This summer it seems like I have been away a lot more than I have been home. Don’t get me wrong, this is not me complaining – simply remarking on the regularity with which I find myself planning my training runs outside of my home base. Having recently visited Spring Lake, NJ and Virgina Beach, VA, this week see’s Jess and I ensconced on Fire Island for five days. We’re sharing a house with some friends and plan on doing as little as possible for the duration of our stay. With that said, I can’t skip out on my training runs and have mapped out some path’s that will hopefully see me stick to my plan as closely as possible. I don’t like running on sand, so I have worked the routes around the paths between Ocean Bay Park and Ocean Beach. On either side of those towns the paths turn sandy, so there’s probably going to be a lot of repetition as I run back and forth across the mile and a half stretch of paved pathway.
Jess is bringing her running gear too, so we might get out for a leisurely run together at some point. I’m going to try to focus on morning runs as much as possible. The last time I was on Fire Island with this crowd it was something of a party house, but these days everyone’s grown up and baby bottles are replacing liquor bottles on the kitchen counters. Again, not complaining as it means there’s less chance I’ll bail on a run because of a dodgy head. I can’t vouch for my diet over the next few days though. Beach living tends to revolve around burgers, dogs, and beers (which I thoroughly enjoy), so the morning runs will certainly help avoid trying to exercise on a belly full of malted hops and meat.
Finally, I have to be wary of the sun and protect my fair skin. I have a habit of underestimating my skin’s burn time and ending up a shade somewhere between a beet and a lobster. From above, my body has been mistaken for a localized forest fire on occasion. Obviously I would prefer to avoid having to bathe in aloe, so a factor 50 sunscreen on the face and neck while out for a run is mandatory.
It’s been a few weeks since I mentioned my marathon training, so though this would be a good opportunity to provide a status check. I’m just starting the fifth week of my 18 week training plan. Over the course of the last four weeks I have been extremely happy with how my knee has responded to the rigors of daily activity. Despite the increased workload, I have not felt any discomfort. This may be partly down to the use of a knee strap while running and an ice pack afterward, but that’s a whole lot better than medicating with painkillers on a daily basis. I’ve also been rather impressed with my ability to get up at five o’clock in the morning and get a run in before heading off to work. Whether that continues as the days get shorter and the mornings darker, we’ll just have to wait and see. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are pretty tough with such an early start and I need to be more disciplined about going to bed on time the night before and getting enough sleep.
These past few weeks have been a challenge in two areas; the heat and the distance. If you recall, I really only started running seriously late last year. Prior to this year, I had no experience running in the summer and I have to admit – I hate it. The heat and humidity do not agree with me one bit. Besides being extra smelly when I come back from a run, I find my energy levels depleting quite quickly on runs – even when I’m taking on board supplements and gels. For those reasons, I have not always been able to reach my distance goals on each run. My long run in week two should have been nine miles, but I hit the wall early and struggled to clock in at six. Some of my mid-week runs have been slightly shorter also, both because of the conditions and getting used to some new training routes around Prospect Park.
Even with the aforementioned issues, I like to look back over the opening weeks with some semblance of pride and regard them as moderately successful. I’ve come to realize that it’s not always possible to stay true to the plan, but so long as I’m training smart then I’m making good progress. Although I’m not setting the roads alight with my speed, that I can finish an 11 mile run in a reasonable time and maintain my physical condition makes me very happy. I’ll check in again just before the half way point and prior to the Yonkers Half Marathon with another update, but in the meantime you can get more regular activity-based updates on my twitter feed.
According to Jess (who knows me pretty well), I can be pretty regimented at times. In particular, when following through on plans or directions. She’s not wrong either – I can be inflexible, diligently adhering to the plan without really taking the time to pause and assess whether my actions are for the best. Stubborn is a word that has been used once or twice around our place. It’s something that came up in the past and caused a bit of tension between us. It is also one of the reasons I ended up with an over-training injury earlier in the year. Not surprisingly, flexibility of schedule was the subject of a recent tweet by one of the individuals I most respect in the running community:
When real life interferes, sometimes you can juggle schedules and maintain momentum; other times you need to sigh and skip the workout.
As we approached summer, many questions circulated my brain relating to maintaining my training while enjoying weekends and vacations at the beach and lake. I would like to think that I have learned my lesson, and am not blindly prioritizing training activities ahead of all else. But the unfamiliar was definitely causing me some stress as discussions about various trips loomed. This summer has given me lots of opportunities to test out my adaptability, and put into practice some of the promises I made to Jess last year. Whereas in the past I might have been hesitant to take days and weekends away from my home base, potentially disrupting my ever so well crafted training plan, these days I can be more flexible thanks to technology and a little forward planning.
Ever since I started running over a year and a half ago, I have been using an app called Runkeeper to track my activities and view historical reports. I like it because it’s easy to use both on the web and phone. Recently, I started to make use of the routes function. Initially, I used this to map my routes for the various training runs in my plan. However, I quickly realized that it also gave me the ability to pre-plan routes for those times when I’m away from home. So far this summer I have been able to create routes near our upstate weekend retreat and along the Jersey shore where we recently spent some time with friends. We’re planning further trips through the end of August, and to maintain my plan I have mapped out appropriate routes in and around Virginia Beach and Fire Island, NY.
Using the tools and technology at my disposal, I am able to travel and take advantage of the summer while holding myself to my training plan. The biggest issue is then simply a case of finding the right time to head out for a run. As I’m an early riser, I am able to take advantage of the cooler temperatures in the morning and complete my run before anyone else is awake and moving about.