Balance Training for the Marathon

It has been a month and two days since my third Chicago Marathon.  The last time I completed a marathon was in 2011, back when it was just me and Jaz and we could really just do anything we wanted anytime we wanted.  That was two years before Justine came along and completely changed how I viewed life.  This year I wanted to tackle this accomplishment again, now knowing I had a little more behind me – the experience of being a parent.

This year, to add more motivation to stick with the training, I fundraised for the Ronald McDonald House.  They helped Jazmine and I so much while Justine was in the NICU at Lurie Children’s Hospital.   It was a very different experience fundraising for them compared to other charities I have fundraised for in the past.  We have a Facebook group where all of the current and past runners for RMHC come to share experiences both on the course and off.    I cried reading some of those stories, sometimes because it sounded so much like us and sometimes because they were not as fortunate as us.  I knew that this group was what I needed to keep me going through training.

In my previous marathons, I did not have to coordinate times around a child’s sleep schedule.  As Justine gets older, her sleep habits have not been consistent.  Some nights she sleeps 10 hours, some night only 6 hours.  She may or may not take a nap in the middle of the day.  And the worst of it was that this summer we were weaning her off of one medication, so she would wake up screaming when she would finally sleep.  We are convinced she was going through some kind of withdrawal.  For about 4 months she was not a happy camper so that led to very early runs for me, running at lunch time, or right after work to make sure I was home as soon as possible to relieve Jaz of her Stay at Home Mom duties.  Occasionally Justine required much more attention so I had to skip a few scheduled runs.  I admit, early on I was irritated when I would miss a run.  If you are a runner you know how missing a run can really mess with your head.  I came to the realization that my situation was not like others and that everyone has to deal with their own obstacles to get their training in.  Life is far from perfect, but that should not stop you from doing the things you want to do.

I am not a fast runner.  Some may call it jogging, or quick walking.  My goal this entire season was to just finish the marathon.  Because of this, I take a longer time finishing training runs than most people training for a marathon.  It was ok early on.  But when the mileage built up to 6-7 mile runs during the week and then up to 16-20 miles over the weekend, that is a lot of time away from the family.  In previous years after those long run Saturdays, I would just crash in my bed and fall asleep for hours.  Now, having a family, I did not want to miss out on our weekend together so I always made it a point to go out with Jaz and Justine right after I got back from my long run.  As much as I needed the long run for my training, I needed the family time with Jaz and Justine for balance.  I never wanted to appear selfish about taking too much time away from my family while training for the race.

I was satisfied with how I trained this year.  I trained smart, backing off when I felt like I needed to and pushing when I knew I had more in the tank.  My biggest worry through the entire season was making sure I was still a good father and husband to my family.  All of the hours I ran, or thought about running, or getting ready to run, or going somewhere to run was time away from my family that I knew was necessary for training.  I wanted to be healthy enough to finish the marathon as well as be functional and not too sore to hang out with my family.  That was the hardest and most rewarding part of training, balancing running with my life.  And in the end, I hope that I am a better father and husband for it.

6 weeks down, 12 weeks to go

Hard Work This year is going to be different
Last year I admit, I did not know what I was getting myself into
I thought then, “I’ve run for two years now, I can take on a marathon
I coasted through training, only getting sometimes one run in during the week
I knew it would be difficult, but I knew I would at least finish it
October 10, 2010
90 degrees
Pains, cramps, dehydration
…I finished it…before it finished me
6 hours, 49 minutes, and 51 seconds
Now I am putting in the work
I am finding inspirations from all directions
I am finding a strength within myself that I never knew existed
Every decision I make up until the race can effect me
I don’t allow myself to slack
Get ready Chicago Marathon 2011

I’m back…and this time I’ll be ready

Starting over…


So what reasons do I have to run the marathon this year? I went through it over and over and over again in my head.  As happy as I was to finish last year, I just did not think I did my best.  I know that finishing a marathon is quite an accomplishment, and I absolutely admire anyone who has enough within themselves to go year after year training for one sometimes multiple marathons in a year.  I don’t know what kind of marathon runner I will be, but I did not want to be a one and done kind of runner.  The moment I crossed the finish line last year at an agonizing 6 hours and 49 minutes, I knew the race got the best of me.  Let’s admit it, I knew halfway through that it beat me to a submission and step after step, I cursed the idea of running 26.2 miles.  I kept thinking “I can’t wait to be done with the $%*# race!”

This was absolutely not the way I wanted to remember my first marathon.  I felt like I cheated myself from such a wonderful experience that everyone always talks about when they talk about finishing a marathon.  Experienced runners that I spoke to always told me that the first marathon is mainly about finishing, and that’s all I thought of when I was in so much pain that I had to walk through parts of Chinatown.  And the second I crossed the finish line, I immediately thought to myself, “Alright, FIRST one is now done.”  I flip-flopped for months about signing up for another one, but the fact is that I am competitive.  Sure, I may not ever be able to truly compete for any awards or age rankings, but sometimes your biggest motivation is your past.  And I want to beat my 2010 self, and I have a score to settle with the Chicago Marathon.

You got me good the first time around, and I know not to take you lightly.  I will truly be ready for you this year, friend.  Can’t wait to see you in October!


I felt like I was actually a pretty productive trip to Birmingham this time around.  The last couple of times I went down here it felt like it was literally so I could be seen and that is all.  I would kid with co-workers who asked me why I was in Birmingham that I just wanted to show my face so it would be harder to lay me off since they have seen my face, haha.  OK, so I was partially kidding, partially serious.  In the past it felt like I didn’t really make any good connection with anyone.  This time I spoke a good amount with my boss and in fact when on a 5 mile run with him.  He is normally an 8min/mile kind of runner, but he had just done the Disney Marathon a couple weeks back so it was about time for a recovery run.  So yet again running creates a new relationship, this time it is a professional one.  I was able to talk to him about some of the struggles of working in Elgin while pretty much our whole team resides in Birmingham.  He stated he wants to get me more “plugged in” on some more projects that involve our team which obviously made me happy.  He’s already got me involved in a couple of projects so I am thinking this is going to be a good work year for me!  I do want to take a couple steps forward on becoming a senior level admin, hopefully it will happen next year. 

I gotta say, the people I have run into in Birmingham have been quite nice.  Now maybe it is because I am just a visitor and I lack the Southern twang and personality, but I have yet to run into someone who is less than pleasant.  Anyone in the hotels or restaurants we have visited are just so polite.  I will admit, there are times that I cannot understand exactly what they are saying to me because of their accent (SOIT TAYE).  But there is definitely one thing that divides this land, college football!  They are extremely passionate to their allegiance to either Alabama or Auburn.  And it’s not like a dislike, it is pretty much always genuine hatred.  Now my old boss used to play for Auburn, and it seems that the majority of our Birmingham office is an Alabama fan, so of course I choose to be an Auburn fan, because I have to be THAT guy.  I may not spread it around too much in the office, but there are a couple of people who know I prefer Auburn over Alabama.  And look, they won the BCS championship this year, I guess I chose correctly!  But of course, above all else, I am a Chicago Bulls fan!

And speaking of the Bulls…How ’bout dem Bulls?! Luckily last night the Bulls/Mavs game was on TNT and I was able to watch the end of it.  It’s really nice to have Derrick Rose on the team because he just flat out will put the team on his back and take them to the promise land.  Once other players see that, they feed off of it and want to perform better also.  I just wish Deng would do better in teh late quarters.  He still has the tendency to start off strong and then quickly fade away later in the game.  So frustrating!

Oh wait..I’m supposed to be talking about Birmingham, right?  Moving on…

One thing that Birmingham is VERY good at is FOOD! Of course you can find BBQ all over the place!  This time around we went our staples: La Paz and Cocina Superior for our fish taco fix.  You can blame Potter for those cravings.  For BBQ we hit up Dreamland BBQ and Sweet Bones Alabama.  Sweet Bones Alabama have some amazing smoked chicken wings off of their appetizer menu.  I don’t think I ever had smoked chicken wings, but I will definitely be comparing all wings to that place for a while.  We also hit up Michael’s which is the restaurant we stayed at (Aloft Soho).  You can get a free appetizer if you go into the lobby of the Aloft and find the electronix touchscreen marquee and send it to your cell phone via text message.  Their food is good and apparently when you order a dish with fries they give you a TON of fries! But the winner of Michael’s is their cheesecake pound cake.  They give such a big slice and it much more moist than you think pound cake should be.  We went their twice since it was so convenient, and let’s be honest, cheesecake pound cake sounds pretty awesome, right?

Overall I enjoyed our trip to Birmingham and I believe my 2011 career will lead to much better things than last year.  There is a lot of work to be done and I believe that my boss knows now how much more involved I want to be with the team.  It looks like I may be coming here more often than previous years. They say they have it in the budget to send us to Birmingham once a quarter, which I won’t mind in Chicago’s colder months, but it’s going to be HOT in the summer months. 

As great as it was to get to come down to Birmingham, I think it is time for me to go home to the cold I love in Chicago…err, Buffalo Grove.

Down but not out!

I went to the doctor today to find out that I have some tendonitis in my ankle/achilles area. It really isn’t that bad but the doctor suggested that I take it easy for two weeks. That means no high-impact activities, sadly that includes basketball and of course running! After the two weeks, I can ease back into my normal workout regimen. He did say I can participate in lower impact activities like walking, biking, and swimming. I am sooo going to be doing those things these next two weeks! One thing that COMPLETELY bums me out is that due to these new restrictions, I won’t be able to participate in the Soldier Field 10 Mile race at the end of this month. I was so excited to go out and finish my first long distance run! This will be the second time I will have to bow out of a race because of health issues (Hot Chocolate 15K ’09 – H1N1). I keep telling myself that this year is about the marathon. I am not training all hard to get up to a 10 mile race. I want the entire 26.2! And if I want it, then I have to know when to take a step back and let my body heal itself. Apparently, this is one of those times. I know it will be worth it in the end. And besides, I don’t have to wait much longer for another shot at a long distance race. I am registered for the North Shore 1/2 Marathon in mid-June. First thing is first. Get healthy enough and back in running shape after these two weeks, then get ready for that run.

Thank you for all the support on Twitter and DailyMile about my injury. There really is strength in numbers 🙂

In better news,’s “Marathon Miss Fit” has allowed me to adverstise my fundraising efforts on her blog! Thank you so much Connie for getting my story out about my dad! Here is the link: Running Feet, Helping Hands

Patience Joey…Patience

Each week for the past 2 months I have been increasing my workouts, or the shots I take on the court, or the miles I log on the road.  In that time I’ve logged 138 miles of running that consists of interval runs, easy runs, long runs, and one race (Shamrock Shuffle).  This past Sunday, I hit my high mileage in one run for Mother’s Day – 12 miles.  The most I had run up to Sunday was 10 miles (which I had run twice).  I felt like I was ready for the 12 miles.  I had my carbs the night before and slept a full 8 hours.  I wanted to approach it like it was a race.  I woke up on time, had a banana and bagel, and let it all digest for an hour.  And then off I went.


First mile was horrific as usual.  Second mile was a little better.  Then something odd happened.  I had this very sudden wave of confidence.  Like I could push it a little bit.  Mile 3 was fast (for me) at around 10:40.  I still felt good after that, then I logged another sub 11-minute mile.  I stopped and walked because I know I needed it even though I wasn’t tired.  Mile after mile I was hitting 11 minute (or less) miles.  I was loving it! Then I finished mile 10, with two left going toward home.  Oh dear. The proverbial wall! The legs started to cramp slightly and I felt like stopping.  I was able to put my head down and push through this wall.  I realized I was tense so I kept telling myself to relax my muscles.  I was good to go.  11th mile done in 11 minutes, and the 12th done once again under 11 minutes.  My final time – 2:17…I was ecstatic!


I walked home pounding my chest knowing I had achieved something I had never done before.  I got home ready all ready to do my stretching.  Jaz made me eggs so I scarfed those down with some chocolate milk.  Started stretching and hurting in spots I didn’t know existed.  But one spot hurt a tad more than the rest.  The tendon behind my right ankle up to my calf felt like it was spasming.  It wasn’t super sharp pain, but very uncomfortable and unnerving.


I instantly went to the experts.  My running friends on Twitter! Probably the best explanation was from @MarathonBrian: “…you probably hurt your Achilles; a common injury for runners, especially when you increase your workload (pace, distance) in a short period of time before your body is used to it.” DAMN! I knew I was going to fast! (I normally average a 12min/mi pace).  I continued on with Mother’s Day walking VERY slowly everywhere I went.  My victory run was over-shadowed by this new injury.  Part of me was devastated because I felt like I was on such a roll, but part of me feels blessed.  Let’s be honest, I could have gotten hurt much worse!  Hopefully something like this with proper rest will pass.


I should have displayed more patience on my last run.  Now that I know I CAN get under an 11 minute mile, I don’t need to hit that again.  Not anytime soon.  So the next couple days, I will just rest and relax.  Let my body heal itself, drink lots of water, and just wait it out.  Now that I can’t run, I just want to run.  My ankle and achilles don’t feel right.  Maybe I need to see a doctor, but I will have to be patient with whatever I do.


Patience, Joey.  Just breathe and rest…

Where have I been?

Been trying to figure out the best way to show some good pictures from our NY trip. Haven’t found a good way to do that yet. So check out my Shutterfly Album.

Running my legs off…
Trying to figure out how to create some Ebay apps for my other site…
More updates coming, I promise!

Friday night/Saturday Morning Thoughts

Forgive me…I have a bunch of things flying through my head, and I just wanted to write them down. This may end up being the most incoherent blog post ever.

Bulls: what the hell!? Lose to the NETS? In DOUBLE OVERTIME? Granted there were some crap calls (and no-calls) in the game, but how are you going to be the team that the 12-win Nets have TWO wins over this season? Sad. Of course I hope you make it to the playoffs to see some more basketball from my team, but at least make an effort and look like you want it! You can’t tell me that the Nets really cause THAT much of a match-up problem for you! You were lucky to even have squeaked by the 2011 Cavs (aka ‘sans Lebron’). Yet again, another lost opportunity to make up some ground, or even lead in the 8th spot of the Eastern conference. You’re better than that!

Fantasy Leagues: Won my NBA Fantasy League (C’MON SON!) with Jaz’s cousins and friends from California.


That’s right, I won by ONE MINUTE in the Minutes category. I’m glad I picked up some players (Ryan Gomes, Kyle Lowry, Anthony Morrow, and Vince Carter..yeah, that’s right!) to give me more stats on that last Sunday!

Joined a baseball fantasy league representing my site in the Clash of the Trading Forums league. I honestly don’t know what I am doing, but I am enjoying it, and enjoying baseball a little more.


Remember I won my Fantasy Football league too with my co-workers this past season. Could it be a clean sweep?

Running: If I run tomorrow (later today) I will have run 5 times this week Sun-Sat with 2 long runs (8mi on Sun, 9mi on Sat). I think I’ll be ready to run today, it just amazes me that I can actually run this much now. Even if I move my long run to Sunday, just to know I can run multiple miles multiple times a week is such a huge accomplishment! I hung out with my nephews tonight and Eli was talking to me about how he wants to run a 5K now because he saw his dad do it. I really want him to do it, because he says he feels happy or “pumped” when he runs. That’s how I feel too, buddy!
Twitter: I’m pretty sure I’m addicted now. I have come across many interesting people on twitter who help motivate me through my marathon training. It is actually a cool “little” (it’s not little at all) Chicago running community on Twitter. Many of them inspire me to become a better runner or at the very least, prepared for the marathon. Over 3000 tweets later, and I am finally admitting that I have a problem.

OK, I think my mind has been emptied out, and now I can sleep. Busy weekend and then where are we off to next weekend? Tell ’em Jay-Z, Alicia, and apparently Lil Mama

Walk before you run; Run before you run faster

I mentioned this a little bit on one of my recent DailyMile entries. It just amazes me how fast some people can run. As a teenager I could run a 10 minute mile. I absolutely HATED running back then, and just played basketball. There is a level of endurance involved in basketball, but it is definitely different than distance running. I look back now at my teenage self and I wish I could talk through time and tell past me to start running more, because when he turns 30, he will want to be faster when running races. He would probably tell me there would be no way that he would end up loving running. Somehow I would have to convince him that basketball would become secondary to running in his life. Right out of the script from LOST or Back to the Future, huh?

Anyways getting back to the topic at hand. Speed. How is it that the human body can travel at such speeds? For instance, the guy who won the Shamrock Shuffle 8K I ran in just a couple of weekends ago finished around 25 minutes! That means when I got to the start line (28 minutes after the elite group took off), he had already finished the race and finished a couple cups of water, a banana, and got his free beer. Meanwhile, I finish a couple of minutes under an hour, and I celebrated that! 🙂

Then I see people on DailyMile posting runs where they would average anywhere from 7-8 min/mile. Even in my best shape in high school, I never touched those kinds of speeds. Let me get across that I am not hating on these people. I am simply in awe of what they can do with what they have. And what they have is the same general anatomy as me: Two legs, two arms, brain, heart, lungs, etc. Now of course there are variations in their equipment compared to mine, and they have had years and years of training and discipline.

So I can’t help but wonder what kinds of steps I need to take in order to close the gap on some of these runners. Now I am pretty I won’t be getting to the 7-8 min/mi speed, but I would just love to chase my old self. 10 minute mile. Obviously with this marathon training hindering any true progress in speed, I may not get to it this year. But I think it is something I would like to pursue. Last year I was able to shave around 5 minutes off of my 5K time bringing me down to 32:32 – 10:29/mile. Just need to shave off another 30 seconds to reach that goal (assuming I still could run as fast). Maybe I’ll catch you next year, “16 year old Joey”. I’ve got my eyes on a bigger prize this year! 26.2!