Friday, December 20, 2013

Advent: Bursting at the Seams

On my run this morning I was nearly overwhelmed as I began to reflect on the Advent season and the coming celebration of Christmas. In these last days of Advent I cannot help that my patient waiting and quiet preparation begins to turn more and more to joy. I know what is coming, I know what we are about to celebrate. It's not presents but presence and no ordinary presence but the presence of God Himself among us, as us. Think about how truly awesome it is that the Lord, who created all things, so badly wanted to be reconciled to us that He Himself took pity on us and took on our human form and gave humanity the best gift we could hope for. A gift that was beyond all expectations, Himself, and when you realize the "us" includes "you" how can you not be bursting at the seams with true and complete joy. O come, o come Emmanuel!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

O Antiphon: Tuesday of the 3rd Week of Advent

Today in the "O" antiphon we pray to be taught the virtue of prudence. The antiphon for today is today in the traditional Latin is
"O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodidisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviter disponensque omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae. "*
One English translation of that is
"O Wisdom, who came from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: come, and teach us the way of prudence."*
So today in our preparations for Christmas we pray to develop the virtue of prudence. But what exactly is prudence, what does the Church mean by this prayer. Prudence is defined in paragraph 1806 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as
"Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; "the prudent man looks where he is going." "Keep sane and sober for your prayers." Prudence is "right reason in action," writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle. It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience. The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid."
 So according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church prudence is the ability not only to see right from wrong, to see clearly the difference between good and evil choices, in specific situations but to also make the choices in those situations that are pleasing to God.

*Original Latin and English translation from

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

2013 Monumental Marathon Race Report

Training Stats
Number of week -- 18 (7/1/2013 - 11/2/2013)
Total miles -- 1199
Average daily miles -- 8.5
Longest run -- 26.2 (Fox Valley Marathon)
Peak weekly mileage -- 88
Average pace -- 7:30
Number of 20 + mile runs -- 8

Race Stats
Goal -- 2:54:59
Actual Time -- 2:53:28 (PR)
Avg HR -- 165 (92% of Maximum Heart Rate MHR)
Peak HR -- 175 (97% of MHR)
Avg pace -- 6:36
62/3494 Overall
51/1994 Men
5/334 40-44 Age Group
First half 1:26:16
Second half 1:27:11
I ran a strong race as shown by continually moving up in ranking through the race
101st @ 10k
88th in the first half
79th @ 30k
59th in the last half

The Monumental starts and finishes in downtown Indianapolis so to avoid the stress of travel on race day we stayed in a hotel just a couple of blocks from the start line. We checked in early afternoon on Friday hit the expo, did packet pickup and then headed over to the Spaghetti Factory for some serious carb loading. After dinner we drove the course looking for good spectator spots for my wife and daughter. We got back to the hotel about 8:30. Sleep was sparse due in part to some very loud hotel guests a couple of rooms down. In fact, we had to call the front desk 3 times and finally they sent security up to have a chat with the people in room 624.
My wife and me waiting for the race to start. Here is some great advice, save your space blanket from one race to use while you wait to start another race. Now you don't have to waste a perfectly good sweatshirt. You're welcome.

The Monumental is getting to be a larger race, the full marathon sold out with a cap of 4500 runners and there were over 13000 total participants between all 3 events; marathon, half-marathon, and 5k. I think I knew more than 10 people running this year, by far the most I have ever known in a race. I ran into my friend from the Carmel Marathon, Garrett, near bag check. He asked me what I was planning to run. When I told him I was looking for 2:54:59 he said he wasn't sure if he was in shape for it but may try to run with me.

I have missed my goal in both of the other marathons that I have raced by 30 seconds or so. I seem to be unable to do the math required in the moment to stay on pace. Moreover, we all know that the Garmin drifts so this time I was determined to not miss my goal due to GPS error. I went with a smart pace pace band from I chose a race strategy they call "Modified Warmup" but I call "Build in enough up front to fall apart at the end" which is what I usually do anyway. A great piece of advice that I got and took was to shut off the auto-lap feature on my Garmin and keep the splits myself. I did this and will never race with auto-lap on again. Between the pace band which let me know what my elapsed time and current mile time should be, and not having the Garmin auto-lap I felt in much greater control of my pace than when I am running based on the "average" pace displayed on the Garmin. I will be using some form of pace chart in all of my future races.

This race featured a corralled start with seeding based on estimated finish times. Garrett and I were both seeded in level 2 behind the elites and we met up in the corral and made small talk until the start. We ran together for about the first 8 miles. I enjoyed the time and it really helped move the race along. After about 8 miles he decided that he wanted to slow a bit so I was on my own from there.

Not much to remark on between 8 and 13.1 except to say that I felt good and was putting time in the bank. I hit the halfway mark and while my pacing strategy allowed me to start slowing here I still felt good and decided to hold pace mile by mile until I started to feel the need to slow. So I mentally focused in each mile to keep the pace in the 6:30's. I was able to stay below 6:40 until mile 22 when I started to fade just a bit but nothing drastic and I wasn't worried as I was still well ahead of goal pace.

Mile 23. There they were! My wife and daughter. I hadn't seen them up to this point except for a quick sighting of Kasey at mile 3. My wife had run the 5k and they had been unable to catch up to me until this point. Beginning to slow, this was a great time to see them. Kasey is yelling at me that I've got to want it bad enough to make it hurt and my wife is telling me that she broke 30 minutes in the 5k and that I needed to "go get it." This was a huge shot in the arm so to speak. About a minute after I saw them I glanced at my Garmin and it had me well below a pace of 6:00. While I was stunned to still be able to produce that kind of speed and would have loved to hold it I knew it was a recipe for disaster and focused on getting things back under control. The split came in consistent with the rest so I must have done well.

In mile 24 I was passed by a woman who was absolutely flying and looked as strong as she must have in mile 5. I encouraged her along and watched her pull further and further away. I am pretty sure she is the only person who passed me the entire race that actually ended up finishing ahead of me. We were back in the downtown area now. I knew the PR was in the bag and I knew the goal was in the bag. While I maintained my pace I just began to enjoy the last couple of miles.

Spectators here started calling out encouraging sentiments using my name, it was on my bib, and I tell you folks, that is more helpful than you can imagine. In the last few miles of a hard run marathon I was hearing things like "Dig deep, Christian, you've got this" and "Christian, just another mile, looking strong!" If you get a chance to cheer at a marathon, do it. If you can use the persons name, do it. I makes a world of difference.

I made the turn for the final tenth of a mile and saw the clock and knew that not only was I going to PR and meet my goal, I was going to crush both. I PR'ed by two minutes and had 1:30 to spare to meet my goal.

Mile 26.2. Relief. Joy. Satisfaction.

The finish line was great. With my goal exceeded and and shiny new PR I got to stand and wait for Garrett and be the first to congratulate him on another successful marathon and meet a friend I had never met before in real life. I found out that my wife had smashed her 5k PR by about 2 minutes and I got to share the joy of my new PR with my daughter Kasey.

My only regret is that my youngest daughter was unable to be there at the finish line. She had a prom to stay home and get ready for and I have to say it was worth it, she looked stunning.

By the grace of God I've got another successful marathon training cycle in the books. This time I left nothing on the course and I couldn't be more satisfied. The cycle began at the end of an injury and I wasn't certain for the first  several weeks if I would actually run a marathon again, let alone PR like this.

I have some decisions to make now. I am thinking of switching from Pete to Jack. I first started thinking that I might do this when I failed to PR in a couple of half-marathons. But the half-marathon is not my focus and Pete's plan is still producing PR's for me in the marathon. I have never been hurt doing Pete's workouts and my body is accustomed to them. But Jack's seem to focus more on speed and I am not sure if I will get bored with another Pfitzinger training cycle. I've got a a little while before I have to decide because either way I will be in recovery/build up for at least the next 6 weeks doing lots of easy running. Whatever the case, I've got my hotel booked, my flight booked, and received my official confirmation card from the BAA in the mail yesterday, so plenty of motivation to train for a spring marathon since the next stop is Hopkinton MA on 4/21/2014.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Advice for Racing

This morning my daughter is on her way to a cross country meet and I wish I was going to watch. If I were there I would remind her of this before her race.
The feeling you get when you are running as hard as you can, your gut turning to liquid and being as close to puking as possible, your legs turning to jello and your lungs screaming for relief. All of that goes away within a matter of seconds after crossing the finish line. But the feeling of satisfaction, knowing you gave it everything you have,the pride of a shiny new PR and the disappointment of your rivals.That lasts much longer. So go, give it all you've got and never, ever be afraid to puke.
But then again I know she's not afraid to puke. I know she's going to give it all she's got. I know because I've seen it before.

Monday, September 30, 2013

2013 BeeBumble 10k: Race Report

This has quickly become one of my favorite races of the year and I am not alone because there was a record 575 participants across the different events this year. I like the small town atmosphere, I like the course that is an out and back on a country road, and the timing makes it a perfect tune up race for the fall season. After my performance here the last two years I am also really beginning to appreciate it for the confidence booster it is and it's ability to add a breath of fresh air to the end of the training cycle for the 2013 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon.

For this race I added an early morning shake out run to get my body primed for running. This was just a short and easy 20 minute run very first thing out of bed. Nearly all of my running is first thing in the morning but I've never done it as a shakeout for a race. I liked it and think I'll keep it. The last 5k I ran I didn't do a warm up and I learned my lesson because it cost me a very slow first mile. So once we got to Burnettsville and got our packets collected I headed out for short easy warm up and finished up with 5 x 20 second strides to get my legs, heart and lungs ready to run hard. I finished the warm up with about 10 minuets to spare, hit the restroom and lined up.

Last year I was engaged in an epic, all out, man to man, head to head race to the finish line. You can read the details here but it made for a thrilling experience and is one of my favorite racing moments. I had no idea who he was at the time but since then we have established a friendship and actually planned to meet again and race this year and this time it was a race from the start line.

I had 3 goals this year for the race. The first was to PR and I thought I should have no trouble with that. The second was to run a 38:38. I was fairly confident in that and my strategy was to go out conservative with that time in mind and finish strong. I was planning a 6:20 first mile and then to build from there. My third goal was to beat my friend Cliff who out kicked me in the final steps of the race last year.

We lined up next to each other and when the signal was given we were off. At the start line I was blocked in by a slower runner in front of me and I had to shove my way through. I took the early lead and hung on to it throughout most of the race with Cliff right on my shoulder never seeming to be more than 2 or 3 steps off.
We hit the first mile and I heard them calling out the time 6:04, 6:05, 6:06. Blasted! I had gone out to fast and this race was going to hurt bad. Cliff was right there on me so I couldn't really let up. Yeah, this race is going to hurt.

The first 1.5 miles of the course is pretty flat and the second 1.5 is described as having some "moderate hills." Moderate maybe in some other part of the country but these are nice sized hills for the middle of Indiana and they make the middle of this race a suffer-fest when you are going all out and are not afforded the luxury of backing off of the pace to accommodate for the extra work. Mile two 6:16 and mile three came in at 6:00. I was hurting pretty bad at this point. And there was Cliff still right on my heels.

I started to play with the pace a bit and realized that either knowingly or unknowingly he was letting me set the pace. I used this to allow myself to recover a bit and the next two miles came in at 6:14 each. Around mile 5 I spotted another runner who was starting to fade and targeted him for a pass. The course had flattened back out and as I caught up with him I was beginning to feel better and was confident I could finish strong from here. I tried to encourage him along with some positive words.

Between mile five and six was all business even as we were coming back toward town and catching the back end of the 5k. We started to received a lot of encouragement and I think people could tell we were racing. The race finishes by coming around a curve in the last tenth of a mile and my plan was to kick hard here. My wife who had just run the 5k was waiting here and though I couldn't see her for the sun I could hear here as she shouted to me letting me know that I really needed to go hard because Cliff was attempting a pass.
Headed to the finish and digging deep.

I dug deep and kicked hard and was able to hang on for the win. I ended up 4th overall out of 117 and 1st in my age group. I PR'ed with a time of 38:22. Not only did I achieved every goal I set before me for this race I also realized that I PR'ed the 5k in this race.....back-to-back, you know twice in a row....during the same race. Just like last year this race has shown me that my training is paying off and has energized me to finish out this training cycle strong.

Last year my oldest daughter ran this race with me. This year the whole family ran and my oldest daughters boyfriend even ran his first 5k here with us. Everyone had a great race. Kasey PR'ed and took 2nd in her age group, Hannah, coming off of a loll in running, ran a good race and finished 3rd in her age group. My wife who has been battling chronic knee issues for over a year ran a very good effort and was only off of her PR by 10 seconds. Finally, Jacob, my daughter's boyfriend, finished his first 5k and is looking to race again soon. All-in-all a great racing day for the whole family.
Age group awards!

BeeBumble 2013 was a family affair.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

2013 Fox Valley Marathon: Race Report

It wasn't exactly a race for me but more like a training run. I used this marathon as one of two extended long runs that I planned for this training cycle preparing for the goal race, the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon on November 2nd, 2013. When this cycle started I had planned the same 2 extra long runs that I did last time. A 25 mile run and a 30 mile run. Then in early August the Carmel Marathon had a facebook contest to win 1 of 2 entries to this race. I won one of them and decided to swap out the 30 mile run thinking it would be way better to run 26.2 with full support, other runners and spectators.

It was a Sunday marathon 3.5 hrs away so we got to town the day before and spent the night. The first order of business was packet pickup. My first complaint about the race is that the expo was in way too small of a space. Then when I got to the table to get my packet they handed me a medium shirt. I don't wear a medium, I wear a small. They couldn't do anything about it there but told me to take my shirt to the race and I could exchange it after if there were any smalls left. Lucky me and thanks to my daughter who went to get it for me, I ended up with the last one.

We left the expo as quickly as possible because of the over-crowding. We spent the rest of the afternoon driving around looking for spectator areas so my wife would be acquainted with the area and able get to as many spots as possible. I didn't print out the course map or spectator maps because I figured I would just pick some up at the expo. My second complaint, they had no copies of the maps, I'm sorry that just doesn't make sense to me. But I will say, after driving the area, Fox Valley is awesome! Honestly, I could move there. It is just a really neat place.

We did something at this race we've never done before, we ate with other participants and their families by participating in the "Dine and Dash." We reserved a seat with 10 other people plus two reps from the marathon at a local restaurant Saturday night. We had a lot of fun and met some great people. In particular, I was very impressed with a woman in the 65-69 age group who only started running 3 years ago, ran her first marathon about a month ago and was running the full here as well. She was trying to qualify for Boston both times. I don't care who you are or how good of shape you are in, that is impressive.

A couple of the other participants told my wife about 3rd Street in Geneva, the town we were in at the restaurant. 3rd street has a couple of really good chocolate and ice cream places. So we strolled down 3rd Street after dinner. It was a really cool area with a lot going on. I even bumped into and met the race director in one of the shops. One place had some delicious looking gelato. Unfortunately, I couldn't have any because that would have been a sure way to derail my run the next morning. My wife and daughter on the other hand really enjoyed 3rd street. I mean they really enjoyed it.

The hotel was about a 20 minute drive from the start line. We got up, ready and left in plenty of time. Traffic was pretty heavy in St. Charles, the town the race started and finished in but everything went pretty smooth and we found a parking spot with not much trouble. I would have liked to have seen some kind of traffic direction for parking and would be one suggestion I would make to improve the experience at this race. As it was we were on our own and luckily didn't have any trouble.

I had planned on running a pace that would leave me finishing in 3 hours and 25 minutes. A full 30 minutes off of my PR. At the last minute, my daughter Hannah said, "It'd be cool if you BQ'ed without even really trying." I couldn't resist so I lined up with the 3:15 (BQ for my age group) pace group. Mike from was unbelievably accurate. I am talking about nailing the splits with in mere seconds. Looking at the results, his group ended up finishing with an overall pace of 7:26 1 second off the goal of 7:27.
Hannah talked me in to the 3:15 pace group

There was a lot of great crowd support and the course was very scenic. The biggest problem I had was that the great majority of the race was on a narrow path and I was in a big pace group. I got elbowed, stepped on and when you are that close to profuse sweaters engaged in activity that makes them sweat even more you are bound to get wet and I did. Had I been racing I wouldn't have had any of these problems so I will overlook them.

The 3:15 pace group was big and the path was narrow. This picture gives a little insight into the close quarters were were running in.

The course was a loop that followed a river making it very spectator friendly. Spectators, including my wife and daughter, could easily follow the course by following the river and since it was a narrow loop they were able to get to several places to watch the runners. So I got to see my family 4 or 5 times which was great. This is a big positive in my opinion.

Throughout the run I keep being surprised at how comfortable I was. It wasn't long before I started to change my strategy. I decided that if I was still this comfortable at 20 miles I would make this a fast finish run. This is an important kind of training for me since my legs have failed me late in my last 2 marathons causing me to miss my goal by 30 seconds or less. If I accomplish nothing more in my goal race this year I hope that it is to maintain my pace in the closing miles. 20 miles came and I felt really good so I dropped my pace down to near my goal for the Monumental Marathon to finish out the run giving my legs good practice of running at goal pace when fatigued.
Broken away from the pace group with room to run!

I ended up finishing 3:10:28. 3:09:59 is the cut off time for early registration for Boston for my age group and my only regret is being that close to early registration and not getting it. In the end this regret is merely a vanity since I have no intention of returning to Boston in 2015 and I know that I wasn't racing this marathon and if I had been I would have not only made early registration but met day 1 qualifying standards.
Finishing strong!

Nothing like a little road kill right at the finish line. I don't care if it is a Grampa in the half-marathon running the finishing .1 mile with his granddaughter. Road kill is road kill. :)

Post race we tried to hang around the finishing area but like the expo it was way under-sized. This is overall a great race in a great area on a really cool course. It is only in its 3rd or 4th year and I believe it will continue to grow. They would do well to deal with these issues and open it up. It would make the experience even better.

All things considered I really enjoyed this race and got to experience a really neat community in the Fox Valley area. I got more true marathon experience under my belt and I got a great confidence boost not only from the fast finish of this run but the quick recovery. A mere 3 days after this marathon I ran a solid long run of 17 miles at a 7:30 pace. I couldn't be more pleased than I am with that. My eyes are now squarely fixed on November 2nd and the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon.

We finished the day with Mass at a beautiful church , lunch at Giordano's and a 3 and a half hour drive home.
Sts Peter and Paul, Naperville IL

If you can't eat Chicago style pizza after a marathon, I don't know when you can. This was delicious.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Our Broken Compass

Good and Evil are real and objective. I don't think this can be said enough because as fallen and broken humans we are constantly trying to justiy our faults. Instead of admitting our failures to lead the holy life we were created for we present our evil as good. Our conscince, our moral compass, is broken. So instead of following the straight and narrow path we wonder around every which way depending on how we "feel."

The Good News is that our God saw us in our wonderings and came down to lead us. He said that the gate was narrow and the path hard to find Mathew 7:14. He also said, "I AM the way, the Truth and the Life" John 14:6. He never said, Whatever road you chose willl lead to the same place. In fact going back to Matthew 7 He said that the road to damnation was wide and easy to chose.

Stilll here we are. Always picking back up that broken compass and relying on it to lead us to Him. But he already came and indeed stays with us until the end. He is right here in the Church that He built and the Gospel that it proclaims. So throw away your broken compass, the one that tells you that Evil is Good. Lift up your eyes and follow the One who came to show us the way.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Marathon as a Training Run and Glycogen Depletion

Is it just me or does this not sound like a way to have a really fun week?

This Sunday 9/22/2013 I will be running a "Marathon as a Training Run." I am currently in training for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon which I will race on 11/2/2013. During my last training cycle I incorporated a few training runs over the standard 20 - 24 mile "longest run in a training program" runs. Most programs cap the long run here because it is thought firstly that a run longer provides very little more in the way of preparation and increases the chance of injury past an acceptable point and secondly because the runner could loose valuable days to the additional recovery needed from such an effort. My last time around though I found that I could do some longer runs pushing my body to be better adapted to the specific distance of the marathon and I could do them in a way that minimized injury risk and recovery time. I blogged about it back then here.

My plan was to do the same this time. I got the 20 mile runs going early in the program and got my 25 mile run in. Then I entered a facebook contest from the Carmel Marathon to win an entry in the Fox Valley Marathon. Wouldn't you know it, I won. I'm not sure I've ever won a contest before in my life and I win a marathon entry? (I've said it many times but for some reason God wants me to run. One day maybe I'll know why). I've done these super long runs on my own before and I'll tell you doing it in a full fledged marathon with other runners, crowd support, and aid station sounds like a much better way to get it done.

My stratagy to thwart injury and incur as little need for additional recovery as possible is 2 part and includes running well over a minute slower than my goal pace and doing my best to not "cash out" my glycogyn stores during the race.

The pace is easy. Find the guy with the 3:25 sign and follow him for the next 26 miles or so. Making sure I don't completly drain the tank has required a liittle effort on my part this week. I purposfully depleted my glygogyn stores this week through a calorie reduction and a couple of hard runs upfront in the week. It hasn't been a whole lot of fun and I was feeling pretty bad by the time I finished my run this morninng but this should make my body more responsive to storing the glycogyn that I feed it over the next 3 days which in turn will help fuel me through the full marathon and not leave me in a hole that will take more than a day or 2 to climb out of.

So there you have it. Now if you'll excuse me I've got some more food to eat.

P.S. I am aware that "they" say this kind of depletion isn't necessary. But "they" also say that a run longer than 20 for most and 24 miles for a few isn't necessary either. All I can say is that I try to do what works for me because "they" change their minds way to much.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Real Presence. Or Sometimes God is Subtle and Sometimes He's Not

Last night my daughter's confirmation sponsor invited her to Mass this morning and then breakfast after. When my daughter told me this I realized that I was on vacation, not doing a darn thing and the idea of attending a weekday Mass hadn't even dawned on me.With that I decided that I would go to Mass this morning too.

When I woke up this morning the reality of the "Real Presence" was on my mind. This is a Catholic doctirine that states that the Eucharist becomes truly and fully, not symbolically or partially, the body and blood of Jesus Christ. As I was sitting and waiting to leave for Mass I was moved to compose this facebook check-in for when I arrived at the Church.

I had hoped at the time that this would make a difference to someone else. That maybe it would inspire some soul to become more fervent about what happens at Mass. What I think it really did was to cement the importance for me in what I have come to take for granted. It actually served to inspire me to reevaluate the truths that I know and believe. Fr. drove this point home in his homily when he pointed out far to often we think "I did this or I did that" but really it is God who is doing for us.

On Wednesday mornings I am a scheduled adorerer at Our Lord at the Mother of the Blessed Sacrament Perpetual Adoration chapel. One book available in every seat at the chapel is titled "My Daily Eucharist." I have read every entry in the book several years ago and rarely pick it up now. This morning it was the first thing I grabbed. I opened it to the entry for today and this is what I read
Sometimes God directs, leads, and moves about my life in very subtle ways and I really have to sit down and pay close attention to discern, understand and follow. Other times like today though it's kind of like being "hit up side the head" with a 2x4.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

True Contentment

 Sometimes it is good to sit back and evaluate your life, where you are and where you want to be and when you get there will it really be all that you thought it would be?. We seem to spend an awful lot of time chasing happiness. What makes you happy? What is it that will finally satisfy you? Do you know?

I can remember just out of high school thinking if I could just find a job where I made $300.00 a week I wouldn't ever need any more than that. I got that job and I remember thinking if I could just get that full time job that paid $12.00 an hour and offered health insurance I would be set. I got that job and began searching for a way to just make $40,000 a year. The pattern continues through out my life. I reach what I thought was the goal and a new goal appears. I could recite a similar pattern with things. If I only had this car or that phone or this television life would be grand! It feels like it is never-ending because it is never-ending. Money and things never bring contentment. In fact they just seem to feed and fuel an insatiable appetite.

Part of the problem is with how we have come to define happiness. It seems like we equate happiness with some nearly euphoric feeling. I don't think this is what true happiness is though or perhaps happiness is this but we chase happiness thinking that is is what we want when what we really need is satisfaction or contentment. With contentment we can stop chasing and just be.

So what brings contentment then? When we fulfill our purpose. In other words, contentment comes through living for what we were created for. Were we created to endlessly pursue things that bring only momentary happiness at best. No, we were not.

Lucky us! It is so simple to find contentment. We were created to love and be loved. Not the "love" that popular culture has tricked us into believing in, no that is lust and is no different than the other pursuits above. True love, the giving of oneself to another without reservation and without exception. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us what our purpose is and it is to be loved by God and in turn to love and serve God.

'Of all visible creatures only man is "able to know and love his creator". He is "the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake", and he alone is called to share, by knowledge and love, in God's own life. It was for this end that he was created, and this is the fundamental reason for his dignity' CCC: 356

This is such a joyful thing because we can all do this no matter life's circumstance. There is nothing standing in our way of finding contentment today. No more chasing!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Carmel Marathon 2013: Race Report

17 weeks. 1142 Mile. 146 hours of running. 95,135 calories. One 30 mile run and 9 runs of 20 miles or more. Average pace 7:41. 25 hours of strength training. This sums up the work I put in for the 26.2 miles I ran at the 2013 Carmel Marathon on April 20th.

Friday on my lunch hour I drove to the Monon Center in Carmel IN for packet pickup. Not much to say about this except that trying to squeeze it into a long lunch resulted in undue stress. Also this didn't allow me  time to stick around and explore. But in the end I guess that's OK. Friday evening we headed out for some serious carb loading. With the taper and my efforts to load up on carbs over a 3 day period, I wasn't really hungry but I ate that pasta like a trooper anyway knowing that I would need it in about 12 hours. Sleep Friday night was spare. A sick dog and a wife finishing up her last semester for a Bachelors degree kept the house hopping until about 11:30. No problem, if you follow my training on dailymile you are aware that sleep almost always eludes me the night before a big training run so I am well adapted to running on less than adequate sleep.

The race started at 7:30 AM in Carmel which is about a 45 minute drive from my home. I was out of bed and dressed by 5:00 AM eating my standard Cliff bar and banana pre-race breakfast. We had planned to leave at 5:45 AM. But getting 4 people out of the house proved too much and it was 6:00 AM before we were locking the front door. Stress level + 1. In mid-April you don't expect to have to deal with frozen car locks but that is just what we had to do. Stress level +2. I don't know how but my wife saved the day and got the car open  as I was beginning to panic and we were on our way. Luckily no real traffic and so the stress level started to fall.

We arrived and parked by 6:45. It was unusually cold. I had a race bag packed with gel, gloves, hat and compression shirt. My plan was shorts, singlet and arm sleeves. Near the start line, I got very nervous about the cold and swapped the arm sleeves for a compression shirt and added the hat and gloves. I gave the arm sleeves to my wife to put in the race bag, kissed her goodbye and made my way towards the front of the start corrals. I realized that my gels were still in the race bag and I panicked. Now my stress level absolutely went through the roof. I knew the course was offering no nutrition and I knew there was no way to meet my goal without some calories along the way. It took me a few minutes but I found my wife and got the gels. Lucky for me because she talked me out of the compression shirt and back into the arm sleeves. I put on a throw away sweat shirt to keep me warm until the start. I ended up very comfortable and would have been way too hot in the compression shirt.

After the national anthem, a prayer, and a moment of silence for Boston the race started almost exactly at 7:30 AM. I love a race that starts on time! I made the Sign of the Cross, offered the race as a prayer and we were off! The course wound through the streets and neighborhoods of Carmel Indiana. With a total of 2000 participant between the marathon and half-marathon this is a mid-sized race on mostly nice wide roads especially in the beginning  Although I never felt cramped, when the marathon and half-marathon split the was plenty of room to move. I was in a pack of 5 or 6 runners one of which was the lead female. As such we had a bike lead and that was a neat experience.
Preparing for battle.

At this point I knew my pace was about 7 seconds faster than planned. Since my goal pace already seemed like a bit of a stretch I worried that I wouldn't be able to sustain the faster pace throughout the race and that I would end up paying for it in the end. Against conventional wisdom I made the decision to go with it and hoped to hold on as long as possible.

Around the half-way point the pack dropped to just me and one other guy and we kind of stuck together over the next 8 or nine miles. In short sentences with long pauses we talked about the race, running and life in general. I'll admit it made the time pass and really helped me stay on pace. I only met the guy that day and we spent a total of maybe an hour together. One great thing about running is I now consider him a friend. Not really sure that you can find that kind of thing many other places than in a marathon.

There is not mot much else to say about "no man's land" as the part of the marathon between 13 and 20 miles is called. We hit the second half of the marathon, you know, mile 20 and I was still feeling very good. I decided to crank it up a bit. Miles 20 - 23 were my longest sustained miles at a pace of 6:30 or below. By mile 23 all of the " I still feel great" that I had was gone. Although the wheels didn't come off right away I started to feel the fatigue. My new friend still had quite a bit left in the tank and began quickly pulling away. He ended up finishing 2 minutes and 14 seconds ahead of me.

My goal was 2:54:59. A time that would allow me to register for Boston 2014 on day one and nearly guaranteeing me a spot. I finished 40 seconds off but I am a realist. I know that finishing my second marathon in 2:55:39, 1st out of 83 in my age group and 13th out of 476 men (740 combined men and women) is no small feat. So even though I will now have to wait and see if there is a spot left in the coveted Boston field for me, I am pleased with my effort at the 2013 Carmel Marathon.
You know you've trained well when you can race a marathon and finish with a fist pump.
Me and my friend Garrett.

I trained hard, tapered well, and carb loaded like a champ. In the race, I ran hard and gave it everything I had. My mantra for the training cycle and race was "If you're gonna die, die with your boots on." Everyday I got up laced up the boots and went to battle. On race day I didn't cower or hide; I charged straight ahead into the fight and won.

If I had the training to do again and the race to run over I don't think that I would change anything. In the end my legs simply wouldn't produce the power in miles 24, 25, and 26 that I needed to sustain my pace. I believe that that strength will be built and improved in the training cycles to come. So the 2:54:59 marathon still eludes me. I guess that's why they run marathons in the fall and it looks like I have my work cut out for me this summer.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Lent and Confession

"Blessed is the one whose fault is removed,
whose sin is forgiven.
Blessed is the man to whom the LORD imputes no guilt,
in whose spirit is no deceit.
Because I kept silent, my bones wasted away;
I groaned all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength withered as in dry summer heat.
Then I declared my sin to you;
my guilt I did not hide.
I said, “I confess my transgression to the LORD,”
and you took away the guilt of my sin."
Psalm 32:1-5
One week of Lent remains. This is a great time to rediscover the Sacrament of Reconciliation or as it is commonly called confession. Most parishes will be offering extended and extra time for parishioners to receive the sacrament.

I know it can be daunting if you haven't been in a long time. You don't remember the formula and you're nervous about telling someone else what you did and what that will make them think of you. To help you the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have put together some resources and posted them here.

It's not easy going back to confession but I assure you it is worth it (See Psalm above). So why not finish Lent and begin Easter having heard
"God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Psalm 6

It's sad to think that people put God aside and miss out on a life of faith because ultimately they feel they are unworthy. None of us can ever be worthy! And thank God we don't have to be. Psalm 6 and a very good reflection. Enjoy.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI's Resignation

I have been stunned every time the Holy Father has spoken. Usually it is because he has a way of communicating the truths and nuances of our faith in a way that always resonates with me. The faith, as Pope Benedict XVI conveys it, always seems so simple, beautiful and undeniably true. However, today I am stunned by his resignation.
As much as I am stunned, I am saddened. I have great admiration and respect for the Pope and as I stated above he has always spoken in a way that really "speaks to me", so to speak. I believe Pope Benedict XVI was exactly the right Pope for where we are, both the Church and humanity as a whole, at this point in history not only because he spoke, taught, and lived the truth of our faith unapologetically, but also because he was very effective at being able to communicate that truth.
Even though I am saddened that we will be losing this Pope, I have always believed in the supernatural guidance of the Church and therefore I must look with Hope and Joy at what Our Lord has in store for the Church as we receive a new shepherd. So I am thankful for the time that the Church had the leadership of this man and look forward to the election of the next Bishop of Rome, Supreme Pontiff successor of St. Peter.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Carmel Marathon 2013 Training; Phase 1

The first phase of training for the Carmel 2013 Marathon is complete. This phase is called the endurance phase and lead me through a build up in mileage from running 55 to 80 miles in a week. I am now in the last few days of a recovery week where my mileage and intensity is purposefully cut so that my body can respond to the stimulus provided and make the adaptations needed to allow me to run more with less fatigue. This will be valuable in the next phase as I will increase the intensity of running while maintaining and even increasing the distance in order to teach my body run further, faster.

In looking back at this period of training which began on 12/23/2012 I have logged about 350 miles at an average pace of 7:41 / mile for a total of over 41 hours of running. My average distance is about 8 miles per run with the longest run being 21.1 miles. The average of 8 miles per run doesn't really tell the story though as the runs tend to be either 12 - 15 miles or 5 miles. About once a week the distance is bumped up over 15 to somewhere between 16 and 22 and on occasion I throw in a shorter run of 1-3 miles.

A couple of things that I began doing and will carry forward into the rest of the training are easier easy runs and longer long runs. First, easier easy runs. I really do not like running slow. I mean I really don't like it. I would describe slow running as something that sucks the life out of me. But I am really starting to see the value of the slow/easy runs in the additional mileage it allows me to run without increasing my fatigue debt. In other words, these miles still cause my body to make adaptations that make me a better runner but they do not increase my over all level of fatigue. This allows me to maximize my efforts during the next hard workout. I think that I finally get it and am willing to accept that a couple of days a week I need to run like this in order to get the most out of the time that I put into training.

The longer long runs are what I blogged about before. Running further than the plan calls for and hopefully longer than the actual marathon distance a few times. But doing it slowly and with several walk breaks in order to ensure that I do not incur any need for additional recovery that would interfere with the rest of the training schedule. The purpose is to develop the muscular skeletal strength that will allow me to finish the marathon without feeling like my legs are "coming undone."

So phase 1 is in the books and the goal fatigue has been achieved. At the end of this recovery week my legs really feel like they are coming back to life and I am excited to get started on the next phase; The lactate threshold phase. This phase will focus on increasing what my body can tolerate before it produces more lactic acid than it can clear. This in turn will allow me to run further, faster.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

When You are Troubled.

I have some friends who are struggling with difficult situations in life right now and I have been thinking a lot about them lately. While thinking and praying about and for these friends I realized that I have been going through a blessed time with nothing weighing heavily on me. For the most part my life has been happy and carefree for the last several months and I am grateful for that while still knowing that it won't last forever but confident that God will guide me through whatever situation I find myself in in the future if I let him. To my friends who are struggling and find themselves in times of trouble remember this verse
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.
 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves.
 For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” MT 11:28-30
Our Lord is still with us and we can truly follow His invitation to "Come to me."  It is for our sake that He is present in every Catholic Church throughout the world. He is there truly and fully, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity with nothing and no part of Himself withheld from us. He is there reserved in the tabernacle or exposed in the monstrance and I personally have found nothing that gives a greater sense of deep peace and contentment during bad times than going and simply being in His Presence.

So when you are troubled, scared, confused, sad, anxious or full of dread accept His invitation and make haste to the Tabernacle. He is there waiting to ease your burden and give you rest.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Upping the Long Run.

I have known for sometime that in order for me to race my best I need to have training runs longer than the race I am preparing for and this is not unique to me. Most people who want to compete in a race from the 5k to the half-marathon are aware of this and train like this. When I stepped into the world of marathoning however, I found that conventional wisdom and nearly all training plans have long runs capped anywhere from 16 to 22 miles with 20 being the common longest long run.

I was uncomfortable with this during my first training cycle for the 2012 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon but "they" all said that going longer than that wouldn't produce any benefit that would out way the negatives. "They" all said a run any longer would carry with it great risk of injury and would require too much recovery time. I am a big believer in knowing your body and understanding what it is capable of rather than letting conventional wisdom dictate your limits. For that reason, many aspects of my training and goals were less than orthodox and it served me well, I had a very successful marathon. Unfortunately, this is one area where I did abide by conventional wisdom.

If you follow my training on dailymile, or if you've ever talked to me specifically about my training plan you know I have a great deal of respect for it and it's author.The Pfitzinger 18/70 marathon training plan served me well. I followed it to a "T" for my first marathon and was very happy with the result. That is why I decided to use it again to prepare for the Carmel Marathon in April. I am making one adjustment this time though. I will be running long runs that are longer than the plan calls for. Sometimes much longer.

In the last marathon, my legs literally started coming undone with 2 miles to go. I don't think that it is a coincidence that my longest run had been 22 miles and my body didn't know what to do when I pushed it further than it had ever been pushed both in pace and in distance. In fact, I lost over a minute in the last two miles causing my finish time of 3:00:25 to be 25 seconds to slow to debut in the marathon distance with a sub three-hour performance. This was the only weakness in what was an otherwise very solid performance.

I toyed with the idea of going longer than 26 miles in the last cycle but I could not find one person who would agree that it was a good idea. That all changed with when I received the January/February issue of Marathon and Beyond and read the article One Step Beyond. A sure-fire technique where "going long" takes on a new meaning" By Ray Charbonneau. The article advocates an "extended" long run once a month and extending the distance of that run to well beyond the marathon distance. The trick is that you go slow and even take plenty of walk breaks. Even going slow and taking walk breaks you still get the benefit of being on your feet that long and the endurance that it builds. But approaching it this way reduces the necessity of extended recovery time and reduces the risk of injury. Again, these are the two reason nobody else advocates training runs of marathon distance or longer.

You should know that I am not a person who sways with the wind. I don't jump on board with every training philosophy or approach that I read in an article. In fact, most time I purposely avoid doing just that. In this case, the article was merely the voice I was looking for.

I started this past Friday. 4 weeks weeks into an 18 week cycle and the plan called for an 18 mile run. I pushed it to 21. That is 3 weeks ahead of schedule for a 20 + mile run. I took it very slow and took two five minute walk breaks. As I sit here the very next night I can tell you that I do not need an extended recovery, in fact, after a good night's sleep, a 5 mile recovery run, and a lazy day I am ready to go. In about a month I plan to push a run to 24 miles and the next month 28. Using the same approach of taking it slow and spending a little time walking instead of running. I will also be pushing some of the long runs that the plan has at 17 and 18 miles up to 20 without the walking breaks.

I believe this modification to my training regime will help build the muscular skeletal strength that seemed to be my only weakness in the last marathon. This would allow me to finish the marathon distance before my legs come undone and hold race pace even in the last 2 miles. Since my goal is to finish more than 5 minutes faster, holding pace the entire race will be absolutely necessary. Whichever way it goes I will no doubt post a full account of the race here.

Friday, January 11, 2013

A Man Full of Leprosy

In the Gospel reading for Mass today, LK 5:12-16 we read
Now there was a man full of leprosy in one of the towns where he was; and when he saw Jesus, he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” LK 5:12
The weather this morning forced me into the gym and onto the treadmill. So as I was runningandpraying on the treadmill I kept coming back to this first verse of today's Gospel. This verse I think addresses 2 profound yet prevalent misconceptions about Christianity.

On one hand, there is a notion that Christians believe they are perfect and don't sin and don't need to be made clean. But that is just not true. We are all like this leper, full of sin that is eating away our life. That doesn't mean we cannot approach our Lord. Rather, it means that we must approach Him because He is the one who can make us clean.

On the other hand, a lot of people have the idea that Christians think they merely need to say "Jesus is my Savior" and they can do whatever they wish. They are after all, saved. Right? Again, this just doesn't ring true. The leper here falls prostrate and pleads with Jesus. If I look at this man as myself and his leprosy as my own sinfulness I see that he is contrite and truly wants to be made clean. He doesn't expect Jesus to accept him the way he his but also acknowledges that it is Christ who can expel the leprosy.