Race Review: 2017 Hot Chocolate 15K

Disclaimer:  I received free entry to the Hot Chocolate 15K race as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews! 

This year was my 4th year running this race. Also the 4th year the race has ever been held in Philly. My streak stays alive!

Expo:

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Book Review: “Marathon Training” by Joe Henderson

The second book on my marathon training adventure was “Marathon Training. The 100-Day Program for Success”. This book was written by Joe Henderson.

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I do not know the official background on Joe Henderson, but his words can be trusted. He mentions in the book that he was a contributor to Runners World magazine in the 1970’s. Also he talks about running marathons all over the country (including the major ones like Boston and NY). So as far as advice goes he is someone’s advice that I respect.

Having said that, truth be told I did not finish this book. I got half way through before deciding to call it quits. Not because I thought it was a bad book. But it is truly a 100 day program for marathon training. Yes, I do realize that is in the title so this should not surprise me. But I took a chance on the book because I am new to marathon training and am not too good for anyone’s advice.

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Why I Love The Out and Back Training Run

Over the past few days I have taken my training runs to the outdoors. The weather in Philly is starting to turn from snow which has resulted me in leaving the treadmill behind. I’ll admit it, I wimped out most this winter and stuck to indoor running for the most part. And by most I mean just about all of my running. This week would be the first full week I have taken my running outside. I ran 6 miles two nights ago and another 4 miles tonight.

And they have been tough runs.

I knew this would happen. When you are on the treadmill you don’t battle the same elements as you do with outdoor runs. On the treadmill there is no cold weather, rolling inclines, snow to avoid, etc. etc. So as a result outdoor running is always a bit tougher.

Long story short, as I mentioned the past 10 miles this week have been tough. A little more walking than I would like to admit. But at the end of the day I have logged the miles so I am happy.

And that is what brings me to the point of my post. The out and back type of run is probably the best. For my 6 mile run I ran out 3 miles and ran 3 back to the same point. The first 3 miles were tough but I got through them. And then what was I going to do? I was 3 miles away from home. Where I live it is not that easy to just call a cab to get you back. And I very well couldn’t respect myself if I called a friend to drive me less than 5 minutes home. So I had to run the 3 miles back. And there I was, with 6 miles in.

If I were to run 6 miles on a track or an area where I had to run laps it could be very easy to just give up and not finish the 6 miles. I am constantly by the starting point, so it is just as easy to say “I will stop here”. The out and back forces you to get your miles in as long as you make it to your half way point. And lets face it, whatever your total mile is I am sure you can get to the half way point with no issue.

Now that I have the first 10 outdoor training miles in the book I look forward to logging much more, especially as the weather warms up. I am 7 months away from having to finish 26.2 Miles, so plenty of more out and backs for me.

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My first outdoor training path of the year.

Update: The day after I wrote this original post I continued reading “You Can Go The Distance” by Bruce Van Horn (find it here). And in the book I read about how much he supports out and back running (pictured below). Glad to see others who share the same opinion.

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Portion of Bruce Van Horn’s “You Can Go The Distance”

Running: Just as Much Mental as it is Physical

Today I was having a conversation with my girlfriend about her wanting to run. She has run many times before. As she puts it she likes to do 5K’s and that is all. It’s not a major part of her life like it is mine, but she does it. She was saying how she wants to run a 5K in April (about 2 months from now) so she should start running now.

The convo reminded me of when I was training for my first 5K. I remembered how nervous I was and how I was afraid of the distance. Fast forward a year and a half later and I laugh at that thought. I feel confident that if someone forced me to run a 5K after waking me up in the middle of the night I would have no problem with it.

What this convo made me feel the most was how much of your mental state plays a factor in running. Sure I have changed physically since I have first started running, but it hasn’t been a crazy transformation like the ones you see in one of those before and after photo’s. So for me I don’t think it is easier now to run a 5K because of my physical shape. I have never really been out of shape. Sure I could easily afford to lose weight, but at the same time for most my life I keep myself physically active. Whether it is backyard sports or casually going to the gym even when I first started running I could at least be considered “active” (whatever that may mean).

So if the physical part hasn’t been a major change, something must be causing that mindset. And it is clear it is the mental aspect. Like I said, when I first trained for a 5K I was nervous about it. Nervous I wouldn’t be able to finish or it would be too tough on me. Fast forward a year and a half and I have completed 3 Half Marathons, a triathlon, spartan race, duathlon, 15K, 10 mile runs, etc. etc. So by now a 5K just doesn’t present that big of a hurdle to me. I am not saying they are easy, but the way I look at it is different.

That would probably be my biggest advice to someone just starting out in running; don’t let the space between your ears stop you from achieving your goals. I recently wrote about how easy it would be for someone with no experience to train for a 10 mile run in 2 months. Someone wrote me backlash on how I was a fool for suggesting that and how difficult it would be. Sure it will be difficult, but that doesn’t mean impossible. I am living proof. I went from couch to Half Marathon in 2 months myself, and I never let my brain tell me I couldn’t. And in two months I completed my first Half Marathon. Because every day I went out there and just trained as hard as I could.

So for those of you thinking you need to be a specific body type to complete specific running goals, you are mistaken. Sure physicality has something to do with it. But just as important (if not more) you have to believe you can.

Half Marathon #3- My Philly Half Marathon Recap

It seems like just yesterday (July 2013 to be specific) that I made the decision, with no running experience, to run a half marathon. Trained for 2 months and went out there and finished. 1 year and 4 months after making that decision I have now completed #3!

This past weekend was the Philadelphia Marathon. The premier marathon for the city of Philadelphia. They offer both the marathon and half marathon options during the same time of day. Before I get into my review of the race I first want to discuss my training. Mainly because I felt like I under-trained for this but got my best results to date.

Training:

I followed the same training plan I always have for halves. 8 week training; 5 days per week, 3 days running, 2 days cross training. You run 1 long run a week and increase the distance 1 mile every week. Well my long runs stopped somewhere around week 4 (7 mile long run). For the remaining 4 weeks I only really ran 2-3 days per week. Usually about 4-6 miles per run. Overall I never ran over 7 miles.

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Want to Run a Half Marathon? Go do it!

For me running started in June of 2013 and it began with 1.27 miles. Took me about 11:30 to finish and I remember it being very difficult. Fast forward a year and a half later and I am in the middle of training for my 3rd Half Marathon.

During that first 1.27 mile I will never forget how difficult it was. I was training for a 5K at the time. And I will always remember how I wasn’t sure how I was going to finish 3.1 miles. I didn’t want to do it but decided I wouldn’t give up. Immediately after my first 5K I decided to go on a plan for a half marathon. I figured if I work hard enough I could do it.

Fast forward two months later and I completed a half marathon! I always thought I needed to be a certain body type or needed to run track as a high schooler to complete that goal. But here I was, close to 30 years old, running for the first time in my life and finishing a half marathon with only 8 weeks training.

That’s what this post is about: if you want to complete a half marathon (or any distance you want) you just need to go for it. You don’t have to set a world record. You don’t need to have running in your DNA. You don’t need to be elite. Just pick a plan and go after it. Whether you finish in the top of your group or you are the last person across the finish line, you can say you finished.

For me personally I had always wanted to run a half marathon because I thought it would be a major accomplishment. But for years I avoided it because I always thought I wasn’t special enough. Until I finally got a plan and stuck to it. At the end of the plan I had a half marathon medal. A year and a half later and I have 2 Half Marathon, a Triathlon and countless other medals of varying distances.

You don’t need a special gene in your body to complete a goal. You just need a plan and an attitude that won’t give up. Like Nike says: just do it. It sounds so simple, however I know from personal experiences it is not. But don’t let fear or doubt get in your way. You are possible of so much more than you think. You will realize the only thing stopping you from achieving your goals is yourself.

Just as the picture says, don’t think about it. Just go out and run. Now go out there and accomplish your goals!

Eat Well, Run Well

Tonight was my second official run of my half marathon program. Nothing much, just 2.5 miles. I decided to go back to basics to prep for the Philly Half Marathon in November. I could easily get out there and do a 10K or 15K right now but I am a creature of habit so I decided to go back to my first ever half marathon plan.

The 1st run wasn’t bad. It wasn’t amazing but I finished no problem. Two days later and I ran the same distance. Only this time I felt better. Didn’t feel sluggish like I did two nights ago.

The difference? Food.

Lunch on the day of my first run: 3 sausage pepper and onion sandwiches.

Lunch today: grilled chicken with steamed broccoli.

Obviously I’m not breaking any news here but focusing on your food is equally important as completing your training miles. And I have always known that but feeling the difference really helps put it in perspective.

A few weeks back I completed a 28 day meal plan. And I really educated myself that you don’t eat healthy by just sticking to salads. You need protein, carbs, etc. It helped my discipline on good meal preparation. So now for this half marathon I am adding clean eating to my training and with any luck it will help me set a PR.

Running and healthy eating, match made in heaven.

Time to Start Eating Well

As some may know my running journey started in June 2013. Since that time I have challenged myself with 2 Half Marathons, a 15K, a 10 Mile Run, Duathlon, Triathlon and about one 5K every month since then. So far I would say it has been going well. No major injuries to speak about, haven’t had to quit any runs because I couldn’t do it, and overall pretty healthy.

And so far it has kept me in pretty good shape. I notice a bit of a difference and some other people around me can as well. However it is time I take it to the next step.

That starts with eating well. I am not a health nut, while I enjoy running, I also enjoy craft beer, cheesesteak’s and any ice cream I can get my hands on.

I always knew if I was going to take my running to the next level, i.e. starting to compete with the elite runners I could not do it on just running alone. I knew I would need to incorporate an overall healthy lifestyle.

So I have decided to embark on a food challenge that will require the same discipline as I have used to complete my runs. I have selected a 28 day meal plan to hopefully help me drop weight and get more lean. I enjoy running, but doing it at my size is not easy and I feel like I have to work twice as hard as the next person to accomplish my goals. And with a Tough Mudder, Spartan Race and my 3rd Half Marathon coming up in the next few months I would like to give myself a little edge.

So this weekend I will enjoy a good meal, and come Monday it’s on to my meal plan. I don’t use the word diet, because I feel that comes with a stigma. So I substitute the term “Meal Plan”

Here it is….

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Weekly Recap

So the title of this blog is not dedicated towards a weekly workout recap because there wasn’t much to be had. For the past few days I have been recovering an injury that slowed down running a bit.

It is hard to consider it an actual injury since the issue I was dealing with was an extreme case of sunburn on my quads. None the less walking has been very difficult this week so running wasn’t even a thought.

Last week I went to the beach and decided it would be good to get some sun, without the use of sunscreen. Lesson learned. I had what felt like 2nd degree burns on my legs. I went out for a mile run to finish the last day of my 40 day running streak and I thought I ran a full marathon.

So to prevent anything worse I took Saturday- Wednesday off from running. But last night got right back on it and went out for a 5K.

Taking 5 days off like that impacted me more than expected. Not so much physically. Sure the run was tough, but I finished in good time all things considered.

More importantly the days off showed me how much running has consumed my life. First off I felt like I was getting cabin fever. My typical schedule has been working, get home, prepare dinner and make time for a run. All said and done I probably only get maybe an hour to an hour and a half of time after work to myself not spent running every day. So to have all this free time was very weird to me.

The days of me coming home, sitting on the couch and wasting the evening seem like they are very distant.

Also I felt like I was missing out. I track my running on Nike+ and have a handful of connections on their. Watching some people record runs while I was sitting at home resting made me feel like I was missing out and almost lazy to an extent.

The brief time away really showed me how much running is becoming a part of me. Even though I have completed 10 mile races, half marathons and other longer distance runs, I still have always felt like a casual runner. And compared to most runners out there I probably am. But for me the time off showed me how much I am not so casual, and it is something that is a big part of me.

Now that I am back on the horse I look forward to the next few runs!

Upcoming running schedule:

7/15- Crazy Monkey 5K (First Virtual Race!)

7/27- Merrell Down and Dirty 5K

8/24-  Philadelphia OUCH! Race 15K

9/6- The Inaugural Philly 10K

 

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My First 12 Month Running Journey Explained

If you have read previous blog posts from me before, you would know that this blog started out as how a normal, everyday guy could make some major changes in his life just by getting up every day and completing mini goals.

If you have also read previous posts, you would know that I never started this to garner much attention. I am not an aspiring writer or someone trying to get noticed by the fitness industry. Just using this as an outlet so other real world, everyday people who may be struggling with fitness could come to read and see that they are not alone in this world.

That being said I have come a pretty far way since my original posts. Clearly I am no world class athlete, but at the same time I am down to sub 8 minute miles, running 5K’s regularly and competing in some pretty serious runs (half marathons, triathlons, etc.). So while I may not be in the elite status by any means, I am also getting away from just being a “casual runner”, and it is something that consumes my life.

At the same time I know this blog does not have loyal followers. I do not check my stats on my WordPress Dashboard, but from the brief interaction I have with people who comment, I can tell people aren’t patiently waiting with bated breath for my next post. And that is OK, again that wasn’t what this was meant for.

So having said all that, someone could stumble upon my blog, see the “Average Joe” title, read some of my posts and think “this guy doesn’t seem so average, he appears to have dedicated himself to running, I do not have time for that”.

So I am writing this post to recap where I came from and how I got to where I am to show that I am just the average guy who stuck to a bunch of mini plans and over time made a transformation.

I guess the best way to do it is a timetable of events.

June 2013: Ran my first mile in forever. Finished at a pace of 11:30. It was so difficult and I thought I would die.

Mid June ’13: Decided I would run a 5K in 3 weeks. Picked up this plan, and got at it.

Late June ’13: Completed the 5K! Decided immediately after that I would keep at it!

July ’13: Told myself I would run a Half Marathon, with little to no running experience. Picked this plan and went at it. 2 and a half months to train for a Half Marathon, eek!

September ’13: Completed my first Half Marathon! It was hard and grueling, but I stuck to my plan and kept at it, and I was successful.

Remainder of 2013: Decided the only way to keep up my running was continuing to schedule myself for races. I knew if I didn’t have anything to shoot for that I would stop doing it. So I schedule 1 5K for every month of the year.

Start of 2014: Continue my 5K once a month plan. Even in the bitter winter months I went out there and ran. See for yourself:

Yes that is a snow covered sidewalk. My running trail in February

Yes that is a snow covered sidewalk. My running trail in February

March ’14: Decided that I would complete a triathlon. I knew I needed something to test me physically at the next level. So I signed up for the Philly TriRock Triathlon in June of 2014 and began this 13 week training plan. Continued the 5K once per month and even sprinkled in a 15K, 10 Miler and Half Marathon to really push myself during training over those 4 months.

June ’14: Completed my first triathlon! It was such a great event and for sure wont be my last. It really pushed my limits.

 

That is how I got to where I am at today in one year. It seems difficult when you look at it from a birds eye view, but when you break it down like that it really is easy to get where I am today. Not easy in a physical sense, but it didn’t take a magic potion or miracle. Just hard work. Looking back there really were 3 pivotal moments that got me to where I am today:

  1. Not giving up after the first 5K. I could have easily finished the first 5K and decided to stop. But I did not.
  2. Setting monthly goals. For me it is easy to stop this whole running thing. If I do not have anything to shoot for I will just stop. But each month I registered for a race. By doing that it made me be active. Whether it was a 5K, 15K or Half Marathon I just gave myself small goals to shoot for to keep myself active.
  3. Looking at my training plans from a daily perspective and not monthly. If I handed you a 13 week training plan you may look at it and feel overwhelmed. But you don’t have to. You want to look at it as a bunch of little daily goals that will lead you to a major goal. If it is Monday, don’t think about what you have to do from Wednesday to Friday, just focus on what needs to get done today. If you look at it that way, the next thing you know you blink and you are crossing the finish line.

 

There is no secret formula to accomplishing your goals. Just have patience and stick to the plan you set out for yourself. My transformation is not complete, nor will it really ever be. I recently read somewhere that you do not want to ever feel complete when you are working towards a goal. Because completion means you are finished. And until the day I die, or physically am restricted to stop running, I do not know if I will ever stop.

Ultimately all I can say is do not get hung up with things like results, or wanting to be ahead of where you are at. In the past when I tried to stick to a fitness plan I would always give up because I felt I wasn’t getting the results I wanted. The problem was I was focusing on the wrong things. That is why this time around I am more successful because I am not focused on what I perceive are successful results. Instead I am just moving forward accomplishing what I want. I always give this advice to anyone who judges themselves against others: “run your race, not theirs”.

Focus on what you are accomplishing, not what you aren’t.