Sunday, December 27, 2009

Closing out the year

Hail my running brothers and sisters! As a post-script to my last post, I realized that I was close to 1200 miles for the year, so I dug in deep and got those last miles in to reach 1203.1. That's about 100 miles a month on average! By dig deep, I mean that I had to dig past the piles of pigs-in-a-blanket, mini-crab cakes, holiday cookies, pound cake and other food that I love but generally eschew during the year, so that I could shake that lard off my gut and tie my shoelaces to get those miles. It is truly sad that I can battle all year to control my appetite, but lose the war against fat and lethargy in only a few days.

I thought with only a few days left in the year, I would treat myself to some well-earned rest and let my body recover from the years punishment. Of course, I would do some cross-training thanks to my brand-new 20 lb. kettleball that my lovely and patient wife got me this year for Christmas. But when I got on the scale and saw that I had gained 5 more pounds this week, I realized that I can't turn my back on running yet.

Two and half of the miles that I ran were billy-goat miles...i.e. trail miles in Edwin Warner Park. I have done some cross-country mileage in my training for the marathon, but this was the first time that I actually ran a trail route. When I had considered running the trails earlier in the year, everyone had told me that it was more dangerous than road running, because I was likely to twist my ankle or fall flat on my face. Well, I didn't twist an ankle, but I did slip twice. I only fell on my face once, but I quickly recovered and finished my run. Overall it was fun to bolt through the woods, because it reminded me of being a kid and playing tags in the woods near my house. It was hard too. The ascents were steep and the footing unstable enough that I found myself walking to keep my balance and catch my breath. Occasionally I would have to stop and figure out where the heck I was and where the hell was I going, but generally the trails were pretty well marked and easy to follow. Sadly it took more effort to maintain a 10+ minute/mile pace on the trail than it took to run an 8:30 minute/mile pace on the road. Will I do it again? You know it baby! Every chance I get, I intend to get in some trail miles, but realistically, it looks like it would be once a week at best due to my schedule.

This weekend I'll be posting my goals for the New Year, and I'll probably be making some changes to the blog. I'm a firm believer in the idea that you have to shake things up sometimes to keep your training from getting stale. Maybe it's just me but "Run Monkey Boy Run" seems a bit cliched, doesn't it? If anyone has any ideas for a new title, let me know. Thanks for a great year and I'll look for y'all on the starting line next year. Have fun and run hard kids!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Year in review

Hail my running brothers and sisters! This seems like as good of time as any to get in my Year-in-Review. Thanks to the handy-dandy training log at, it appears that I've clocked 1192.1 miles to date with an average pace of 9:22/mile. Not bad for a guy that last year wouldn't have run further than the couch to the kitchen to get a slice of pie or bacon (or both if I was feeling froggy. Hmmm....pie and bacon). I've run 16 races of various distances. My best times being: 21:38-5k, 7:15-10k, 7:11-5 miles, 1:45:31-13.1 miles, and 3:52:31-26.2 miles. I now have 8 pairs of running shoes (2 are trail shoes), and of those 8, I suspect that I will be retiring 2 pairs by the end of spring. As of today, I'm 162 lbs, 14.3% body fat, and 23.4 bmi.

Did I meet my goals for the year?
-Weigh 170 lbs. - Got it. Holding steady.
-Take health more seriously - uh, yeah. Check.
-Run a 25:00 5k - Bingo!
-Run a half-marathon - Bam!

Overall, I've got to say that health and training-wise, my year has been spectacular (despite my recent lag in training). I've exceeded the goals that I set for myself, and I even managed to convert a few people over to my health kick insanity. Maybe the biggest surprise for me is that I ran a marathon this year. I truly believed that I would not be ready to run a marathon until 2010, and honestly I still can't believe that I did it at times.

Looking back, I've learned that if I focus on my goals and work hard, I can reach them. But I've also learned that maintaining those goals takes patience and diligence. It would be easy for me to slide back into those size 40 waist pants if I let myself, but honestly I don't want to be that guy anymore. I hope in some small way that I can serve as an example to my kids that they should take their health seriously also, so that they can be healthy and happy with who they are.

For those of you who were wondering, this is not the end of my journey. A quick glance at the races that I have planned for next year will give you an idea of what I have planned. However, I'll leave next year's goals for my New Year's blog. I hope everyone has a happy and healthy holiday! Run hard and have fun kids!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

'Tis the Season

Hail my running brothers and sisters! Ho, ho, ho! Isn't that Tiger's line? That was my cheap shot of the day, but now I'm moving on. 'Tis the Season of giving, yuletide cheer and dammit...little to no running. I will let all those other guys talk about how the holidays are a time of cheer and giving. At Run Monkey Boy Run, I will whine like a spoiled child that I haven't been able to keep up with my training. While this winter has been fairly mild so far, I've found that I'm not very fond of running in the cold. Maybe it has to do with all those layers of clothes weighing me down, but it's usually the cold air burning in my lungs that's the worst. Throw in the short days and lack of sunshine, and that leaves me a very short window of time to get a decent run in during the day. I keep toying with the idea of going to the gym, but the-powers-that-be just closed the YMCA next door to my building! I could run down the street to the newly remodeled Y, but I haven't finished mourning my old standby. Plus the thought of wasting an hour on the dreadmill is...well, just dreadful. So I've decided not to beat myself up for not running everyday this month. I've decided to ignore the fact that I've gained 5 lbs back in unflattering places. And I've decided to just try and enjoy being with my family as I recover and rest up for next year. That way, when January rolls around, I'll be ready to hit the bricks and throw up some iron again. Here's to next year. Cheers. Run hard and have fun!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Rudolph 5K Re-cap

Hail my running brothers and sisters! They say that those who ignore the past are doomed to repeat it. Clearly this wise person was thinking of me when they said it. Despite my belief that I'm the disciple of Pre, I cannot gut out a race at the start and expect to finish it strong. Case in point, this year's Rudolph Red-Nose Run 5k. I ran it in 23:24, 7:33/mile. My splits worked out to 6:21, 7:47, 8:18 and 0:57 (7:00/mile equivalent). My strategy was to start out strong, then coast and surge, coast and surge to the finish. What actually happened was, I started out strong, and then basically did everything I could to hold it together to the finish. By mile 2, my guts were on fire, my lungs and throat were raw, and I was positive that I was going to vomit before I saw the end of mile 2. Suprisingly, I did make it to the end without losing my guts and curling up on the ground with the remains of my lunch. Still I was relatively happy. I ran an expected time around 7:30/mile, nearly 2 minutes off my time last year. Also I learned that I can probably run a 6:10-6:15 mile, maybe even a 6:00 mile in the right conditions. Plus, I know that I did not leave anything in the tank at the end of the race. Clearly I should have paced myself better to achieve negative splits, but there is something romantic about running a race hard. Next time, I just need to be smart too! That is very hard for me to do if you're me according to my wife. Next year I'll have to aim for 6:50 splits, and maybe then my wife won't remind me that I'm a dumbass! Run hard and have fun kids!

Race Shirt Slogans

Hail my running brothers and sisters! Many of you know that my lovely and supportive wife ordered a custom, designed tech shirt for my first marathon. On the front, it sported our Team Vallejo logo, and on the back it said "Wicked Fast." Since then, Julie and I have debated what the next shirt should say. I think a good slogan should be funny with a touch of attitude. Here's a list of our ideas so far:

-Team Vallejo. We're not p#$$!es! (But spelled out. This was actually Julie's idea, but she said that I can't use it. Something about being rude. Yeah, I don't get it either.)

-If you're reading this, you're running for fun. (I like it, but is it too long?)

-It's Vallejo, not Vajayjay. (Julie thinks that only my friend Albert and I would get this and think it's funny. I told her Oprah would get it. She told me that I'm a dumbass.)

-Leaders lead from the front. (I keep telling this to my colleague, Frank Ziegler, because I'm trying to get him to return to racing. But he tells me that I have a better chance of seeing Kentucky beat UT at football.)

-My daughter thinks that I RAN to the grocery store. (She really does. 5 year olds can be very literal.)

-Get your Chip on!

-It's Go Time!

-I have a weird relationship with pain; it makes me go faster! (My wife thinks I'm a dumbass.)

-My wife thinks I'm a dumbass. ('Nuff said!)

Let me know which ones you liked, if any. Or if you have a better one that I can steal, let me know that too! Run hard and have fun, kids!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

2 days to Rudolph Red-Nose Run 5K

Hail my running brothers and sisters! It is 2 days to the 2009 Rudolph Red-Nose Run 5K, and I'm feeling somewhat nostalgic. The 2008 Rudolph Red-Nose Run 5K was the first race that set me on this road of fitness, running, and awesomeness. Last year, I hoped to finish at just under 10:00/mile, and I ended up running 9:27/mile. This year, I hope to do better. Much better. So much better that my awesomeness will be forever cemented in the annals of Christmas racing! Realistically though the best that I can hope for is about 2:00/mile off of last year's time. Now a lot of you are saying, what asshat doesn't think that 2:00/mile improvement isn't good. Don't get me wrong, a 7:27/mile in one year's time is pretty damn good. But sadly for me, I live in my head, where unrealistic expectations are par for course. For example, at the beginning of the race last year, I actually believed that I might actually be able to keep my secretary in sight and pace her to the end. Not beat her, but at least keep up with her. Less than a tenth of a mile into the race, the cold rush of truth slapped me harder than the wind coming down the Woodland Street bridge, and before I knew it, she was gone. This year, my near-constant state of delusion has me believing that I should easily finish this race with 6:30/miles. Like I said, de-lu-sion-al! But why not? After all, hasn't my (super-patient and tolerant) wife allowed me to purchase every gizmo, gadget and piece of tech clothing and gear that should catapult me up to elite status? Why would I buy all that stuff if they didn't make me Flash-fast? And don't tell me, it's because I'm a sucker. Clearly I am, but I KNOW this stuff makes me faster. All those commercial advertisements can't be wrong. So come 6:30 PM on Friday evening, I will be lining at the front of the race, wearing my stabilizing tights, thermal compression shirt, GPS, and lightweight, neutral Nike TriD III's ready to whoop some Rudolph 5K ass! If you come out, looking for me, I'll be the guy at the finish line smacked with the cold, hard slap of reality (I call her Sweetie) with my 7:30/mile time. Run hard and have fun, kids!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Boulevard Bolt Recap

Hail my running brothers and sisters! Today was my first Turkey Day race and it was a doozy. The field was at least 1000+ strong of timed runners and 7000 non-timed runners and walkers. As I've said before, my training since the marathon has been a bit slow, but I figured that I could still finish under 8:00/mile. I lined up in the finish-under-40-minutes section and waited with my buddy Matt for the race to start. With a field this large, inevitably you have several people line up where they don't belong, and it was clear that was happening today. The gaggle of 9 year old boys and the 70 year old in front of me were evidence of this. But I could have lined up in a faster section also, so I won't complain too much. The biggest problem with this scenario is that I had to weave through the crowd till I got separation from the pack. So that means my start time was slower than I would have liked and I burned a ton of energy surging through the crowd.

Mile 1 - 7:22

By mile 2, I had settled into reasonable pace and found somebody to draft. We'll call him gray Underarmor guy. We also caught a downhill and built up a reasonable amount of speed, but I knew that there was a slight uphill coming up.

Mile 2 - 6:51

At mile 3, I felt the weakness in my training catch up with me. I started to slow down and I was breathing hard.

Mile 3 - 7:10

At mile 4, my right foot started to hurt and my side was aching. Part of me wanted to quit, but the other part refused to let anyone see me walk it out. I saw another family from SBA and pushed on. There's nothing like seeing someone you know to inspire you to keep moving. After all, you don't want them talking about how they saw you walk in a race.

Mile 4 - 7:33

Finally the last mile came and thankfully it was mostly downhill. I was tired and hurting from the exertion, but I knew the end was near. I kept moving and was surprised to cross the line under 36 minutes.

Mile 5 - 6:58

I finished the race in 35:55 at a 7:11/mile pace. Matt finished in 42:00 even. I'm still trying to talk my buddy Frank Ziegler into running a race, and I think this would have been a good race for him since it is flat. Regarding my pace, it was few seconds faster than my 10k pace, but then again, I'm not sure that I could have maintained that pace for another mile. Don't get me wrong, this was a good time and I'm happy with it. However, I still think that I could have done better, and I'm disappointed that I've let my training slip. Clearly I need to get back on the stick and beat my post-marathon pounds off my gut. With that I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving and I hope to see some of y'all next Friday at the Rudolph's Red Nose Run 5k. Run hard and have fun!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Hail my running brothers and sisters! It's Thanksgiving Eve, and tomorrow is a big day. I start off the day with the Boulevard Bolt 5 mile Turkey Trot at 8:00. Then I get to ready myself for Thanksgiving, which my lovely wife refers to as Joel Day (I haven't decided if she calls it that because it's my favorite holiday or if it's because she thinks I'm a Turkey). My mileage has been light the last couple of weeks, but after next Friday, I'm hoping to get back into more serious training. I'll admit that the cold weather and the short days has made it hard for me to motivate for long mileage. Still, I can't wait to get into a race again, even though my training has been less than stellar. I'm hoping to just run under 8:00/mile at this point. Oh well, wish me luck. I'll probably need it! Run hard and have fun!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Welcome to the club

Hail my running brothers and sisters! It seems like everyone to whom I've talked has decided to take up running! I'll take some small credit for this trend as I've become a disciple of pounding your body into goo to make a better you (Hey that rhymes!). Even my lovely wife has decided to run a 5k in the near future. As such, I've been fielding questions from newcomers asking for tips to get started. Well hold on to your hats kids, because here we go.
1. Run hard and have fun. Now running 'hard' will be relative to whoever you are. If you've never laced up a pair of running shoes, then a 15 minute mile may be hard. For beginners, I suggest doing a run/walk program of running 2 mins and then walking for 2-3 minutes for 20-30 minutes every other day and increasing the time you run between walks each week. This builds your overall strength and helps your body adapt to the stresses of exercise. If you can do more, good for you; go out and do more. But as I tell my cross-country kids, if you run so hard that you're not having fun, you're running too hard and you need to slow down. A couple of caveats to this is that 1) if you're a beginner, running isn't all that fun at first and 2) if you are racing, winning is fun.
2. Get the right shoes. I suggest going to a running store and having one of their employees properly fit you for the shoe you need. Just like there are different body types, there are different running shoes to accommodate those body types. Not everyone needs a ton of cushioning and stability. You can probably get a better deal on shoes at the big box stores, but they probably won't know which shoe will be right for you. So buyer beware!
3. Run like a bird, not like a chicken. Keep your steps small and light like a bird. I also try to think "Nose over my toes." Light, short, quick steps should keep you from over-striding and risking possible injury. Another visual cue is if you see your toes extend past your knees as you step out, you're over-striding. Keep your back straight and tall, but a slight forward lean from isn't too bad. I don't want to see your arms swinging wild like a chicken running from the farmer. Instead keep your arms bent at about 90 degrees and tucked close to your sides. They should swing forward and back slightly, but your hands shouldn't cross the center-line of your chest. Women with big chests sometimes prefer to keep their hands up to help keep the girls in line. I don't have a problem with that either.
4. Rest like you mean it. When I say only run every other day, I'm not kidding. Unless you've been training for months and your body can tolerate the work, then you don't really need to run everyday. Resting helps your muscles recover enough so that you can go out and throw some more miles on your body the next day. If you feel guilty about completely laying out, then go to the gym and throw up some iron or do some push-ups and sit-ups, but just don't overdo it.
5. Eat like poor person. I didn't come up with this line. I think it may have been Coach Joe Vigil. In any case, this is a tough one, even for me. My secret? Keep your proteins/meats lean, eat lots of veggies and fruit, and cut down on enriched flours and sugars, and you should be good. But what's the use in all this running if you can't on occasion chow down on a box of Oreo's, you say? Go ahead. You have to indulge every once in awhile or you'll make yourself crazy. Just keep it reasonable. Maybe a cookie or two, every other night until you can ween yourself off of the sugar crutch. If that doesn't work for you, by all means go ahead and chow down. I'll see you at the finish line...fatty. Just kiding. Maybe.
6. Rubbing is racing. Actually it isn't, but it got your attention, didn't it? Entering a race can be a great incentive to maintain your training. Even if you're not out to take first place, a race can help set goals for you so that you don't embarrass yourself out there. There's no shame in being last, after all Last is a place (my son told me that one!) and they cheer just as loud. I just ask that if you go out there, finish strong and finish proud of what you've accomplished. And if that isn't good enough, remember you've probably finished more races than the guy sitting in front of the TV with the shameful crumbs of Oreo's covering his belly.
All right, this seems like a good time to wrapping things up. And so you're probably thinking that we've reached the part of the blog where I say to keep your goals realistic. Sorry, this ain't that part, and frankly, I have no idea what reasonable is (you heard me, Ziegler! I'm still waiting for you to trot your ass out here! Ha!). Personally I may never be happy until I've won the Boston Marathon. Will that ever happen? Puh-lease! But it doesn't stop me from trying. I just understand that this won't happen over-night. Likewise, good things will happen to you if you give yourself a chance to realize your goals and persevere through the tough times. There are always new ways running can reward you. 1 more mile. 10 seconds faster. 5 more pounds off the spare tire. You get the picture. Run hard, have fun!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Clarksville Half-Marathon

Hail my running brothers and sisters! First off, congratulations to all my friends (who knew I had friends!) who used this race as their first half! It was a great day for a race, if not a bit windy (we'll talk about that later). So onto the re-cap:

Pre-race: I arrived at the course, finished my usual breakfast of pb&j on toast, and quickly found the port-a-potties. I took care of business numero dos, and then I went off to stretch and warm up. 20 minutes before the starting gun, I made my way to the port-a-potties again to relieve my nervous bladder, but the line was so long that I ended up running into the woods. Interestingly, I wasn't the only one doing so, but I was the only guy!

The Start: I looked around for a couple of my friends, and finally found them right before the starting gun. I wished them luck and trotted up to the front. The race didn't have a wave start or corrals, so everyone just picked where they wanted to start.

Miles 1-4: I did in 7:12, 7:15, 7:35 and 7:37 respectively. In my typical fashion, I started out way too fast. The adrenaline was really pumping, but I would pay for it later in the race. As is also typical, the first 2 miles lied to me and told me that I felt awesome and would surely whip this course. The course was still relatively flat at this point and was easy to traverse. Mile 4 was my wake up call to how badly unprepared I was, because my left calf started to cramp up ever so slightly (but enough that it caught my attention). Part of the problem was that I only got water at the drink stations. I didn't know where the gatorade was, so I settled for water (I later learned that they ran out of water at some which sucked for the later runners). By mile 4, I was so overheated, I also made the decision to shed my long sleeve shirt and ran baring my bronze awesomeness for the rest of the race. This also resulted in a number of cheers at one spectator spot, "Go shirtless guy!!!" I of course pointed at them and yelled back, "You know it, baby!"

Miles 5-8: I did in 7:46, 7:56, 7:44, and 7:51. The middle part of the race was a real test of my patience. The course became hillier and curvier. This was also when I discovered that the course was not closed off. Traffic was intermittently coming through forcing the runners to the side of the street. Had I known that the course was not closed, I might not have run it, especially since I was nearly run over by a cement truck at mile 8. The driver clearly saw their were runners on the road, but he didn't seem to care as he plowed on through into the racer's lane. I managed to jump ahead and to the side as he finally slowed down, but it really made me angry as it had upset my pace. Add to that, the wind had picked up and suddenly I found myself running into a headwind.

Miles 9-12: I did in 8:10, 8:55, 8:58, and 8:17. This is where the wheels came off and I nearly gave up. I had been following a long line of traffic, cars, not runners, and the fumes, the headwind, and the hilly course had all taken their toll. I was nearly whipped and ready to quit, but I knew that the end was close. So I did a gut check, mentally told myself to quit acting like a particular part of a woman's anatomy, and picked up my pace at mile 12.

Mile 13.1: I did in 8:55 and 1:14. The last mile was just about holding on and finishing. My left calf was tightening up, my butt was sore, and my right ankle was on fire. I limped over the finish line despite my best effort to make a final kick. I got a PBR of 1:45:31, 13:27 minutes faster than my time 6 months earlier. I headed straight for the vitamin water (which sucks by the way. Give me gatorade any day), drank it down, ate some chicken biscuit, and wandered around as I waited for my friends to cross the line.

My final impressions of the Clarksville Half-Marathon is that it was fun but hard. It was really cool that I knew so many people running the race, but it could have been better organized. The weather was perfect except for the wind, but that just goes with the territory. The course was challenging but not overwhelming. Now, I'm going to limp back to my couch and rest my ankle. Good luck and godspeed.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

WTF was I thinking????

Hail my running brothers and sisters! Maybe you all can help me figure out WTF I was thinking when I signed up to do a half-marathon 3 (count 'em 3!) weeks after my very first marathon! Seriously, I poured a lot of time and effort into that marathon and was lucky to come up with a sub-4 hour finish, so why on God's green earth would I believe that I could turn around and bang out another 13.1 mile race 3 weeks later. Like my wife says, I'm not Tarahumara, I'm from Tull-a-homa (to get this joke, you need to have read Born to Run and shame on you if haven't read it yet).

At some point this week, I ended up having this conversation with myself:

-Joel, you've run farther than 13 miles on any given weekend, just treat this like a training run, right? Am I right?

-Wrong, asshatius! You, my friend, forget that being a Monkey Boy with banana's for brains, treat every race like...wait for it... a race! There's no training runs on race day! That young jedi is why you fail.

-Well crap on a cracker!

So what will I do? Simple, I will run my ass off despite that I haven't run over 20 miles a week in the last 3 weeks, and I will probably break something important. Hopefully it won't be a part that I tend to store my brains in at various points of the day as my wife would be very unhappy with me. Love you Dear! But I digress. Before this week, I was hoping that I could cut my time down to around 1:40 to finish. Now, I think that I'll be lucky to finish under 2 hours. I'm still excited about the race, especially since this is a first half-marathon for a couple of my friends. I could decide to pace my friends and help them finish, but we all know that would be lie. I can't be trusted to hold back on race day. Seriously, if stupid were a pill, I would be a frickin pharmacy. Pray for me, my dumbass will need it. Ugh. Good luck and godspeed.

Friday, October 30, 2009

On being 39 and a runner

Hail my running brothers and sisters! I'm staring at the clock on my computer and by my calculations, in 26 hours I will be 39 years old. 39. Years. Old. That's just 1 year away from 40! Am I upset by this? Damn right I am! Want to know why? Not because I will be middle-aged, but because turning 40 will kick me up into a new age bracket! But wait, 40-45...those guys are old, that should be cake, right? After all, I'm in the best shape of my life, right? Wrong, jacko! Those fleet footed, 1% body fat bastages are all in their running prime too, dammit!

I admitted that I crossed over to the dark side of running a long time ago. I study my training schedule, tweak my form and study my stats all to shave off those elusive seconds from my time. However I'm not content knowing that I'm getting faster, I must know also know how my competition has faired before me. Take for example, my upcoming 5k in December, the Rudolph Red Nose Run. Last year the winner of my age group finished it in 18:21 and the 2nd guy finished in 21:54. Now my newest PR for a 5k is 21:38, so that should put me in the hunt for 2nd this year, right? Wrong! Both those guys were 39 LAST year, so add a year and boom! Say hello to the 40 year old division Mr. Harwell and Mr. Dover. With a strong run, that leaves me quite possibly looking at a 1st place finish! Ha! Yes, I know I rock. May as well shine up that first place medal for me now.

But wait, that means those guys will be waiting for me in 2 years to kick me screaming back to end of the line where my punk ass belongs. Oh the ignominy! Oh the shame! To taste greatness so briefly, and then have it snatched away from my greedy, clutching fingers by a pair of middle aged hawks! This is injustice at its peak. Huh? What was that? Yes, I do realize that I haven't actually run that race yet, but what's your point? Of course, I understand that other people in my division may get faster like me also. But surely they didn't train like I have, right? Well, duh, I know that new runners who MIGHT be faster than me could always sign up also. But to all that I say that they lack any statistical weight as I refuse to acknowledge that they exist! This is about me after all, dammit!

The truth is if you run enough local races, you start to see a lot of familiar names on the leader board. And the corollary to that is, I would be lying if I said that I didn't notice who was at the top and how fast they did it. Yes, I get great satisfaction from doing well and even more from beating a previous personal record, but I also take pride in knowing that I can compete with the strongest in my division. When you're the fat kid running behind the pack at soccer practice, new found athleticism is something to be cherished. If anything, my success makes me feel younger and stronger, and I'm not quite ready to give that up at any age. So I will continue to train, to do the speed runs and the long runs, to study the previous year's results, and to seek out the races with small fields (ha!). So turning 39, not so bad. I might even do well in a couple races. At least until I turn 40. Ugh. I think that I better do some more crunches. Good luck and godspeed.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

More training notes

Hail my running brothers and sisters! I'm about a week and a half back into my strength training, and I'm pretty pissed. Apparently while I was training for my marathon, someone replaced my arms with spaghetti. And though I want to blame anyone else for this predicament, I'm afraid that I can only blame me. The sacrifice for all my speed and distance work was a marked decline in my overall strength. Sure I can run a sub-7 mile, but ask me to open a jar of pickles and we may have a problem. On Monday, I decided to see how many pull-ups I could do, and I quickly learned that I couldn't even cheat my way through 2! Ugh. It is truly sad that as I type this, my arms are so sore that I have to keep them bent at 45 degree angles lest I wish to deal with the stabbing pain of my tight forearm muscles. Still I'm looking forward to getting back to the Y tomorrow.

And for those of you asking where's the running stuff, never let it be said that I did not provide. I was thinking about my running style and form. For awhile I was trying the Pose method/Chirunning. While I did like this running form, it did not feel totally comfortable. Taking bits and pieces of it, I've decided that I'm more of a running economist. I prefer my running to be efficient and economical, the least amount of motion to obtain the most amount of gain. Keep your arms in tight, not a lot of swing outward; short, quick strides; mid-foot striking; and some forward lean but generally a tall, straight back. That being said, I'm still working on pace control. My biggest issue is still going out too fast and burning myself up early. Usually I can limp to a finish, but I would much rather do negative splits (who wouldn't, right?). So for now, I'm doing more speed work, more fartleks (let the jokes begin), and hill sprints. I hate hill sprints, but it should toughen my legs up for the abuse that I'm putting them through next year.

For those of you have asked what I have planned next, I've got a general idea of my plans for the rest of the year and next. I'm doing the Clarksville 1/2 marathon on 11/7/09 and a 5k in December. I may pick up a couple more short races before the holidays, but those are the only 2 that I'm definitely doing. The plan for next year is the Knoxville 1/2 marathon in March as a lead into the Country Music Marathon in April. Then the Peachtree 10k in July and then I'm planning on doing the Nashville Ultramarathon in October. I haven't decided on whether I'm doing 50k and 60k yet, so we'll see. I'm hoping that I can get in another marathon before October, but doing one in the summer may be pretty dumb. Other than that, I'll probably pick up smaller 5k's and 10k's along the way. If you hear of one close by, let me know and I'll try to come out with you! Good luck and godspeed.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Back to basics

Alright, the marathon is over, and that means it's back to the gym for me. I have to admit that I was neglecting my weights workout while I was putting up mileage to train for the marathon. Right now I'm easing into it as I'm still recovering from the race. Thankfully my superior genetics have allowed me to recover fairly quickly, but pardon me while I down another 4 Motrin to type the rest of this entry. Hah!

Seriously though, I need to spend some time rebuilding my overall strength if I want to keep up this level of fitness. For now, I'm doing a relatively low weight, high intensity interval workout. I'm sticking to 6 exercises: push-ups/bench, squats, curls, deadlifts, press and clean, and woodchoppers. The number of intervals and reps will change, but I'm doing a pyramid reps, i.e. 1, 2, 3, 2, 1. I'll cycle through each exercise doing the same number of reps before moving onto the next interval. The key is to do it fast with good form and no rest breaks. Then after that some cross-training cardio like the bike or elliptical. I'll do this for 2-3 days out of the week and the rest of the week will be running.

A lot of people have asked me how they can get started running. My first suggestion is just get out there and make yourself do it. You won't get anywhere unless you make yourself do it. My second suggestion is to take it slow. I realize that I didn't do that but I've been blessed with a body that can turn pie and bacon into muscle quickly. Not an easy feat, I assure you. I started out building my overall strength and endurance with weights before I seriously started running. When I did start running, I ran mostly on the treadmill till I thought that I was ready to hit the streets. For beginners, I suggest running on the treadmill no more than 10 minutes a day till you're used to it. Even then, a run-walk (i.e. walk 2 mins, run 1 min, walk 2 mins, repeat as necessary) approach till your comfortable with your stride is probably smart. After the first week, if you're feeling good about your running, then you can bump up your running by a couple more minutes, and just keep doing that until you're running marathons!

As far as general strength program, you should do 1 that builds your upper body, core and lower body. The program I'm doing is probably good if you know your proper forms for lifting. Otherwise you may need something even more basic like push-ups, sit-ups, chin-ups and squats. It doesn't matter whether you do weights first or cardio/running first. I usually do weights then cardio because I like to get warmed up that way. You'll probably be pretty sore the first couple of weeks if you haven't really done much working out, but it will be a good sore that will pay off if you stick with it.

So there you have it. Build your cardio and strength at the same time, and you'll see results. Do high intensity workouts to tire and tax your muscles but keep the number of reps low to avoid injury. One final note about treadmills. I don't like them and won't run on one now unless I'm desperate, however a treadmill will be much easier on the joints than the road until you've got a good baseline tolerance for your new fitness program. All righty then, I think I've done my share of fitness preaching tonight. Good luck and godspeed.

Monday, October 19, 2009

My first marathon

It's official, my first marathon is now behind me. I had a great time, but man, was it hard! My official finishing time was 3:52:31 with an average pace of 8:53 mins/mile. My splits tell the actual tale of my blissful optimism, my desperate search for strength, and my eventual fall to reality. According to my Garmin, my mile splits broke down like this: 1-8:36. 2-8:22, 3-8:06, 4-8:16, 5-7:46, 6-7:41, 7-8:16, 8-7:57, 9-7:54, 10-7:59. 11-7:56, 12-7:53, 13-7:59, 14-8:03, 15-8:04, 16-8:12, 17-8:38, 18-8:54, 19-9:52, 20-9:29, 21-9:09, 22-9:46, 23-9:40, 24-9:57, 25-10:13, 26-11:06.

I could describe to you, quite poetically, how feeling the adrenaline pump through my veins that I surged out of the starting gate and fought with my own sensibilities to maintain that too-quick pace. I could amuse you with my mantra of "Go Vols!" at every mile marker that turned from a shout to a whimper as the marathon progressed. I could recount how I felt the momentum slip from my grasp as I climbed up the straight-away between miles 11 and 14 and jealously cursed the half-marathoners turning to finish their race at mile 13. I could regale you with how my body turned against me at mile 18 and how my muscles started to fail, but through unknown strength and mindless perseverance, I soldiered on through mile 24. I could tell you that I must have looked like a mindless zombie as I climbed up the last incline on mile 26, and that I thanked the Lord as the last .2 miles went downhill, carrying me quickly into the finishing chute with what little strength I had left.

Instead I'll finish the blog that I started last week before my marathon and tell you what I discovered. I found out that I can honor my mother by dedicating this marathon to her, but in the numbing chill of the morning as I pushed past mile 19, I didn't see her. I didn't hear God or discover Enlightenment at mile 24 when I saw the runner in front of me pull off the course and vomit her guts out as I slogged past her. I didn't feel any wave of spirituality or grace descend upon me and re-invigorate my aching, sore muscles as I crossed the finish line. In the end, what drove me on was the faith from my family and friends, who watched me run past the Horseshoe, and the bleeps and dings from my cellphone as the rest of my friends and family cheered me on through my Facebook page (I had my phone with me, but I didn't get to read any of the posts till after the race). As much as this was my victory in memory of my mother, this was a testament to the strength of everyone that supported me and cheered me on. I don't know how other runners did this before me, but I know that I couldn't have done it without all of your encouragement. So thank you to my family, the Richs, and everyone else who bombed my FB. You made this ridiculously difficult task worth every grueling, amazing mile.

On a final note (I know, I know...can this post be any longer?), I'm dead sore. It's painful to walk and worse to go up and down stairs, but I'm already planning my next marathon. My knees and ankles may be shot right now, but I'm going to heal and hit the road again as soon as I can. That's devotion. Or insanity. Either way, I hope I'm fast. Good luck and godspeed.

Friday, October 16, 2009

What made me start

Hail my running brothers and sisters! I will admit that I’m very lucky to have the success that I’ve had at running and weight loss, and I’m often asked, “What made you start?” With my first marathon looming over the weekend, this seems like the best time to talk about what has driven me so far.

As I’ve said before, it started with weight loss in August, 2008. I had had enough of being the happy, fat guy in the office, and the weight loss challenge in my office brought the perfect opportunity to embark on my quest. But admittedly it wasn’t just my own self-image that was driving my quest (although it was a large reason). At that time, my mom had stage 4 breast cancer, and she was having a hard fight. The cancer had spread throughout her body and left her very weak. My family and I had tried to take advantage of any free time that we had to spend it with my mom. My parents had always been an inspiration to me, and I was especially close to my mother. So when she told me not to take my health for granted, I listened. I started to work out in earnest. With the help of my secretary, I started running. With the patience of my wife and the rest of my family, I continued running.

Last October when my mom went to the hospital for the last time, I was still running. After spending all night with her in the hospital, I would run when my father or my brother came to sit with her. My mother passed away around 11:00 PM on October 25, 2008, and the next day I ran again. After her funeral, I ran a couple miles more. I’m not sure why I kept running, but I did. I didn’t know what else to do, other than to run. I know, I know. The loss of a loved one and the pursuit of health/exercise/running is such a cliché that it may as well be textbook. So sue me…that’s what I did too.

The run provided me so many things that I didn’t even know that I needed. It re-shaped me physically, giving me confidence even though my world had been turned upside down. It gave me time to re-focus on the things that mattered in my life, like my family and my work. It taught me how to keep moving, how to endure pain, and to overcome adversity, even when I thought I didn’t have any strength left. After running 6 miles all out and taxing yourself physically and mentally, you realize that you can handle most things that life throws at you.

Every mile since then has been a test of what I can do and who I am. Every mile is a testament to the man that I’ve become thanks to my parents. I miss my mom. I miss her a lot. As my marathon approaches, I wonder what will happen when I hit the “wall.” Will the pain and the endorphins help me achieve some type of enlightenment? Will my mother see what I’ve done and be proud of me? Will she think that I’m a colossal idiot for putting myself and my family through the rigors of all this training? I don’t know. I guess I’ll see. Maybe around mile 24, I'll have my answers. Like I said, my mother passed away on October 25, 2008, so I’ve decided that I will run some type of marathon, be it a half, a full or maybe even an ultra, every October in honor of my mother. At least as long as my body allows or till my guilt and loss find some peace.

Again, I have to thank my wife for all her support. She knew before me, why I was running. She understood why I was punishing myself before I had sorted it all out. She even had a special marathon shirt made for me. On the front it says “Team Vallejo.” On the right sleeve, it says “4 Lola.” On the back, it says “Wicked Fast.” I couldn’t have gotten this far without my family’s understanding and patience, and I hope that I don’t disappoint them either. The Run has carried me further than I thought that I could go, and I’m hoping that it will carry me further still. So with that all I can say now is wish me good luck and godspeed.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Pimp My Run

Hail my running brothers and sisters! In my journey towards running Nirvana, I have tested and used a number of gadgets and doodads and accessories that would make the tightest of skinflints cringe and the techno-runner weep with joy. I have studied enough garments to make Tim Gunn proud. As such, here are a list of insights that I have garnered from my hoarding of running goods:

1. Everyone knows I love my Garmin Forerunner 305. I refuse to run without it.It gives me relevant information about speed, pace and elevation. With the included heart rate monitor, I can even correlate my effort to various points in the run. I thought this was gimmicky at first, but I have come to value this information. I can now see how much effort a certain pace requires. I also love the online utilities that allow me to sync my Garmin to my computer and upload my runs. and both have utilities that will import your recorded runs directly to their sites. Plus 3 also takes your mileage and makes donations to specific charities of your choice based on your daily distance or work out effort.

2. My second running must-have is my RoadID. This simple tool has your name and contact information in the event of an emergency. They have it in lots of colors and a few different styles. I wear mine all the time as a shout out to other runners that I'm a runner too. I realize this is obnoxious and goofy, but it's less obtrusive than my GPS for this job. Ha!

3. As far as tunes go, my fans know that I'm a staunch opponent to Itunes and Ipod. I can't stand Apple's DRM policy or the clunky way Itunes syncs. Other than the obvious factors to consider (size, sound, storage capacity, battery life, price), I prefer an MP3 player that has an FM radio, so I can listen to the news or a football game. It's also nice to have one that has a memory card slot for additional storage. My current player is a 4 GB Sansa Fuze. It was relatively cheap and with an 8 GB memory card, it can handle all my tunes. It will also play videos in a pinch but the converter is a pain. I used to have a Sansa Clip for working out, but it was not very durable and did not tolerate my ridiculous sweat rate. I'm considering replacing it with a comparable Sony or Creative Zen, but for now, I'm using my Fuze. For purchasing and organizing my tunes, I use Amazon's MP3 store and Windows Media Player respectively.

4. You name the brace/support device and I probably have one. I have so many that I keep them in a separate gym bag. I probably wouldn't need them if I didn't keep over-training and dinging myself up, but I don't see that happening in the near future. The only compression sleeves that I use on a consistent basis are my calf sleeves that help with blood flow, muscle recovery, and injury prevention. My McDavid sleeves appear to be more therapeutic in function and really seem to help my shins. I have a pair of 2XU calf sleeves that I use for races. They are lighter than the McDavid stockings, but they seem to only offer marginal assistance, if any, to my shins. My Zensa calf sleeves are the compromise between the 2XU and the McDavid that I use on my training runs. They are bit heavier and sturdier than the 2XU and seem to offer more in muscle recovery and injury prevention.

5. As far as hydration options, I have tried fuel belts, hydration backpacks and handheld bottles. By far, I prefer handhelds (with a handstrap, of course) for the majority of my runs. I like the form factor of the Amphipod line as they are easier to hold onto, but the valuables pouch is on the handstrap and can be unwieldy with all my keys. The Nathan line isn't bad, but the handstrap can feel loose at times. I'm not a huge fan of handhelds with a thermal sleeve as I can't see how much fluid I have left. The biggest problem however is that they do not hold enough liquid to sustain me over runs of 15+ miles. For those long runs, I will also use my Camelbak, hydration backpack. Still the sloshing of the pack can really through off my stride especially on a faster run. Fuel belts always seem to be sliding around on my frame and then jumping into my back as they slosh around loudly.

6. Socks should have significant cushion on the soles and toes, a breathable upper, and some type of moisture wicking. My everyday running socks are Addidas Performance Socks. My favorite socks for racing are Balega running socks.

7. Shoes are trickier as you will need a shoe to cater to your specific needs. I believe that I over-pronate but I have been working on improving my bio-mechanics. As such, I can also use a neutral shoe. Then you may need a shoe to address whether you have flat, high or normal arches. I have 2 pairs of training shoes (a pair of Asics 2130's and a pair of Brooks Adrenaline 9's), 2 pairs of trial shoes (Nike Structure III's and Asics Enduro's) and 1 pair of racing shoes (Nike Tri-D III's). I rotate my training shoes everyday to preserve them and to prevent repetitive stress injuries to my feet. I like my Nike Tri-D III's for racing as it is light neutral shoe. When buying a running shoe, consider going to running store to have your stride analyzed. They can usually help advise you as to which shoe would help any issues that you have. Also buy your shoe in a half to full size bigger as your feet will tend to swell, and the extra room will help avoid blisters and black toenails.

8. Running clothes are mostly a matter of preference. However there a huge number of brands that offer moisture wicking and breathability. I like most of the Nike brands as well as the C9 brand from Target. I also prefer to wear compression shorts under my running shorts as to letting my boys fly free in the built-in-webbing. Reebok makes a nice compression short that is actually much lighter and cheaper than my Underarmor shorts, but Underarmor has a wider variety of styles and lengths that I've found.

9. For night time/pre-dawn running, I've tried several different reflector and light options, but the easiest, if not the dorkiest, has to be the headlamp. It's nice to have the extra light without having to worry about carrying a flashlight over any long distance. I'm using a Ray-O-Vac headlamp with 5 different main lamp settings. The main lamp is also adjustable so that you can change the angle of the light. It has a red light on the rear battery pack for cars approaching from behind you. It has an adjustable main strap that goes around your head as well as a second strap that goes over the top of your head to keep the headlamp from sliding down your forehead. This second strap might not be necessary if the lamp were a bit lighter, but I think it is probably a good thing to have.

Well that covers most of the junk that I've bought lately, but is any of this stuff really necessary? With the exception of the RoadID (if you are a road runner), then the answer is probably no. The beauty of running is that it can be as low tech/basic as a pair of shoes and socks, some shorts and t-shirt. Beyond those basic necessities (there are some people who would argue that the basic list is still too long, but those minimalist guys are pretty hardcore, and possibly a little crazy), anything else is just icing on the cake. They aren't necessary, but some, like the GPS, can be really fun. My thought is, the more you dress like a runner, the more you will feel like one and will be more comfortable going out every day or every other day to conquer your mileage demons. So good luck and godspeed.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Things I don't understand

Yeah, I know; the things that I don't understand could take up several volumes...just ask my wife. But in this case, my musings are fairly specific. I was in court on Tuesday and the judge told me that she was impressed with my weight loss and she didn't think that she could ever do it. Then just the other day, one of my friends who has also taken up running stated rather matter-of-factly that she was not going to train like me, because she wasn't ever going to be as fast as me. But why is that? Of course, I have the benefit of superior genetics (;p), but can't we all break through our limitations?

Take the Biggest Loser. Those guys lose hundreds of pounds in such a short time that it seems implausible. So how is it possible? Is it just time and training? They have the benefit of nutritionists, physical trainers, and time dedicated to just losing weight. Much like athletes who dominate the playing fields, they focus their life in pursuit of their chosen sport...becoming stronger, faster and better than the other guy. Granted Peyton Manning, Tiger Woods, Ryan Hall and Kara Goucher are all also supremely gifted to the extent that few will ever reach their level of achievement or talent.

Does real life (i.e. paying bills, getting kids to school, etc.) make the difference? I couldn't have gotten as far as I have without the support and understanding of my family. Unlike those sports mega-stars, my life doesn't revolve solely around my chosen sport. Running doesn't pay the bills, so I do have to spend some time working according to that pesky IRS.

Then there is the genetics/talent factor as one of my friends pointed out to me. My level of fitness won't be the same as someone else's. I think that I can safely say that I will not ever achieve the 4 minute mile. But if given time and training, why can't I? Assuming that I could train like an Olympic level athlete would I ever be able to achieve Olympic-like greatness? I seriously doubt it. Like my wife says, if it was easy, everyone would do it.

Surely attitude is part of the equation. If I don't have the desire to pound my body against the road, I wouldn't do it. But attitude can only take you so far, I think. Is it the magical formula of attitude, ability, training and time? Attitude motivates you. Ability sets your genetic ceiling. Training teaches you how to reach your goal. Time shapes and mixes the 3 other factors towards reaching your goal.

I was looking over some of my old races. This time last year I was barely running 10 mins/mile over a 5k. Now, I've somehow managed to reach 6:59 mins/mile! That's not a world-shaking time, but I would never have guessed that I could have achieved that last year. I was just hoping to be able to run 8 mins/mile by this time. Part of it has to be my utter disregard for proper training regimens, and part of it has to be my family's willingness to endure my time away from home. But what is the other part? I never considered myself an athlete of any level, and I barely do now. As my wife says, "What is my deal?" I don't know. And now I've kinda forgotten my point. Maybe it is: we can all be great in our own ways, if we can get out there and try? Later kids.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Quick thoughts 9/21/09

1. No cross country practice. I was kinda bummed about that, because I really like working with the kids. They're all doing great. No one has taken my advice of peeing in the bushes yet. However one parent/coach seemed to enjoy my explanation of bladder tension and the effects on running to the kids.

2. Did a quick 8 miles today. That's the most mileage that I've gotten in days. I need a long run so badly that my muscles are starting to ache with the need. I've tried to make up for the lack of long runs with more speed/tempo runs, but it's just not the same.

3. I just finished reading "Again to Carthage" by John Parker, Jr. I really enjoyed it. It's probably one of the best, if not best, fictional books about running that I've ever read. It really gets into the head of the runner without being too preachy. I'll probably too a longer review along with "Once a Runner" later.

4. I picked up "Big Bang Theory" Season 1 on DVD. It's been good to get in touch with my inner geek. After spending so much time re-building my physical attributes, it's been fun to remember that I have an awesome mind also!

5. Thomas Bagels makes a good cinnamon swirl bagel. It could use a bit more cinnamon, and it would be nice if it were made from whole wheat, but it's still darn tasty with 10 grams of protein to boot!

6. I still think that women make dominant distance/endurance runners with their ability to endure pain. I suspect that it has something to do with their biology to endure the ridiculous pain of child birth. While women may not be faster than men due to the differences in muscle mass, I still believe that the mind and body's ability to handle pain means that women can run farther and longer. If you don't believe that women can endure pain, ask my wife how life with me is.

That's it for now. Later kids and keep on running!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The nasty runner

No, no...this is not an entry-tribute to Janet Jackson (Ms. Jackson, if you're nasty). Sorry kids, this post is more along the lines of the nasty part of running/racing...the gastrointestinal part. My decision to do this blog was to give new runners my insights and thoughts about running, so never let it be said that I ever held anything back. Plus it's just funny to talk about pee and poop sometimes (this is why my wife says that I shouldn't be allowed to talk to the kids).

While those who know me will think that this is just an excuse to talk about my two favorite subjects at the same time (running and shatting), this can be a pretty serious topic for the serious runner. For instance, the night before a big run or race, you should eat early to give your body enough time to process all that food. Timing gets tricky because you want to make sure you take your deuce before you hit the road. Trust one likes to run with that heavy feeling in their gut. It tends to slow you down and if you become preoccupied by it (like I would) then it could take away your focus from your run. Plus it could be disasterous trying to find a port-a-potty in the middle of your run. When I was on vacation in Gulf Shores, I hadn't planned properly and left the condo without visiting my "office." Around mile 10 the pressure started to build and by mile 12 it felt like I was carrying a boulder in my gut while trying to waddle up the road. Fortunately, I was running near the public beach, so I was able to make a quick dash into the port-a-potty. That was a foul experience, but afterwards I felt much lighter and was able to finish my run (albeit very slowly as dehydration had started to set in by that time). Your timing issue can also be complicated if you're traveling some distance to a race. If I'm driving anywhere over 20 minutes away, I say get there early and take care of business there. Yes, it's public. Yes, it's gross. But the other option is waking up super-early and risk being overly tired.

The same rules apply for numero uno. Like I tell my cross country team, make sure you take a leak before you start running. No one wants to see you taking care of business on the side of the course, becaue it didn't occur to you to pee before the race started.

And while we're on the topic, I may as well mention gas. I imagine that there are several people (particularly the ladies) out there who wouldn't dream of ripping a fart on the course. Me, I see letting one go as an awesome weapon. First, the smell of well-balanced diet upon passing through a runner's system can be so toxic that it will knock out any would-be passers behind you. Second, like any other gastrointestinal activity, the pressure on one's bowels can be adverse to the runner as he or she tightens and tenses up to keep that gas under wraps. I find releasing it into the ether is somewhat like a turbo-boost in that after it is gone, I suddenly feel relaxed and free.

Ideally on race day, my morning will go like this. Wake up, grab a shower, and grab a bite to eat and drink. Drop a deuce, grab my gear and head out the door for my race. At the race, check in, take a leak and do some striders to warm up. If it's a long run, then I might have another bite to eat and drink (very little. Just enough to make sure I have something on my stomach but not too much as to weigh me down), and then it's back to little runner's room to take my last pee about 5-10 minutes before the starting gun. Any race/run over 10 miles may require a mid-race pit stop. Not fun, especially if it's a croweded field, but you gotta do what you gotta do. Okay that's enough for me. It's comic night and I have some reading to catch up on now. Later kids.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Tuneless in the 'Boro

Lately I have not been listening to my tunes when I run a race. My thoughts being that I can concentrate better on the what's going on around me without the distraction of the music. Today I had a 10k which I did in 44:59, 7:15/mile. A personal best for me that placed me 38th out of 589 timed finishers. Unfortunately that also translated into a 10th place finish for my age group. No year-long, free Chic-Fil-A sandwiches for me. Sigh. Still a personal best is a personal best. But it does make me wonder if I had my tunes, would that have made a difference? Honestly there was no way that I would have shaved the 5 minutes off of my time to qualify for the free chicken sammiches, but it would have been nice to have scored 7:00/mile (which consequently is my next goal). Studies have shown that the proper tunes can help increase one's pace by a few seconds. I imagine it is the combination of the beat and the distraction from the difficulty of the task that the music provides. After all, I have no problem digging on some Black Eyed Peas when I'm slugging out a long run, why not fall back to my tunes on a middle distance race? There is the argument that you don't know what's going on around you, so that you could easily trip or even miss a turn. Then there's the sneaky bastages who sneak around you while you're jamming to Phil Collins or Celine Dion. When that happens, you have to burn precious energy playing catch up. Ugh. Not fun. Still there is a 15k coming up, that if I decide to run in it, I think I will break out my mp3 player and then it's me and Jesse Mac tearing up the greenways! Yeehaw. Later kids.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The ugly side of the long run

Saturday morning, I posted a 24 mile run from my parents' house in Tullahoma to Manchester and back. It took me 4:04:19 which translated to a 10:10/mile. One would, that's not bad for a training run, right? Well...yes and no. Considering that the week before I did 22 miles at 10:17/mile, yes it was a good run. Considering that I have only been running a year, 10 minute miles for 24 miles are pretty good. Now for the frustrating part...well, at least for me. 17 miles into my run, I had been clipping along between 8:30-9:45/mile without too much pain. Then I cross the magical barrier of mile 17, and it's like someone stabbed me in my left calf. After that I play chicken with the pain, running as far as I can till it hurts bad enough to stop and walk before I do it again. I notice by mile 20 that my whole body is starting to hurt now. My feet are burning, my back is sore, and my kidneys feel like someone has taken a bat to them. Each step is struggle, but the thing that really hacks me off is that I didn't finish my run in under 4 hours! Just call me wussy boy. Later kids.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Percy Warner Park hates me

I could have sworn after knocking out 17 miles at Percy Warner Park and 2 days of 11 milers that Percy Warner Park and I had come to an understanding. No longer would I be intimidated by its steep grades or its quick switchbacks all along a punishing 11.2 mile route. Instead I would appreciate its fine natural beauty on the edge of Nashville and sing its praises as the ultimate training/proving ground. After all if you could not get faster or stronger running PWP, it just would not be happening for you.

Nope, despite this tacit agreement, PWP gave me a gigantic middle finger and told me that I still have much to learn before I could claim a truce with this Nashvillian site. To those close to me, I have voiced a wistfully hopeful desire to one day qualify to run the Boston Marathon. After several strong finishes in smaller races and 9:40/mile paces around PWP on my 11 mile runs, I actually considered that this goal might be reachable fairly soon. But, to quote Jeff Horowitz in My First 100 Marathons, "Man plans and God laughs."

My first 11 miles went by uneventfully and quickly. I had managed 9:15/miles and gleefully believed that if I could maintain this pace at PWP, then surely a Boston qualifying time could not be far away. On my second lap, I stopped at my car, re-filled my water bottle, grabbed a quick bite to eat, and chased it all with some energy gels to keep my strength up. Then off I went back to my previous pace, aware that it could all go wrong at any moment, but hopeful that it would not.

It was at mile 13 that I realized I was going to be in trouble. I was hitting one of PWP's upward slopes when I glanced down at my water bottle. My usual technique for hydration is to sip on my Gatorade before each hill, however my body must have been more depleted than I had realized at the 1/2 way mark. When I examined my bottle, I realized that I had already drank over a 1/3 of my Gatorade with still over 9 miles to go. Not a good sign because, despite the shadowed route, the temperature would continue to go up and I would become even more dehydrated. Ugh.

At mile 14, I was almost 1/2 way through my water bottle. I was hitting the downslope of PWP, so I figured I would be okay for the next few miles, especially if I caught a nice breeze. As I rounded another curve, I heard the voices of young ladies behind me chatting easily but quickly coming up on me. I assumed from their pace that they must be on bikes as I myself was clipping along at an 8:30/mile pace and they were moving fast. I didn't look back to avoid tripping over myself or losing precious seconds on my time, but I figured that they would pass me soon. I was correct. They did pass me quickly and easily. However, they weren't on bikes. They were runners, in their teens, like me out for their morning run chatting about this and that as they left me in the dust. Unlike me, they seemed to glide in perfect synchronization down the hills while I sucked in every last breath of oxygen and literally begged my legs to stop embarrassing this old geezer in front of these young ladies (by this time I was well behind them and I don't think that they even noticed I was there except that they had to run around me like I was a stump in the middle of the road). Alas, I would not be able to make ground on these evil nymphs placed on this earth to mock my efforts, so I resigned myself to my pace and trudged onward, confident that I would get my pace.

Around mile 15 and after foolishly trying to up my pace, my water bottle was 1/2 empty, and I received the 1st real sign of my downfall. I began to feel a slight twitch in my left quad. I didn't panic, but I assessed my situation. I was feeling sore, tired, and out of breath, so I decided to slow down. If I cramped up any more, it might end my day, and I still had over 7 miles of up-slopes till I would reach my car. This strategy of speeding up and slowing down when I felt bad worked well until I hit another downhill and took it too quickly. My leg cramped up like a window blind getting yanked up to the top. This little bit of painful ecstacy pulled me up short and I had to massage out my calf before I could move forward. I played this little game of "Where's the cramp" for the next 5 miles. In the meantime, my water bottle got dangerously low till I had 2 sips left for my last mile.

At several points of my last few miles, I noticed several other people walking or jogging in the opposite direction of my route. Several were elderly women holding 1/2 full bottles of water. I had briefly considered buying those bottles off of them, but I realized I didn't have any money. I then considered mugging them for their water. After all, it was survival of the fittest and surely they didn't have many years left, right? Of course, I could barely move my legs, much less pimp-slap an old broad, so it became clear to me that I would probably be the one laid out on the ground. I swear that I could hear the news report now, "Local runner bitch-slapped by a blue-haired walker." See...not good.

In any case, I made my last mile on my last bit of Gatorade. You would think after this little misadventure, I might be deterred from attempting this again. You would be wrong. Instead I did what I always do, I considered what I would need to do to beat my time. Clearly by upping my fluids, I would have made it much easier and faster. Therefore if I add in more fluids, I should be able to run an extra 4 miles! I like that plan. This is why my wife says that I'm not so bright. That's it for now. Later kids.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

What a pain

Okay, so I'm sitting in the dentist chair this morning waiting to get my 1 cavity filled. As usual, Dr. Manning comes in makes his usual pleasant small talk and then takes a ridiculously long needle and jams it into my mouth. And as usual, he says, "There's a little sting. That didn't hurt too bad, did it?" I shake my head no, and then he leaves to let the novocaine set in. The funny thing is this time, I didn't curse him under my breath as he left, because of course it hurt! It always hurts, dammit! But curiously, not this time. Not so much. I pondered this for a moment and wondered if this might be another side benefit from all my running.

There's a favorite quote from one of my many geeky books that goes "No lesson is truly learned until it is purchased with pain." Or in other words...pain teaches us what we are capable of or what we can endure. I'm sure there is a fair contingent of my friends out there who will read this and say, "Look. That sick bastage is now into S&M!" For the record, I am not into S&M...but some light spanking can be fun. Just kidding! I swear! Maybe. Nevermind. In any case, for runners, and for me in particular, pain teaches us how far and how fast we can go. I just finished Personal Record by Rachel Toor. In her book, she asks this competitive runner what his secret was, and he replied that he could endure more pain than the other guy.

As I've mentioned, if you run long and hard enough, running eventually becomes an exercise in pain management to push yourself just a little bit farther and a little bit faster. Every runner must navigate the myriad of aches and pains that accompany our sport just to make it home. Shin splints, twisted ankles, pulled muscles, side stitches and general soreness are just a fact of life for most runners. We ride through these maladies like surfers trying to hang on to dear life as a gigantic wave comes crashing down on them. The hope with every run is that the ever-so-familiar pain will some avoid you and jump to that other poor slob behind you so you can achieve some brief moment of glory. For me, I have to constantly assess whether the pain in my left ankle or the ever present stinging in my shins are something serious or just another test to grind through. Usually when I've decided that those signs are minor and have pushed on through to my next mile, my lungs start to burn as I gasp to take in precious bursts of oxygen to keep my body moving. Runners know that if we can just make it to the finish line, then we can collapse, happily, knowing that we gave the run our all. While the pain and misery can be overwhelming and debilitating, it can also be cathartic and exhilirating. Every runner has at least 1 story of how they overcame pain and weakness to cross the finish line and meet their goals. The pain becomes our badge of honor and accomplishment to show our friends and peers how we overcame adversity to meet our destiny

Then comes the post-run recovery. A cold/ice bath is a particularly torturious activity. This alleged "remedy" tests one's endurance, and sanity, as you sit in a tub of cold water and/or ice to heal the numerous micro-tears that you have inflicted on your legs. For convenience, I prefer sitting in a cold bath for 20+ minutes. While any movement in the cold water is like a quick stab to the genitals with a pointy stick, I can usually expect that my legs will feel pretty good afterwards. I've become so addicted to this therapy that I even jump in the shower while the water is still cold and is heating up. I suspect that if I had a sem-reliable source that told me whacking myself in the head with a 2x4 would make me faster, then I'm sure I would do that also. I swear that I'm not a masochist. I'm just a runner, too dumb to know when to quit.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Coaching Tips for the Insane

As many of you know, not only am I inflicting my insanity on my close friends, but now I'm inspiring/torturing a whole new generation of runners. Our first practice was fairly low key, just a few laps around the school for the kids. Watching the kids run did give me a few new ideas for their training, especially since I needed some new/different/safe ideas. Apparently throwing wrenches at 3-6 graders is frowned upon by other parents and teachers. Who knew? I'm thinking instead of grabbing a hockey mask and chasing the kids around the school! Don't worry, I'll give them a headstart. I'm also considering making the slowest kid run with my hyperactive, 80 lb. lab puppy. Jack will get those kids running!

My personal training is progressing along nicely as I get ready to hit the home stretch of my training. I knocked out an easy 11.33 miles today at a 9:40/mile pace. I tried my warm up at steeplechase, but I decided that I was just as likely to twist my ankle from running on that horse-pocked track. My form has been pretty solid as has my endurance and speed. So today, I decided to work on my breathing. My new training trick was to sing while I ran. I figured if I could keep running while I was singing, then I would have to be breathing efficiently to maintain that speed. Now I imagine the young lady walking her dog wasn't ready for sweaty Filipino zip past her blaring out the Hannah Montana soundtrack, but she did wave hello despite her bewilderment.

On my self-designed training schedule, this week will be mostly cross-training with some light, easy mileage. With my 12 miles that I logged today and the 20+ miles I hope to log on Saturday, that leaves a couple of short runs this week. I may try to find a track somewhere and do some speedwork, but I'm also considering taking 2 days off if I can keep my damn face out of the refrigerator.

Also I still haven't decided on a slogan for the back of my marathon t-shirt that my wife is ordering. I was leaning towards "The distance between pride and santiy is 26.2 miles" but my lovely wife says that it isn't funny enough. Any ideas? Okay, I'm outta here. Later kids.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Random thoughts for 8/18/09

What do 4 deer, 2 jackrabbits, 3 squirrels, 30 ounces of Gatorade (orange of course!), a pack GU energy gels, and a middle-aged Filipino have in common? We were all in Percy Warner Park at 6:00 AM as I trudged along the 11.2 mile Main Drive for my long run on Sunday. I ended up doing 17.78 miles at 2:50:11 (9:34 mins/mile). I had planned on doing that distance at a nice slow, leisurely pace, but my pride got in the way of my sanity. I ended up attacking the hills and flying down the downhills. I felt good after the run, if not tired, later that day. However when I tried to do an easy run on Monday, I felt tight and sore all over. My cold bath seemed to help but for some reason, I still felt tight.

Tuesday, I got my new Garmin Forerunner 305 and I'm totally digging my new running toy. My wife let me buy it in moment of weakness, and I'm so glad she did. This thing is AWESOME!! It has a heart rate monitor and can show me my heart rate, elevation and speed at various points on the run. That is wicked cool! (By the way, I'm bringing back "wicked." I think that it has been out of circulation long enough that it needs to be brought back.) Anyway, I did a quick 2 miles around the neighborhood to test it out and it did not disappoint. The only think thing that could be a slight problem is that the face has so much information, the display type ends up being a bit smaller than I like. Such is the price for all those wonderful stats, so I will endure!

Finally with school starting, I have signed up to be an assistant coach to my son's cross-country team. It looks like I'll be working with mostly 3rd-6th graders which should be fun in that way its fun to herd cats. I kid. I kid. Actually I'm looking forward to it, but I've got to figure out some fun running games that don't make it seem like they might be learning something or they will turn on me. It has been suggested to me that chasing the children and throwing wrenches at them might not be appropriate...or safe. But I figure, if they can dodge a wrench, then they can run a mile. Right? All right. That's it for now. Later, kids.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Clearly we have all lost our minds

After my lovely, and very patient wife, pointed out to me that I had become that "guy" that I used to hate (you know the one...that guy who knows so much about being healthy that he's cramming it down your throat) I have seriously tried to tone it down. At least in public. Here in my little corner of the blogging world, I will still be as arrogant and self-righteous as ever. Which brings me to my rant of the week, and how it all started with ice cream.

Ice cream. My children love it. My wife loves it, and I love it. However in recent months I have tried very hard to avoid, but this isn't easy when your children insist on visiting the ice cream store. Case in point, I had taken my family to Knoxville for my wife's 20th high school reunion. During the weekend, I took the kids to Marble Slab Creamery while my wife did a little last minute shopping before the reunion. The children ordered their usual vanilla ice cream with various toppings, while I deprived myself cursing the evil sugary goodness of strawberry and chocolate ice cream covered with strawberries. We sat down at a table in the store, and that's when I saw this.--->

On the left is a box/info card to join the Marble Slab fan club and on the right is a box/info card to join a local 24/7 health club. The Marble Slab Mail entitles you to receive news and special offers all about their ice cream, I'm sure. It just struck me as sad/odd/funny that they would even promote a 24/7 health club while they are pimping their ice cream. Then I figured it out. I as the unwary consumer decide to get me double scoop of double fudge fatberry on a cone. While licking the napkin holding my cone for the last remnants of ice cream, I realize how low I have fallen and immediately dedicate myself to re-building my body! Lo and behold, there is the application card for the health club right there in the ice cream store. Sign me up! After a week of grueling workouts, success! I have lost 2 lbs. On this day, I receive my coupon from the ice cream store and decide, "Well I've done so great, I should treat myself." Pack up the kids and off we go to the ice cream store, and the whole cycle begins again. Frankly this marketing is pure genius. I'm not sure why we don't do this type of cross-promotion all the time. For instance, why not sell beer outside the AA meetings? And wouldn't churches save more wayward souls if they set up a recruiting booth in the strip clubs. And while, I applaud casino's foresight in putting atm's in their lobbies, I think that they could make lots more money if the government set up social security disbursement offices next to the pit bosses.

Seriously, when will we stop the madness? Rewarding oneself for accomplishing your goals are fine, but over-indulgence is a totally different story. The problem that I see is that we over-indulge a lot. A lot. Serving sizes are too big. Treats are super-saturated with fat and sugar. I'm not saying that we shouldn't eat and enjoy ice cream. Just don't over-do it, okay? Later kids.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Annual Review

As I sit here typing after the 5th time that I have begged/demanded that my children go to sleep, I can't help but reflect on how far I've come in the last year. It seems particularly proper for this self reflection at this time since I started my fitness training in earnest just last August. So let's take a look at what has happened in the last year.

Last year, the majority of my free time was spent playing video games all night and racing up the stairs for another bag of chips during lulls in the action. My weight had topped out (or at least so I say) at a whopping 210 lbs. My exercise regime was sporadic at best, consisting mainly of yoga, stretching exercises and some light weights for 30 minutes in the evening, 3 nights a week. My diet was mostly 3 big meals of red meat, bacon, pie, some fatty carb, bacon and more pie. I would wash it all down with 4-5 Diet Sundrops per day with a couple of glasses of juice or flavored water for good measure. My sleep cycle lasted a measely 4 hours, barely long enough to scratch the surface of whatever nocturnal fantasy was lurking in the dark recesses of my brain. The thought of running 1 mile, much less 26.2 miles, was so incomprehensible to me that I could only imagine doing so if there was bacon and pie sitting on a table of money at the end of the race. And while I never timed myself, I imagine that I would have been lucky to run a 15 minute mile without stopping.

This year, the majority of my free time is spent blogging, facebooking, running and planning runs. My weight has bottomed out (or so I say) at a lean 155 lbs. My main exercise is running (what a shocker!) 4-6 days a week. My weekly mileage is anywhere from 20 to 40 miles total. I used to spend more time cross-training and lifting weights, however lack of time and a desire to increase my distance has me focusing less on weight training. I now try to eat 6 small meals a day. My diet is mostly high protein, healthy fats and carbs, and low sugar. I'm down to 1 Diet Sundrop, 4-6 bottles of water, 1-2 bottles of Gatorade, and 1 class of low-fat chocolate milk a day. I don't really count fat grams or calories, but I do try to keep them on the low side. My preference is organic or mostly unprocessed foods to eat and snack on during the day. I even make my own trail mix! My sleep patterns regrettably haven't changed much. I prefer to get 6 hours of sleep a night, but I'm usually lucky to get in 5 hours of sleep which is barely enough time to allow my body to rest and recover from the beating it takes putting up mileage. I have been trying to run a race every month, on top of my marathon training. I completed my first 1/2 marathon in April and am registered for my first full maratihon in October. I'm also planning on helping coach my son and daughter's cross-country team. At the beginning of this year, I was doing 5k's at 9:30 mins/mile, but now I'm clocking 7:30 min-miles for 5k's.

I've surprised even myself with the progress I've made this year. What doesn't surprise me is that I've had to beg/demand my children another 4 times to go to sleep as I've typed this out. Sigh. Some things never change. I guess I'm out. Later kids.

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