Preparing for the Half Moon Bay International Marathon – Epilogue: The Fat Lady Hath Sung…

I woke up about an hour and a half before the alarm was set to go off.  It was 3:30 A.M.  I still had soreness in my right calf and knew I had exhausted every available resource.  Either this thing was going to happen or it wasn’t.  I just said some words to the Big Man upstairs to the effect, “if you want me to do this I will, and if you don’t, I won’t.”

I completed the 1st Annual Half Moon Bay Marathon in 5:16:54.  I beat my best marathon time by 7 minutes.

The event was first class all the way and hardy congratulations are to be made to all the volunteers that made it happen.

Thank you.  See you next year.

Preparing for the Half Moon Bay International Marathon – ALL IN…

My participation in the HMB Marathon has played out in a dozen different scenarios this week.  The calf injury that will not go away created a fair amount of angst, relief and more angst and then relief, followed by I’m not sure what to expect. Monday night I was on the mend, Tuesday’s light workout had the injury flare up and it was the end of my race.  My self will, along with support from my training buddies Hank and Bryan kept me in action.  I sought out more care from the local health practitioners and on it went.  I have gone from Plan A- run the race in my best time ever, to Plan B-Run half the half marathon so at least I finish something, to plan C- I’m out of the race and will put on a volunteer shirt, to Plan D- push all my chips to the center of the table and go for broke.  So tomorrow morning at 7:00 A.M. I will toe the line and head out in to the great unknown.  One thing is for sure.  When this event is complete, no matter how it turns out, I will have no regrets.  I really cannot ask for more than that.

The harsh realities of life are somehow magnified with the heightened sense of awareness that comes with facing a real challenge. This week I lost a dear friend suddenly in a tragic auto accident.  I also had a close friend that seemed to be on his way out, return home from the hospital and is receiving the support he needs to aid in his recovery.  These things hit deeper when I am on the playing field of life, and I have a profound gratitude for today and all I have as a result.

Saving the best for last.

Thank you; Mary, Chrysann, Stephanie, Margaret, Bryan, Hank, Dan, Johnson, Ron, Jackie, Jeanne, my crew at HPRS.  You all impact my life on a regular basis and especially through this very strange odyssey.  A very special thank you to the men and women of the Coastside Running club.  They had a vision for this event and have put in the hard work to turn that vision into reality.

The person I most want to thank publicly is my beautiful, one-of-a-kind wife, Beverly.  Beverly is the one behind the scenes that makes sure that everything that needs to happen, happens. Beverly is the one that puts the thought and care in to everything she touches, things turn out extra special because of her.  Anything I accomplish in my life is because of Beverly and all she gives.  I count myself as the luckiest guy in the world to have her in my life.

So thank you everybody.  Wish me luck.

Norm Armstrong

Preparing for the Half Moon Bay International Marathon – 26.2 not so fast my friend…

It has been one week since my last real training run and my right calf decided it had had enough. I did have a couple of very short runs this week, hoping this latest setback would just go away. Suddenly my participation the the first annual Half Moon Bay International Marathon is in jeopardy.

It’s amazing to notice the emotions that come boiling to the surface at a time like this. There is the old standard of denial.  Like “oh, this is not really happening.”  To the opposite end of the spectrum and that would be “this is really happening and you’re screwed!” I get to be reminded how competitive I am.  I am really, really competitive. Not sure who I am competing against, as I have no designs to be anywhere but in the tail end of the runners in the race.  But at the same time, there is a part of me that absolutely must be out there on the stage, in the arena.  It is who I am.  And the thought that I might be denied that opportunity is a tough one to face.

I went to see a Master health practitioner yesterday and he did some very intense work on the area in question. While he was at it he addressed a couple of other areas (arm and shoulder) that have been causing a fair amount of discomfort. The arm and shoulder are fixed, I am happy to report. But the poor little calf is still sore. He did say it might be sore for a couple of days and that I should just cool it and rest.

I knew this venture would be fraught with the unpredictable when I signed up several months ago. So, this weekend, I will cool it, rest, enjoy the full spectrum of emotions, do my best not to drive my dear wife crazy and hope for the best.  There is nothing I can do now but trust that I will heal.

Preparing for the Half Moon Bay International Marathon – as if on cue…

Let’s see there was the time about a year ago about two weeks out from a Marathon I rolled my ankle taking a leisurely run around Lake Merced. If you don’t know the trail around Lake Merced, it is the flattest most benign blacktop running surface there is.  Yet, I found a way to turn my ankle and had to hobble back to my car. Then there was last December, two or three weeks out from running the Death Valley Marathon that I went to get my flu shot.  My wife, Beverly thought it would be a good time for me to get immunized for some other potential malady at the same time, so I got two shots. With in 24-hours I was bed ridden with what seemed like the flu on steroids.  I managed to bounce back from both incidents and have a good time at the respective races.  I told myself that this was God’s way of getting me to rest up during the all important two week tapering off phase of Marathon training.

So there I was yesterday, enjoying an easy run on the beautiful country roads near my home when out of nowhere my right calf tightened up and the burn of what felt like a hot cattle prod ensued.  Honestly, after the initial horror of realizing I was a good three miles from home with only my two legs to get me back passed, I thought, of course, this would happen.  I managed to walk, jog, run back and get my beloved ice pack on the injury as quickly as humanly possible.  So here I am literally two weeks from the HMB Marathon with an ice pack and Ace bandage on what feels like a moderate calf injury.  There is a valuable lesson to be learned somewhere here, but I am not quite sure what that lesson is yet. For now, I am going with the just relax and take it easy and everything will be fine approach.

I am genuinely excited about the event and all that it represents.  There are hundreds of people who have put their heart and soul into ensuring this 1st Annual HMB International Marathon reflects all that is good about the Coastside.  I am grateful to be one in that crowd.

Preparing for the Half Moon International Bay Marathon – the final dress rehersal…

Yesterday was the last scheduled practice run organized by the Coastside Runners Club (unsung heros).  We did the 11 mile section of the course, which starts at the harbor and goes to the Montara Lighthouse.  This section of the race is really the most scenic and dramatic.  The course goes out to the Mark Foo Memorial at Mavericks then up the bluffs and in to Moss Beach.  The turnaround point is at the Montara Lighthouse. I have been on the Coast for a long time, and the scenery is as breathtaking as ever. On race day this section of the race should take me about two hours to complete.  Then I have three hours to do the southern 15-miles.  That will bring me in at my goal time of five hours.  Simple right?

Last Sunday, I did my last long run of 20-miles. I went out solo. The first 10-12 miles were no problem, then I started to run out of steam.  This is where not having someone alongside to get through those tough miles makes a difference.

As I was running through Princeton on my way back to the Ritz I was looking over my shoulder for someone I knew to drive by and give me a ride!  “This is not good,” I said to myself. But I have learned that if I continue to put one foot in front of the other, and keep going in the desired direction, those thoughts pass. That did, in fact, happen and I finished in relatively good shape.

I plan to go out tomorrow for about 10-miles and then start to really back off.  The race is three weeks away from today. Rest and good nutrition are essential during the last couple of weeks especially. But in the meantime, I have a new puppy, a birthday, and an anniversary to celebrate!  And then…Showtime.


Preparing for the Half Moon Bay International Marathon – the race within the race

We are roughly 5 weeks out from the 1st Annual HMB International Marathon.  That gives me about 2.5 weeks to improve what I can in my conditioning and preparation to complete the race in one piece and with a respectable finishing time (around 5 hours).

I had a really good training run last Saturday.  The Coastside Running Club organized a practice run on the course and people showed up from all around the Bay Area to take part. The groups split in to varying distances.  The group I was with ran 15.2 miles.  While it was a practice run, it had the desired effect of being a dress rehearsal.  The excitement, enthusiasm, and, yes, anxiety of race day were all in the mix.

I was planning to stick with the pace I hope to maintain for the actual race, but as these things go, I got caught up in the energy of what we were doing and went out much faster. My overall pace for the 15.2 miles was about 2 minutes per mile faster than what my marathon pace might be.  Soooo, I am now telling/asking myself, hey, if I can get in a couple of more good weeks of training and taper properly over the last 2 or so weeks..who knows?  I could shock myself and those that know my race history with a personal best time. I am going to go out for about 13 miles tomorrow, then next weekend will be the last long run before the race (about 18 miles).

One might ask, who cares what your time is, as long as you give your best and finish?  To me, finishing is great. It symbolizes the spirit of sportsmanship and participation. But, to actually get out there and participate at a level I have never done before symbolizes so much more. It is a measurement that so many things went right. That the efforts of those people in my life that support me to do these crazy things (first and foremost Beverly, my wonderful, one-of-a-kind wife), really made a difference.  Because if a 53-year-old roofing contractor can get out there and run 26.2 miles faster than he ever has, well maybe someone else can too.

Preparing for the Half Moon Bay International Marathon – energy infusion and connection

After a couple of weeks of what seemed like sub-standard training runs (probably not true), I am heading out this morning for a 15-mile practice run on the race course.  The run is organized by the unsung hero’s of this event, the Coastside Running Club.  I am looking forward to getting out there with some other folks who are taking part in the event.  I am optimistic that this is the infusion of energy/connection my mind and body need at this point. I am counting on this as being the springboard that will catapult me to put the pedal to the metal down the home stretch! My 15-miles today will give me about 34 for the week.  I am going to do a couple of more weeks of 30-35-miles then start the gradual tapering off process.

The race is September 25th, I am counting the days. Yet, there is also the thought that September 25th signals the end of another summer and on to another year. Time is whizzing by. Today, I shall attempt to enjoy and be grateful for every step and know that September 25th will be here soon enough.  I’m not in any hurry.

Preparing for the Half Moon Bay Inernational Marathon – sliding backwards and moving forward

The dog days of the training cycle are upon me.  Inside of 8 weeks to go and I am toast.  I know these days are coming when I start training, yet, when they arrive, I am surprised, disappointed, and even discouraged. Several consecutive weeks of 30 miles or more along with intense track work once a week has caught up to me.

I went out for a long trail run with my pal, Bryan, yesterday and I could tell my tank was empty.  My legs felt like a couple of lead pipes and I was huffing and puffing on trails I have sailed on during better days.  I wondered aloud if I was going back wards, and maybe Father Time has caught up to me. That I am not in the condition that I thought I was in..blah blah blah, you get the point.  It isn’t pretty.

Here is where training for a marathon, or any other extreme physical event, differs from anything resembling normal. All the things/conditions I am describing are actually good news! I am not going to try to explain the physiology of it all, but the bottom line is this; as September draws near and I begin the tapering process, I will bounce back stronger than ever.  That’s the plan at least. In the meantime, I need to stay the course and continue to push, while not risking injury.  Rest and nutrition become paramount during this phase.

Lastly, my running buddy, Stephanie, has diligently worked her way back after being sidelined for about 3 weeks with an injury.  This is a testament to what this whole thing is about.  And selfishly, I am glad to have my long running buddy back.

Preparing for the Half Moon Bay Inernational Marathon – being a finisher…

Heading out this morning for a 20-mile training run.  This will be my longest run since completing the Death Valley Marathon last December.  The Death Valley Marathon, like many marathons, has a time limit (six hours) in which one can complete the race and be acknowledged as a finisher. If one finishes after the six hour time limit, they get the dreaded DNF ( did not finish) by their name in any and all running publications.  A very long story short, I finished in 5:58:45. That is cutting it close. My life flashed before my eyes as I realized it was going to take everything I had to finish under the time limit. These races get personal beyond belief for me when I’m out there with so much at stake. In the midst of it all I did not miss the breathtaking beauty of Death Valley and Titus Canyon specifically. This morning I took inventory of all aches and pains and am amazed how they manage to all show up at the same time when a long run is scheduled.  Fortunatley, I will have a couple of good running buddies out there to distract me.

On a personal note, I ran into a dear old friend yesterday who does not appear to be in good health. I had heard he was ill, and got first hand confirmation yesterday. It reminded me how lucky I am to be able to go out and do the things I love to do.  As race day draws near, I start to think of close friends and the loved ones I can carry with me in spirit.  One such friend appeared yesterday.  Coach, this one is for you.


Perparing for the Half Moon Bay International Marathon – taking time to “chill”

When in doubt, rest!

Three consecutive weeks of 30-plus miles finally caught up to me.  After my 17-mile run last week, I started to have some pain in my knee.  I know I am not the only one that goes through this, but when preparing for a race, especially a marathon, a potential injury is an alarming experience.  I did a little research and found that I could manage what was happening, with the first step being REST.  As a result, I decided to chill out and enjoy the 4th of July holiday weekend. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I had one of the more relaxing and fun holiday weekends in a very long time.

I did get back out on the trail on Monday and did my track work out Tuesday, so I seem to be back on track, so to speak.  I have a 20-mile run scheduled with Stephanie, my running buddy, this Sunday.  I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about potential injury on a long run like 20-miles.

This is where it gets interesting and, yes, even melodramatic. At this point, I want to get out there and go go go.  But overdoing it could cause problems down the line, so I need to be disciplined and shut it down if I start to feel pain in the knee of interest. I can only say that life, business, and training for a marathon are all the same for me. I prepare and hope to have the wisdom to make intelligent decisions that will produce the intended result, but that does not always happen.