Category Archives: Fitness

EQT 10-mile training – final edition

Strange things happen on the road. Sometimes they happen in bunches.

Once, during an afternoon run on a short trail that runs alongside Clearview Avenue in Crafton, two young ladies sitting on a step asked me if I had a cigarette. To humor them, I stopped, patted my pockets and said, “Sorry, I forgot them.”

The final two weeks of training for the EQT Pittsburgh 10-miler, which runs Sunday and will be the next feature in the O-R Challenge series, were a bit unusual, though nothing quite as weird as being asked for a smoke.

It started with my third, and final, Fleet Feet Flyers group run. The gang met in front of a coffee shop on Walnut Street. A 7-mile run (technically, I believe it was a 6.91-miles) was laid out for those of us doing the Train to Run program. I went out with a group whose pace I liked, but ended up moving ahead on the climb along Penn Avenue to North Linden Avenue in Point Breeze. Eventually, the course led back to Shadyside but, somewhere along Ellsworth Avenue, I missed a turn. (Full disclosure: I’m blaming the gaffe on trying to check out the wooden street at Rosslyn Place.) The directions said to turn right on Filbert Street. I continued to run Ellsworth. After multiple blocks, East Liberty came into my sight and my run-tracking app told me I hit 7 miles.

A lady was walking down the sidewalk and I think I startled her when I asked between breaths, “Do you know where Filbert Street is?”

She told me I passed it a few blocks ago. I thanked her and made a right-hand turn. The good news was it added nine-tenths of a mile to my run.

Later that week, I broke my smartphone when it fell out of my pocket as I was closing my car door.

Crunch,

Now, I’m back to my old iPhone4 that can’t download my work email or add any apps. Sorry if anyone from Fleet Feet or EQT or the Observer-Reporter tried to reach me the past week. I still haven’t been able to check my work email.

Oh well.

And, on my final training run, which didn’t take place until Friday because of a Disney World vacation, a young man approached me on Broad Street in South Greensburg and asked, “I lost $280. It fell out my car window. Did you see it back there?”

I wish I had, but I was more busy wiping snot on my shirt.

So, unlike previous training updates, I can’t offer any mile or time updates other than Friday’s run, which covered 5.34 miles in 43:23.

Hopefully, I’m ready for Sunday morning. I believe I am.

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Screening of “Run Free”

Runners and movie buffs:

Micah True, known as Caballo Blanco (the White Horse) lived and ran with the Tarahumara Indians of northern Mexico after moving to Copper Canyon in the 1990s. And while the Tarahumara are relatively unknown despite being some of the best distance-runners in the world, True became widely recognized.

His story is the focal point of “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen” – a best-selling book in 2009 from Christopher McDougall.

To honor the Tarahumana’s running traditions and aid their ability sustain, True created the Cooper Canyon Ultra-Marathon, a 50-mile test of endurance in its 13th year. True’s desire to honor the essence of the Tarahumana people is being told in a feature-length documentary, “Run Free: The True Story of Caballo Blanco.” The film will screen Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. at Southside Works in Pittsburgh. Fleet Feet Sports Pittsburgh is sponsoring the event. “Run Free” is a recent winner of the 2015 Bud Greenspan Memorial Film and Video Award, which is presented by the Track & Field Writers of America. It also was honored with the Award of Excellence from the IndieFEST Film Awards and was named “Best Documentary” at the 2015 Arizona International Film Festival.

Tickets are $12 in advance at http://www.imathlete.com/events/runfree or $15 at the door. Fleet Feet Sports Pittsburgh is offering discounted tickets for $11 at its 1751 North Highland Road location. For more information, visit http://www.fleetfeetpittsburgh.com. For more info on the film, visit http://www.runfreemovie.com.

EQT10-mile training – Week 7 10/6/15

Fall in Western Pennsylvania. It brings to mind images like this:

Colors flourish during the fall in the Keystone State. (Photo from visitpa.com.)

Colors flourish during the fall in the Keystone State. (Photo from visitpa.com.)

Sure, pictures of fall foliage are pretty to look at, but, let’s face it, Western Pennsylvania weather doesn’t usually permit much time to enjoy the view.

Instead, we’re usually treated to sites like these every fall:

Wind, rain and dropping temperatures are part of every fall in Western Pennsylvania. (Photo from edgarsnyder.com.)

Wind, rain and dropping temperatures are part of every fall in Western Pennsylvania. (Photo from edgarsnyder.com.)

Training for late-season races, like the EQT Pittsburgh 10-miler, require logging miles in mucky, yucky, wet and windy conditions,which hit the region last week. Naturally, the bad weather coincided with the toughest week of training. Those following Fleet Feet Sports’ Train to Run program – like myself – faced a trio of 6-mile runs to go with a 9-mile jaunt. It created some interesting conditions in what had been an unusually warm and gentle weather cycle.

9/28  – A day after trekking up the sizable hill to my house, I opted for a course with a couple climbs, a mile or so on the Five Star Trail and finished 6.14 miles in 52:05.

9/30 – Made a left turn in a place I usually take a right and ended up running through Southwest Greensburg a bit. Ended up strolling along College Avenue,. eventually rolling though Academy Hill and St. Clair Park before heading home. The wind was strong and in my face for a long stretch of the run. It reminded me of running along Swan Beach at the Outer Banks during nor’easters. Not fun, but it makes a runner stronger. Did 6.06 miles in 51:45.

10/2 – The cooler temperatures were nice, but the wind wasn’t highly appreciated. So, on Friday, I sought a flatter run. I went through South Greensburg, went through Midway and caught Five Star Trail for a few miles before making a left at Sunset Cafe (great place to eat – the calamari is terrific) and returning home. Covered 6.56 miles in 55:02. Easily the best run of the week.

10/4 – The big day arrived. The longest run of the 10-week training program. After getting decent sleep, two mugs of coffee and some water, I went the same way as Friday’s run with a couple small variations to add distance. After taking Five Star Trail for about 3.5 miles, I hit Lynch Field. Now, during longer runs, I’ve noticed my brain stops complex functions. At some point, determination and stubborness  takes over, and it usually comes between miles 5 and 6. Keep in mind, this doesn’t happen for a 6-mile run, only when the run is 7 miles or longer. Not sure why. Anyway, the brain shut off before descending into Lynch Field, which is why – at Mile 8 – I opted to turn into Academy Hill. For the next sixth-tenths of a mile, I was running uphill. My pace slowed, my breathing intensified, but I made it. And I kept going. I covered 10.12 miles in 1:26.40. It took 9:35 to cover my ninth mile and 9:07 to cover the 10th.Other than that, my pace was great and, most importantly, my confidence for Oct. 25 is sky-high.

EQT 10-mile training – Week 6 9/28/15

Not an Iron Maiden fan. Never have been, even with my musical roots firmly planted in the 1980s. But, when it comes to running in Greensburg – and most of Western Pennsylvania, hills are an unavoidable circumstance when piling miles on to a workout plan. That’s why my mind often thinks about “Run to the Hills.”

Now, this blogger has lived in tons of hilly neighborhoods – Dormont, South Park and Bethel Park among them. None of those communities seem to hold the number undulating roads as the City of Greensburg.

My home is located on Summit Drive, and it’s aptly named. If Summit Drive isn’t the highest point within the city limits, it’s awfully close.

Before left-calf injury No. 1, which happened in August of 2014, ascending Summit Drive to finish runs was a regular accomplishment. Over time, I found five different access points to scale the hill toward Summit Drive – each a different type of brutal.

Following left-calf injury No. 2 and a right-foot sprain and the subsequent decline in endurance and leg strength, climbing Mt. Summit became too much. During the first five week of following Fleet Feet Sports’ training program for the EQT Pittsburgh 10-miler, I didn’t attempt a full run up the hill home.

That changed in Week 6.

9/21/15 – More than a week passed since a treadmill run, so the timing was appropriate to work on consistent pacing again. A five-mile run in under 41 minutes, never running slower than a 7.4 mph pace.

9/23/15 – Back to the street of Greensburg for a run with a steady incline between miles 2.0 and 4.5. Yep, poor planning on my part. Traversed 6.43 miles in 54:58. Later that day, did a 5:30 p.m. spin class with Erin at LA Fitness. Talked to the instructor, my boy Kevin, before class. I told him about my run, and he told me about his 9:15 a.m. class. We questioned our collective sanity in tackling a second test of endurance that day so, naturally, he made class tougher than usual. Glad I did it.

9/25/15 – For the second consecutive week, Erin was working in Pittsburgh on Sunday, so that meant I had to get Anna to Sunday School. That eliminated Sunday as a long run day. I set out Friday morning for an 8-miler, and it was a strong run. Mile 7 was at a 7:47 pace, and I finished 8.44 miles in 1:11.00, including a 78-second stop for traffic at Huff Ave.

9/27/15 – The legs were slightly weak from Friday’s run, but, on Sunday while  Anna was in Sunday school, I put in 4.79 miles in 39:57. Miles 1-4 were strong, with paces ranging from 7:50 to 8:08. After Mile 4, it was time to climb Mt. Summit. The next .79 miles weren’t fast – it was a 9:50 pace – but I made it from the bottom of the hill to my front door. A huge barrier knocked down.

EQT 10-mile training – Week 5 9/22/15

Inspiration, move me brightly. light the song with sense and color;
Hold away despair, more than this I will not ask.
Faced with mysteries dark and vast, statements just seem vain at last.

Some rise,
Some fall,
Some climb,
To get to Terrapin.

Counting stars by candlelight, all are dim but one is bright;
The spiral light of Venus, rising first and shining best,
On, from the northwest corner, of a brand new crescent moon,
While crickets and cicadas sing, a rare and different tune,
Terrapin station.
In the shadow of the moon,
Terrapin station.
And I know we’ll get there soon,

(Terrapin! )
I can’t figure out,
(Terrapin! )
If it’s the end or beginning,
(Terrapin! )
But the train’s put it’s brakes on,
(Terrapin! )
And the whistle is screaming,
Terrapin!

Let my inspiration flow!

Let my inspiration flow!

Those words – written by Robert Hunter, sung sweetly and soulful by Jerry Garcia and performed by the Grateful Dead – are goose bump-inducing. “Terrapin Station” – an epic, multi-part anthem performed 302 times by the Dead beginning in early 1977 – produces a state of euphoria. Its lyrics inspire freedom, and, for me, it’s the perfect running song. When a run begins to flatline and “Terrapin” enters my headphones, my legs and lungs find something extra. It’s like Jerry’s voice is guiding me through the run. My lips mouth the words. Sometimes, my arms even raise in triumph. (Yep, if you’ve seen a short, headband-wearing dud running the streets of Greensburg while jamming out, it’s me.)

Sound stupid? Maybe to some, but, to me, the right music is as essential to running as stretching, the right shoes, hydration and determination.

Music is moving, and the right songs can shave seconds off the pace and help set personal bests.

Generally, I prefer running to the Dead. From “Bertha” to “Promised Land” to “China Cat Sunflower/I Know You Rider” to “Morning Dew” to “Touch of Grey,” the Dead’s expansive and easily accessible catalog provides ample choices for this runner, but it’s certainly not the only band worth a listen when pounding pavement or staring at the television screen on a treadmill. Glam/hard rock like KISS, Guns n’ Roses, Motley Crue and Tesla get the job done. So does rap, particularly the early 1990s gangsta sounds of Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Nate Dogg (R.I.P.) and company. Eminem usually works, too. I’m not likely to see Foo Fighters live, but no song makes me dig deeper than “Walk.” I’ve nearly pushed myself to tears while listening to that amazing call to action. Matthew Wilder’s “Break My Stride,” Katy Perry’s “Roar” and DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win” work perfectly.

It doesn’t matter what music moves you, but it is important to play the right music for you when breaking down barriers and going for goals.

Music played an integral role in a solid week of training for the EQT Pittsburgh 10-miler.

9/14/15 – Last week, I said on this blog that I didn’t mind missing Sunday’s long run because of illness. That’s only part true. Missing a run made me determined to make up for things, even if my sinuses weren’t cooperating.

After dropping Anna off at school and walking Ringo, I went to the basement for a programmed, 30-minute ride on a stationary bike. A couple moderate hills helped provide resistance and I covered 11.1 miles in 30 minutes. From there, me, myself and my tissues hit the streets for a 4.52-mile run in 34:39. My first mile was a 7:50 pace. The second mile was 7:12. Seven friggin’ 12! The third mile was 7:33.

Not going to fib, I surprised myself.

9/15/15 – Kicked the distance up to 5.38 and got it done in 43:58 – not as fast as Monday’s run but a solid pace.

9/16/15 – Erin had a rare Wednesday off, so we did spin class together. Great ride. Felt it for hours after completion.

9/17/15 – A couple of variables forced changes in schedule for the fifth week of training. 1. Erin was off Wednesday and Friday, and since I missed the long run in Week 4, doing two spin classes sounded like a good idea; and, 2. Erin was working in Pittsburgh Sunday. Anna needed to get to Sunday School and church, so that meant Sunday was not a good day for my long run.

So, with legs still tired from spin class, I stumbled onto the streets of Greensburg, where I completed a 7.03-mile run in 1:01.04. Given Greensburg’s terrain, hills were unavoidable, and I encountered four of them on this run. It was tiring, my pace wasn’t outstanding, but I conquered the distance.

9/18/15 – Second spin class of the week and, for the first time in 2-plus years of spinning, I didn’t enjoy the class. The music mix had too much pop. Only one song – Eminem’s “‘Till I Collapse” – moved me. About 50 minutes into class, I was wishing I lifted weights instead, but I finished anyway.

9/19/15 – I digested plenty of vegetables Friday, which made Saturday morning slightly uncomfortable, but I had to get out before Anna’s 11 a.m. soccer game. I covered 5.23 miles in 43:09 – another decent, but not great run.

EQT 10-mile training – Week 4 9/15/15

It’s inevitable, barring an iron-clad constitution or an impenetrable immune system. Elementary-aged children catch some sort of cold early in the school year. Most parents soon follow.

Count me, and my wife Erin, among the many whose defenses were rendered useless to whatever nasty viruses Anna brought home from Amos K. Hutchinson Elementary School last week. By Wednesday, my sinuses were filled. By Friday night at work, they were releasing their nastiness en mass. I must have went through 15 tissues at work that night and sneezed enough to make a case to be part of an allergy study.

Running with a cold means my shirt is often a handkerchief. Whatever works!

Running with a cold means my shirt is often a handkerchief. Whatever works!

The cold was mostly a functional cold but, by Sunday, getting in a long run was going to be difficult. So, please don’t shame me, I skipped my first run in my Train to Run program with Fleet Feet Sports. (Don’t worry. I’m making up for it this week, even if the sniffles still persist and last week was a taper-down week.)

9/7/15 – A day following a successful 6.5-mile group run with the Fleet Feet Flyers, I hit the streets and put in 4.22 miles in 35:08. Not great, but not bad coming off my longest run since the Pittsburgh Marathon.

9/8/15 – A much-needed weight training session. One thing I’m struggling with during my 10-week training program is finding the time to lift.

9/9/15 – Congestion kicked in, but I surprised myself by running 4.03 miles on a treadmill at LA Fitness Greensburg in 32:48 following a brief weightlifting session.

9/10/15 – After lifting with Erin for about 45 minutes, I went back to the treadmill and put in another 4.03 miles in 32:45. Not going to lie, getting the two treadmill runs in while feeling under the weather bolstered my confidence. It wasn’t something I would have done when I was running well. I would have skipped the miles, chalking it up to not feeling well.

9/11/15 – Spin class with Erin. I CRUSHED IT!!!!! After class I told Erin, “The beast is back.” I ate those words 48 hours later.

9/12/15 – Coaching my daughter Anna’s U8 soccer team. Somehow coaching a team with 14 kids ages 6 & 7 is as tiring as a tough run.

9/13/15 – Sunday was the worst day in terms of congestion. I played hookie and didn’t feel terrible about it.

On to Week 5.

EQT 10-mile training – Week 3 9/7/15

Stumbled on this Facebook post last week.

For those not interested in clicking, it’s a photo with a fill-in caption that read, “I run ________.”

My initial thought, maybe because it was morning, was, “I run to the bathroom after my morning coffee.” Then, it switched to, “I run because I love icing-filled donuts, cake and french fries.”

Then, I stopped being a smartass for 15 seconds and thought about it. My answer is “I run because my life depends on it.”

That’s a pretty dramatic statement and, no, I won’t drop dead if I stopped running today, but everyone has a motivation, and living is mine. Both of my grandmothers died from a heart attack. One of my grandfathers suffered multiple heart attacks. My father had one when he was in his early 50s. I have no desire finding out first-person.

While running regularly is no guarantee I won’t have a heart attack at some point, it’s provided ample health benefits – injuries of the past year aside. It also alleviates symptoms of after-work problems, which can be numerous in the highly stressful, demanding world of newspapers. There’s that point of every run where I forget about work or whatever else is bothering me. It’s just me, the run and my music, a journey to the finish line and a feeling of overwhelming satisfaction upon achieving goals.

Speaking of goals, a few more were met during my third week of following Fleet Feet Sports’ training program for the EQT Pittsburgh 10-miler.

8/31/15 – I used to love running in heat. These days, not so much, but I went out and put in 4 miles in 32:48 while focusing on form and speed. My second mile was at a 7:50 pace, something I hadn’t approached in some time. My run concluded about a mile from my home (poor planning on my part) so I did a light jog in intervals heading back to Casa de Kovak.

9/1/15 – Spent more than four hours scrambling to finish clearances in order to coach an U8 soccer team, which includes my daughter. Ended up having time to ride the stationary bike in the basement at Level 7 resistance for 40 minutes. My special twist to the workout – 40 push-ups before and after the ride, and every 10 minutes during the ride. Two-hundred push-ups and 40 minutes of resistance riding is a killer calorie burner.

9/2/15 – Mondays were previously reserved for treadmill running. Last week, Wednesday was Treadmill Day and I knocked out 5 miles in 41:44. Later that day, Bob Shooer and Karen Harr from Fleet Feet stopped by the Observer-Reporter offices for my latest podcast. Check it out here.

9/3/15 – First weight training of the week. Good times.

9/4/15 – I didn’t drink a drop of alcohol Thursday but I felt hungover Friday. I was tired, my head hurt and my lungs were tight. Undaunted, the streets of Greensburg called and, somehow, I muddled through 5.03 miles in 43:32. Total struggle.

9/6/15 – More weight training.

9/7/15 – Woke up at 6:05 a.m. and made my way to the Strip District for my second group run with the Fleet Feet Flyers. My goal was to finish a 6.5-mile course, which I did, feeling strong for most of the run. For a portion of the circuit, I ran with Dave (I think) of Mt. Lebanon. He didn’t run his first marathon until 53, and he’s finished six of them since starting. Really enjoyed the conversation, which lasted about 2 miles.

On to Week 4.