The opening ceremony for Washington NationalsIt doesn’t seem like that long ago that I was sitting in the upper deck of a sold out Nationals Stadium watching Obama throw out the first pitch.  It was the home opener and spirits were high.  Sure, I don’t think a fan in the park thought the Nationals would win the pennant, but we all hoped to see an improvement from last year. Last Wednesday night I hit the park one last time for the season.  KFB, Kareem and I grabbed some beers, loaded up on nachos, and took our seats right behind 3rd base.  The stadium was pretty empty, with more Phillies fans than Nationals.  We all knew the Nationals didn’t amount to anything, yet again, but we were still there, waving our hats and happy to watch some baseball. After watching the Washington Natioanls throughout the season, I can’t help but draw connections to training.  Might seem a bit funny (I do love odd analogies, after all), but let me break it down for you.
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So you registered for a race several months ago.  You found a training plan, plotted your strategy, and got to work.  Before you knew it, the training consumed you.  You found yourself talking about last weekend’s long run to all your friends, reading running blogs during your lunch break, and laying in bed thinking about tomorrow’s tempo.  Week in, week out, you train harder, get stronger, and come closer to your goal.  Then it hits you, and you get a little bored.

All of a sudden, the routes become a bit monotonous, you would really love a Saturday morning to sleep in, and the thought of a 20 mile run sounds a lot less exciting than going out with your friends.  But unfortunately for you, just when things get a little tough, you really need to be stepping it up.  So how do you keep going?  What keeps you motivated?

With both my first marathon and the one I’m currently working towards, I’ve done nearly all the training on my own.  While I’ve had family, friends, and a GF to lean on through the good times and the bad, it has been up to me to get out of bed and onto the road.  Some of you might be on you own like me, or maybe you have a running team, but either way, training can be very tough.  Keeping up that high energy and motivation is crucial.

Here are a few good ways I’ve discovered to help keep myself motivated.

Read: When you’re not actually running, why not be reading about running?  Usually books and magazines don’t talk about how horrible something is (and if they do…put it down), they build it up!  Which is exactly what you need.  I subscribe to Runners World and the Washington Running Report.  Both give great racing tips, interesting stories, and new techniques to help out with your running.  A few great novels, if you haven’t read them already, are Born to Run and What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.

Watch: Nothing better than a good motivational running movie.  I recently watched Spirit of the Marathon with KFB.  It followed around 8 runners as they trained for the Chicago Marathon.  The runners ranged from elite to first timers, each with a unique story that brought them to the marathon.  It was a great reminder about why I love to run.  Another good running movie is Prefontaine, the amazing story about Steve Prefontaine, a record holding track runner.  I also try to watch all Ironman and Marathon coverage on NBC Sports.  Nothing makes you want to get off the couch and onto the trail more than a movie or show that makes you feel lazy.

Talk: This one is a no brainer, but I often find myself embarrassed to bring it up.  Don’t forget to keep talking about your training!  Share your excitement with your friends and family and they will get just as excited.  It always feels great when someone asks you about how many miles you did that week, or how many weeks left before the big race.  You have nothing to be embarrassed about, you are training for a race!

Ultimately, all training lies solely in your hands, which can be very scary.  Once you lose that motivation, your miles will start to fall flat.  Keep up the motivation, and keep running.

So how do you stay motivated to keep up your training?  Any other books or movies you would recommend?

I’d like to take a minute and first thank everyone for reading The Hay Say!  I hope that you enjoy what you see.  The Hay Say has recently added a couple of new features that you might enjoy.

First off, for all you Facebookers out there, you can now ‘Fan’ The Hay Say and get updates, links to fun articles, and share anything you wish!  You can do that by following this Facebook Link or by clicking the Facebook icon in the top right.

Another new feature is the Subscribe button to the top right.  You can now subscribe to the blog and have everything delivered directly to an RSS reader or straight into your e-mail inbox!  You’ll never miss a post if you subscribe.

One of the things I’m really excited about developing is a collection of all my running routes around DC.  I’ll be mapping them from generic locations in Columbia Heights and the U St. area, so that other people can use them or modify them if they are looking for a new route.  The collection will be compiled on Map My Run, and you can link to any route or share some of yours with me if you like.

And last but not least, a little plug for my twitter account.  Don’t forget to follow!


Keep running, keep drinking, keep eating, and keep living local.

Parks Half Marathon Course Map

I should start by saying one thing, this was just my second Half Marathon.  While I’ve run 13.1 miles many times in training, I haven’t raced that distance since I was in high school.  Back when I didn’t really run and wasn’t in shape, my family decided it would be fun to run the Virginia Beach Rock and Roll Half Marathon.  I crossed the finish line in just over 2:00, but came close to death in the process.  If you have ever run a Rock and Roll race, you know what is involved.  Lots of people, lots of music, and lots of distractions.  All of which can be great.  All of which are meant to take you away from what you came there to do.

The Parks Half Marathon was nothing like the Rock and Roll.  And it was awesome.  This race didn’t have cheerleaders at every mile, it didn’t have bands blasting throughout the race, and no Team In Training filling the masses.  There was no finishers medal, just a beanie with the race’s logo on it.  Instead what you had was just you, 13.1 miles of trail, and only about 2500 other racers.

The course is easily the most beautiful route I’ve run in a race.  After the first few miles of road, added mostly to allow for the pack to separate a bit, you file into Rock Creek Park and stay in the park the rest of the way.  I run a lot of my weekly miles through Rock Creak, but never make it to the northern part.  This section of the park is definitely my new favorite.  Nearly all of the 10 or so miles on the trail was far from any roads, deep under tree coverage, and extremely peaceful.

As you can see from the elevation chart below, most of the course is at a slight downgrade.  This allowed for fast starts and quick strides.  I went out a little harder than usual, feeling good and strong.  Somewhere around mile 5, I started feeling that speed a bit.  While I was still feeling good, I was concerned about my pace and knew that the climb was coming during the last few miles.  By mile 8 my legs were beginning to hurt.  For a second I considered slowing down, fearing to push myself too hard in the middle of my training.  Then I had an epiphany, and it sounded a little something like this, “Doug, you’re running a half marathon race, of course you are getting tired, and of course you are starting to hurt.  This is 13.1 miles!  Now get your ass into gear and move, damn it!” (yeah, I swear a lot in my head while running…).  Well it worked.  I picked up my pace even more and held steady through the finish line.

The race was rainy, full of mud, and farther away from DC than I thought, but I’ll definitely be running it again.  You just can’t beat the course or the vibe from the other runners.  It was everything distance running should be.

The Elevation Chart
Mt. Katahdin, Maine

Well, you might have wondered where I’ve been the past few weeks.  I’m happy to report that I have been touring the North East on a series of mini vacations, moving apartments (more on that to come), and enjoying the summer.  August started out with a trip to Rhode Island, where I maxed and relaxed with KFB’s family in Narragansett.  This was my first trip to RI, and it was beautiful.  We had perfect weather, with the sun shinning bright and the breeze dropping temperatures to the low 80s.  The cool crisp mornings fulfilled the much-needed break from DC’s disastrous summer, providing the perfect atmosphere for a nice run.  After 5 days in RI, I came back to DC only to turn around and head to Atlantic City for a Bachelor Party.  This was also my first trip to AC, and well, I think I did pretty good for myself.  While running was at a minimum, I did almost pay for the whole trip in roulette winnings.  We did plenty of gambling, made plenty of funny memories, and of course drank plenty of beer.  To wrap up my August vacations, I headed to the mountains of Maine, for a short backpacking trip through Baxter State Park with some family.  In Baxter we climbed Mt. Katahdin, the final leg of the Appalachian Trail.  I’ve been through many parts of the AT, and I have to say that Katahdin was one of the most beautiful.  The mountain is very dramatic, with incredible views of the surrounding area.

For many people, running and vacation don’t seem to fit well in one sentence.  Unless, of course, “I’m not running on vacation” is the sentence.  But when you are in the middle of training, for whatever length, “I’m not running on vacation” isn’t always an option.  Having done a lot of it over the past few weeks, I’m here to say that my vacation runs (with the exception of AC…for obvious reasons) have been some of my best runs of this training season.

Running on vacation can be great.  Here are a few reasons way:

1)      It’s Fresh – So often I find myself running the same routes, several times a week.  I run past the same intersections, up the same hills, and through the same neighborhoods almost every day.  For the most part I could do it with my eyes closed.  This can be great, but can also be boring.  Vacation gives you the opportunity to explore this new town, city, state, or country that you probably don’t know very well.

Narragansett, RI

While in Rhode Island I went out for what I planned to be about a 10 mile run.  I didn’t know where I was going, but I knew that if I went out this one road, it would follow the coastline for several miles.  A few miles down the road, I found several cut-off streets that sent me right down to the water.  I saw some amazing views and explored some incredible neighborhoods.  Minutes and miles were flying by as I ran through these new streets.  Several times I even found a smile on my face, as I turned the corner to a new overlook.  I ended up running what I believe to be about 12-13 miles, and enjoying every minute of it.

2)       Change of Weather –  With a new location comes new weather.  Going on vacation doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to find cooler weather if your hometown is hot, or warmer weather if your hometown is cold, but it mixes it up!  Lucky for me most of my vacations were up north, providing some ideal weather conditions for a lengthy run.

Once I got off the trail in Maine, I took some time to go out for a run.  Even though my legs were well used throughout the hike and climb, I wanted to make sure I kept up with some miles.  I went on a jog around a lake in the small town of Winthrop.  The scenery was great, but the weather even better.  The cooler temperatures definitely helped power the senses and get me going.

3)       Lose the Mileage –  If you are anything like me, you often find yourself totally caught up in your mileage.  Too frequently I’m so focused on how many miles I’ve run this week that I forget to have fun.  I pick my routes for the length, not the enjoyment.  Because you usually don’t know where you are going when you take off for a jog while on vacation, it gives you the option to just go out there and run.  Don’t bother opening up your mapmyrun account, and just use the watch. Tell yourself that you want to go out for a certain amount of time, and take off.  Go wherever the road takes you, and explore whenever looks interesting.

Running through your vacation can seem like an added stress you would rather just leave at home, but if you look at it as a good vacation outing, it can be a real highlight.  Keep up your running, keep enjoying your vacation.

Anyone else do any vacation running this summer?

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NPR covered two stories today about the local food movement.  The first was about the author of “Ripe: The Search for The Perfect Tomato” who discusses the value of local tomatoes ripened right on the vine!  The second discusses the problems that have the local meat industry is now facing.  With higher demand for local, ethically raised meat, it is hard to find a place to butcher!

“Once upon a time, tomatoes were considered poisonous, even dangerous. But gradually, the plump produce made its way into our homes and onto our plates. Arthur Allen tells the story of the tomato’s redemption, popularization and eventual modification in his book, Ripe: The Search For The Perfect Tomato.

“At the State University of New York’s meat lab, students learn how to kill, cut and grind up beef, pork and lamb. After a month, they get a meat-processing and food-safety certificate and the basic know-how to work in the industry. The program aims to help fill the shortage of butchers and small slaughterhouses — and keep meat local.

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I modeled this year’s training for the Marine Corps Marathon after the training schedule I used for Baltimore last year. The major difference between the two years is the type of mileage I’m putting in.

Last year, when I started training I was not a very serious runner. I ran cross country in high school, but hardly ever ran more than 3 or 4 miles at a time after that. I hadn’t received much training, and never considered myself a very knowledgeable runner. Since then, I’ve become more self-taught. I’m often reading articles, learning how to get stronger, faster, and stay injury free.

One of the major changes to this year’s training over the last, is adding Tempo Runs to my weekly workout. I know that a lot of the traffic to my blog comes from runners like me, out training for one of their first long races, who have plenty of questions about what they are doing.  So I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned and what I’m doing.

Why do Tempo Runs? Simply put, tempo runs help you run faster.  These runs are not sprints, but they are harder than just going out for 5 miles.  There is plenty out there on the science behind tempo runs, but essentially you are pushing your body without burning it out.  John Hanc of Runner’s World Magazine puts it this way, “Tempo running improves a crucial physiological variable for running success: our metabolic fitness. ‘Most runners have trained their cardiovascular system to deliver oxygen to the muscles,; says exercise scientist Bill Pierce, chair of the health and exercise science department at Furman University in South Carolina, ‘but they haven’t trained their bodies to use that oxygen once it arrives. Tempo runs do just that by teaching the body to use oxygen for metabolism more efficiently.'”

What type of Tempo Running is good for Marathon training? Really, it depends on who you ask.  Some people say to stick to Tempo intervals, while others will tell you to just put in some miles at your Tempo pace.  What I have been doing is pretty simple:

  • The Pace:  a 10 mile race pace.  You want to be able to ask a question to your running partner, but not hold a conversation.  You should be comfortably uncomfortable.  Pushing yourself to the point that you would like to slow down, but not to the point where you NEED to slow down.
  • The Distance:  I have been adding my Tempo Pace to a 5 mile workout day.  I will start with one mile of slow, warm-up pace, then take off for 3 miles at a swifter Tempo Pace.  After roughly 3 miles I’ll slow back down for an easy mile long cool down.

These Tempo days have not been replacing my track workouts.  They should be added as a more difficult day to your running schedule.  I look at it like this, if I run 5 times a week, I have three hard days and two easy light days.  My hard days consist of a long endurance run, a track interval workout, and a tempo day.  The easy days are to help me recover while still getting in the miles.

Now, like I said before, I’m not in any way the most knowledgeable person on this topic.  I am, however, an average runner looking to improve on my previous race times.  I can say with absolute certainty that adding tempo workouts to the mix has both made me stronger and more confident pushing myself on the road.  I suggest you do your own research and come up with the perfect Tempo workout plan for your needs.  You wont regret it.

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CH Farmers Market (sorry for the poor quality phone pic)

This summer brought many new things to Columbia Heights: Fro-Yo, an almost done 14th Street, and the Columbia Heights Community Marketplace. Now, I’m a fan of just about any farmers market, but after a few Saturday mornings waking up at this market, I can’t stop raving on what they have to offer. It isn’t the biggest FM of the bunch, but what it lacks in vendors it certainly makes up for in variety.

The market is open from 9-2 every Saturday, and houses multiple vegetable growers (Chesley Farms, Dragonfly Farms and Licking Creek Bend Farm), a variety of meat vendors, cheese makers, bread bakers, and even a gelato guy.  Pretty much anything you might need.  The marketplace even accepts WIC and Stamps.

With no recent Arganica order, last Saturday KFB and I hit up the CH Community Marketplace with a few bucks in hand. We bought a loaf of whole wheat bread, 6 peaches, 3 nectarines, 3 tomatoes, a bundle of onions, red potatoes, green beans, a cucumber and 4 ears of corn all for just $20. A price that can’t be beat for such high quality, local produce.

Everyday several people read my review of Arganica Farm Club. I don’t want to put down the local delivery group which fed me through the winter, but recently I feel like it just can’t compare. DC’s Farmers Markets have so much to offer at such a great price.  You have the big markets like Dupont, but embracing the smaller markets like Columbia Heights Market will give you everything you need, the warmth of your neighbors, and the satisfaction you get from are purchasing real food.

The Columbia Heights Community Marketplace offers good eats, good people, and a good reason to wake up.  Don’t be a slacker and get your hungover butt out the bed for some food.

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Last week NPR’s Diane Rehm brought on some of the big names in the modern running movement.  Christopher McDougall, author of ‘Born to Run’ and barefoot running activist, Amby Burfoot, winner of the 1968 Boston Marathon and Runners World editor, and Dr. Stephen Pribut, a sports medicine specialist, all sat down to discuses barefoot running, running trends, and the modern runner.  It is definitely a show worth checking out.

“Millions of Americans run to lose weight, stay in shape or relieve stress. But many suffer injuries that keep them off the road and out of commission. A look at barefoot running and other trends gaining traction.”

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6 Miles: Start and end at 14th and Park, NW

I have to admit, these were not my best two weeks of running.  The past few weeks have been absolutely crazy for me at work, often at the office with 5 plus hours of overtime a day.  It was a big few weeks for me, as months of preparation were coming into action.  Hitting the road for a run after 12 or 13 hours at the office was not exactly what I wanted to do, especially with this weather.

You may recall that I wrote a post a few weeks ago about how much more I liked running in the heat than the cold.  Well, I take every single one of those words back.  I liked running in the heat for a total of 10 days.  All 10 of those days happened to be when the DC heat was below 90.  The past few weeks haven’t seen a day under 90 yet.  Running in 98 degrees with DC humidity has been brutal.  I’ve tried waking up to get in my run early, and waiting until almost dark to get in my run late.  I’ve even tried my damnedest to time out my run with a rain shower, only to have the rain pass by, as if to rub the heat in that much more.

But even with the lack of sleep, intensive heat, and low motivation, I still laced up my Asics and hit the road.  Although they were slow, the miles have now been logged.  I even did two track workouts, which actually turned out to be some of the best days for me.

This week’s long run was only 6 miles, which I happily took, knowing the longer runs were in the near future.  Next week picks up a little bit, but nothing longer than I know I can handle.  Next weekend I head to Rochester with KFB for the 4th, which will hopefully bring lower temperature and exciting new routes!

Weeks 1-3