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.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Runners rule! Joggers drool!

Just kidding. The other night my good friend Dawn (who I see from time to time. Ha!) asked me what was the difference between running and jogging. To emphasize her point, she argued that several years ago, people would go for a 'jog' whereas now everyone goes for a 'run.' Her point being that she did not consider herself a runner but a jogger. My answer was something in my usual arrogant and condescending manner along the lines of joggers are wimps.

Seriously though, what is the difference? Is it just a term of art? Is there a minimum pace to be considered a runner? Do I have to be running races to be considered a runner? Or is it because I try to beat my time and distance? Well clearly pace is not the answer. Sure I can run a 7:30 min/mile 5k, but that doesn't mean my friends who are slower than me are any less runners than me. They're just slower.

If pace were the deciding factor, my stellar 11:41 min/mile pace on my long run yesterday would drop kick me out of the runner category if this were the case.
Besides the long slow distance run is a tried and true training tool. I took this picture of the bridge that dragged my pace down to a near 12 min/mile crawl.

For most people, the difference is a term of art. Doesn't it sound just a bit cooler to go out for a run than to take a jog? Sure it does. On a run, we attack the hills and hit the streets and trails. Whereas, we take a it's a small dog that we carry in our hand.

Wikipedia says that a jog is a slow, leisurely run for fitness that is less stressful than faster running. I like this answer, but does that mean a jogger who 'jogs' to the point of exhaustion is actually a runner. Also, I would like to run injury free, and my running grew from my desire to lose weight. So does that make me a jogger posing as a runner. But what about my chronic shin splints and sore ankle? I push myself to see how far and how fast I can go. I love the feeling of euphoria and accomplishment that comes from breaking a previous personal time and distance. Granted I'm no world beater, but it is cool to see my name near the top of my division in a race. Maybe I am a runner, and probably my friend Dawn is a jogger. However does this make me better or more athletic than her. Absolutely not. My friend Dawn jogs to be her best; I run to be the best. With the exception of the elites, I doubt there is much difference between runners and joggers. We're all trying to be our best, and what we call ourselves is more a matter of self-identification than what others call us. I think most people who know me would identify me as an "A-hole in running shoes," but for now I'll accept "runner." Thanks. Later kids.

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