Sunday, January 8, 2012

Swing away

When we moved here, the former homeowners -- an elderly couple that had lived here for more than three decades -- left a lot of stuff in the house. Some of it was useful. Most of it was junk (to us anyways).

In the back corner of the basement, we piled up all that was left behind (we were told there was a mishap with their moving crew) in one place and have called that section of our house "The Johnson's Room" for the past 15 months. This week, I finally emptied their room.

Over the past year, we've rid of most of their leftovers, but there was still a huge pile of wood, some other random objects and a huge behemoth of a workbench. Figuring out a way to remove that beast of a bench was my final task.

On Satuday, I did my new routine of waking early, but with no run on the schedule I opted for a slow morning. By early afternoon, I was dragging, so I opted for a quick power nap. During my break from the day, I had a dream that I fetched a sledge hammer from the garage -- the one Mr. Johnson left behind -- and used it to smash apart the workbench.

I woke up and thought, "You know? That's not the worst idea."

What happened next was about 10 minutes of sweating, smashing and unleashing my inner manimal. You want a good workout? Go nuts on an ancient workbench with a sledge hammer. By the end, I was standing in the middle of the room, surrounded by shards, hammer in hand. I couldn't help but let out a yell of satisfaction.

My wife called down to the basement, thinking I was yelling out in pain.

I'm fine, honey. Just letting off some steam.

So that was my Saturday workout. That smashing session, combined with the 20 or so trips up and down the stairs to haul lumber to the curb. Then, I spent an hour on my stationary bike while watching the Saints carve up the Lions' secondary.

For the week, I logged 22 miles, ending with a 7-miler today on a gorgeous day. It topped 50 here in Northeast Ohio. I was running without gloves. I was wearing shorts. I needed sunglasses! It's Jan. 8, for crying outloud.

I planned on 21 miles, but felt good enough to tack on one extra today. Besides, it was a great day to take advantage of the weather. So for the past three weeks -- following a two-week break -- I've increased from 16 miles to 18 miles to 22 miles. I'll aim for 24-26 next week. I'm trying to be smarter about building gradually this time around.

For the past few months, when I'd take a week or two off, I'd jump right back to 25-30 miles my first week back and Lord knows that's not the best way to go about things. I need to be better about having a purpose behind each run and each week's schedule.

All of that said, Week 1 of 2012 is in the books. So is my first weekly wrap blog entry. We'll see if I can keep it up.


Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011: A year of experimenting

When it came to running, this past year was quite an experience. This blog was pushed to the side, but I was out there on the roads as often as my wonky right knee would permit. Boredom from my old routines led to a year full of trial and error.

I'm not much for New Year resolutions, but I would like 2012 to include better health and a more consistent approach to running. I tried all sorts of new things these last 12 months and my body took a hit as a result. I think consistency -- with my running, my workouts and my eating habits -- is really the key to feeling my best.

In 2011, I felt my best in spots, but I also felt the worst I ever have in others.

Here's a quick look at a few things I accomplished this past year.

1. The Wahoothalon -- That's what one of my readers on Twitter dubbed it anyway. On Sept. 25, before the final home game of the year for the Indians, I ran from my house in Avon Lake to the ballpark before covering the game for Front door to media gate, it was almost exactly 20 miles. This was my longest training run for the NYC marathon, and it was easily my most satisfying run of 2011.

2. The Streak -- I began 2011 with the idea of starting a running streak. I lasted 84 days, finally caving to increasing right knee pain after logging the last run of the streak on March 25. Getting out the door every single day for a run for nearly three straight months was a solid feat, but one that was probably ill-advised. I wasn't smart about it and I am still dealing with some lingering issues in my knee.

3. Cleveland Half -- I ran the Cleveland half marathon (my second career 13.1) in May and set a new personal record for the distance. I ran it in 1:41:12, beating my 2008 Las Vegas half time by about 30 seconds. I did so in cold and rainy conditions. Making the race that much more special was my big sis Melissa came to Cleveland and completed her first half marathon. It was awesome being able to share that accomplishment with her.

4. Sixth Marathon -- It was the worst of the six marathons I've run, but I completed the New York Marathon in November. It was a great trip to the Big Apple with my wife and son (and my sister joined us for a couple days), but the race went awful. I was not prepared for the bridges or hills and I was plagued with bad stomach issues throughout the run. No fun. BUT, I finished and added another medal to my wall, and I was close to quitting when I met up with my family around Mile 18. I wasn't raised to be a quitter, though. I would've walked across that finish line if that's what it took.
5. Trail running -- Moving to Cleveland meant covering Spring Training in Arizona instead of Florida. That created a great chance to take up trail running in the mountains around Phoenix. I loved getting lost up in the hills (mentally, not directionally) and just enjoying the solitude. My longest run in the mountains was 17 miles and it flew by. I'm looking forward to this being an annual part of my yearly training.

6. Conquered new places -- Phoenix wasn't the only new terrain I covered this past year. I also chalked up runs in Cincinnati and in Massachusetts near my sister's new house. In Cincy, I went over a handful of bridges and had a blast. Other places I ran this year: Toronto (as a visitor for the first time), Seattle, Anaheim, Kansas City, San Francisco, Chicago, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Dallas, Detroit, Milwaukee and New York. I love that my job allows me to run in so many different cities. Such a great way to take in scenery.

7. Re-evaluated training -- Moving from Toronto robbed me of my free gym membership (at an awesome gym located right across the street from our condo). As a result, I wasn't as active with strength or core training this year and I think that partially led to me becoming a bit more susceptible to injury. I recently added a weight bench and some free weights to my basement and I'm starting to work in weekly workouts to try to gain what was lost in that department. I'm also considering dropping fall marathons from my plans. My best races have been in December, February and May. My worst runs in October and November. With my work schedule, I'm in my best shape in the late winter and spring. The Cleveland Marathon is in May, so that might be my yearly target from here on out. Once I get to 10 fulls, I might also consider scaling back and focusing on half marathons. We'll see...

8. The stats -- In 2011, I ran 869 miles over 170 runs. On average, that worked out to 2.38 per day and 5.11 per run. My goal going in was to top 1,000 miles, so obviously I fell short of that. But I did increase my yearly mileage for the second year in a row. I have gone from 733 to 858 to 869 from 2009-11. The 2.38 per day was my highest since 2008, when I averaged 3.12 per day during a 1,113-mile showing that year. The 5.11 was my lowest per run average since 2007, but much of that is due to the 84-day running streak. I knew my per-run avg would take a hit this year. Likewise, the 170 runs were the most since I logged 177 in 2008. The goal for 2012 is to beat my 2008 mileage total. I just need to be more consistent. If I can do that, it shouldn't be that tall of a task.

Another goal I have is to post on here more consistenty, though I say that every year! Maybe I'll try to post each Sunday to update about my weekly progress. It's a nice plan anyways.

Happy new year!


Friday, February 4, 2011

Day 33

The hardest part about starting this running streak in the winter has not been the weather. Snow. Freezing rain. A blizzard. More freezing rain. Ice-covered roads and sidewalks. Slush.

I can deal with all of that. You can always put on more layers and hope the hail doesn't strike you in the eyes -- the only thing exposed when you went for a four-mile run during the Snowpocalypse.

No, the hardest part is when your 17-month-old son walks up to you, grabs your leg and looks up while you're putting on all your winter running gear. Then, he says, "Dohn-go, dada," and your heart is subsquently melted. How do you explain your crazy streak to him?

Even harder than that one fantastic moment, however, was Day 33.

I had developed a pretty nice routine of running in the afternoon or evening, either during Hayden's nap or shortly before dinner time. On Wednesday, though, the Bastian Family routine was thrown entirely out of whack. Hayden tried turning his toy wagon into a surfboard and the end result was his first trip to the ER.

After he put one foot inside, the wagon rolled, Hayden flew forward and landed face-first into a plastic block. It cut deep into his foreheard -- right between the eyes -- and made for a bloody scene in my office. My wife and I had only looked away for a couple seconds. Ain't that always the way.

Sure enough, Hayden needed four stitches. He might have a scar, but over time it will probably be nothing more than a small mark. It was a draining day to say the least -- we had to drive to the ER through this week's massive snow storm -- and neither my wife nor I felt like doing much of anything when we finally got home.

The thing is...

... the streak.

This was the first time throughout the first 30-plus days that I really weighed how much this little streak of mine is worth. Nothing really, when you think about it. Take a day off. No one would care but me. In fact, I'm sure my wife would love if I took a day off. But I set a goal. And, barring some unforeseen circumstance that derails everything, I plan on getting out there for a few miles every single day in 2011.

So, after Hayden went to bed and darkness fell our neighborhood, I put on my winter mask, slid into my gear and hit the roads. I was only going to do a slow mile or two so I could check off another day. I wound up feeling pretty good and ended up doing an aggressive 5K through our the snow-covered roads.

Soon enough, I'll be in Arizona for baseball's Spring Training, the cold winter in my rear-view mirror. And in May, I'll be lining up for the Cleveland Marathon.

Gotta run...

Streak: 35 days
Miles: 164 miles
Average: 4.7 miles
January: 146 miles
February: 18 miles and counting


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Day 1

Nothing is ever easy.

Standing in our upstairs bathroom, downing a bottle of water as I tried to will away the cold that overtook my body in the night, a steady rain pounded the skylight above me. This morning, there wasn’t much light. It was all gray and gloom.

This was the day I was supposed to start?

There are times when you feel like you’re the only person on the planet and your plans are the only ones being ruined. This was one of those moments. God was showing off his cruel sense of humor. My plans were now His punch line.

A few weeks before, I decided I’d attempt a new challenge. I’d run five marathons, logged thousands of miles over the previous few years and, honestly, was getting bored. I could get faster. Or, I could make things interesting. I’m not going to be lining up with Ryan Hall anytime soon, so interesting seemed like the way to go.

Beginning with Jan. 1, 2011, I was going to run every day. No excuses. Weather, injuries, delayed flights. None of that could serve as a way out. Somehow, some way, I would strap on my running shoes and hit the pavement every day.

The goal of running 365 consecutive days is challenging enough standing alone. Working as a baseball reporters adds another element. My schedule is erratic. I often work late nights. On the days I have off, I’m often sitting in an airport. It is practically impossible – with the unpredictabile life of a journalist – to have a set time to run each day.

The offseason would seemingly make things easier. That used to be true. Now, though, there’s this 16-month-old wild boy taking over my house. Fortunately, Highspeed Hayden typically powers down for a couple hours in the early afternoon. His naptime becomes my Go Time. On Day 1, this would be my plan of attack.

After Hayden decided to exchange Mickey Mouse’s Clubhouse for his crib, I went for my gear. It had warmed up enough to melt the piles of snow that had blanketed our town. The only problem was that rain. That freezing cold rain that was showing the streets that I needed to cover.

I headed out the door and made my way through the mist. I could deal with mist. It actually felt a bit refreshing at first. I was quickly warming up in my long sleeves. The rain cooled me off some as I pushed a hard pace at the start. One mile in, I was feeling good, feeling confident. I had planned to do four miles, but maybe I’d do six or seven. Shoot, the way I was feeling I might consider eight or 10 miles.

Two miles in, that all changed.

Now I felt like death. The confidence was gone. All I could see were all the Christmas cookies I’d downed at the in-laws’ house. After running the Philadelphia Marathon in November – with the exception of a Thanksgiving Day 5K run in Illinois – I had taken more than a month off. I deserved it. That’s what I said anyway. Truth is, I lost interest.

This four-miler on New Years Day was my way of getting interested again. It was going to be the same as countless runs before, but so much different. It was the first in a long line of runs. No. 1 of 365 and beyond.

And it hurt.

Almost three miles in, the blue question marks spray-painted on the sidewalk at my feet mocked me. “Why are you doing this?” they asked. “What were you thinking?” they taunted. “You didn’t actually think you could do this, did you?” they continued.

I picked up the pace, and a cold wind at my back pushed me forward. Finally, the elements were extending a helping hand. Finally, God’s cruel joke ran dry and he was giving me a little assistance down the stretch.


Turns out that breeze was the calm before the real storm.

I was suddenly in a complete downpour. I couldn’t tell if the drops streaming down my face were from sweat or from the rain. It was probably both. I wanted to stop, but running outside presents a classic dilemma. If I stopped, I would be no closer to being home. I had to run harder if I wanted to escape the storm.

Or, maybe I could stop and build an ark.

I bolted down Redwood and finally reached my street. Completely drenched, I walked to the porch at my home, stopped, and looked up at the sky, hands on my hips. I was done.

And I was only at the beginning.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Proud to be a Turkey

In my immediate family, I have always been "the athlete." I played baseball, ran cross country and eventually went into marathon running.

Yeah, I had my little hiccup in college and had to shed 50+ pounds to get into the marathon shape I'm in today, but for the most part sports and I have always been tied together.

I've got to say, it's nice to be able to say that I've finally got company.

My big sister, Melissa, is a great source of inspiration for me, and I know many others would say the same. She is currently on a journey of turning herself into a completely new person, dropping around 100 pounds so far in her quest to one day complete an Ironman.

She always kids that someday she's going to buy a shirt that says, "Oh, you run marathons? She reminds me often that she's going to beat me fair and square in a race one day, and no one is rooting her on more than I am. Come and get me, sis. How cute." They are jokes now, but I really can't wait until it becomes reality.

On Thanksgiving morning, finally feeling better after Sunday's marathon, and FINALLY rid of my swollen feet, I decided to join Melissa for a Turkey Trot. The 5K race was in Long Grove, Ill., with a gorgeous little course. The weather was cold, but the rain stayed away, allowing for a pretty impressive race.

Nearly 1,000 people lined up for the 5K. I had a couple reasons for wanting to take part. First of all, this was my sister's first event since finding out she has Crohn's disease. It's just one more thing for her to compete against and I wanted to be there to see her back out there running. Second, I was still kicking myself over how my marathon went, so I wanted a race to help me put it swiftly behind me.

I was happy to take care of both wishes.

It was a blast to get ready for the race with Melissa, chat in the car while we were freezing our butts off, making fun of other runners stretching routines... just having a good time together. And it was a thrill to see her cross that finish line. When she turned the corner at one point, I barely recognized my sister. It's like she's this brandnew person, and it's been amazing to watch that process over the past couple of years.

My sis blogs at and tweets under the handle @306to140.

Beyond that, it was great personally to get back on the roads and perform the way I know I can. With a pair of sore legs and a couple of beat up feet, I ran a 7:13 average (6:55 for my first mile) and placed 48th out of 977 runners. I was fifth in my age division, just two freakin' spots away from earning a medal! Boooo.

I came away from Philadelphia upset and disappointed. This run helped me shake that experience off and walk away with a smile.

And, it helped me feel better about shoving my face at Thanksgiving dinner!


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Yo Adrian! I did it!

Well, I did it. I ran my fifth career marathon. That, right there, is just about all there was about the race that brought any sense of satisfaction for me. I've had a hard time feeling happy with this one.

I knew going in that this was going to be one of the harder marathons I took on. I had a handful of obstacles to overcome and I knew that realistically I probably wasn't ready to tackle a full 26.2 miles at a consistent pace.

Whether it was the old self-fulfilling prophecy or not, the race went just about exactly as I expected. I held strong for 9 miles, was still good through 13, was hanging in there through 16 miles... and then I fell apart. Utterly and completely fell apart. My body was done, and I still had 10 miles to go.

The course was beautiful and reminded me a lot of the Chicago course. There were a few sections that were more hilly than I anticipated, but that was hardly my worst problem in this race. The marathon and half marathon ran at the same time and at Mile 12 I was seriously considering dropping out at 13.1 miles, and trying to persuade them to give me a medal for the half and calling it a day.

Instead of turning right and calling it quits, though, I turned left and sucked it up. I ran the first half in roughly 1:49, and I remained on pace for about a 3:40-45 finish through the first 16 miles. After that, my body just couldn't keep up the pace. It felt like I was running hard and my watch showed I was averaging over 10 minutes per mile.

Once a PR was out of the question, I opted to listen to my body and ease to the finish line. I finished in 4:13:35. Depending on how you want to look at it, it was either my fourth-best marathon, or my second-worst. Off the top of my head, though, I think that might have been my fastest first half of any I have run so far. So, there's that.

Actually, thanks to archived results on the ol' internet, I just found all my first-half splits for my marathons. Here is how they rank, with final time in parentheses.

1:44:49 -- Tampa 2010 (3:43:43)
1:49:16 -- Philadelphia 2010 (4:13:35)
1:50:36 -- Chicago 2008 (4:22:22)
1:51:06 -- Chicago 2009 (4:09:04)
1:53:22 -- Disney 2009 (4:04:05)

So I had a fantastic first half and then a terrible second half this time around.

My unofficial splits, according to my watch, looked something like this: 8:17, 8:04, 7:50, 8:09, 8:10, 7:44, 7:51, 8:15, 7:50 (here comes the first wall), 8:48, 8:43, 8:27, 8:40 (here comes the second wall), 9:35, 8:59, 9:10 (And here comes the collapse), 9:57, 10:45, 10:17, 10:49, 11:23, 11:27, 11:46, 12:54, 12:10, 11:29, 3:26 for final .2 miles.

The end result brought on two thoughts: 1. Maybe I am built for, and should stick to, half marathons; 2. I need to run another full soon to put this one behind me. I might revert back to No. 1 later in life, but I'm not done with the marathons. I'm already giving serious thought to the Cleveland full in May, and I might plan on a fall marathon as well (Chicago again? NYC if I make it through the lottery?).

The best part about this marathon was meeting up with a few friends in Philly. I met up with a friend I've known through Twitter and we ran together for the first 8 miles before she bolted off and qualified for Boston with a 3:28. Another friend who I've talked running with on Facebook completed her first full marathon as well. Great accomplishments for both of them.

And, as bummed as I might be about certain aspects of this marathon, I'm proud to add a fifth medal to my display in my office. I'm also proud that I went through with this one even though I knew it was going to be tough sledding. I'm also happy that I turned left and kept on with the full when my body and mind both wanted to quit at the halfway mark.

On that note, I'm going to leave you with this, a photo of my swollen right foot from Monday morning!

... I warned ya.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Gonna Fly Now

Just got back from dinner with some friends here in Philadelphia. I'm carbo-loaded and ready to go. My fifth full marathon is roughly 10 hours away.

I'm not satisfied with how my training went this time around. But, I guess who ever really is when going for a marathon? There's always more you could've done, ways you could've been better, areas you could've improved.

In the past 18 weeks, I've logged 303 miles, which is, oh, about 200+ miles short of where I wanted to be over that same time period. But, I got the key long runs in, did squeeze in speedwork and certainly have experience on my side.

Last night, I had an odd dream. First off, I was late to the start of the marathon. I bolted to the line and had to sort through my goodie bag (the one you pick up at the expo) to find my bib number and timing chip. Then I darted off to run the race, long after it had started.

The next thing I remember... was not being able to remember if I ever finished. It was like I woke up from a dream, in my dream (or from a blackout in my dream?) and I had no memory of my finish. I remembered starting, but not crossing the finish line. I'm sure some psychiatrist would analyze the heck out of that.

What does it mean to me?

Well, it means the obvious: that this is the most unsure I've been about a race. I'm still fighting some heel pain in my left foot, my training was not as good as it should've been and I'm a little over my race weight. That said, the "injury" only hurts when walking, not when running, I trained decent enough and have tons of experience, and I've completed one marathon at a heavier weight.

So I fully expect to cross the finish line tomorrow. I just am not sure about setting a new PR, which I've done in each marathon I've run. I'll go out at a solid pace -- one that puts me on target for a 3:30-45 finish -- and see where that gets me. If I finish under 4 hours, I can walk away happy with how I performed. If I beat the 3:43 I put up in Tampa, fantastic. If not? Well, hey, I ran another marathon and that should be enough to bring me satisfaction.

The problem is, if I ever was satisfied, I wouldn't keep running marathons.

I keep coming back because I am hooked on the feeling you get when you complete one, and I'm also hooked on trying to get better each time. Whether or not I do set a new personal best, at least I'll be better for following through with this one. That's one thing I do take pride in, that I am going ahead with this daunting task when it'd be easy to throw in the towel.

Now that I've got that all out of my system, it's time to get some sleep. I've got a marathon in the morning.