Monday, August 29, 2016

The 4 Stages of Suck


Sometimes working out is fun. Sometimes it's tough. And sometimes it just flat-out sucks.

But how do you deal with the suck? What do you do when your legs and arms are dying and your lungs are burning? I think that it comes down to your mindset.

And thus, the 4 Stages of Suck

Definitely not a quitter.
Stage 1: Quitting

If you're just starting out on your fitness journey, you're going to hit a wall -- and probably pretty quickly. I would be that most people who've tried to set up a fitness routine have given up at least once. And it's usually because of unrealistic expectations.


Stage 2: Survival

Once you've gotten the basic hang of exercise and maybe set up a weekly routine, you'll probably get to the point where, when things really start to suck, you can at least slog through. Your form may suffer and your performance may slack off as the workout goes on, but you'll at least get it done.


Stage 3: Fighting Through
The New Jersey Marathon was a fight!

Regular Guys who've been working out for a while know that just getting something done isn't the same as doing it well. If you want to get the full benefit from a tough workout, you need to try to keep up your performance the whole time. And yeah. it really sucks to push that last interval when your body is screaming for you to slow down, but that's when the improvement comes.


Stage 4: Embracing the Suck

You may never experience this one. Or you might feel it once in a while, but not every time. Regular Guys aren't going to get to the point where this is the norm in a hard workout. But the big jumps will happen when you welcome the suck. You're looking for it. You want it. And you push your workouts to ensure you get it.

I want to add something about Stage 4: Be careful! It's easy to get overtrained or injured when you're actively seeking the suck.

What stage of suck are you at? Sound off on Twitter, on Facebook or in the comments below!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Am I Still a Regular Guy?

If you’ve been keeping up with my admittedly sporadic blog and Facebook posts over the past three or four months, you probably know that 2016 has been a breakthrough year for me. I’ve set major PRs in the marathon, half-marathon and, most recently, the 5K.

You may have seen this pic on Facebook recently.

You probably also know that when I’m not on the road, the trail or the track, I’m kind of a gym rat. I’m not afraid of free weights and especially not the “Big 3”: deadlifts, squats and bench press. I believe these have helped me both with general fitness and specifically with running.


I’ve come a long way since I started the blog back in December 2014. But it's also planted an existential question in my mind: Am I still a Regular Guy?

The whole point of being a Regular Guy is Keeping Fit and Living Your Life. It's about finding the balance between your real priorities and being healthy enough to engage fully in those priorities. Being able to keep up with your kids, keeping your heart strong so you can enjoy grandkids someday, having the physical dexterity and endurance to handle the housework and yardwork that comes with life. That sort of thing.

Here I am getting the yard ready for a party. Tough guy!

So what does it mean that I:
I'll admit: I don't know. I am by no means an elite athlete, that's for sure. I'm certainly not the fittest, buffest, most ripped dude at the gym. And I honestly do try not to be that guy at parties, on social media or anywhere else. 

And yet, here I am wondering. I'm definitely past the point of just trying to lose (or keep off) that beer belly. I'm definitely past the point where I go to a race with the goal of finishing and having fun. I'm at the point where I'm wondering just how good I can get. How much I can lift. How svelte I can look. How fast I can run (especially that one). 

But this isn't just about me and how I view myself. My goal is to have a Conversation about Keeping Fit and Living Your Life. To foster a discussion and a community where we Regular Guys can talk about our health and fitness without devolving into uber-competitive, crazy complicated, ultra-technical, totally unrealistic ridiculousness. It's only worth keeping up this blog and the social-media accounts if it's relevant to you guys.

I guess my challenge is this: Can I relay ideas that hit home for everyone -- or at least most of us -- while pushing myself further and further in my own fitness journey? Or will I just get too caught up in the minutiae of what I'm doing to have a basic, simple conversation? 

And not for nothing, but can I do it without being a jerk? This whole piece has an obvious undercurrent of "yeah, I'm in better shape than you are." Just because I'm at a certain point on my journey doesn't make it any better or worse than where you are on yours. We all have our own lives and our own priorities, and no matter how good the information and ideas in this blog are, you're not going to read it if you think the author's an asshole. After all, there are things in life that you're way better at than I am, too.

So my pledge to all you Regular Guys: I will do my best to keep doing what drew you to this blog in the first place. I'll work to relate my experiences and my reading to what works in your lives. And I'll try to remain humble while I do it. 

Because at heart, I really am a Regular Guy, too.


Me and some of my best tailgating buddies. (courtesy Lou Matino)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A Walk to Believe: 5K for Eric LeGrand


Folks have a lot of reasons for running 5Ks. It's a challenge to get off the couch. It's a way to test your fitness without the grueling aspect of a marathon. It's just flat-out fun to be part of a race. But the best reason to run a 5K is for a cause that's near and dear to your heart.

As you probably know, I am a Rutgers alum and a die-hard fan of the Scarlet Knights football team. I've been with them through some down, down times. There was a winless season. There was a year we lost to the worst team in the country and then a lower-level team in successive weeks. There've been at least two heartbreaking losses with major bowl games on the line. But the most gut-wrenching day for every Loyal Son and Daughter I know was on October 16th, 2010.

That Saturday, Rutgers took on Army at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. It was a close game in which Rutgers mounted a late comeback. On an RU kickoff late in the game, Eric LeGrand raced down the field and made a jarring hit on Army returner Malcolm Brown. A hit so jarring, in fact, that it left Eric paralyzed.

But since that day, Eric has been a source of inspiration not just for Rutgers, but for the entire country. He refuses to let his injury keep him from his goals. He's been working hard at rehab for more than five years now. He's part of the radio announcer team at home football games. He graduated in 2014 and addressed his fellow classmates. He's written two books and is a constant presence on campus. He's won the Jimmy V Award for perseverance at the Espys, and he's the only Rutgers football player to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated. And just this month, during his commencement speech at Rutgers, President Obama said that Eric inspires him.

Eric is such a special and important part of the Rutgers community that it's only right that we do what we can for the cause most important to him. And so that's why I'll be running the 5K on June 5th at A Walk to Believe: One Step Closer for Eric LeGrand.

This year's event is the sixth annual walk, and the second year that it's been a USATF-certified 5K. Last year, runners and walkers raised $82,000 for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation to benefit spinal cord research. In 2016, Eric has challenged us to clear $100,000 -- and we can do it with your help.

The course begins and ends at High Point Solutions Stadium on the Rutgers campus. It wends around the school's golf course and affords some pretty views -- and it's flat and fast. There are festivities before and after the race, and there are always past and present football stars who are more than happy to take a photo with you. And you'll surely get a chance to meet and talk to Eric himself.

You can sponsor my run by contacting me through Twitter or Facebook, or you can donate directly at AWalkToBelieve.org. And if you can come out on June 5th, please sign up. It's a great race and a great day.

So come on out and and RUn to bELieve!


Monday, May 9, 2016

Marathon Is Over... Now What? 6 Strategies to Keep Up My Momentum


So you might have heard: I had a successful 2016 New Jersey Marathon.

Training for the race, thinking about the race, writing about the race, boring all my friends and loved ones with my obsession over the race -- that's dominated my life for the past four months. And now it's done. So now what?


Time to Evaluate

I haven't really had enough time to evaluate my long-term goals. But the first choice I have to make is pretty simple: How much of my fitness regimen do I want to direct toward running?

Last year, I wrote about the benefits of being a generalist as opposed to a sport-specific specialist. Unless you have very defined goals, I think you're better off trying to mix up your fitness regimen to work on all aspects of your fitness -- strength, flexibility, mobility, speed, endurance, etc. After all, the rest of your life doesn't specialize, does it?

There is no question in my mind that, before this training cycle, I was in better overall shape. I know for sure that my upper body was stronger, and I definitely had better muscle definition. So I absolutely want to regain some of that.

At the same time, I've made positive strides (pun intended) in my running, and I don't want to regress. I do plan to run another marathon in 2017, and I'd like to maintain my running-specific and aerobic fitness levels, rather than have to start building from close to scratch next time around.

So I think the answer is the same one I had in January: and. Now comes the tough question: How do I ramp up my routine and I find the time and energy to accomplish everything I want to? And what about, you know, life?


6 Strategies to Keep Up My Momentum

Scheduling: Training for a marathon makes scheduling easy: You just follow your training plan. But a big key to keeping consistent in your fitness regimen is to have a routine. Now that I'm not on a specific training plan, I'm going to have to create my own schedule, to be sure that I accomplish what I want every week.

Maintain Successful Strategies: I wrote in a recent Facebook post that I'd like to stick with my new level of alcohol intake, without being a stick in the mud. That's going to mean leaving the beer to the weekends and limiting nights out to two or three drinks. Also, I need to do my best to get to bed on time, to maximize sleep, and to focus on my diet -- stuff I did well the past four months.

Keep the Mindset: After my first marathon in 2014, I got off a regimented schedule. And that led me to ease off the throttle a bit. I ran a fall half-marathon with sporadic training and an early spring half with basically no training. I also had about nine months where I didn't belong to a gym. What happened? I allowed myself to feel that three or four days a week with any exercise -- even just a 20-minute bodyweight session -- was OK. I gained weight, lost endurance and lost muscle definition. Last June, I started to fix things,being sure to do some kind of workout at least five days a week. And now: My goal is to bring purpose to every workout session, just like in marathon training.

Diversify: My wife has been bugging me to try yoga for a while. I think now is the time, concentrating on hip mobility, core stability and glute activation. I also want to work on plyometrics; the simplest plyos for runners is jumping rope. And I plan to keep weekly interval training on the schedule to work on getting faster.

Take Advantage of Vacation: I tend to concentrate my vacation days in the summer. Those days are a great time to ramp up on exercise, when you don't have the time pressure of commuting and work.

Keep Learning: I am certainly no noob on the roads, at the track or in the gym. But I'm no expert, either. I have lots to learn about pacing for various running workouts. And there is seriously no end to the number of strength exercises I could and should be doing -- not the least of which is the deadlift. I won't get better than I am now if I just keep doing the same old stuff.


Walking the Walk

If I can hit all these marks, I believe I'll be in much better shape to embark on another marathon-training cycle in the beginning of 2017, and I'll improve on my time. Now comes the hard part: Putting the plan into action.

And really, that's what being a Regular Guy is all about: Getting stuff done. Figuring out your fitness priorities and doing what it takes to reach your goals.

It kind of feels like New Year's Resolution time. So let's get to it!

What do you do after you've reached a big goal or milestone? What are your next steps? How do you avoid settling for good enough? Sound off in the comments below, on Facebook or on Twitter.

Monday, May 2, 2016

6 Smart Things I Did to Set a Marathon PR

So my second marathon is in the books.

And despite some really awful conditions on Sunday at the New Jersey Marathon, I set a huge PR. Sure, you would expect to see some improvement the second time around -- that's the case for just about anything in life, right? But I went from 4:18:32 to 3:54:47 -- that's 23:45 faster!


So what did I do differently?

If you've been keeping up with my marathon-related posts the last few months, you know that I got much more serious about my training regimen and my taper. I'm not going to re-hash all that here. What I want to talk about is race day and the couple of days beforehand.


Rest

On Friday, I more or less spent the entire day on the couch. I didn't do work, and I limited my chores. (My lawn looks like a jungle, by the way.) 

On Saturday, we had some errands to run, but while we were out, I realized I wasn't giving my legs proper rest. So I waited in the car while my wife (bless her) ran into the grocery store to buy the last-minute items we needed.

Later Saturday, at the race expo, we took one spin around the various booths. Tried a few samples of products, but we didn't hang around long.

Me and my friend Dan on expo day (courtesy Christine McDevitt)
And even when we arrived at the start area (Monmouth Park) on Sunday morning, I sat on the floor for as long as I could before heading to the corrals.

Every last bit of rest you can put into your legs helps when you're running 26.2. Conserving all those little expenditures of energy can really add up.


Eating

I've been talking for a while about carb loading -- because I'd been doing it for close to three weeks. The last few days before a race are key, though. I had rice with almost every meal. I consumed very little fat, as I wanted to save those calories for carbs. And dinner both Friday and Saturday was pasta.

The morning of the race, I ate a bagel with strawberry preserves (not cream cheese or butter), and a low-fat concoction of whey protein, water, chocolate syrup and iced coffee. My glycogen tanks were as full as they possibly could be.


Pacing 

I'd read extensively on pacing strategy for a marathon. It's a much different beast than a half. In my recent half-marathon, I set a strong PR with some serious negative splits (running faster in the second half than the first). Ask 100 experts, and 99 of them will tell you that the key to a fast time is to start slowly and finish fast. But one article I read blew that idea out of the water. The thing is, most people just can't hold a faster pace in the waning miles of a full marathon -- it's just too far, and it just takes too much out of you.

That jibed with my experience the first time around -- not just me, but the people who finished in around the same time I did. Your body can store only so much glycogen, and your slow-twitch muscles can hold out only so long. 

OK, so I didn't want to go out too fast and risk an early bonk, but I figured my best bet for a solid time was to acknowledge that I'd probably slow down at the end no matter what. So I decided to start at a reasonable pace instead of holding way back. That paid off, as I did the first half in 1:56:11, and the second half in 1:58:36.

I will bet that had I gone out slower in the first half, my second half wouldn't have been any better. 


Fueling

As I wrote a few weeks ago, I felt that one of my downfalls in 2014 was the lack of a good fueling strategy. Even a fully carb-loaded runner won't have enough glycogen for 26.2 miles. There's only one way to fight this: Ingest some carbs during the race. (I know that some people advocate "fat adaptation," but it's a difficult strategy that requires months of preparation, and research is mixed whether burning fat for energy actually leads to optimal performance.)

I decided that I would take a GU energy gel roughly every five miles, around aid stations so I could drink some water to help with digestion. GU delivers 100 calories of a carefully engineered balance of glucose and fructose, which ensures that your body will absorb as much of it as possible. And between GUs, I determined that I'd grab Gatorade at rest stations to get a little more carbs and some electrolytes.

I didn't stick exactly to my plan -- I started on the GUs a little earlier than 5 miles, and wound up ingesting one more than I'd planned on. But the overall strategy worked: Take the carbs before you feel like you need them, because by that time, it's too late.


Flexibility

It's impossible to execute a race plan exactly as you've drawn it up. There are just too many variables. As I mentioned, I started on my GU regimen a bit early, and I kept taking them every 4.5 miles instead of 5 -- which helped me keep my energy up. 

It was wet and miserable all day long. (courtesy Jacqueline Richter)
Another area where I needed to be flexible was in my gear. The temperature was around 50 at the start and pretty much stayed there all day. The wind was strong enough to make it feel a little cooler. And there was the rain. So I started out with my rain jacket, gloves and a water-wicking baseball cap. By mile 3 or so, I realized the rain jacket was going to be too hot, and leaving it unzipped would be really annoying. So when I reached my group of supporters for the first time, I dropped the jacket and gloves with them. I also left my wool ski cap, which I had just in case but determined I wouldn't need.

And though I'd planned to stay with the 4-hour pace group for a while, I realized early on that the two pacers with that group weren't running even enough splits, and so I decided to get out ahead of them and not look back. By mile 3, one of my main goals was not to see those people again -- and I didn't.


The Little Things
  • For races where it might be cold, I buy a used coat at Goodwill and wear it to the starting line, and then drop it right before the start. I also wore an old pair of pajama pants. A woman standing near me had a tank top on and was freezing. Since I had my rain jacket on, I gave her my old coat, and I think that helped her.
  • I always carry a hand towel to wipe away sweat -- those freebie golf towels you get a pep rallies and the such. But I figured I'd have sweat plus rain to wipe away, so I carried two of them. Let me tell you how nice it was to pull out a dry towel around mile 20.
  • I always walk through aid stations (when I get a drink), but I took one extra walk break. The New Jersey Marathon course goes through the old, abandoned Asbury Park Casino. I made the most of the respite from the rain to take my hat off and shake it out, really towel myself off, and get myself organized for the final six miles. I'm certain that this helped me focus in the home stretch.
  • When I hit a rough patch, I used mental tricks. I kept thinking of all the people who sponsored my run and how I couldn't let them down. I paced myself behind someone for 3 or 4 miles. I tried talking to people to get my mind off my fatigue. It all helps a little, and lot of little things add up.

It All Added Up to a Great Finish

Check out that awesome support team! (courtesy Christine McDevitt)
I can't claim any responsibility for the great support group I had all over the course, but seeing my wife, my family and one of my good friends between miles 24 and 25 was one helluva pick-me-up. I thought I might have to stop to walk some. But instead, I actually had a kick for about the last mile and a third. I was freakin' moving! I don't recall seeing a 40k timing mat, so I don't know my split in that last 2k, but I'd bet I was around my half-marathon pace. And there is no better feeling in a marathon than passing people in the home stretch and barreling through the finish line. It was awesome!



Have a story of your own to share? Sound off in the comments below, on Twitter or on Facebook

Friday, April 29, 2016

Taper Madness: The End of Marathon Training

Do you know what a taper is?

If you've ever participated in an endurance event, you surely do. But if you haven't, you may not be aware of how training changes in the last few weeks leading up to a race. It's kinda crazy.

The simple idea behind a taper is that in the two to three weeks before your race, you gradually dial down the intensity and duration of your workouts. So for runners, that means scaling back on the distance, and cutting out speedwork and heavy lifting. It seems counter-intuitive -- why wouldn't you keep working hard right up to the race? But studies have shown that a taper can improve your performance by as much as 3 percent. My goal is to finish under 4 hours, so 3 percent translates to more than 7 minutes.


What Actually Happens to Your Body?

As you probably realize, marathon training pushes your body well beyond what even reasonably fit people are comfortable with. My peak week, right before the taper, included 46 miles of running -- about 7 hours' worth of exercise. (And that doesn't even count warmups, cooldowns, walks to and from work or any other activity.) Really, you're on a razor's edge: You're maximizing your endurance and fitness just short of the point of overtraining or injury.

Lily has been resting up, too!
So by gradually dialing back on mileage, you really accomplish three big things:

  • Replenish your energy stores, particularly your glycogen. Glycogen is the blood sugar your body prefers for energy.
  • Gives your muscles a chance for recovery. In other words, get some rest!
  • Allows you to heal up all those little twinges and dings and aches you've been nursing.

So How Do You Go About Tapering?

Experts say the taper begins "immediately upon completing your last long training run, which is usually between 20 and 23 miles." That's generally three weeks out from the race, as it was in my case, when I went just shy of 22.

You won't find me lifting!
Dial back the mileage. The idea is to start allowing your body more rest, but you don't want to give back all of your gains. So you can't just stop running altogether. Instead, you gradually decrease to the point where, in the week just before the race, you're running just enough to keep your muscles limber. My last Sunday run was 8 miles.

No strength training. The taper is a time for your muscles to repair. In three weeks, you're not going to lose significant strength. But you can do some damage if you keep trying to lift heavy. You want those muscle fibers to repair, not to get torn again. Plus, much as with dialing back mileage, cutting out resistance training will help build glycogen stores. Even non-aerobic training uses energy.

Dietary changes. This is when the carb loading really starts. To avoid the dreaded 20-mile "bonk," you want to go into the race with as much glycogen in your system as you can hold. In week one of the taper, you also try to ramp up on protein, to aid in muscle repair. But after that, you start building up your carbs. In order not to overload on calories, that means a big reduction in fat -- as little as 10 percent of your calorie intake. I've been eating so much fruit, rice, potatoes, pasta, bread and other carbs that I'm ready to cry. After the race, I may just grab a spoon and a jar of pesto. I've also cut even further back on alcohol and limited myself to one cup of coffee a day, since both are diuretics.


But Really, It's Mental

The hardest part of tapering for me is the mental game. I'd just spent the past three months or so working as hard as I possibly could to prepare for the rigor of 26.2 miles. And all of a sudden, you're supposed to take it easy. No, having an extra half-hour because you only ran 3 miles doesn't mean you should add in a HIIT routine. Yes, it's OK to stretch out on the couch. No, there's no benefit to adding in a few extra miles. And go ahead and eat, eat, eat -- just make sure it's carby.

When you've been driving this hard for this long, the idea of letting up is enough to drive you nuts.


Have you ever tapered for a big event? What successes and failures did you encounter? Sound off in the comments, on Facebook or on Twitter!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

6 Last-Minute Marathon Mistakes I Won't Repeat

It's nervous time.

I have less than three weeks before I run the New Jersey Marathon, and I'd bet I've done more thinking and researching and reading and mulling in the past few days than I did over the last few months.

I've put in the hard work. I've run more than 400 miles already in this training cycle. I've been consistent with speedwork and strength training. I've cut way, way back on alcohol and been vigilant about my nutrition. And now that I've entered the taper phase -- where you cut mileage to rest up and restore depleted energy stores -- I don't want to mess everything up.

Two years ago, I ran out of gas at about mile 23. Part of that was the conditions: There was a hellacious headwind for the last six miles of the race. But part of it was attributable to mistakes I made -- mistakes I don't plan to repeat.


Nutrition
Mmmm...carbs!
To be honest, two years ago I didn't really focus that much on nutrition at any point during my training. Yes, I understood that carb-loading happens in the week before the race, not just the night before, but beyond that I really didn't pay a ton of attention to what I was eating.

This week, I've ramped up on protein and carbs, and tried to cut back on fat to compensate. The protein will help repair the muscles I've broken down over the past few months, and especially the past week with a long run of 22 miles. The carbs will restore my energy stores.

Next week, I'll shift to more carbs. And then during race week, it'll be almost all carbs.


Alcohol
None of this during race week!
Looking back on my old blog, I can see that I drank too much beer in the weeks leading up to the marathon. I had two the night before my final long run leading up to the taper. I kinda went to town at a party two weeks out from the race. And even the Friday before the marathon, I had a couple after attending the race expo. Not smart:

  • Alcohol impacts your sleep and messes with other systems at a critical point. I need my body to be all systems go.
  • It's a diuretic. The glycogen your body produces via carbs requires more water to carry it in your bloodstream. You want to remain as hydrated as possible, and not just in the couple days leading up to the race.
  • Who needs the empty calories? It probably didn't add much, but every bit of weight I can avoid carrying is a plus.
I'm also going to try to cut back on caffeine, which is also a diuretic.


Working Too Hard During the Taper
Two years ago, there were a few runs that were just outright fast -- way beyond race pace. And again looking back at the blog, I was still doing heavy strength training close to race day. Both of these are bad ideas. The taper is a time to rebuild the muscles that you've been taxing for months. The stress of speedwork and weight-lifting tears muscle fibers. Normally, that's a good thing -- that's how you build muscle. But do it too close to your race and your body won't have time to recover fully.

Yesterday was my first taper run, on the treadmill. As badly as I wanted to speed up and get it over with, I stuck with a nice, easy pace -- :30/mile slower than my recent half-marathon. And I've had to keep telling myself that less is more. No need to do heavy lifting. No need to add mileage. Keep your pace in check. 

I'm doing just enough to keep my fitness levels up over the next few weeks. 


Too Much Fun at the Expo
Bought one of these at the expo.
In the few days leading up to a marathon, you want to spend as little time on your feet as you can. So why in God's green earth did I spend two hours at the race expo the Friday before the marathon? I circled the place three or four times. I checked out every booth. I even sat in the massage chair -- a huge error. You don't want anything breaking down muscle fibers right before your run.

I've learned my lesson on this one. Get your race packet, do one loop to see if there's anything worth checking out, and go home. 


My Fueling Strategy Sucked
More precisely, I didn't really have a fueling strategy. 

In my training runs two years ago, I found that my body generally had sufficient glycogen to carry me through about a half-marathon. In fact, in the half-marathon I ran that year, I did not even use GU. I had some Gatorade thing that I took at mile 3, and that was it. It was fine for that distance.

That does not work in a marathon. I waited until about the halfway point to ingest my first GU packet. (GU is a specially formulated gel designed to deliver quick-digesting carbs to your system mid-run.) I felt fine, so why would that be a problem, right? The problem is that there's a lag between the time your liver runs out of glycogen and you burn it all out of your bloodstream -- the point where you bonk. And once it's gone, you'll never catch back up. It takes 10 or 15 minutes for the stuff to get back into your bloodstream, and really, there isn't enough in one packet to make a difference at that point. (And more than that at a time won't digest properly.)

So during long training runs this time around, I've been taking a GU every five miles, regardless of how I feel. And I haven't totally bonked on a training run yet (aside from the 17-miler right after I was done being sick). 


I Left Time in the Bank
Even though I bonked at mile 23 two years ago, I think I ran an overly cautious race. I hit midway at 2:05, which was a full 9 minutes slower than the half-marathon I'd run, and left me zero chance of breaking 4:00. I don't think the bonk would have come sooner had I been a bit more aggressive. And I probably should have used the tailwind to my advantage instead of just trying to play it safe worrying about the headwind coming back.

And I'm also hoping that, if I do all of these other things right, I won't feel the need to be too conservative. I can go out at a pace that would put me within striking distance of my "A" goal, with the knowledge that I should have more in the tank than I did in 2014. 

I'm hoping that when I get to the final 5K, I have enough in me to make a real push at a great time. And if not, at least to be ahead of where I was last time around.
  

Don't Get Me Wrong
My medal and a photo my dad framed
I'm proud of what I was able to accomplish in 2014. In a little more than a year since I got serious about my health and fitness, I went from couch to 26.2, and I did it in under the median finishing time for marathon runners that year. 

But I've improved my running significantly since then, and I want to see this thing through. That means doing whatever I can to get the next two and a half weeks right, race weekend right and my race plan right.


What's been your biggest fitness bugaboo? You know, that one thing that seems to trip you up despite all your hard work. Sound off in the comments below, on Facebook or on Twitter!