1,000 miles in 2016??? What in the world was I thinking??

Yep… I did it.  I’m not even finished my Bachelors Degree.  Only two classes away from graduating and I’m setting new goals.  That’s me!  In a effort to get back into shape, I took on the challenge of running 1000 miles in the year 2016.

See, I’m the type of person, who sets a goal without thinking about how I’m going to get there.  I do that a lot nowadays.  I actually try to set goals that scare me or make me uncomfortable. I did that when I accepted the invitation to run my first marathon a couple of years ago. I mean seriously… we only get one shot at living this life, right? We don’t get to come back and do it all again, so why waste time and precious life doing things that don’t blow past the confines of our safety zone.

But, before you go thinking that I’m some renegade who had always pushed boundaries, I must say that it wasn’t always this way. Frankly speaking, in the past I’ve been the guy who either wouldn’t try or the guy who didn’t set a goal because it scared me or I just didn’t want to work that hard. Even though I knew and everyone else knew I had the ability and wherewithal to go above and beyond.

This tendency went all the way back to grade school. My teachers had to stay on me. My mom had to push me. Guidance counselors admonished me to take things seriously and go after what I wanted. I had many great teachers, who cared so much about helping me see and reach my potential. In fact, one teacher who I love dearly to this very day used to tell me, “Get out the gym, Sam” or “Go to class, Sam”. Her voice still rings in my head today. But, I love her for it. The problem was, I didn’t want much. I had no passion.

Well, let’s fast forward to today. I’m a couple of months away from completing my Bachealoreate Program in Small Business and Entrepreneurship. I’m in the process of obtaining my real estate license in MD and I’m planning to go to law school in the near future!!! A complete 180° turn from being a knucklehead. There’s no more time to waste. There are things I want out of life and the only one that’s going to achieve them for me, is me… as long as the good Lord gives me grace and continues to shine his mercy down on me.

So, in the spirit of being an example to my own kids by setting and working towards BIG goals, I decided to work towards this particular goal. I saw it late last year and was contemplating on doing it as I wanted to get back into shape and run a couple of longer distances races by the end of this year. I kept seeing this gold medal with a red heart. It looked really cool and i thought it would be an awesome addition to my medal collection. It was the #eBibs I LOVE TO RUN Challenge. There were 2 options. The first was to work out for 100 days in 2016 and the second was to run/walk 1000 miles in 2016.

During the holidays it kept popping up on my Facebook timeline. It was quite intriguing. So, I said to myself that if I was going to do something, do it BIG.

On Dec 31, 2015, I signed up and made the commitment. I don’t know how I’m going to do it or if I’m going to make it. But I will put my best foot forward in this effort. In sales, there’s a saying that goes like this… “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer? “One bite at a time.”

So that’s the way I’m approaching this endeavor. I’m going to be steady, I’m going to be consistent and I’m going to reach that thousand mile mark. That’s the way I’m approaching this task, that’s the way I’m approaching life.

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How am I approaching my training this time compared to last???

So, I’ve made the commitment to get back into #thelab (the gym). I just had a great workout tonight and I’m feeling really good. The thing is, I don’t want to be trying to get back into shape and just starting in 2016. I’m preparing now, so that when I get finished with school in March, I’ll have a good base to launch the 2016 racing season.

I’m going to focus a lot on speed this time around. I figure that I can reach many of my weight loss goals a lot faster, if I focus on high intensity workouts. Not to mention, it’ll be easier to run longer distances at an easier pace if I train at a higher intensity for shorter periods of time.

When I began running the first time, I was mainly focused on distance and trying to complete my first marathon. I think training that way did not allow me to become as strong as I needed to, which had an effect on my muscles becoming significantly fatigued in the last third of longer distance races. For example, out of 6 half marathons completed, I got cramps in my calves or my hamstrings between miles 10 and 13 in at least 5 of them. I hated limping across the finish line. There’s even video somewhere of me crossing the finish line of the BB&T Half Marathon like a wounded bird. I’m gonna find the footage and let you see it. I’ll place it here when I find it.

So this time, I’m planning to approach my training in a more deliberate way. I’ll look to run more 10ks and hopefully make the Charles Street 12 my first longer distance race of the year. That race is usually in August. And then I’ll make the Baltimore Half Marathon my first half of the year. I then hope to do the Richmond half marathon to end racing season.

If all goes according to plan, I will hope to have achieved a new PR in the half marathon distance. But it all begins, now.

Stay tuned folks… I’m back!!!

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Ugly Sweater Run

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This morning I ran in the Ugly Sweater Christmas 5k. For me, it was a celebration for my ‘official’ return to running. This past year has definitely been a struggle. Being a husband, a father to 3 great kids, in school trying to finish my degree and working full time is not an easy task. Something had to give.

They say that laser focus on one goal is better than trying to focus on several goals at one time. My most important goal has been and still is to finish my degree and I’m only 2 classes away!!! Yay me!!!

But, I digress… back to today.

So, I decided to use this race as the milestone for me getting back into shape and back to trying to live a healthier life… basically, what I was doing when I started running in the first place. It’s really been difficult considering my current schedule is full of long work hours, late study hours, waking up early to get the kids to school. On the grand scheme of things, running was not a major priority. It takes time, commitment and consistency.

Anyway, today’s race was at the National Harbor in Maryland. That area has really been improved. I enjoy spending time there, whenever I get the chance to do so. I left around 7am since the race started at 9am. I always try to arrive as early as possible, as I wanted to reduce the headaches resulting from traffic and parking. Even still, I couldn’t get around the traffic issue because road work was being done about halfway to my destination.

I finally got to the Harbor around 7:45. The trip usually takes 20-25 minutes. Once I got there, traffic was backed up. Participants were getting in line to park in the designated parking area. It wasn’t that bad.

I walked down to the registration area to register, because I didn’t get to pick up my packet the day before. Things went pretty smoothly. As I walked around, I enjoyed seeing the decorations and all the runners competing for the ugliest sweater. I even saw a grown up Ralphie!

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It was such a festive atmosphere!!! This was my first themed race, which was pretty cool. As I mentioned in my Periscope video, I was just the to have fun. There were no PRs to shoot for, there was no pressure and no stress. I was just there to measure how far I’ve fell off in my fitness and how hard it would be to run 3 miles. And to that point… yes, my weight has gone up and my fitness level has dropped, significantly. (That’s putting it nicely)

I had a little bit of time before the runners needed to move towards the start line. So I went around to view many of the wonderful decorations, I enjoyed some hot cocoa and reminisced on how fun it was to be back in that atmosphere.

Here are a few pictures I took:

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As we got closer to 9 am, they told us over the loud speaker to head towards the starting line. We did just that. The music was pumping and the feeling was electric!! We were about to start!!! But first, the national anthem had to be sung.

What they told us, was their national anthem singer had come down with laryngitis the night before, so they needed a volunteer. So… I volunteered.

Lol. No I didn’t, I’m kidding… lol.  But a military woman from New Orleans volunteered and did the job, successfully. Once the anthem was sung, the music started again and the countdown for the first wave was on.

I was in the second wave… so we moved on up closer to the start. I felt good. The feelings of excitement and the buzz I normally get right before a race, were there. It was about to be on and poppin!!!

They said go and we were off… I felt free and really good for the first half mile. Then there came a hill. No problem. I just walked it. We got to the very first aid station and they were offering hot cocoa. That was different, but I didn’t take any though.  I ran ahead to what was another hill. My plan was not to tax myself on the hills. So, I walked.

As I walked up the hill, I saw these amazing townhomes that were right across from the beautiful Gaylord hotel. I have an appreciation for houses, as real estate is part of my background…

Anyway, we continued on and we came upon the second aid station which was offering water. I took it and kept on moving! I ran and walked when I got tired. I kept this process going the rest of the way.  As I mentioned, the race was not being timed and I wasn’t pressuring myself to break any records. I just wanted to enjoy the experience.

As we came around the final bend, you could see the National Ferris Wheel and the finish line. I stopped to take a couple of pictures of the scene…

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And I kept moving.

As we got closer, I could hear the music and see the crowds.  When I got to the finishers shoot, all the runners who had already completed their races cheered us on. That’s the reason I love the running community. Everyone is so friendly and supportive!! I was drawn to this experience when I first started running a few years ago and it hasn’t changed. It’s still infectious today.

So, this was my official return back to running. I’m going to be writing more than I have over the past year. But also, I have found a new app called Periscope and I’ll be using that as another tool for accountability. So if you want to view my progress, I’d love to interact with you. We can take this journey together!!! Don’t let a month or two go past and we’ve improved on some things and others haven’t. We’re definitely not trying to leave anyone behind. So start now. Start today! There’s no better time to do it!

I’m hoping to build a community of people who can support one another in reaching their goals. It doesn’t matter whether those goals have to do with weight loss, running new distances, running better times, school, improving in any phase of life. In my opinion, there’s not enough care and support for others. So, like Michael Jackson sang, “I’m starting with the man in the mirror…” I’m starting this positivity movement and you’re welcome to join me!!!

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First race of the new year: Rock n’ Roll DC 5k

The gun goes off and as we move closer to the start line, the first obstacle of the race presents itself. One of my big sisters (who also ran the race) described this obstacle as a “lake of a puddle” and that’s exactly what it was. This lake of a puddle, which we seemed to need a canoe to cross, caused a major traffic jam. Runners crashed into the back of each other, because we all were hesitant about getting our feet wet. It was already raining cats and dogs, and our clothes were getting pretty wet anyway… but running a race with soggy feet makes things much more interesting, if not tougher.

There was no way to get around it and we had no other choice, but to commit. As each runner worked up the nerve to commit to running this 5k with soaked shoes and socks, traffic started moving again. I, like everyone else weighed my options and came to the same decision everyone else did. As my right foot landed in the puddle, the cold water rushed through the mesh of my tennis shoes and saturated my sock. I tried to miss the remaining portion of the puddle, but with no success, my left foot endured the same punishment my right foot had experienced in the previous step.

After this obstacle, my race could finally begin. We started in the parking lot of legendary RFK stadium. This stadium is a historic landmark to me and native Washingtonians. If you’re a Washington Redskins fan, this stadium is representative of the glory years of our beloved football team.

A few of my running buddies ran this 5k with me. We started out together, but as the race went on, each of us settled into our own paces and eventually our group separated. In the weeks leading upto the race, one of my running buddies claimed he would beat me in this race. I don’t normally back down from a challenge, let alone one in which I think I can win.

So, there was no choice but to take him up on the offer. This challenge was for bragging rights. Now, that may not seem big to you, but bragging rights are huge within our group. One way or another, we’re always taking shots at each other or joking about what one of us did or did not do.

As the race began, this challenge was in my mind. Now, this particular friend is smaller than I am and somewhat quicker. I knew he’d come out of the gates flying (which he did), but I had experience. I thought sure he would become gassed by the time we got in the middle of it.

I was cruising, feeling really good. I had no way of measuring my time and distance because I lost my Garmin and I forgot to start the Map My Run app on my phone. So, I was subject to the mile markers provided and the clock at the finish line.

As I was running, I remember thinking that the mile 1 marker was taking a long time to make itself known. I even thought that one of 2 things happened or would happen… I either missed the marker or there were none. I figured the latter made sense, since it was such a short race. And then mile marker 1 decides to show up. When I saw it, I was a little annoyed because I felt like I was running too long for it to only be one mile. But after thinking about it, it was raining and it’s possible that things were slightly distorted. Inclimate weather tends to change the perception of time and distance in my opinion.

Anyway, I came through mile marker 1 and was getting close to the turnaround. I saw one of my running buddies and he was cruising his way back to the finish. But, I didn’t see my challenger… So, I just kept on moving.

I got around the turnaround and was on my way to finishing mile 2. I still couldn’t find my challenger. All of a sudden, as I clear mile 2, he comes up behind me and says “I almost didn’t see you pass me.” Apparently I had blown past him without even knowing.

He wanted to chat a bit, but I wasn’t in a chatty mood. All I thought about while he was talking was, how bad I wanted to crush him. I wanted the bragging rights!! So after I didn’t say anything, he chose to push ahead.

We were coming up to the bridge right before the final bend. I spotted him again and this time I wanted to make sure he couldn’t see me. As we cruised the bridge, I passed him on the inside and turned my head the opposite direction so he couldn’t see my face. I was able to get back in front of him, but before I could really put some distance between us, he got me again.

He pulled in front and kept pushing around the final bend into the finishers shoot. I came around the bend and tried to gain on him, but it was too little too late.

As I came through the finish, I graciously accepted my medal and all the snacks they were offering.🙂

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I couldn’t wait to see the times, because my only chance to beat him at this point, was to hope that his chip time was worse than mine. It wasn’t… he got me by a few seconds. Smh…

So now I’ve gotta hear his mouth until we race again…

This was my first Rock n Roll race. I really enjoyed the experience and next year, I plan to run the half.

Thanks for reading!!!

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Baltimore Half Marathon 2014 Recap

Respect is earned… never given.  That’s the thought that kept flashing through my mind as I slowly labored through the course this year and as I crossed the finish line with a disappointing net time of 3 hours 23 minutes.  I’ll explain this a little later in my post.

In the weeks leading up to this year’s half, I expected to be in a lot of discomfort to say the least.  My training for this race was inconsistent and I was dealing with some type of hip pain, that after researching a bit, I thought may have been bursitis… I’m still not sure of what it was exactly, but I know it was painful.  I hadn’t done any strength training, I had only gotten up to a long run of 8 miles and my focus hadn’t been there throughout this training period.  So, my confidence for putting together a strong performance was at an all time low.

So instead of putting unnecessary pressure on myself, I decided to just run the race for the fun of it.  After watching the 5kers start, Mike and I walked to the half marathon start line and got into our wave.  The marathoners had started before the 5k and we were soon able to see the wheelchair athletes and top marathoners running past.  I expected to see Dave Berdan, last year’s winner, in the front but he was not there.  After a short while, we saw him coming down Light Street, but he didn’t look too good.  I offered my encouragement by shouting, “Come on Dave!!”, as he was my favorite to win.  But, he looked like he may have been dealing with some type of injury.  Later, we found out on the news that he did have an injury.

It was getting closer to 8:45, which was our scheduled start time.  It was time for us to begin our race and as we walked towards the start line, I saw my godparents who came out to support us.  It’s always good seeing a familiar face at a race… It can be extremely encouraging.  After the waves ahead of us crossed the starting line, we were coming up to where the music was playing and the party was going.  Confetti filled the air as we crossed the starting line, which was a nice touch.  I didn’t remember confetti last year.

Anyway, I started my race… I ran the first mile and a half and that’s when my hip started bothering me.  I walked a bit until I got to mile 2.  I ran a bit more.  I kept this routine up for about 6 miles.  As we got to Lake Montebello, the pain in my hip was becoming too much to bear.  I made sure to bring the store brand pain reliever, that I purchased the night before, with me on the course… I knew I’d need it.  At the next water station, I took the pain reliever and by the time I got around the lake, the pain had dulled.  I felt like I’d be able to make it the rest of the way… I mean, I had less than 5 miles to go, right?

I slowly trekked through the 9th mile.  By this time, I was beginning to cramp up.  I stayed within myself.  I pulled to the side and stretched a bit.  The stretching helped and I kept moving.  Walking and running was how I was gonna get to the finish.  There was no time that I was trying to achieve at this point.  It was just a matter of finishing.

Every half mile seemed to trigger a potential cramp.  I stopped, stretched and kept going.  By the time I got to mile 12, my hamstrings, calves, and inner thighs were so fatigued and if I attempted to change anything, they would all seize up like pretzels.

Finally, the finish line was visible. I made it. I… made… it. I was happy that this one was over. Another half marathon down, another medal added.

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What have I been up to? Where have I been?

What have I been up to?  Outside of working daily at my normal duties as a husband, a father and a man, I’ve been fundraising for cancer and doing my best to prepare for the 550 Relay.  But, outside of that not much else.

Where have I been?  I’ve been around, just not around the blog and inconsistently around running.  But that’s part of what this post is about.

It’s been a while.  I haven’t written a blog post in some time.  I have no elaborate reason as to why.  Frankly, life has been… well, life.  You never know what twists and turns will present themselves to you.  Not to mention, there’s just been a significant lack of motivation with my running and writing.  For what it’s worth, the two are actually like therapies for me.  But over the last few months, that hasn’t been the case.

Could I be in a funk?  Possibly.  It wouldn’t be the first time.  Could I just be tired?  I could.  I was talking to Mike about it and I realized that over the past 16 months there was always some type of race to prepare for.  I haven’t done as many races as some, but I’ve done quite a few within this last year.  There hasn’t been much downtime where I can just run for the joy of it.  This is something that I’ll have to improve upon in the future.  It could be good ol’ burnout.

Could I have hit a plateau?  This is possible.  Weight loss has slowed down and I’ve even gained a few pounds.  The focus I used to have on my diet, is no longer as tenacious as it once was.  Is stress a factor?  Could be.  There are some things that have come into my life that have definitely increased the stress levels from what they were.  But, it’s nothing I can’t handle.

Could it be because I turned 30?  Ha!!  It sounds silly and I seriously doubt it.  But ironically things are different than what they have been over the last couple of years.  I recently had an injury that I’ve never experienced before.  The pains I tend to wake up with now, nag more than they have before, if I even noticed them before.  Nahhh… this reason is out.  Next???

Could my love of running have diminished?  It’s possible.  There’s no longer a newness in achieving high miles.  There’s a desire to improve my times on those distances, but reaching a new distance is no longer, as appealing.  I’ve crossed the finish line of a marathon and have completed races and distances below 26.2 miles.  I do have a desire to do an ultra marathon (a race over 26.2 miles), but I’m not in the right mindset to do that at this time.  Let’s not even mention my fitness level.  Maybe the newness of running has worn off.Could it be a lack of structure?  To this point, I’ve never used a training plan to prepare for a race.  I will seriously consider using one for the fall season.  But, not having a structured plan to guide me could have an affect on my running as well.  Maybe not… It’s a thought though.

As you can see, this post is about my running… or the lack thereof.  But, I’m trying to figure out the mental side of why my running has been different in a negative way, compared to this time last year.  I believe working through the mental side of running goes along with the race recaps and joys of faster times and new experiences.  Running, like a lot of things is mental anyway.  You’re attempting to overcome and subject your body to something your mind believes it can achieve.  It’s all part of being a runner…  Being able to understand and work through all of the aspects of running.

Have you ever felt lost about something you enjoy?  Did time away from it, do some good?  I’m thinking it may.  Maybe switching my training will help.  For example, instead of focusing so much on distance, work more at speed.  That’s what one of my buddies told me.  I’ll definitely figure it out, but I needed to get some of this stuff out of my head.

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What’s been missing in my races?

I’ve been reflecting on the few longer distance races that I’ve completed to this point and I’ve noted that I’ve had problems with cramps in the majority of them. The race before this last one in Ocean City, the BB&T Corporate Cup Half Marathon, was probably the worst.  Between miles 11 – 13, my lower leg muscles threatened to constrict and cause major pain and discomfort.  Just as I crossed the finish line, they no longer threatened, they flared up and made it difficult to run or walk any further.  I was almost to the point where I couldn’t even stand up.

I remember having the same problems, although not as severe, in my very first half marathon, my second half marathon and my first full marathon.

So what was going on?  Why couldn’t I get through a race without cramps?

A couple of things came to mind: Hydration and potassium, or the lack thereof.  Frankly, I don’t hydrate enough.  Drinking 96 ounces of water a day may seem like a lot, but apparently, it isn’t enough for me.  And bananas, which are a major source of potassium, have not been included in my diet for over 10 years.  Why, you ask?  I’ve always thought that I was allergic to them. My mouth used to itch, hurt and swell up after eating a banana our even an apple!

The truth is, I used to eat bananas. The interesting thing about the BB&T Corporate Cup Half was, that I was so desperate for relief from the cramps that had taken over my legs, I ate a banana and had no problems!!

Shortly after fully digesting a whole banana and re-hydrating with the necessary fluids, my muscles relaxed and I was able to walk under my own power, again.  This experience started turning the wheels in my head about the important things that I’ve been neglecting during training and before participating in a race.  This experience could be the key to more efficient race performances and improved race times.

This past race, the Ocean City Island 2 Island Half Marathon, I tried a few different things. I hydrated much better by purchasing a gallon of water every two days and knocking them back. Sure, that may be a little extreme, but I was desperate for answers! I then purchased a cluster of bananas and ate them… one every other day, a week before the race. I ate one before the race along with a sports drink and my protein shake and had no problems at all during the race!!

I even PR’d!! I shaved off 5 minutes from Charlotte’s race time and still could’ve done better than that, if I didn’t lose time waiting on a bathroom!!

Finally, I found some success as I was able to finish this half marathon with no cramps and PR the distance!!

I’ll definitely be tweaking things and finding out what works best, but I think I’ve found a good pre race routine. I’ll keep doing it unless things change, negatively!!

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