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Week 5 (July 21-27)

This week I had an orthopedist visit and x-rays on Monday, an MRI on Tuesday, and a podiatrist visit on Wednesday. The x-rays were negative (thank goodness!), but the MRI revealed a "Strain injury of the myotendinous junction of the lateral head of the gastocnemius muscle." I guess it's nothing I didn't already know, but it's good to know there are no other issues (no stress fracture, tendon or ligament damage, etc.). The bad news is that I have been told that if I want this strain to fully heal (which I obviously do) I will need to rest it for 5-6 weeks.  Since my wife and daughters were away at the beach for the week, I had plenty of extra time for training (and preparing lots of whole-grain vegetarian meals and banana-strawberry-avocado smoothies).  What does one do when training for a marathon but not allowed to run?  Why cross-train, of course.  I decided to make it my goal to complete a full week of two-a-day workouts.  Here's how it went:


Monday - A 60-minute elliptical session and a 2500m swim.  I started off my week with a solid elliptical workout before teaching.  I maintained a decent pace throughout, but I had little left for any sort of "kick" at the end.  After work I went to the pool for a swim.  I didn't time it, but it usually takes me around an hour to complete 2500 meters.  I'm not a good swimmer but I know that swimming can be a great workout.  I took this one fairly easy.

Tuesday - A 50-minute reverse elliptical session (plus a 10-minute cool-down) and a 2500m swim.  I was tired and struggled early on in my morning elliptical session.  The afternoon swim went much better.  My body seemed to be trying to figure out how to deal with double doses of exercise.

Wednesday - A 60-minute elliptical session and a 90-minute spin on my bike trainer.  Wednesday is typically my tempo run so I tried to push my morning elliptical workout.  Unfortunately, I started out much too hard during the first 20 minutes or so and by the final 20 minutes I had nothing left.  It was probably a mistake to try and push any of these workouts.  In the evening I put in a very easy spin on my bike trainer while watching the new version of "Planet of the Apes".

Thursday - A 50-minute reverse elliptical session (plus a 10-minute cool-down) and a 2500m swim.  This day was very similar to Tuesday.  I was finding myself pretty low on energy and motivation in the morning, but I managed to grind out a below average elliptical session.  The afternoon's swim went a bit better, but I was defiantly starting to get bored of looking at the bottom of the pool (plus it's pretty gross when you're wearing goggles and you can see all the gunk that's floating around in there).  At least I can wear my iPod when I'm on the elliptical.

Friday - A 60-minute elliptical session and a 90-minute spin on my bike trainer.  I had another slow start on the elliptical as I continued to have a tough time getting going in the morning.  I managed to put in a pretty decent workout all things considered, but I was certainly glad it was Friday and I wouldn't have to wake up early the next day.  My shoulders had been feeling rather sore so I decided to hit the bike trainer rather than the pool, especially because I wanted to go for a long swim on Saturday.  I put in a relaxed 90 minutes while watching "Coach Carter".

Saturday - A 5K swim and a 90-minute spin on my bike trainer.  I got to sleep in a bit and I went to the pool around noon.  Saturday is my usual long run day, so I decided to make it a long swim.  Given my pace and a couple bathroom breaks, it took over two hours and my back got a pretty good tan.  In the evening I did a bike spin while watching UFC.  I ate pretty much anything that caught my eye that day.

Sunday - A 90-minute bike spin and a 2500m swim.  I did my bike spin in the morning while watching Sports Center and body was feeling fairly rough from Saturday's swim and over-eating.  In the afternoon I went to the pool before dinner.  I thought I was swimming at a relatively decent pace until another swimmer got in next to me and kept passing me like I was doing doggie paddle.  I became even more humbled when I noticed that she wasn't even using her legs!  Still, it was a good swim for me and it marked the completion of my final workout of the week.


So, I was able to get in 14 workouts in a week!  By the end I was pretty wiped out and was eating almost constantly, but I'm glad I did it.  I'd better get used to all this cross-training because 5-6 more weeks recovery for my calf doesn't give me much time before I need to start my taper for the Baltimore Marathon. It looks like I'll be running the race to finish so that I can complete the Maryland Double rather than shooting for possible prize money as one of the top Maryland resident finishers. If I can maintain my fitness through cross-training, I plan to try and pace a couple of friends who are hoping to run BQs at the marathon. Six weeks of elliptical training, bike spinning, and lap swimming, however, may just drive me insane...





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Week 4 (7/14 - 7/20)

Sadly, this week was mostly spent cross-training as I am again attempting to rehabilitate my strained left soleus.  At least this week was a recovery week so I did not miss any key workouts.  I apologize if these reports of my injury are getting repetitive, but it looks like there will be a lot more cross-training in my future.  Unfortunately, I have to write about the realities of my training.


Monday - An 8-mile run.  I ran slowly with Chris Flynn on a morning that wasn't too hot but very humid.  My calf was tight from my long run the previous Saturday and I was hoping it would loosen up after a few miles.  It never got truly painful, but it didn't loosen up either.  I decided that I needed to give it a bit more of a break and would stick to cross-training for at least a few days.

Tuesday - A 60-minute elliptical session. It's a pretty standard workout.  My calf was fairly tight throughout the day, but it didn't bother me during the elliptical training.

Wednesday - A 50-minute reverse elliptical session (plus a 10-minute cool-down). I was tired and got off to a bit of a slow start, but I finished with a relatively decent pace.  My calf was starting to feel a little looser and didn't bother me during my workout.

Thursday - A 60-minute elliptical session and a 1-mile swim.  I was tired and having trouble with motivation, but I pulled off a solid morning elliptical workout.  My calf was a little better and continued to be fine during the elliptical training, but it continued to be somewhat stiff during the rest of the day.  In the afternoon, I took my daughters to the pool and was able to get in a mile of swimming (with a few breaks) while they were busy playing with friends.  I decided to try and run on the following day to see how I would hold up.

Friday - A 4-mile run and 30-minute reverse elliptical session.  I decided to test out the calf on a relatively easy paced 8-miler with Chris Flynn.  It was still a little sore, but I hoped it would loosen up after a few miles.  Needless to say, my calf failed the test.  It did OK for a few miles and then it locked up at mile four. I stopped running and went inside for a half hour of reverse elliptical to complete my workout.

Saturday - DNR.  I hate typing that, but I didn't exercise at all and ate way too much.

Sunday - A 90-minute bike spin.  I did this session in the evening much too soon after my daughters' end of the season swim team picnic where I managed not to over-eat until the very end when a friend was trying to unload a tray of oatmeal-raisin cookies.  I probably had ten.  Needless to say, I spent the time on my bike mainly focused on not seeing those cookies regurgitated.  A most unpleasant workout and somewhat fitting end to my week.


I have come to the realization that I'm putting too much pressure on myself to race well and it is causing me to make poor decisions (like not giving myself nearly enough time to heal) and taking much of the joy out of my training. I need to readjust my goals for Baltimore so that I can enjoy the experience and insure that I have a lot more running in my future.  I have an appointment with an orthopedist and a podiatrist scheduled for next week to see if i can get some help for my calf.  I'll be sure to fill you in next week.





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Week 2 of my training schedule ended very well so I was looking forward to maintaining a routine and continuing to build up my mileage.  I'm getting used to exercising in the morning before I teach and I enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing my workouts before 9am.  Unfortunately my calf is flaring up again today as I'm writing (I have strained the soleus in my left calf), but I guess I shouldn't be surprised given how I'm trying to increase my mileage.


Week 3 (7/7 - 7/13)

This is what SmartCoach had scheduled for me:


Monday - An 8-mile run.  I ran fairly relaxed on a humid morning.  The time was nothing special, but it's a fine way to start the week after a long run (16.5 miles) the previous Saturday.

Tuesday - A 60-minute elliptical session.  It goes pretty well.  Similar to Monday, it's not a record setting workout but I'm pleased with my performance and my body is feeling good.

Wednesday - An 8-mile tempo run.  I head out in the morning while the temperature is still only in the mid 70s but it's humid with a very light drizzle.  I push the early pace a bit too hard and fade slightly near the end.  I probably averaged around 6:10 pace which is nowhere near the SmartCoach recommendation.  While I don't have the speed I had back in April near the end of my training for Frederick, I feel good about this run since I have not done many intervals or tempo runs over the past couple of months.  I'm fairly confident that my times will come back down if I am able to continue with my training schedule and get in consistent speed sessions.

Thursday - A 50-minute reverse elliptical session.  Another solid, if unspectacular, workout.  I go for 50 minutes in reverse and then follow it up with a 10 minute cool down in the normal (forward) direction.

Friday - An 8 mile run.  I go out nice and easy for the first half and then pick up the pace a bit near the end.  Chris Flynn ran with me for 5 miles or so and it's always nice to have someone to talk to.

Saturday - A 19 mile run.  This one was much slower than last week's 16.5, probably due to the temperature that was around 90 degrees.  Last week my miles were all between 6:20 and 6:30; this week my splits were mostly in the 6:30 to 6:45 range.  I did not bring enough fluid (just a half liter amphipod filled with nuun) and was pretty dehydrated by the end. Thankfully, a college soccer team was practicing near where I finished and offered me a bottle of water for my jog home (I poured half of it over my head to cool down).  I wouldn't say that I hit the wall, but I was certainly dragging through this one. I had difficulty keeping my head in it as I went through miles 7-9 thinking about how I wasn't even halfway through. Long runs in July are quite different than when I was training for the Frederick Marathon back in January-April.  It was certainly a learning experience.  I took an ice bath when I got home and then mowed the lawn.  I tried to take in fluids during the rest of the day.  My left calf is stiff again.  I'm thinking that this may be related to continued running when my legs are fatigued and this one really sapped 'em.  It isn't painful (yet), but I'll be keeping an eye on it.

Sunday - A 1 hour bike spin.  I'm pretty tired from Saturday's run and my calf is tight.  I hit the bike trainer in my basement for an hour and watch some bad TV.


The week went well for the most part and I was able to complete all of my workouts at a satisfactory level.  The slow pace of Saturday's long run is probably to be expected in such heat and because I have been sustaining a fairly rigorous daily regiment.   I am frustrated, however, that my calf is again tightening up on me (it was an issue again during my 8-mile run on Monday the 14th).  I will have to be careful to make sure that it doesn't get worse and severely impact my training.  Luckily, I have a cut-back week coming up so I'll try and make sure that I allow my muscles to build back up.  Here's a preview:


My sponsors:



My reward:

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After having a tough time last week getting my training started due to a calf injury (strained left soleus), I seem to be back on track (at least for the time being).  The past week started off rather poorly, but ended well.  Without further ado, here’s week two (Hey, it rhymes!).


Week 2 (6/30 – 7/6)

This is what SmartCoach had scheduled for me:


Monday – An 8 mile run.  My first run of the week goes poorly; possibly because I ran too soon after a dinner that included two large bowls of salad (and I also ate two bowls at lunch).  I felt like I was working fairly hard, but my splits slower than I expected (all around 6:30).  My legs never seemed to loosen up and my calf was a bit tight.  I had hoped to end the month of June on a higher note.  The most redeeming aspect of the run was the presence of fireflies.

Tuesday – An 8 mile run.  I was able to hold an extremely consistent pace, but it was even slower than the day before (every split I took was 6:31).  My start of July is even worse than my end of June.  I had planned on making this my tempo run for the week, but after a couple of miles it became apparent that my speed just wasn’t there.  Even after I decided not to push the pace it was still a struggle both physically and mentally.  My calf was a bit stiff, but it did loosen up after a few miles.  After two sub-par runs in a row, I’m feeling tired and flat.

Wednesday – An 8 mile run.  I was at my school for the day to get set up for summer classes.  I attempted to do my usual sets of pull-ups and chin-ups and I simply quit about half way through because I had no energy.  I ran 8 miles again and it was slow for the third straight day.  My body felt drained.  On a positive note, the weather was wonderful and I ran with Chris Flynn (who won the last 5K I raced).  It was nice to be able to talk to someone and get my mind off the pace so I could simply enjoy the running.  I’m hoping that Chris (who is actually teaching in my regular classroom for the summer) and I will be able to train together regularly once we start teaching next week.

Thursday – An 8 mile run.  I drop my girls off at swim team practice and head out for yet another 8-miler.  I had decided to pretty much pack it in for the week, just do slow recovery runs, call it my cutback week, and try again the following Monday.  My warm-up and first mile were pretty quick (6:15) and easy, however, so I decided to push the pace and see if I could make it a tempo run.   The next four miles were 6:10, 6:07, 6:03, and 5:57.  It’s hardly a banner day in terms of times, but I gladly take it after the previous three and I believe it to be fast enough to count for my weekly speed session (even if SmartCoach recommended a very tough 5:47 pace for my Week 1 tempo run).  I am not ready to declare my slump over after a single run, but it sure was a relief.  Also, my left calf flared up briefly (for about 100 meters) near the halfway point of the run.  When I arrive back at the pool to pick up my daughters I am treated to a few delicious slices of watermelon (from melons that had been used in silly practice relays).

Friday – Another 8 miler (that makes five in a row).  This turned out to be a nice recovery run while my daughters were at swim practice.  It was humid but I still managed to run relaxed at a pace that averaged a little under 6:20.  I’m glad to have more bounce in my legs.

Saturday – A 16.5 mile run.  This run went much better than expected.  I wanted to go even farther, but I decided to stick with what SmartCoach recommended for my first long run in two months (since the Frederick Marathon on May 4).  Since it’s only Week 2, I have the time to build up at an appropriate and gradual rate.  I spend about four hours of the morning on my feet as a timer at my daughters’ swim meet.  The morning’s early rain clears by the end of the meet, but it leaves a high humidity in its wake.  After the meet, I didn’t have a full lunch, but instead I down a Clif Bar and some trail mix.  I popped a nuun tablet in my water bottle and put another Clif Bar in my shorts because I like to get practice taking fuel and fluids on long runs.  I didn’t bother taking a shirt, however, since I knew that it would simply become soaked and heavy within the first few miles given the humid weather.  I went out and settled into a comfortable pace I hoped I could maintain.  I was surprised that my first mile was a fairly quick (for a long run) 6:25, but I ended up running relatively steady as my fastest mile (two) was a 6:20 and my slowest (thirteen) was a 6:30.  After such a poor beginning of the week, I was thrilled to have such a strong performance.  When I got home I ate some Kashi Go-Lean Crunch cereal and jumped in an ice bath.  Later on my wife and I had a wonderful walk through downtown Frederick.

Sunday – A 2500-meter swim in the afternoon and an hour of easy bike spinning at night.  It’s my cross-training day, so I swim slow and untimed laps in the afternoon and then some very relaxed spinning on my bike trainer after the girls go to bed.


This week had me very worried early on.  Three poor days in a row was a huge psychological blow.  It felt like I was completely sapped.  I know that there are many people who would be very happy if they could run my slow pace, but that wasn’t providing much comfort; I want to continue to improve as a runner and find the edges of my potential.  I’m extremely grateful that I was able to bounce back and end the week well.  I’m hoping that I will be able to recover quickly from my first long run.



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I am now officially in training for the Baltimore Marathon on October 11.  I hope that this blog will illustrate what training to race 26.2 miles can look like, at least for this 38-year-old husband/father/teacher.  There is no way to know how (or even if) I will finish, but this will be the real journey.  As the saying goes, “The will to succeed means nothing without the will to prepare."   I use the SmartCoach program as a rough guideline for my workout schedule.  In general, I have found it to be an excellent tool although many of the times for intervals and tempo runs are simply beyond my ability and I find the recovery pace to be too slow for my liking.  My input data is here:


This is a look back on the first of the sixteen weeks on my training schedule as well as the week leading up to it (we can call it “Week 0””).  Coming into this period my body was feeling a bit rundown with some lingering aches and pains from the Frederick Marathon in early May (I did not give myself a sufficient recovery period).  On a side note, my wife was away for an autism education training/conference in Houston for most of these two weeks but I was able to find time to workout during my daughters’ swim team practices or in the evenings.


Week 0 (6/16 - 6/22)

Monday – A 10 mile run.  A solid maintenance run at a decent pace and a good way to start the week.

Tuesday – An 8 mile run.  I was able to hold a decent pace, but I never really felt loose.  My left calf, which had been giving me trouble for a few weeks, flared up briefly and seemed very tight.  I added 4 strides at the end of the workout.

Wednesday – A track race/workout with my running club (the Frederick Steeplechasers).  I arrive late and only manage to get in a mile of warm-up.  The “main event” is the two-mile and I get badly out-kicked on the last lap so I finish a distant second.  My time is 10:51, which is slower than some of my two-mile splits at spring races.  Afterwards it’s 3x 800 meters (with about 8 minutes of recovery jogging between each one) and my times are 3:35, 3:32, and 3:28.  I didn't have a whole lot of speed, but I can consider it a decent track workout.  I probably put in 6.5 miles total when warm-ups, cool-down, and recovery jogs are added.

Thursday – An 8 mile run.  My legs felt tired and I ran slowly.  My calves tightened up pretty badly on the last mile or two.

Friday – Another 8 miler.  My calves were tight/sore but did not seem to interfere with my running too much once I got warmed up and I was able to maintain a reasonable pace.  I noticed them (especially the left) on turns and when the surface wasn't flat.  They felt better when I was "lifting" my legs rather than "driving" off the ground.

Saturday – A 10 mile run.  This was a fairly typical maintenance run.  My legs were a little tight at first, but they loosened up.

Sunday – A 90 minute spin on my bike trainer.  I take it easy and pedal away while watching the Euro Cup.  Sadly, my beloved Italy loses to eventual champ Spain in penalty kicks.


Week 1 (6/23 - 6/29)

Here's what SmartCoach had scheduled: 

Monday – A 4 mile run and an hour spin on bike trainer.  My first run of my “official” training goes horribly wrong.  I head out nice and early for a 10 miler.  My left calf tightens up so badly after 4 miles that I can’t run and have to walk/limp back home.  My attempts to jog even 10 meters bring on so much pain that it causes me to jump up and down on my good leg.  To make matters worse, it’s my anniversary and my wife is still in Houston.  I’m pretty depressed at this point.  While I’m at my daughters’ swim practice I talk to another parent who’s a PT and she pokes and prods my calf and has me do some balance moves.  She diagnoses my problem as a strained soleus (Who knew that trying to run through a tight and sore muscle for about five weeks would lead to an over-use injury?) and prescribes stretches, ibuprofen, and a few days of non-running.  In the evening I try and salvage the day by spinning for an hour while watching “The Princess Bride” with my girls.  They had never seen it before and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Tuesday – A 2500-yard (1.42 mile) swim in the afternoon and an hour of easy bike spinning in the evening.  I am a terrible swimmer and I hope my first pool workout of the year didn’t strike fear in the lifeguards.  I do a lot of stretching.  I’d rather be running but I don’t dare try more than a couple of easy 50-meter strides.  After I put my daughters to bed I do an easy bike spin to get my legs moving at a good clip.

Wednesday – Another 2500 yard swim and hour of spinning.  See Tuesday.

Thursday – A 3500 yard (1.99 mile) swim.  How do swimmers keep count of their laps?  I’m constantly playing mind games to try and help me remember what lap I’m on and I still keep losing track.  I guess this is my long workout for the week.  I am able to run a couple 100-meter strides without any real pain.

Friday – A 7 mile run and a 2500-yard swim.  I get out early for my run and it goes as well as can be reasonably expected.  I do an easy warm-up, then a solid five miler (splits of 6:30, 6:20, 6:10, 6:10, and 5:55), and I finish with an easy mile of cool-down.  It’s not my best workout ever, but it feels wonderful to run again.  I constantly monitored my calf and it was tight at times, but didn’t become painful.  My right knee was a little sore, probably because I’m over-compensating for my stiff calf.  In the afternoon I swim my laps and then go to pick up my wife at the airport.  She’s back home after two weeks.  What a great day!

Saturday – A 10 mile run.  I run in the morning, but it’s already warm and very humid.  My calf starts out a little tight and then it loosens up nicely after a couple of miles.  I have no pain in my calves or knees.  I am scheduled for a long run of 14 miles this week, but I think that would be pushing my luck.  Psychologically I needed this to complete Monday’s run.

Sunday – A 1250-yard swim and 90-minute spin on my bike trainer.  I don’t think it would be wise at this point to try running three days in a row so I do some more cross-training. This gets me back on my SmartCoach schedule.  In the afternoon I started a slow swim, but I had to stop halfway because of thunder.  Therefore, I finish up my day with another spin.


At this point in time I am tentatively optimistic.  I ended the week with some solid workouts and am no longer being hindered by my calf.  While I doubt that I will be able to replicate my performance from Frederick (so many factors came together almost perfectly on that day), I hope to have a solid second leg as I attempt to complete the Maryland Double.




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