Who's ready for a challenge? We're now five weeks away from my main event of the year.

I'll be celebrating fifty years on this planet at he Shoreline Multi-sport Festival July 18 and 19. What a challenging weekend it will be! I'm giving myself a birthday gift of running the half marathon on a Saturday followed by a sprint distance triathlon on Sunday. What better way to celebrate the milestone of turning 50 years old than by achieving such a personal challenge.

You might call it shugyo - a warriors quest.

"Only by knowing where you are today can you determine where you want to be tomorrow" Forrest E. Morgan. 1992.

This training cycle has taken a bit of a beating over the last few weeks due to an odd work schedule and two-weeks of a respiratory illness. With the main culprits identified and soundly defeated (the cold is gone and the work schedule is under control), I can get back to some serious training...and writing.

Being a little behind in your training plan or any goal-oriented plan for that matter can be a good motivator if you let it. With five weeks left before the next goal race I am truly in need of motivation.

Its time to train with shugyo!

What is shugyo? Glad you asked. Shugyo can be described as a quest or even a pilgrimage that takes a warrior to what we know today as the "next level".  I was first introduced to the theory of shugyo while studying various martial arts. Shugyo was evident in any number of texts I was reading at the time (1995).  Living the Martial Way (Forrest E. Morgan, 1992) but the theory of shugyo into an actionable that I remember to this day. Hence mentioning it here. Morgan describes shugyo as a practice you take on by yourself, nobody there to drive are the driver when training with shugyo.  It is an action taken on a special occasion, most likely outside of a gym and certainly not practiced in front of others. Rather, its a mindset in training and testing oneself.

Shugyo is a tool, a weapon in your training to be taken out. polished, and perfected as a means to getting to your "next level". I've been silently instilling this philosophy in the athletes I coach by giving them a special challenge on a weekly, monthly or seasonal basis. Its time to allow myself that gift a training challenge!

Over the weekend of July 18 and 19, 2015, I'll be taking myself to my next level. I'll celebrate being 50 years old by running a half marathon and a triathlon the following day.

I'll dig down deep over the next five weeks. I'll train with shugyo.

And I'll see you at the finish line!


Race Report: Flower City Half Marathon

Notes from the back of the pack during the Flower City Half Marathon.

I've taken a lot of pride in my renewed love for the sport of running and appreciate the gifts I've been blessed with. That mindset, along with a tremendous support team, is what pushed me through the Flower City Half Marathon on April 26, 2015. This race is also the second in the four-part series called the Four Seasons Challenge; four half marathons, one in each season of the year. The first race in this series was the Winter Warrior; a race around the Monroe Community College campus on a really cold, windy January afternoon.

The weather in Rochester, NY had been quite cold and snowy for two months leading up to the Flower City Half and my training plan took quite a beating. February gave us six hours of temperatures above freezing (yes, 6 hours) and the March snow piled up so high as to make visibility a real safety issue for running on the streets. We were all wondering what kind of weather April would bring.

Race morning arrived with cool but not cold, temperatures and a solid cloud cover...the typical Spring day in Rochester. I was nervous at the start line as I thought my training had been lacking.

Pre-race in the Blue Cross Arena 

Pre-race view of the finish on Exchange Blvd. 

I'd decided to use a pace group for the first time. While it seemed like a reasonable thing to do, that decision ultimately held me back. My first three miles were way too slow and as a result, my form was off. My Friend and unofficial coach, Greg, would later say "you didn't look good" in the first 5K. Greg has been a running coach for a long time and I've learned a lot from him directly and even more my watching him coach others. He's a great friend and supported me through my first triathlon last year. 

Greg did a most remarkable think at this race...he followed me on the course. I don't know how he did it but he just kept popping up at various points along the route snapping pictures with his smartphone. How he was able to jump in his car, navigate the City, and get to the most out of the way places on the route is still a mystery. 

At the start - photo credit Greg Sloan

My view at start line, pace group marker 

Slow "walking form" the first 5K at Frontier Field - photo Greg Sloan
One thing that set the Flower City Half apart from the Winter Warrior (my first half) is the hills. Like any dedicated (obsessive) runner, I'd spent a few hours previewing the Flower City course. Although familiar with the area, I became acutely aware of difference between driving the streets and running on them. The nausea that accompanied that realization haunted me until I actually got to the hills on race day. The best news of the day came as we reached the hills. Rather than being slowed by them, I actually gained time! Hill training had paid off, but not as you'd expect. I found that, in addition to tackling the uphill segments strong, I was able to glide with good form and increased speed to take full advantage of the downhill running as well. 

In Mt. Hope Cemetery - Photo Greg Slaon

Passing Wilson Blvd near Ford St. - photo Greg Sloan
Greg would later comment "you look better" as the race went on. At the finish line I was all smiles. Two down, two to go. I felt great throughout the race and finished strong, with a smile. My goal time of 2:00:00 remains a target to be hit as I finished the Flower City Half in 2:22 - just a few minutes faster than the Winter Warrior. 
At the finish - Photo Game Face 
Crossing the line - Photo Game Face
Greg and me at the BCA after the race

Post race debriefing

An old friend, Tom Coyle, owner of Monroe Ambulance and some pre race encouragement

Bib, shirt, finisher medal, and Four Seasons Challenge medal piece 

Winter Warrior and Flower City half marathon FSC pieces