Seeing More

“How’s your marathon training going?” asked nobody.

“It’s good, thank you.”

The mileage totals haven’t been difficult so far. I’m doing around twenty a week now, with a ride or two fewer than I was before. I’m doubling up when I can, but the riding has definitely diminished because on Sundays the long run makes a long ride less appealing. This weekend it’s 11 miles, and will ramp up from there to 20 in a few weeks.

Cardio-wise, I’m fine, as I suspected. But my body still needs to adapt to running, and I can never predict how I’ll feel. Yesterday, my legs were heavy and three miles at 9:00/mile was an awful slog; today, seven-plus at 7:45 pace was pretty easy, expect for a weird cramp thing above between my left lung and shoulder that sprung up for a few miles and then vanished. It’s a mystery, why I feel the way I do. Where the pain and discomfort show up. On the bike, those things are predictable. On runs, I have no idea what will hurt or when. And my bladder/gastrointestinal issues are so variable that sometimes I can’t go a mile without a bathroom stop, while other times I can run five without stopping at all. Food, distance, time of day, heat, protein, iron: I’m sure they all play a role, but it’s impossible to puzzle out how they all fit together. Correlation, causation, blah blah blah.

I enjoy the ease of running. I don’t have to set out a kit the night before or fill water bottles or pump up tires. I can just wake up and go. And an hour of running burns more calories than an hour of biking (generally). Sure, when running you can’t travel as far as you can on a bike, and as a result you see less of the world, in one sense. But I’ve been exploring places on foot that I can’t on the bike, nooks and crannies of the city, sidewalks and dead ends and paths in the woods. So while seeing less, I also see more.


Well, I’m committed now.

Before I could second-guess myself, I signed up for the Harrisburg Marathon in November. It was the same morning I booked my trip to Colombia. Courage is fleeting, and it’s best to take advantage of it when you can, before the doubt sets in. So I registered and paid and now I have a giant endeavor on the calendar, lying it wait, lurking a few months away. Running a marathon is on my bucket list, a kind of no-brainer physical challenge any endurance athlete worth their salt should at least try, and there’s no better time than now. I’m assuming it will be the last one I run. Maybe I’ll get hooked, but I doubt it. I don’t like running that much.

The longest I’ve run is 13 miles, a solo half-marathon effort that involved getting lost on some forest roads in the tangled woods of North Carolina. A marathon is twice that. So. I have some training to do.

I’m not worried about the cardiovascular element; I ride 150-250 miles a week, so my endurance baseline is there. I’m not even particularly worried about finishing the race–if you go slow enough, you can get just about anywhere. But I want to have a respectable showing, with a decent (under four hours) time and minimal or no walking. I think the biggest obstacle is just my body’s lack of familiarity with running. Usually I do a couple runs a week, totaling between five and 10 miles. My legs just aren’t used to the motion, the pounding, the unique form of resistance. When I looked at the course route, which involves running along the river all the way up to Fort Hunter and back, I thought: that’s a long way to run without stopping. Hell, sometimes it feels like it takes forever to get from downtown to Fort Hunter on my bike, when I’m heading north out of the city on a ride.

So, I started an in-depth, wide-ranging research project to determine the best training plan. This project involved Googling “first marathon training plan” and selecting the first one that popped up. It’s the Higdon plan, which seems popular and effective. I selected the “Novice 2” program, designed for first-time marathoners with some fitness already. It’s a good thing I looked when I did, because it turns out you need 18 weeks to get ready. The marathon is 16 weeks away.

I probably could have gone with an intermediate plan (bigger training load, faster time), based on my fitness from cycling, but honestly I don’t know how well it translates. How much of a marathon’s difficulty lies in the cardio? How much lies in the impact on the legs? How much in the mental challenge of slogging ahead on a seemingly never-ending route? I suspect, like many endurance challenges, it’s mostly the later. I think that’s a good thing, because I’m generally pretty mentally tough. But I’ve also never run 26.2 miles.

Mr. Higdon’s plan for me is pretty simple: four runs a week, one day of cross-training, two off days. Three of the runs are shorter, and one on the weekends is longer, eventually building up to 20 miles before tapering in the weeks before the race. All sounds fine to me. The only issue is that cycling will have to be put on the back burner for a while.

Obviously I’ll ride on the cross-training day. I figure I can ditch an off day and ride instead. Then maybe double up on one or two of the easy run days with a ride in the afternoon. Still, the miles will diminish. I hate to say this, but my biggest concern is watching the totals on Strava crater. Why I care about that is a separate post (or series of posts) entirely. But suffice to say, it’s a concern.

In all likelihood, less time on the bike will probably do me good. A mental break, at least. And I have to tell myself that I won’t lose fitness–I’ll be training for a freaking marathon, after all. Still, there’s always that nagging concern that I’m not doing enough, that I’m losing ground.

But I’d hate myself if I reached old age or infirmity without having tried such a ubiquitous endurance challenge. The marathon is in my city, passing literally past my front door. I don’t have anything else to train for. So, basically, I’ve got no excuses.

More posts to come as the saga continues…

Feelin’ Super Pro

First, watch this video. Unfortunately the free version of WordPress doesn’t allow video uploads.

Seems like creating a video like this would be complicated, right?


You just go to and connect your Strava account. Yes, they are probably selling your workout data to the Russians, but in exchange you get cool 3D flyover videos of your adventures, delivered directly to your inbox minutes later. If you’ve ever wanted to see your rides look like a stage on the Tour de France telecast, this is the app for you. It will make you feel more pro than one of those stickers with your name and country’s flag on your top tube. More pro than shaved legs and $4,000 carbon wheels.

Besides giving all of us Strava folks something else to analyze for far too long after our workouts, and adding more motivation to do so-called “epic” adventures, this could be a great way for race promoters to display their courses online so racers can get intimidated or overconfident before registering.

This isn’t a paid endorsement. I just really like it. Maybe the fascination will wear off (I’ve only done two rides since discovering it).

But can we all take a moment to reflect on how insane technology is these days? Something like this, hell, something like Strava or a Garmin Edge or the Internet alone, was inconceivable less than 30 years ago. Think about that. Blows my mind.

Things Not to Do on a Group Ride

I’m not going to say this behavior was exhibited by a companion on this morning’s group ride. But I’m not going to say it wasn’t.

Here’s the bottom line. Beginners, veterans, racers, weekend warriors, anyone in between: don’t do this when you’re riding with other people. Just don’t. Unless you want them to hate you and/or talk shit about you behind your back and/or never invite you to ride with them again. In that case, go for it.

  • DON’T hog the pre-ride banter conversation with a story about your recent KOM conquest. Nobody cares. Want to show people how fast you are? Enter a race.
  • DON’T nix somebody’s suggestion to take the bike path out of town instead of a busy street because one time you crashed on a bike path so now you think they are more dangerous than busy streets. Maybe take a statistics class at the local community college.
  • DON’T turn off your Garmin when you’re going slow in order to preserve a high average speed for your Strava file. I can’t believe I’m actually saying this.
  • DON’T view someone dropping from the paceline to ride side-by-side with his buddy for a few minutes while they discuss the most recent Tour stage as an opportunity to hammer off the front and get a gap. Especially don’t do this at mile ten of the 70-mile ride.
  • DON’T, after said hammering, continue to vanish into the distance even as the two people try to catch back on to you and the unlucky soul who was on your wheel and had no choice but to go with your “attack.” There are things called stop signs and gas stations and intersections where you can actually stop your bike and wait for a minute. Try it sometime.
  • DON’T not check your phone to see a text that might say something like, “hey, where are you guys? Are you waiting somewhere or should we consider the group ride disbanded at this point?” Merckx had the excuse of phones not being invented yet. You don’t.

This is just a few things. There are others, obviously. Basic stuff. You can find those on other blogs or in clickbaity-titled but actually somewhat informative GCN videos. But these are a good start. If you can avoid them, hopefully you’ll avoid being blacklisted by your local cycling community.