Marathon Aborted

A few months ago, I signed up for the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon, which will take place this Saturday (November 14). I thought I would have adequate time to train, but it hasn't worked out that way. I ran a half marathon last week, with a time of 2:30 (not great) and in my longer training runs over the past month, I've found that after mile 12, I have to do a lot of walking.

So I've canceled my hotel reservations and will not be running that marathon this weekend. Instead, I've decided I will concentrate on the half-marathon distance. When I get that down to around 2 hours, I'll start thinking about a full marathon again.

Labor Day Run for Autism Half Marathon 2015

Today I ran the "Labor Day Run for Autism Half Marathon" at Fowler Park/Big Creek Greenway.

My time was 2:37. Not as good as I had expected. I was hoping for a time in the 2:20-2:30 range. I ran out of gas around mile 9, and walked a lot of the last few miles.

But, the November marathon for which I'm training still seems doable.

2014 Publix Georgia Marathon

Kris with Medal

I finished a freaking marathon!

I ran the 2014 Publix Georgia Marathon in Atlanta on March 23. I got up at 4:00 AM, drove to the MARTA train station, and took the train to Centennial Park, where the race started and finished.

The weather was good for running a marathon. Temperatures were in the 50's, and the sky was covered with clouds. The forecast called for rain, but aside from a few sprinkles halfway through the race, we stayed dry.

I have previously run two half marathons with times around 2:10, so I was expecting my marathon time to be somewhere between four-and-a-half and five hours.

That was wildly optimistic.

The Georgia Marathon course is very hilly. The course I run when training has more hills than the average marathon course, I think, but it didn’t prepare me for this course.

For the first ten miles, I kept to my goal pace of ten and a half minutes per mile. After mile 12, I had to walk up most of the uphill stretches, and there were a lot of uphill stretches. After mile 21, I couldn’t even run on the downhill stretches anymore. My legs would cramp whenever I tried to run. I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to walk those last five miles.

My final time was 5:41, about an hour longer than I expected. I think I did everything right in terms of preparation, nutrition, hydration, and pacing. I just hadn’t built up the endurance to run 26 miles of hills.

But hey, I finished a freaking marathon.

My FitBit says I took over 54,000 steps (including steps walking to/from the marathon). I suspect that will be my daily step record for a while.

On mile 20, some spectators were handing out cups with a brownish liquid. I assumed it was iced tea, but was delighted to find that it was cold beer. I’d like to nominate those people for the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Action photos available here: Facebook photo album

Garmin Forerunner 110 Blank Screen

I recently purchased a Garmin Forerunner 110 GPS watch to track my runs. I've been happy with it, but today when I plugged it into my computer after a run, the watch screen flashed "Saving activity" and then went blank. The watch was dead after that.

It had been fully charged before my run, so I was pretty sure it wasn't just out of juice. The instructions provided with the watch weren't helpful.

This blank-screen issue appears to be a common problem. The Forerunner 110 Blank Screen (Dead) thread in the Garmin forums has over 100 entries. You can browse that thread for details, but here is a summary of the suggested fixes:

  • Hold down the Light, Start/Stop, and Lap/Reset buttons for about 30 seconds. (This worked for me.)
  • Hold down all four buttons for about 7 seconds. (Didn't work for me.)
  • Hold down the Light button for about 6 seconds. (Didn't work for me.)
  • Hold down the "Power" button while plugging it into the computer. (My watch doesn't have a button labeled "Power". I tried this with the Light button, and with the Page/Menu button, but neither worked.)
  • Plug it into a different USB port. (Didn't work for me.)
  • Just leave it plugged in for a few days, and eventually it will spring back to life.
  • Rub the contacts with a pencil eraser.
  • Attach the USB clip, but don't attach the clip to a USB port, and hold the Light button for 6 seconds.
  • Check whether there is a firmware update available.
  • Try a master reset.
  • Contact Garmin Customer Support.
  • Take the watch back to where you bought it for replacement/refund.

After I got it working, i checked for a firmware update, and indeed there was a new firmware version available for the Forerunner 110. This is in the release notes:

Changes from version 2.60 to version 2.70:

Fixed an issue where the device could display a blank screen while connected to the charger.

I installed the update. I'll have to wait to see whether the problem recurs.

Update 2014-01-23: The screen went blank again. Hold down the Light, Start/Stop, and Lap/Reset buttons got it working.

Update 2014-03-09: Blank again, and the above remedies weren't working. The recharging display did appear when I connect it to USB, but it wouldn't do anything when disconnected. I let it sit disconnected for a few hours, and it sprung to life.

The Running Thing

A year ago, I was proud of running a 10K. Since then, I've run two half marathons, and I am currently preparing to run the 2014 Publix Georgia Marathon in March.

Here are some things I've learned along the way:

  • Having a training plan is important. Just going out and running a few miles when you feel like it doesn't get you anywhere. You need to steadily build up your mileage. I can personally recommend the Couch-to-5K plan for beginners, and I am currently in week 7 of Hal Higdon's novice marathon training program, which is working well so far. Put your workouts on your calendar, and treat them like any other important appointment.
  • Rest is important. All the training plans have rest days and "easy weeks" for good reasons. Don't push yourself too far too fast, or you will just hurt yourself.
  • Stretching is important. I used to roll my eyes at the people who seemed to spend more time with their stretching rituals than actually running, but after trying it myself, I found it was easier to run and I was less sore afterwards.
  • Shoes are important. When my runs started getting into the five- and six-mile range, I was getting shin splints and other pains. Then I bought some new shoes, and those problems went away. My current favorite shoe is the Asics GEL-Cumulus 15, but you need to try on shoes yourself to find what works for you. I have two pairs of shoes, which I alternate (so that each pair gets 48 hours to dry out and re-spongify between uses), and I replace them after 200-300 miles.
  • Gadgets are fun. The geek in me likes having instrumentation. Using a FitBit or a GPS-tracking device to record runs was helpful in sticking to my training plan, because even when I didn't feel like running, I wanted my numbers to be right. I used a couple of smartphone-based run-tracker apps early in my experience, but stopped using them when I got tired of carrying a phone-sized device when running (particularly an Android phone-sized device). I now have a Garmin Forerunner 110 watch that records my time, distance, and heart rate for each run.
  • Races are fun. You may have to do all or most of your running by yourself, but entering a real race lets you share the experience with hundreds or thousands of other people. It's a festive atmosphere, and everyone is encouraging and supportive.

Finally, almost anyone can do this. I'm almost 47 years old, and have led a sedentary lifestyle for the last 30 years, but I will be running my first marathon in a few months. Obviously, if you have serious health problems or physical limitations, you might not be able to do it, but if you're reasonably healthy, it's just a matter of putting in the time.

Half Marathon Denied

I was supposed to run the Berry Half Marathon today. This would have been my first half marathon, and I've been training for the past two months to run it.

Unfortunately, the event was cancelled due to lightning and poor course conditions after several hours of thunderstorms. So all I got out of it was a very expensive t-shirt.

From Couch Potato to Running a 10K in a Few Months

In August, I started running after a few years of sitting on the couch. I ran the Peachtree Road Race back in 2007, then stopped running completely shortly thereafter. My post-40 physical decline has been distressing, so I decided I needed to get back into doing something active.

Just as I started thinking "Maybe I should start running again," I ran across a mention of the Couch-to-5K running plan in a blog. The core idea is that the plan very gradually builds up your endurance. Too many people decide "I need to start running," then go out and run a couple of miles, and then wake up in pain the following morning and decide they will never run again. C25K starts you off alternating between 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking the first week, then 90 seconds of jogging and two minutes of walking the second week, then keeps bumping up the jogging time and reducing the walking time until you are running for 30 minutes straight.

The first couple of weeks of C25K seemed really easy, and I was tempted to skip forward a couple of weeks, but I'm glad I didn't. I think its gradual nature is the key to its success. Every other time I've gotten into running, I've had problems with pain in my right ankle, but that didn't happen this time.

There is an iPhone app that will tell you when to start running and when to start walking, so it appealed to both the geeky and lazy aspects of my personality.

I finished C25K in October, and was surprised at how easy it had been. So I decided to follow up with the 5K-to-10K program, which also has an iPhone app.

I expected going from 5K to 10K to be easier than going from 0 to 5K, but it wasn't. The first few weeks were easy, but once I got up to about five miles, it was tough to keep going. But I did it, and a few weeks ago I did my first 60-minute continuous run.

Unfortunately, this coincided with the holiday season, so while I lost 10 pounds between August and December, I put five pounds back on during December. I'll have to work on that.

Today, New Year's Day, I ran the 2013 PT Solutions Resolution Run 10K, organized by the Atlanta Track Club. It was 45 degrees and raining, so it wasn't pleasant, but I did finish, running the whole 6.2 miles except for brief walks at the water stations. My time was one hour and three minutes, which is not great, but I'm happy with it.

Next, on to the half marathon!

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