve already set some goals.  The horn blows, and we’re off!

Mile1: 5:59

I lined up pretty close to the front of the corral, so had no problems with crowding and was able to get right on pace.  I figured I’d shoot for around 6 flat and see how it felt, doing good so far.  Running near me was “Nearly Naked Mariachi Man”, apparently a yearly staple at Wicked, I made a mental note to not get beaten by a man wearing nothing but a speedo and Mariachi hat.  He was very talkative and holding a good pace, could be a challenge.

Mile 2: 6:00

Still feeling good, getting in the groove.  Nearly Naked Mariachi Man has fallen back a lil, but I can still hear him behind me, getting lots of cheers from the crowds.  I set my sights on a guy in front of me in a white shirt, seems to be running a similar pace, figure I’ll target him to stay on pace and then work on passing him if I can.  I wanted to try not to focus on my watch and focus more on racing the people around me. We hit the boardwalk heading north, which is usually when you get blasted with a nasty headwind, but there was no wind to be found, perfect!

Mile 3: 6:08

Starting to feel the effort, wondering if I might be going a little too fast, but then I remind myself of how well my training has been going and the huge mileage I’ve been putting in, I can do this.  I stay focused on white shirt guy and keep pushing.  We’re off the boardwalk now and cruising down Atlantic.  I can’t hear Mariachi Man behind me anymore, so I figure I’m not in any danger of needing to worry about getting passed.

Mile 4: 6:12

I set a new 5k PR with a 5k split of 18:54 (3 second PR, woohoo!).  I start to worry that I probably shouldn’t be setting 5k PRs in a 10k race, but then remind myself again that my training should support this effort.  As I’m crusiing down Atlantic, I start to get a little too comfortable and notice that white shirt guy is starting to pull away, he has passed a younger runner who is now about 50ft in front of me.  Then I see Mark from my LRS on the sideline cheering people on.  He tells me that I’m doing great, but that I need to go catch that young guy in front of me.  That was perfect timing, and just the motivation I needed to pick it back up.  I surged and passed the young guy and pulled back within a comfortable distance of white shirt guy.

Mile 5: 6:12

Pace has a slipped a lil the last two miles, but the effort is still solid.  Several times I’ve had the feeling that if I pushed harder I might puke, so I figured that was about right.  At the end of mile 5, we turn back onto the boardwalk, where we have just a touch of a tailwind, always nice.

Mile 6: 6:15

This was a tough section, not just because it was the last mile of the race, but because the finish line is in sight, but still far away, that’s always tough.  I try to start reeling in white shirt guy, but he’s running strong.  I start to lull a bit again, and just like before, suddenly Mark appeared again and told me to pump my arms and finish strong.  The bad thing about not racing often, and not doing any speedwork, is you tend to lose all form towards the end of a race.  Apparently I was focusing on my feet and my arms were just kind of flailing.  I felt my pace pick up instantly and my form improve when I started focusing on pumping my arms.  Got passed in this mile, the only time during the whole race, this guy was finishing really strong, I tried to surge to go with him, but just couldn’t hang.  I knew that I had run a good race when I didn’t have that much left in me.

.2: 5:58 pace

Kicked with everything I had left, which wasn’t much.  Thought I might puke again, but I wasn’t going to let up until I crossed the mat, and if it meant puking, then that was just fine by me.  I saw 38:xx on the clock, and knew that I had a solid PR.

Official time: 38:12 (6:09 average pace), 2:01 PR over my 40:13 at ERR 10k five months ago

Turned out to be good enough for 3rd place Masters!  Finished 13th overall out of 5384 runners, and 3rd in my group of 256.  Couldn’t be happier!  I think after I finish my marathon, and then my 50k in December, I’ll turn my focus to speed and see what I can really do at the shorter distances.

I think that with my training and this PR, I should have a shot at sub-3 in Richmond.  My plan is to go out at around a 2:58 pace, aim for a 1:29 first half, and then if I’m feeling good by mile 20, pick up the pace and finish strong.  If I’m not feeling it, then I’ll just try to hang on and squeak out a sub-3.  Overall my goal is to BQ again, so I can actually run Boston in ’16, and I think barring catastrophic failure, I should be a lock for that (my BQ is 3:15).  So my A goal will be sub-3, B goal sub-3:05 and C goal sub-3:10.  Now we just have to see if the weather cooperates.

The secret to my weight loss success

This is something that I get asked a lot by friends and people that I work with.  What’s your secret?  How did you lose all that weight?  Because there must be some secret or trick to it, right?  Then I usually get a weird look when I tell them, eat less and move more, it’s that simple.  Notice I said simple, and not easy.  The concept is about as simple as can be, the execution however, tends to be a bit more difficult, as most of us know.

There is a trick to it though, a secret if you will, and that is motivation.  This is the key to unlocking your success, really in anything in life, not just weight loss and fitness.  The problem is, that motivation has to come from within.  Sure, there can be something external that gives you the initial kick in the butt, some life changing event, someone else’s success, etc.  But that will only get you going, in order to keep going, and be successful long term, you have to learn how to motivate yourself from within.  Now you’re probably waiting for the part where I tell you how to do that, unfortunately, I don’t have that answer.  If I did, I would write a book, get rich and retire on the beach.

I can’t put my finger on why this time around was different for me.  Like most people, I had tried many times to lose weight and get healthy, joined gyms, bought workout videos, tried different diets, but all of those efforts eventually failed.  I can tell you that celebrating your small successes definitely helps, you have to give yourself some credit as you go along.  Also, you have to get rid of your goals, at least in the way that most people set them.  Your goal should be to lose weight, get healthy and get fit.  Your goal should not be to lose X amount of weight, or to lose it in X amount of time.  That is an instant recipe for disaster, because what happens when you hit that goal, or worse, if you don’t?  If you reach that goal, you’ll most like go right back to the old habits that helped you get overweight in the first place.  If you don’t reach that goal, then you feel like a failure and will give up.  Sometimes the cliches are true, it really does have to be a lifestyle change.  You have to change the way you look at food and fitness, for the rest of your life.

I won’t lie, it was tough in the beginning, I tracked every bite of food that went in my mouth, and was operating on a pretty serious caloric deficit, dropping about 10lbs a month.  But now I don’t really have to think about it, it’s just how I live and eat, I don’t track everything anymore, I’ve learned how much I need to eat to support my training and maintain my weight.  I try to make good food choices the majority of the time, which allows me to enjoy “bad” food every once in a while.  I put bad in quotes, because my wife taught me something about food, it has no morality, it is neither good nor bad, it’s just food, fuel for your body.  It is either more nutritious, or less nutritious, more calorie dense, or less calorie dense.  It’s true though, in a cruel twist of fate, there seems to be a direct correlation between how good something tastes and how many calories it contains, sometimes nature is just mean like that.  That just means that you have to balance those foods as a part of your overall diet.  I still eat pizza, cheeseburgers, ice cream, candy, and all of the other things that people deprive themselves of when they diet.  I just don’t eat them in the quantities or frequency that I used to.

When I first started out (and every time I tried before that), I couldn’t see my success, I couldn’t see what I was capable of.  But now looking back, all I can think is, what took me so long?  I guess that’s usually how it goes, the mountain doesn’t seem quite as daunting after you’ve climbed it.  When I was starting out at 270lbs, I tried to not put a number on my goal, but I think that’s hard to avoid sometimes, we humans are metric driven and love numbers.  So in my head, I was thinking that I could probably get back down to 215-220, around what I weighed when I was in the Navy, maybe a little less.  I would have said you were crazy if you told me I could get under 200lbs.  The last time I was under 200lbs was when I left bootcamp at 176lbs, and that was after someone else had controlled my eating and exercise every minute of every day for two and a half months, oh and I was 18.  But here I sit, 175lbs, the lowest weight of my adult life, and in better shape than I was at 18 when I left boot camp, and I’m not nearly done yet.

This of course isn’t the whole story, just a few thoughts I wanted to get out.  Always remember, anything is possible with enough time and determination!

First real fall run, and it was fantastic!

To explain the sheer joy of today’s run, I have to back up about a week.  I was recently sentenced to 25 days of cruel and unusual punishment, also known as treadmill running.  Over the course of that trip, I covered 332 miles, 123 of those in one seven day period, including a 3 hour 22 miler.  I’m not exactly sure how I managed to make it back with my sanity intact.  All of my runs since returning home have been great, simply for the fact that they’ve been outdoors, but today’s was the first run that really felt like fall.

Running around a beautiful lake, the leaves crunching under my feet, cool air and a bright blue sky with puffy clouds.  That’s about as good as it gets in my book!  My mileage this week has been pretty light, due to work and the fact that I’m playing the role of single father while my wife is out of town.  So the combination of rested legs and cool air is making for some decent speed at a relatively easy effort, hopefully it’s a good sign for my upcoming tuneup race, the Wicked 10k in Virginia Beach.  I had wanted to use the Crawlin’ Crab Half Marathon as my tuneup, but the work responsibilities that relegated me to three weeks of treadmill hell, also made me miss that race.  So the 10k will have to do, not ideal, but should be ok.

And away we go!

Just what the internet needs, another blog.

I’ve been putting it off for a long time, but it’s time I let the world inside my head (careful, it can be scary in there!).

I’m currently nearing the end of my training cycle for the Richmond Marathon, and things could not be going better!  This has been the highest and most consistent mileage I’ve ever run, and I feel amazing!  I wasn’t sure if I would be able to handle triple digit weeks, but lots of doubles have kept the mileage up and the injuries at bay.  I started off on a Pfitzinger plan, but then quickly got tired of being tied to a schedule.  I just want to run, at whatever pace and distance I feel like doing that day.  I’m not getting paid to do this, so I want to make sure I enjoy it.  Being tied to a plan was sucking the fun out of my running.  So after four weeks, I dropped the plan and decided to try an experiment.  I call it the “Run as much as you can without breaking yourself” training plan.  I’m not saying it’s for everyone, but it seems to be working really well for me.  We’ll find out in four weeks if it’s going to pay off or not.

Speaking of running, it’s time to hit the pavement!