Tag Archives: running

Dreaming

I first had this dream last summer.  It has come back several times since.  I thought I would share it.

The dream always starts the same.

There I am walking down the street.  The street changes.  Sometimes I’m actually in the road.  Sometimes I’m on a suburban sidewalk.  Sometimes I’m in a very urban environment.  And I’m walking.  I feel my footsteps become lighter.  My strides become longer.

At some point the footsteps are so light and the strides so long I can no longer say I am walking.  I am simply floating down the street.  For some reason the people around me can’t see or don’t notice.  Sometimes I will call out to try to make a friend check out what I can do.  But they just shrug it off as normal.  And I decide to go faster.  The steps are still light.  The strides still long, just… faster.  

I push it into a run.  A floating, light run.  And all feels great in the world.

And sometimes, that’s where the dream ends.  And it’s a good dream.

But other times, the dream keeps going.  And that’s when it gets interesting.

I’m still running down the street.  I start to go even faster.  Things aren’t quite as easy going as before.  My heart rate increases.  My breathing picks up.  I sweat a bit.  But I keep going.  As I keep pushing, the work gets harder.  I lean forward to get even more into the run.  And I keep pushing.  And leaning into it.

I lean so far into it I feel the ground touch my hands.  And I keep going.  Pushing.  Faster.  Only now I can use my hands as well as my feet to send me on my way.  It starts with just my fingertips lightly pushing to help keep my balance.  Gradually my hands, arms and back get more involved.  I am simply devouring the ground.  My whole body is pushing.  Faster.  My pulse is pounding in my head.  My breathing comes out in growls and grunts.  And the world just flies by.  

Growls and grunts?  Animalistic is the only word to describe it.  

And I continue on.  While the going is obviously strenuous, I don’t tire. I don’t slow.  I just keep running.

The dream continues for a bit.  Just me, running like an animal.  At some point I wake.  I am usually breathing hard.  My heart is pumping.  And I’m almost always covered in sweat.  I have no idea how long I have been running in my dream, but I change PJ’s and go back to bed very sleepy and very satisfied.

I’m not one of those guys who believes dream need to mean something, so I try not to read too much into things.  But the fact that this same dream keeps happening (and seems to have no correlation to a training cycle) tells me that this is something important.  It tells me that I like to run.  Running is good.  Running can be even better.  Running can make the normal day (the beginning on the street) even better.  And it can make me feel like a superhero.

Run on friends.

And until next time, don’t let the fat man catch you.

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Post Race Let Down – adventure run!

As marathon season, and the traditional running season in general, winds down many of the running magazines, e-zines, blogs and other media are putting together articles about the post race let down. I won’t re-hash what is said. But I will say it is real.

And for me, the only way to beat the blah is to get out and do something. The past few weeks, I did just that.

Now, to be perfectly clear, my running has dropped off after the marathon. I have kind of quit caring about the fast 5k. It’s nice to just run for the love of being out and running. And that’s where I decided to go and do some awesome things.

The first thing I did was run my mountain. Base to summit to base. I had no idea how long the trail was. I had only a rough idea how much elevation would be covered. I thought I knew where the steepest parts would be.

And armed with this lack of information, I went out for a run. It was an adventure.

I knew the trail crossed the road twice. At the upper crossing I stopped the car and stashed some water and food. I parked down by where the parasailers and hang gliders parked, and I slowly started the climb. I went off with the attitude of a guy who might be running a self-support 20 mile run. I took it easy. I looked at the scenery. I enjoyed the trail, the beautiful fall day, and the sound of my breathing and foot falls. Having ditched the ipod many weeks ago I have come to really appreciate the sound my feet on the ground. The crunch of the dirt on the trails is one of my favorite sounds while running. I am finally in shape enough that the sound of my own breathing doesn’t freak me out. (Now to just keep that…)

And the run was good. Shorter than expected. Easier than expected. And it was fun. Right up until I discovered someone had walked off with my cache of supplies. So, thankfully it was shorter and easier than expected. But who does that?

4.5 miles later (including the spur to Buffalo Bills Grave), I was standing at the top of the hill. There was nowhere to go but down. I took a moment to allow some mountain bikers to head down first (no need to force them to pass me). I stopped and looked around. I had been to this point numerous times. But this was the first time I started at the very, very bottom. And it felt good.

As I descended, the missing water and food melted from my mind. I had run the mountain. And I was still running. I’m not going to say that the sense of accomplishment was equal to the marathon finish line. But I had tackled something that had intimidated me in the past. And it felt good.

And that brings me to this morning. All summer I had watched people running one section of trail next to where my youngest girl goes to pre-school. Today, I ran it. From the road, this trail just looks like heaven. Gently rolling, fairly fast, knee high mountain grasses on both sides of the trail, and the light in the morning and evening hits everything just right and makes it look like one of those inspirational posters you see on facebook.

And today, I ran it. And it was every bit as good as I had expected. I can only imagine that the passing cars on that section saw me as I had seen the other runners all summer long – somewhat hazy images in the morning light enjoying a simple jaunt on the trail. Part of me hopes I was able to inspire someone to get out and do something. But mostly, I’m just glad I managed to make the time to run that spot.

Again, it was a bit of an adventure. I had a good idea where the trail went and what to expect, but I didn’t *KNOW* where I was going or what to expect. I knew I had time for about five miles. So before deciding, I settled on a 2.5 mile out and back. The middle quarter mile was a steep hill. My turn around point was in the middle of the hill. I can’t wait to get back there and and do a loop.

Hopefully as the summer race season winds down you are able to get out and just enjoy being there and doing your thing.

Until next time, don’t let the fat man catch you.

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Twin Cities Race Report

First, I will summarize for those not too interested in all the gory details of running a long race, but please remember to scroll down to the thank you section.  It was a glorious disaster ending with a 4:02:38 finish.  That’s a mere 0:02:39 shy of my goal time.  But it’s still a PR by over 20 minutes and I’m only disappointed because I’m a numbers guy and know that 3:59:59 is less than 4:02:38. 

Most of this is written the day after the race, and then edited over the following week.  This is a long write-up.  As a friend said in her post-race blog, “It’s a marathon.  Pace yourself.”  In fact, her write up is better than mine and has pictures.  Check it out here: http://runforliving.wordpress.com/2013/10/13/race-report-twin-cities-marathon/

From a health perspective, I have two sore ankles, and one small blister on each foot.  The ankles are most likely due to either moving through the wheel ruts in the pavement, or the potholes.  I know one of the holes got me good.  But I went for a shakedown run the day after and felt pretty dang good all things considered.

When the horn went off (No gun?) I went out too fast.  Because that’s what I do.  I managed to get it reigned in after the first potty stop at 0.75 miles.  Yes.  You read that right.  Overall, the first 5k was only a touch faster than it should have been.  When I passed the Team In Training cheering section at mile 4.5 I was right at the pace I needed to be and managed to hold that until mile 8 or so.

Somewhere around mile 8 the 3:45:00 pace group caught me.  They started in the wave behind me.  This was a tight, aggressive knot of people.  And they hit me right where the road narrowed to one lane.  And I got stuck in the group.  I couldn’t get out.  So I ran with them for the next 10 miles or so.  I felt good.  I felt comfortable.  My heart rate was right where it needed to be.  But the pace was quicker than I had intended. There was a fair bit of stress running in that tight knot.  There were elbows everywhere.  Every step could have been the back of someone’s shoe.  Every time I lifted a foot, someone may have been standing on the back of my shoe.  If I tripped on a pothole I couldn’t see through the throng of people I would surely be stepped on- more than once.  I was only able to separate from the group when the road opened up, stopped turning, and became a good two lane straight where people could spread out.

Hydration and nutrition went better than planned.  Salt tabs every half hour.  Gel every hour.  Twizzler from some kids at mile 6 (There was no crying when I took it.  I assume he was holding it out for me.  Oh no.  Did I take candy from a baby?).  Half banana from the kids at mile 14.  I was going through about ½ bottle of water every 2 miles and filled at the water stops about that time.  I managed to avoid all of the things offered from the crowd as we ran through the St. Thomas campus.  Call me paranoid, but I still remember enough about college to know better.  Next time I will try harder to find something to eat in the last half.  More banana maybe.  That was really good.

There were a few people along the course who knew me.  I had a cousin who told me where she was going to be.  I had some friends from college who told me where they were going to be.  There were several dedicated Team In Training cheering spots.  While I appreciated all of those (especially the fresh socks!) it was an unexpected visitor that stuck with me.  My roommate from college showed up.  He wasn’t sure he would make it.  But there he was.  It was a familiar voice calling my name at an unexpected spot.  I think it was about mile 15.  I actually circled back to give him a high five.  And the joy of that unexpected shout carried me until about mile 20 or so.

Mile 19 I stopped to change socks.  At mile 15 I was going to skip the sock change, but then I started to hear my socks squishing as I ran.  And the fresh socks felt sooooo nice for the next 3 miles.  As I stopped for socks, I noticed some clouds building and could feel the temperature dropping. 

The Hill between miles 20 and 23 was every bit as big as I had feared. (About 500 feet over three miles.)  I managed.  I was slow.  I’m not ashamed to say I walked.  My training runs had me walking for a couple minutes every half hour.  For the race I managed to avoid walking for the first three hours.  Even walking I managed to pass someone who was making an effort to not walk.  I know this because one of the spectators commented on it loudly enough to make me look.  Mile 22 it started to rain.  And it was not warm.  So much for the fresh socks.

Mile 24 the wheels fell off.  I cramped.  Everywhere.  One foot, both calves, both hamstrings, both quads, both glutes, one hip flexor, something in my upper back, my stomach and my right forearm.  The forearm was the one that hurt the worst because it was so unexpected and rather sudden.  The rest just sort of crept in on me.  This slowed me down.  I fully stopped for a moment to see what the stomach cramp was going to do.  Vomiting may have been a good idea, but I couldn’t do it.  I stood there staring at a blue garbage can. 

Before I left, A seasoned marathoner from work reminded me that at some point the race was going to suck.  And I should embrace the suck.  So I gave it a big, sweaty hug.  And I stared at that trash can and I laughed.  The spectators nearby started looking at me funny.  Clearly I had lost it.  I had fully embraced the suck.

And

I

Pushed

Onward. 

Mostly flat with a touch up hill.  Compared to my runs around home, it was a breeze.  But I was hurting and moving slowly.  But moving.  Relentless forward progress.  At this point I don’t know where the strength came from, but I’m glad it was there.  Maybe it was from running hills in the snow, running hills in the blazing summer heat, early morning track workouts… It didn’t matter.  The strength was there.

As the course slowly crested the hill I saw a giant American flag hanging from two cranes over the course. The flag emerged from the road slowly.  Every step revealed a bit more of the red white and blue.  I let gravity pull me downward focusing only on my posture, not over striding, not tripping on a pot hole, cadence, cadence, cadence…  I was moving quickly (well, quick for having gone 20-some miles) when I hit the flag.  And that’s when I looked down the road and noticed the flag was NOT the finish line.  Someone hung the flag at mile 26. This might have been good to know beforehand.  I had another .2 miles to go.  And I was fried.  But it was almost all downhill.  So I kept on keeping on.  This hill was steeper.  My quads were screaming.  I gained more speed.  I kept going.  I wasn’t running.  I was falling down the hill and just managed to get my feet down in time to avoid taking a tumble.  The last few yards flattened out.  Without the aid of gravity I slowed.  I kept my stride “proper” and consistent and focused on cadence and not falling.  I crossed the line with no real sense of glory, just thankful that I didn’t have to keep running.  There is a finish line video.  The video shows I maintain a good, quick pace and cadence across the line.  As I cross I raise my arms slightly higher than shoulder level.  If this wasn’t on video, I would have never known any of it.

And the weather hit me.  Reality hit me.  The fact that I just ran 26.2 miles hit me.  It was cold.  It was windy.  I was wet.  The cramping started to creep in.  Feet first. That’s when the adrenaline kicked in.  I felt a rumble deep inside.  And it grew with every staggering step.  The rumble grew and escaped as a whoop of victory. 

I made sure to stop at all the post-finish line spots.  I devoured the fruit cup and chocolate milk immediately.  The stomach cramps worked in tighter.  I knew I needed to get things into my body, but I didn’t know if my body was going let them stay there.  There were very few trash cans around.  Those that were near were overflowing.  That fact made me nervous.  My stomach got tighter and tighter until I hit the warm soup station.  The warm soup almost makes up for the flag at mile 26.  Almost.  I’m very thankful it wasn’t too hot to drink. Feeling the warmth unlock my stomach was the best feeling I had since the potty stop at the beginning.   I worked over to the bag check and had to make the decision:  Do I change clothes first, or get in line for a massage to ease the ever increasing pressure?  I decided standing in the line for the massage while wearing wet clothes sounded hellish.

The changing tent had no benches or chairs.  But it was warm.  And smelly.  But it was warm!  I managed to not fall. Being surrounded by naked strangers, this is a pretty big victory.  And I almost sold my towel to someone wishing they had one.  Things were looking up.  There were jokes.  The warmth was unlocking things.  But I was finally dressed, and it just isn’t cool to hang out in the changing tent longer than needed.  So I ventured out into the cold, moist October day and got in line for the massages.  The line was moving fast, and volunteers were handing out more soup and power aid.

The massage was good.  Nowhere near as aggressive as I was used to or expected, but good enough.  I’m convinced that five minutes on the table is why I was able to function so well the day after and even run a bit.  And the massage tent was warm.  Nowhere near as smelly as the changing tent.  I don’t remember seeing a heater in there, but there must have been one.  I really didn’t want to leave.

The finishing area was a blur to me.  I was shutting down.  I really don’t remember much of the detail.  I do remember making a choice to fend off a feeling of panic.  I never panic.  The fact that feeling was there is a really bad sign.  I managed to meet my friends despite the best efforts of the cell network to shut everything down.  If my goal was anything more complicated than “Find the purple Team In Training Tent” I probably wouldn’t have made it.  The unilateral decision was to get me back to the hotel, and warm as soon as possible.  Believe it or not, that decision was a tough one for me to accept.

I showed up to run with a team.  If there’s anything I have learned over the years it is how to support a team.  That support is ingrained in the fibers of my being.  And in this case, the right thing to do was to abandon my team and take care of myself.  The decision hurt.  But it was right.

“I do not run for the medals, tee shirts, for accolades from friends, or because I’m addicted to competition. I run marathons because of what is forged in the crucible of those last painful miles of the marathon: when I fear that there is nothing left, there is more.”

From http://www.stevewiens.com/2013/10/07/there-is-more/

Running with Team in Training

This was my first event run with an organization known as Team in Training.  This is a fundraising arm for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.   I hope this is not my last experience with that organization.

First, my local Colorado team is full of good people.  It was awesome training with them and getting to know them.

Second, my fundraising showed me just how pervasive cancer is in our world.  Everyone had a connection to the cause.  Everyone who donated gave more than I thought they were going to.  Some gave a LOT more than I expected.  Even people I was sure I would never hear back from gave to the cause.

Then there was running the race wearing the Team in Training jersey…  That was an experience I will not soon forget.  The experience started to dawn on me while climbing the small hill at mile 2.  A perfect stranger and fellow runner sped up his pace dramatically to get a few minutes by my side.  (Those who have run with me know I devour small hills when I’m fresh, and as you’ll recall, I was still moving too quickly.)  This gentleman confirmed I was with TnT, extended his hand and said “Thank you.  I am a survivor.”  From that point on, excluding the expected TnT  cheering sections, about every other mile someone seeming at random would give out a “Go Team!” or a “come on purple!”  These people had no visible connection to the team, no TnT logo showing, no purple, but seemed to know what the team stood for.

Last, but not least, the Minnesota crew of TnT was great.  They welcomed me to the team dinner and into the team running atmosphere without hesitation, and with a friendly smile.  I’m still bummed I wasn’t able to help cheer them across the finish.  It was great running a bit with Ed.  I probably should have stuck closer to him.  It may have lead to a stronger finish.

Running in Minneapolis and St. Paul

These people know how to throw a marathon.  There isn’t really a better way to put it.  There were people EVERYWHERE.  On a simple spectator per linear foot of course basis, I think there were more people cheering on this race than the Bolder Boulder.  I’m trying to remember the quiet sections of the course.  Only two come to mind.  And they were short lived.  Much of the course had people not only shoulder to shoulder, but jostling for position.

There were signs, cowbells, horns, marching bands, drum lines, unofficial aid stations with useful offerings to distance runners.  The Bolder Boulder will offer beer, bacon, and  jell-o shots, but not much useful.  When I ran the Denver half I don’t remember the spectators offering any aid whatsoever.   I’ll forgive the American Discovery Trail marathon for being quiet.  It was a trail.  There were many miles where access to the route was simply difficult.  That one is designed to be quiet.

All of this commotion builds on the race day excitement.  It is nearly impossible to slow, walk, or stop in front of all these enthusiastic people.

Dedications & Thanks

I feel the need to dedicate part of my race to the honor of my father in law Ernie Whitehouse for beating Leukemia, and to the memory of Becky Conner, the sister-in-law of a close friend.  To these two (all the survivors, those who didn’t make it, and their families, really) I dedicate mile 24.  I do not dedicate this mile because it was the easiest, fastest, or felt the best.  I dedicate it because it sucked.  It was the worst mile I’ve run in a long, long time, and yet it was nothing compared to what they have endured.

And I owe thanks.  Thanks to my coaches.  Thanks to my acupuncture and massage guy.  Thanks to my Chiropractor.  A deep and heartfelt thank you to everyone who sent money to sponsor my run, as well as those who could only send their best wishes.  A thank you to my friends in MN who acted as my local support staff and brought me socks.  Thank you to my coworkers for being flexible with meeting times so I could work in a run.

I must thank McKesson for matching funds.  A large part of my financial contribution to the cause is from this source.

A special thank you to my cousin DeNae for guilting me into signing up for the race, and then being all knocked up and not running it with me.  And to Kristen for being an awesome virtual running buddy.  The day didn’t quite finish as planned.  Next time we’ll get some time together.

And most of all, a thank you to my family.  You put up with my shit for many months while I spent many hours training, planning, injured, stressed, tired, traveling and just generally bitchy.  But you know I want to do it again, right?

Until next time:  Don’t let the fat man catch you.

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Back from the dead (long)

This blog has been silent for way too long. And to the few followers I have, I apologize.

As you will soon see, I was busy.

I think my last post called out that I was looking for the fastest 5k of my life. Well, the year isn’t out. I have been training. Boy, have I been training.

Not long after that post, I let myself get talked into signing up for a marathon. (I admit, it didn’t take much coaxing.) So I’ve been running. My typical 30-70 minute workouts turned into multi-hour events. And that takes a lot of time out of your life.

But here it is the night before the race when I’m supposed to be sleeping, but no one really expects me to sleep.

So let me recap some training and major events.

1) Decision time.
I committed to the training early. I came off the winter feeling strong and in shape. And it’s just gotten better.

2) Commitment to a cause.
Running a marathon (Well, training for a marathon anyway) can be considered a selfish act. Not long after committing to the training I learned that a friend was running for a charity – fund raising and all. So I found one signed on. (No, I’m not going to solicit funds here. That’s not what this is about.)

3) Training.
There were miles. And miles. And hills. Track work outs. And natural disasters. And more miles and more hills. And a personal record.

4) Injury.
Not many people can put in the miles needed for a marathon and remain 100% healthy. About seven weeks ago I contacted a local acupuncture/massage/chiropractic office that specializes in endurance athletes. My initial contact was with the intent of just getting a little help staying healthy through the peak training weeks. Within hours of making that call, I concluded that “weird pain” in my ankle was an actual problem. I came to this conclusion hopping along the side of the road on one leg. This was one of those pains that an MD would treat by taking lots of pictures and telling me not to run so much. So I think I made the right call. Best of off, these folks were able to get me on track and feeling really good.

5) Coaching from an unlikely source.
That chiropractor I mentioned? Turns out he’s a certified running coach. We talked a bit about form and philosophy. This lead to part of the identification of why I had been hopping around on the side of the road on one foot. It also taught me how to do a couple things better. That lead to a personal record performance on a 5 mile loop that I had been working every Thursday. It was quick. And it felt great. I now run differently. There’s a lesson for you there. We can all learn do it better. We just need someone to show us a few pointers.

6) Weight loss.
A week before the race I was 10 pounds lighter than I was six weeks earlier. And faster. There’s no secret here. Do five weeks where you run between 40 and 55 miles each week and see what happens. Even if you eat junk you should drop a fair bit of weight.

7) Staying flexible.
I mentioned natural disasters. No kidding, there was a biblical flood. Most the trails I usually ran were well under water. And I had a 20 mile jaunt ahead of me. I was able to find something with only one water crossing (a bridge) that was just re-opened. And I ran it solo and self supported. The long runs in the past were supported by the charity organization I had found. They had someone go out and stash water. I went and did the same. Since I was stashing just for me I used individual 16oz bottles, and added in a gel pack and salt tabs. One stop even had a banana. While the group running was certainly more fun, self supporting meant I could carry less and have a few extras along the way. I will keep that in mind for future outings. One of the other training members lived in an area more impacted by the flood. She ran 18 miles just going around the block. I guess it beats a treadmill.

So that’s the quick-quick recap of my summer of running. The marathon is tomorrow. I will take most of the next week off from running. Then I use the volume, strength and weight loss I have put together over the last six months to tackle my 5k goal. After the PR on the 5 mile training run, it should be workable. It won’t be easy. It won’t be casual. But I can do it.

But what about the race at hand?

Well, I’ve been pondering race strategy between obsessing about the weather. Here it is, 11 hours until the starting gun, and I still don’t know what to do or what to expect. My last marathon was kind of a mess. At least the last six miles were. The first six were far too fast because I was running to the toilet. (TMI? Dude. Ask a distance runner. They’ve all done it.) My problem is, I’m suddenly down 10 pounds (which makes me faster), it’s almost cold out (which makes me faster), I run with a new form and cadence (which makes me faster), and I’m running 6000 some-odd vertical feet lower than home, 7500 vertical feet lower than my usual mountain route, and about 4700 feet lower than my typical long runs. All of that makes me faster. What that means is I have no earthly idea what I should expect. I don’t know what is too fast.

But I have a goal. And I’ve done the math to know what that goal looks like. So I’m going to start at pace for that goal. I will hold that for the first 10-13 miles. Then I will pick it up and hold that for the next 10-13 miles. Then, if I feel I can still push it, I will. And I will hold that as long as I can.

So in big picture terms, I guess we have a race plan.

Plan B? Go out too fast, hold it too long, keep holding it, and get carried off on a stretcher.

And with that, it is time to turn things off and pretend to sleep for the next six hours or so.

Until next time. Don’t let the fat man catch you.

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Building Character

Character. Heart. Determination.

I believe each of us is born with character, heart, and determination. Some of us simply choose not to sharpen those tools. So far this winter I have done a fair bit of character building. This week has been no exception.

The drought has left the weather here in Colorado pretty mild this winter. Since I can’t control it and can’t change it, I choose to embrace it. That means my running this winter has been generally pleasant including several days of running in shorts or t-shirts. (But not both shorts and t-shirts. It hasn’t been that warm.) And being winter I’m not actually training for anything. I am simply running to stay in shape.

No. Round is not a shape. At least not in this context.

So the miles have been pretty easy. And this does nothing for character. But sometimes the weather moves in. This week is a prime example. Yesterday was chilly at about 30 degrees. But the wind was fierce. If the windchill wasn’t actually in the low teens or high single digits it sure felt like it. But hey, I have new cross country ski gear that doubles great for winter running. So I ran. I got an hour in. I didn’t push too hard, but I did manage to attack the uphill sections. This was a road run. Usually this means I have to worry about how close the cars come to me. On this day, the drivers were all giving the crazy running guy a wide berth. Even the snow plow driver was crossing over the center line in case my crazy was contagious.

Two days before it had just finished snowing a little bit – less than an inch. The sun was out. It was brisk. And I ran. I ran hills. On trails. With snow covering the loose rocks, roots, and near-permanent winter ice on the north side of the hill. And I ran it. Up wasn’t so bad. Down was only a little sketchy. I guess the loose junk on the trail had frozen into place or I just got lucky.

Today we’re getting more snow. And I ran. I had intended to run before the snow hit. It was bright and mostly clear a couple hours ago. The plan was for an intense 5k on a mix of trails and dirt road. At the end of my driveway that plan changed as I played human zamboni and cleared an impressive area of snow off the ice underneath. That moment mid-fall is interesting. The body tries really hard to stay upright. And the mind just pauses a moment and goes WTF!?!?!? 9.8m/s/s later there is a thud and I’m laying there covered in snow.

The inventory of possible injuries goes pretty quick. If I’m hurt it’s on the left side, so that eliminates 50% of the checks. My head didn’t hit. Left arm is going to be sore, but not injured. Same for left hip. Knees seem unscathed and feet… Well they were up in the air. I don’t think they were hit by any passing aircraft or flocks of migratory birds. I’d remember that.

And almost as quickly I’m up. Because it’s cold down there in the snow and I’m not dressed as warm as yesterday. I gingerly trot into the road and turn down the hill. In about 30 seconds I have completely reworked my workout. Today is suddenly a casual 5k day. It’s simply too dangerous to be pushing all out. I could probably still manage to attack the uphills.

This is so much the opposite of my business trip to Sacramento. This is not a 5k treadmill workout in the hotel. This is not a 10k on a 1 mile loop at sunset when it’s 65 degrees in January.

This is character building. This is learning to adapt. When I’m 4.5 miles into a 10k and things start going poorly I will have my winter training deep in my heart to fall back on. I will have the 17k cross country ski race. I will have snowy hills. I will have wind. I will have snowy falls down the driveway.

It doesn’t have to be winter to build character. In fact, by June most of this should be erased by something more recent. But those early season races will benefit from today. Summer character usually involves mid-day heat of lunch runs, dodging tourists who can’t be bothered to watch where they are going, hitting the wall 9 miles from the car and pushing through because there’s a meeting you have to catch.

It doesn’t matter how you build character, but that you do build character. If you wait for everything to be right before starting you will never start. Attitude goes a long way. Embrace the challenges and the changes to the plan that are out of your control. Get out there. Do something. Push yourself in a new way.

What are you going to do during this “off season” to help build yourself up for summer? Me? I’m going to keep enjoying my winter runs. I’m not going to let the weather stop me. I’m going to continue to ski and enhance my cardio base that way. And I’m going to smile every time my beard freezes. But you might not see that because with a frozen beard I often have to smile on the inside to avoid the real pain of facial hair being pulled out.

Until next time, don’t let the fat man catch you.

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Race Time

This one is long. And I feel it needs pictures. Maybe I’ll update the post later.

I will openly admit it. I am nervous. Tomorrow I will participate in my first cross country ski race. Looking at the results from last year, I am preparing myself to finish last.

Last.

But the good news is, I won’t be finishing alone. How does that work? Well, not only am I finishing last, there is a good chance I will be finishing with people who are skiing twice the distance.

And I’m left to wonder just what have I gotten myself into.

It’s a challenge. A challenge of the mind. A challenge of the body. The big question will be: Which gives out first – the mind or the body? I have pre-run the course a couple times. I know exactly what to expect. And it isn’t pretty. But I also know my inner competitor will kick in at some point. That inner beast will help me kick my way to the top of the hills, and push me to accelerate across the finish line. In all the years I’ve been competing the inner competitor has always risen to the challenge. I have yet to tap out. I have finished every challenge I have started. And I have no intention of letting this one be any different.

And yet I don’t remember ever finishing last in an individual event. Sure, I’ve been on teams that bombed out hockey tournaments with the first eliminated and zero wins. But that’s a group effort at misery. The individual “failure” will be new to me.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

And then I raced.

Race day went almost nothing as expected. First, it was about 30 degrees warmer at race start than it usually is. For a race involving snow, this is not a good thing. But I left my skis with Igor at the ski shop for a few days for a good race prep. The man knows his wax and knows how to track the weather. The skis performed flawlessly.

I believe the highlight of the day was when my daughter decided she wanted to do the kids 1k event. And she did it and did it well. There were only three kids skiing the “classic” style (As opposed to skate skiing.) And she finished second in that group.

The sign up for the kids race was right in front of the map of courses. During that sign up is when I knew my day was not going to go as planned. They had changed the course for the 17k. Instead of one loop of the 30k with a little extra at the end it was two laps of a smaller loop. This means two things: 1) I would get to hear the crowd and see people at the half way point. 2) The last section of climbing wasn’t going to happen. Instead, I would have to climb the first hills twice. I don’t like those first hills so much. The climbing is steep and rather difficult. The downhill is thankfully short, but incredibly steep. The good news? The last 2 miles back to the start/finish/half are all down hill. And the snow was fast. GPS data puts me right at 1:30/mile on the downhill parts. On skis that don’t have metal edges.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I took two short warm-ups. The first to check the wax on the skis. The second to get the muscles and heart moving, and to actually practice skiing. I watched the start of the 30k. That’s when I realized I really had no idea what I was in for. See, no one told me race protocol dictates one is to stay in the cut ski track at the start and use a “double pole” technique out of the starting area. I hadn’t practiced that. Thankfully, there’s isn’t much to it.

After the 30k racers cleared the start, us 17k racers lined up. My various running events have taught me a rather common courtesy: If you know you aren’t competing for the top 10 don’t start in front. So I found a nice spot about three people back behind some older folks. Like, AARP members older. The idea there was something else I know from running – don’t start too fast in a long distance event.

The start went much as I figured it would – apart from the double pole. Pole out, then skate. One person fell on the transition. I was sure that was my fate. But I somehow managed to escape. As far as I know no one else went down at that point.

And then I heard it. Cowbells.

No, not quite like the SNL skit: http://youtu.be/BjsUf_oIgp0

Like the kind you can hear echoing across a snow covered meadow during a race. Like the thoroughbred to the starting gate, my horse wanted to go. It was there, the inner competitor. But it was early. Really early. Not even a half mile into the eleven mile event. And it was all I could do to keep it reigned in and under control. Had I gone all out at that point I know I would have caught the leaders of the group. I also know it would be less than a mile before the whole group caught and passed me as we hit the first uphill section. At that point I would be left at the back of the pack.

Not long after that the group of racers spread out. I fell in behind a couple of people that were about the same pace as me. And we skied. We climbed. At the top I backed off and let them go well ahead. I figured there were even odds I was going to wipe out on this hill and there was no point taking someone else out with me. And I never caught them again. And there was more climbing. Followed by the long, fast down hill.

And I fell.

Thankfully, there was no one in sight. I was able to pop back up and get back into my groove and keep on trucking. A quick mile or so had me entering the base area. And there were people. Most of them were ignoring me. I could hear the announcers voice, but not what he was saying. I could hear the drills at the demo huts waxing skis. I could hear the people at the aide stations telling racers which was water and which was gatorade. Out the corner of my eye I noticed my daughters ski pants. Dang those are bright. But everyone was quiet. Not even paying attention. As I was almost past, I heard the cheers and the little cowbells my wife had bought for the kids. I briefly saw and heard some friends that were in the area who said they may stop by. And then they were gone.

At that point I looked at my watch. Could that be right? 36 minutes to the half? That’s a solid 10 minutes faster than I had hoped and 15 minutes faster than I expected. But I kept on trucking. This section was as flat as it gets and I was enjoying myself. Focusing on technique and breathing, similar to the half way point in a long run. The real climbing started again. The only difference this time was being passed by people working on their 2nd lap of the 30k. I’m not exactly sure what the etiquette for that might be on a narrow ski path, but they said “on your left” and I happily yielded. At one point I even pulled off and glided to a near stop to let a few guys by. They actually said thank you, so I felt good about that. Near a very narrow part one of the passing skiers got tangled with one of the being-passed skiers and went down. Two of us were nearby and skied in to help gather hats, water bottles, and get this guy back on his feet. You don’t see much of that in other sports. Again, I felt good to be part of that. Especially since I didn’t cause the take down.

More climbing. I feel myself getting slower. I’m looking forward to the rolling hills section so I can get my momentum back up. That comes and goes. It was less joyful than I had hoped. One more climb. And I can feel the wheels coming off. The legs don’t want to. The mind isn’t sure what to do. And there’s another group ready to pass. I’m nearly stopped. So I do what comes naturally. I pull to the side and cheer them on as they move through. I see a smile and a thumbs up. And it’s back to my inner struggles. I’m still not sure I came to a full stop, but with the climb, I must have. I know it’s not far to the middle aide station, I just can’t see or hear it from where I am. That’s my goal. Make it there.

Gatorade has never tasted so good. I chose to stop to drink. I’m not sure I could have managed a cup and my ski poles in motion. I make sure to thank the guys staffing the pit stop and shoot off down the long steep section. No falling this time. The GPS data says I wasn’t quite as fast as the first lap, but that’s fine. I’m still moving. A few more rolling hills. Some turns. On a downhill section I’m passed by a group of 3-4 guys in college ski team gear. They are finishing their 30k. I can hear the announcer at the finish. We’re getting close. I can hear the announcer talking through the finish of the first place 30k college kids. I work through the start/finish aide station and start to kick. I pause momentarily looking for my friends and family. They aren’t there. In fact, the crowd has mostly gone. Without cowbells I start to kick it in. I can hear the announcer mention my name. Something about a strong finish. And I cross the line. I don’t mind saying it was rather anti-climactic. It was a small event with almost no crowd. The ski conditions were good, so the crowd went skiing. I managed to stop my watch. That’s when I noticed the time. 1:17 and change. A good 15 minutes ahead of my optimistic finish time and a good 30 minutes ahead of my expected finish time. No wonder my cheering section wasn’t there. I wasn’t supposed to be there yet.

And that’s when the day got really fun. My wife had my jacket. If I didn’t keep moving I was going to get cold. But I just didn’t have enough in me to ski more. So I jumped in at the aide station and started cheering for finishers and handing out drinks. The colder I got, the more I cheered. But the skiers were getting farther apart. The cold was coming. At that point I started really noticing who was around me and who was working the station. I was surrounded by ski patrolers and a couple resort workers. At that point I noticed one of the resort workers had been calling me by name. This was the lady that helped me fill out the paperwork to drop the skis off for the race prep. And she remembered me. One of the ski patrolers noticed by my posture that I was getting cold and offered me a jacket. And life was good.

Conclusion: The day was a success. My race was a success. The people in the cross country ski community simply rock.

To top it all off, I didn’t finish last. I was the 2nd to last male finisher in the 17k. But I was only 20 minutes off the leaders.

This was my first ski race. I doubt it will be my last.

Until next time, don’t let the fat man catch you!

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Not Just Lip Service

I did it. I threw out a goal. I said I was going to run a 5k faster than I did in high school. I said I was going to train. I said I was going to lose weight. And then I went and dropped out of the blog-o-sphere.

That time I was missing was not time wasted. I jumped back into weight watchers. And I started losing weight. I’m proud to say I’m back to my weight watchers “life goal” weight. But there’s a difference between “life goal” and “race” weight. So I’m going to stick with it.

And I’ve been active. I haven’t been running as much as I wanted, but I’ve been skiing a ton. I do telemark skiing. For those unfamiliar, the important conceptual difference between telemark and alpine is that a telemark skier is basically doing lunges down the mountain. It’s a real quad burner. And if that isn’t enough, you can ski up the mountain too. But I usually just take the chair lift.

I’ve also started cross country skiing. A lot. So far I’ve got over 30 miles on my skate skis. And I’m even considering a 15k race at the end of this month. The only reason I’m not jumping head first into the idea of the race is I took the time to ask some people about the course. It looks like there are a couple miles of “black” or “most difficult” trails. I need to check that section out before I just go and sign up. If it looks like hitting that with a race mentality will land me in the hospital, I’ll just sign up for the 5k race.

An important aspect of training is remaining flexible. While I hadn’t exactly expected to keep my cardio base by skate skiing, I’m willing to embrace it and run with it. Now that I’m back to work full time after the holidays I’ll still be running to stay in shape during the week and I’ll get one or two good ski workouts each weekend.

Interesting side note: I was also invited to an “ultra” running event. There were two distances – 30k and 60k. I turned it down because I had tapered my training schedule for the winter, and it all just seemed kind of crazy. The 30k is about 18.6 miles. So a good distance between a half and a full. Now that I know about the event, I will keep it in mind as I figure out what to do with myself in the November-January time frame. Given the small group, I fully expect that I would finish last (and probably wrap up my 30k about the same time the leaders wrap up the 60k). But given the small group, I expect the whole thing would be a really good time.

Stay tuned, this is going to be a fun year.

And until next time, don’t let the fat man catch you.

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This little tidbit sparked something in me and I thought I’d share.

While the original post is geared towards personal relationships, the message holds true across many parts of life.

Without pain, we are not alive.

Running goals. Fitness goals. Weight loss goals. If they are real goals that push you, they will all involve pain. And when you feel that pain, you can either run away from it and quit, or embrace it for what it is, accept it as part of doing something worth doing, and use that pain to get victory, success, and elevate yourself above where you were before you started on your goal. (That’s a lot of commas.)

Until next time: Don’t let the fat man catch you!

UnTangled

walking through pain into a big worldWe think the secret to life is achievement and status and comfort and painlessness. But we’re wrong. The secret to life lies elsewhere. I know, because my dentist told me…

“Until you can completely feel pain again, don’t eat anything.”

I was sitting in the dental chair last week—the right side of my face numb and drooping—when he said it, when my dentist told me the secret to life.

Our pain is the secret to life.

We can’t even eat unless we’re capable of feeling it.

Yet, we are a people obsessed with avoiding our pain. The DEA reports sales of prescription painkillers increased sixteen-fold in the last ten years. Oxycodone and hydrocodone are the two most popular painkillers—in 2010, pharmacies distributed 111 tons of those pills.

In the U.S. alone.

We build our lives around comfort and safety and ease. We feel entitled to painless living. Both…

View original post 1,216 more words

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Hold my beer. Imma go for a run.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been told that drinking is bad, bad for you, and just completely unhealthy. And here we are in 2012 when there have been several studies published that would tend to indicate the opposite is true – in moderation of course.

Somewhere along the line I got signed up for newsletters from Active.Com. I won’t pretend to read over each and every spam-o-gram, but I do usually at least give it a quick look over to see if there is anything interesting. And this week there was.

The headline and quick article summary that caught my eye was on the subject of alcohol consumption and exercise. Specifically there was a study performed to determine what the relationship between exercise and drinking might really be. The full article is here.

Honestly, I’m pretty amazed. I think we all understand the stereotype of the fat, lazy, constantly pickled alcoholic. The article sort of turns that upside down.

Perhaps the biggest shocker to me was an article linked in the original. Our fine German friends have performed a study on marathoners and beer. It seems specific kinds of beer can do good things to immune systems for athletes. So while you kick back and enjoy that post-race brew or a cold one after a hard work out, rest assured this article condones your choice as a good thing.

I feel the need to add a quick disclaimer. First, I am not associated with active.com in any way that could make me money. I use them to sign up for events now and again and after many years they finally sent out some spam that was worth not only reading but sharing.

Second, moderation folks. Excessive alcohol consumption has been proven to be really, really bad. Please make good choices.

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Gear Review: Camelbak Delaney DC

I promise I won’t do many gear reviews. But every now and then I find something good enough or bad enough that I just have to tell someone.

A few weeks ago I picked up a Camelbak Delaney DC. Official stats and images are on the camelbak website.

I bought this pack because I plan to up my distance again this summer in hopes of completing another marathon in the fall. I wanted something to carry more water than just my hand-held bottle sling, as well as some gu, salt pills, car keys, and maybe even a spare pair of socks and/or a snack.

To put things in perspective, I am not not much of a marathoner. When that starting gun fires, I’m staring down a 4.5 hour ordeal. I need to plan and pack accordingly.

For that kind of payload there aren’t many options. My old EMS lumbar pack was simply too floppy. My old camelbak backpack left me bloody. And everything else I owned was just too big or too small. So I went shopping and found this on sale.

My first run with the pack was pretty much terrible. I chose a short, easy day and spent about as much time fiddling with the pack as I did running. I’m not complaining. This is pretty much what I expected. This was my learning run.

The first thing I learned – 48oz of water is a lot of weight to have sloshing around on your butt.

Next – the Podium water bottles will spray your back, butt, legs, and feet if they are full and left in the “open” position while you run. I consider this a negative. The way those bottles work you have to twist the top to open/close. A traditional bottle can be bit open and slapped shut.

And then – The first big hill I noticed the Gu bottles digging into my thighs. I gave it a couple climbs to see if it would adjust out. It didn’t. Another negative. I live in the mountains. I run hills. My easy day is a flatlanders intense hill workout. Thankfully the front pocket was empty and big enough to hold both bottles. That’s where they spent the rest of the run. I doubt they’re going back into the holsters.

At about the half way point on my course I dumped the bottles to both be less than half full. (See, I’m an optimist!) This changed the way the pack rode. A lot. Adjusting the pack while running is nearly impossible. So I stopped. Again, this was pretty much planned. I can’t be too upset. I knew it was going to need to happen eventually.

So far things don’t sound so good, right? Well, they get better.

Each run after that things have gone very smoothly. Well, as smooth as it gets with 1/3 gallon of water hanging off your butt. On the third run I stopped about mid way to try and make things tighter. Something just felt off. And that fixed it. I didn’t expect to need the pack that tight, but it’s working out just fine.

Now, I check the tightness of the pack and cinch it a little tight at the beginning of every outing. It seems to settle in right where it needs to without any discomfort.

The waist band is highly adjustable, but there’s a limit to how small it will go. The dual adjustment – one on each side – is good for keeping things centered. But a real pain in the butt to manage while trying to keep moving. So get it where you need before you set out. And like I did, plan an easy/short break in run to get it figured out.

Now here’s where it gets good. I have never worn something like this while running without winding up bloody. And the Camelbak Delaney DC fits well enough, is designed well enough, and uses the right fabrics to keep my skin intact and the red stuff on the inside.

So, a quick recap:
Podium bottles – Not so great for running.
Gu bottles – Not so great for hills.
Adjust-ability – Pretty good. Difficult to manage while moving, but offers enough options to get a good fit.
Comfort – Very impressive, even with a full 48oz of water.
Capacity – Very good. Probably as good as it gets without going to a true lumbar pack or back pack.

One thing I would change: Add a key clip to the front zipper pocket. Seriously, why are things like this made without the key clip? It will add pennies to the cost and provide huge assurance that you won’t dump your keys on the trail while digging in the pocket for your needed supplies.

Overall – I’m very impressed with this pack. I was a little bummed about the Gu bottles hitting my thighs, but I wasn’t sure I was going to use them anyway. The splashy bottles are a pain, but I can either live with it or swap them out for a more traditional bottle. It’s no loss. The capacity is exactly what I was after. The overall fit and comfort is so much better than I expected.

I haven’t owned it long enough to comment on durability, but so far I would not hesitate to suggest buying one.

Until next time, don’t let the fat man catch you!

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