Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Trust the Process

People were telling me to post often during the marathon training process to capture my thoughts along the way. In the beginning I was motivated to do this, but unfortunately I got only as far as a short draft. Now that the marathon is behind me I am trying to get some of what I remember onto the blog. 

I had two different coaches that I was working with. My long-time friend, Viet, who was a long distance coach at the collegiate level, and a work associate, Ellias, who coaches running groups at the marathon. Both were great to work with and helped in different ways. 

Viet had me training in certain heart rate zones and had me focus on tempo runs.  This type of technical training was new to me, and in the end I did not focus too much about heart rate zones, but did run a tempo run every week as instructed.  Typically they were about 5 miles. 

Ellias charted the long run progression for me which I followed very closely. He made two charts actually, an regular chart and an aggressive chart. I chose the aggressive chart.  These long runs started at 7 miles and slowly built up to 21 while pulling back a little every 3rd week or so. 

The first long run hurt the most as I had not been running more than four or five miles at any one time.  I was not sure how I was going to make it through his schedule and was discouraged. I decided to trust the process and focus on not getting injured.

The next run was easier and at a faster pace. This was a nice surprise. As it ends up all the long runs, except for a few, became easier and were run at a faster pace. I believe the tempo runs had something to do with that even though my tempo pace was not increasing. 

A week before the tapering began I had a few breakthrough runs!  A fast 21 miler and a much faster tempo run. I felt ready and prepared. It sort of just snuck up on me. It was great to have a process to follow. I put my trust in Viet and Ellias and their advice allowed me to finish my first marathon in 18 years. It was not a PR, but it was close and within my goal range. I was happy. 

If anyone wants to take on this distance then find someone you trust who knows you, or at least the kind of runner you are. Trust he process and focus on staying healthy enough to toe the line. I believe the hardest part of the marathon is showing up. 

I'll try to post more as I go for a Boston qualifying time over the next few years. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Avoiding the Fat Tax

     My cousin Jimmy, who I've written about before, had an idea that would help the family stay in shape this year. Make it a competition and put some money on it!  Our family and group of friends are all pretty competitive, to say the least so this is right up our alley.  Here is how it all started. I get an email in December from Jimmy asking my thoughts on joining a group challenge. Twelve workouts each month for 2014.  If you don't workout twelve times in a month then you pay $20 into a pot.  Next month same thing.  Take this all the way through December.  At the end of the year those who didn't pay in any month get to split the pot.

     I got this.  The first thing I do is check my average number of workouts on RunKeeper for 2013. This is a piece of cake. Easy money, I say.  As usual, after a new challenge, the emails begins.  And they start growing, and growing, and growing!  It seems everyone has a lot to say on the subject, and it all adds to the fun. 

     Fast forward to late January.  There are thirteen in the group, the challenge is working great, everyone is chatting and sending encouraging messages through RunKeeper, the group is engaged and improving each day!  After all of this positivity and brotherhood tell me how I am stuck on eight with less than a week to go!  Sadly, that is after I added moving and playing soccer with my son as two of my workouts!  This is horrible. Sister in law has over thirty at this point as she is cranking out two-a-days. I am in dead last and risking paying to the pot in the first month. Let me remind you that if you have to pay any month you do not share in the year-end spoils. Luckily, my schedule opened up and I got thirteen to avoid the "fat tax".  This is an encouraging and tough group.  They are serious about their challenges.  I realize now that without this group I would not have met my goal. 

     Here's the take-away... Give yourself a reason to stay consistent. A good challenge and comraderie work for me like nothing else.  If you are stuck in a rut then give this a try.  It is a lit of fun and there is a universal hated to giving away your money.  It seems that group encouragement has a powerful effect on developing healthy habits. 

     Thanks to the dozen that kept me moving last month.  It has been fun and you helped me get out of bed for those early morning runs.

Happy running y'all!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Just one minute

     Have you fathers noticed how your racing times diminish as your family grows? In my circle of friends it seems that the dads tend to add one minute to their 10K time for each kid they have. Granted, this was tested on only two people (me being one of them) but it makes sense.

     Jimmy, my younger cousin by marriage, and a great example of a good family man, competitor, and all-around good guy asked me to write about how I find time to train while balancing the demands of my job, marriage, and son. This is a good question as it is a complicated act.

     First, it helps if you begin your mid-life crisis like I did. The thought of your upcoming demise is a great motivator. I also need to have a reason to train. A post on my blog JustRegularRunner talks about how runners should put an event on the calendar to stay focused. These are my main motivating factors that keep me training hard all year.

     Second, I have to treat my body a little differently than I did just five years ago. I take vitamins, rest more between run days, drink more water, choose bagels over donuts, you know…the basics. The main difference between the single guys and the married dads is the need for us dads to give up something in order to have time to exercise. There is no way around this. There are only so many hours in the day so do what you enjoy, but make sure some of that time is devoted to exercising. There is family time, and there is everything else; work, eating, traffic, and a little time left to sleep. Where does the running fit in? I run before the kid gets up or during my lunch break so as not to interfere with the daily schedule. This is just my way to stay healthy while still being present at home, but it also explains why I walk around sleepy all the time. Now that I think of it I’ve never met a runner that did not drink coffee!

     Finally, I could be successful only with my wife being on board. She and I are supportive of each other’s goals. This means we may need to take on additional responsibilities managing the house at times while the other is training or competing. Keep this understanding balanced and you will see how flexible your partner will be when it is your turn. My son sees his mom playing tennis and his dad running so he associates having fun with playing sports. He used to love sitting in the stroller while I ran, but now he wants to run too! I take him to the track (or to the Olympics as he calls it) and we race a few laps. He even started doing some long jumping in the sand pit. I’d give up a chance to run anytime in order to see him at the “Olympics”, and you bet I am happy to add that minute to my next 10K. What you give up is your choice, but I feel that I receive so much more than I sacrifice.

Original post found on Drop that zero and get with the hero

Morning run motivation

     Morning runs have been too far and in between for someone who calls himself a runner.  I always feel guilty when I skip a morning run.  Why am I such a slacker? The odd thing is that I enjoy running in the morning, I just don't like getting out of bed! 
     This year I am working toward transitioning my schedule to wake up early, put on the running shoes, and hit the road before the sun comes up.  So far it has been a struggle, but instead of dwelling on all the instances when I over snoozed this year (which is in the double digits) I am going to stay positive and celebrate the sunsets that I have captured.
     Thanks Jimmy for making running fun this year!  Your challenge has helped tremendously. 
Coronado Island
Balboa Park
     Happy running y'all!

Group Motivation

        Today, while running my usual loop around Town Lake in downtown Austin, I noticed an interesting phenomenon.  As it happened, it was a balmy, 75-degree day outside so naturally Zilker Park was packed with all sorts of people taking advantage of the pleasant weather.  As you can imagine, this influx of pedestrians created quite the traffic jam on the jogging trails.  As I made my way around the lake, I saw more than just the usual joggers and bikers.  The sunny weather had attracted entire families, many of whom clearly were not at all acquainted with jogging trail protocol, wading around slowly in giant packs that took up more than half the trail!  As I continued along my route, I was forced to constantly speed up or slow down, veer left or right and occasionally even come to a complete halt as I faced the seemingly endless swarm of Austinites!   

            The main reason I like to jog around Town Lake is that by surrounding myself with other people I am typically more motivated to push myself to do better.  While, today, I was disappointed that I was being forced to abandon any semblance of a “steady” pace I felt that I was receiving additional motivation from all the extra people I was zigging and zagging past.  Still, I assumed that my overall time would suffer from all the stopping and going.  Much to my surprise, however, this was not the case!  In fact, my time improved by about 2 ½ minutes!  How could this be?

   The answer:  Group motivation. 

Sure, every now and then, I had to slow down; occasionally even leaping off the trail to dodge an especially large group of walkers.  However, with every person I passed I felt a renewed sense of motivation.  You see, when you speed up to pass someone, especially another runner or, on the rare occasion, a biker you are obliged to maintain that pace until you are a safe distance ahead of the person.  There’s nothing more embarrassing than running out of gas right after passing someone and then having to watch them pass you a minute or two later!  Today, I must’ve passed 200 runners!  Each person I passed acted like a turbo boost chevron in Mario Kart Racing, propelling me forward with a quick burst of speed, which I maintained for at least 100 yards.  Since I was constantly passing so many people today, I wound up running at an overall accelerated pace, thus resulting in a much faster time!

While I still have a lot of respect for the discipline required by those who choose to exercise alone I think that the benefits of group motivation are too real to pass up.  At the start of 2014, I entered into a pact with a handful of family members and friends in which we were to hold each other accountable for completing a set amount of exercises per month for the entire year.  January has gone very well so far and I think it’s fair to say that the majority of participants are experiencing the benefits of group motivation on a weekly basis!  I have also, resumed my outdoor, Bootcamp classes in which I exercise with a group of about 10-20 people for an hour, Monday through Thursday.  Bootcamp is made up of people of all different ages and abilities and I strive to keep up with the class’ leaders.  Seeing the incredibly fit 60-year old woman next to me pushing through the workout gives me the extra motivation required to bust out those last 5 pushups, which I more than likely would’ve skipped had I been working out on my own at home or the gym.

Anyway, I think, by now, I‘ve made my point: There’s power in numbers.  We alone decide whether we are going to exercise for the day, eat right, and get a full night’s sleep.  However, it’s only with the assistance of a friend’s encouraging words or by challenging ourselves to match another jogger’s gait that we are able to push ourselves beyond our own predetermined limits and take our fitness to the next level!
Guest Blogger: Thomas Wilder


Saturday, December 7, 2013

I'm a liar and a cheater

     I lied to my partner about "feeling horrible" a few months ago so I could sleep in.  Not only did I stand him up Thursday and Friday, but I also met with another guy Sunday morning!  Early mornings were our thing, but nevertheless there I was setting up the meet -up time and place with that other guy.  I could not stop myself despite feeling a little guilty.  Luckily he forgave me when I told him and we had a good laugh about it, but it got me wondering...Have you ever cheated on your running partner with another friend?  Were there jealously issues?   Were there tears?! 

     I train with one main person who keeps me motivated, and we go way back; however, there are also a handful of other guys that I run with for different reasons.  The newer runners are fun to meet up with for different reasons, because they are still learning about what they can do.  Showing them the ins and outs of running, and passing along all that I know is fun for me.  This is the only way I can talk about running with a captive audience.  They are too tired and winded to change the subject or disagree with my opinions.  Yes, I find enjoyment in this.  I just tell myself that they actually appreciate all that I have to say.  Surely they are quiet only because they don't want to miss the wisdom that will come out of my mouth next!

     Sometimes I train with these other guys for no other reason than pure convenience.  Our schedules are easy to coordinate, I enjoy their company, and we have similar goals.  It's just easy, and sometimes easy wins.  I've made a lot of friends this way and I am thankful to have learned from them as well.

     It is okay to train with multiple people or different groups to satisfy your selfish needs, but it is not okay to stand up your buddies.  From this moment I will not flake on a buddy so that I can get a little more sleep.  I will suck it up, drink some coffee, and take a nap later, but I will get up and run.

     Share with me a time when you lied to a friend about feeling sick or injured just to get some extra sleep.  Am I the only one?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Perfect Mile

The Perfect Mile
Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It
by Neal Bascomb

    I love this book!  The Perfect Mile is an amazing story about the first four minute milers and their quest to break this historic barrier.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about the success and tragedy of real people who achieve greatness through personal struggle and sacrifice.  Anyone who ever competed in the mile will especially enjoy the history lesson!

     The world wide focus and drama surrounding the four minute mile was as intense as was the quest to be the first to reach Mt. Everest's summit.  The book covers the personal lives and athletic achievements of three great distance runners, and the barriers each of them overcame to achieve such great success in running.  The American Wes Santee, the Australian John Landy, and Brit Roger Bannister display varying personalities, strengths, and racing tactics.  Each came into running from different paths and motivations, and I enjoyed reading the background story of each of them as much as I enjoyed reading about the historic race and final show down.  Bascomb takes the reader through the runners' childhood, discusses their first love of running, and then to their peak as the world's best milers.    I found myself rooting for all three men at different times as I learned more about them.  Their lives continuously intertwined throughout the story exciting me at the possibility of an imminent race among them.

     As a former miler and fan of track history I already knew the ultimate outcome of the story, but the book recreates the excitement of the historic achievement and keeps me turning each page with much anticipation.  I could almost see the race unfold in my head as the author tells the story about the race using great detail including each runner's split times!  The detail is impressive considering the time gap separating the race and the author's interviews.  A bit of history comes out making the story even more interesting when the events surrounding the runners' lives and the events happening around the world at the time of each race are mentioned.  This helps set the context as to just how great the achievement was at a time when the technology of running was just in its infancy.

     Bannister is a hero to Britain and brought national pride back to Britain during a tough time for his countrymen.  He was knighted shortly after his great achievement and traveled all over the world talking about his experience.  I compare Roger Bannister to the American Steve Prefontaine, and I find the parallels between Bannister and Prefontaine intriguing.  Both men talk about pain and how he who is best able to push past pain will win.
"The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win." Roger Bannister

     "A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more."  Steve Perfontaine

     The Perfect Mile is a perfect gift for any runner, and a great motivational read for yourself.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.