Living in the radical center

January 17, 2013

I’ve always been a believer in “the middle”.  My personal and political views could best be dubbed “radical centrist”.  There are extremes in everything, but it has been my experience that the truth (or the best course of action) nearly always lies somewhere in the middle.  Sometimes slightly left…  Sometimes slightly right…  But nearly always within 10% of the middle on either side.  It has been hard all my life not to jump to conclusions or be extremist, but just sit back and listen to both sides (the realists with strong opinions, not the radicals with stupid ideas), and then make and live by my own informed opinion.  It is easy enough for either side to skew the numbers to meet their needs so I try to take everything with a grain of salt and if I’m really serious about an issue, I simply do more research and seek out unbiased sources (which are becoming very scarce).  I rarely engage in debate or argument over any issue because I seldom feel like I have all the knowledge I need to do so.  The quote “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt” is one I live by.  And on the rare occasion that passion about a subject or misinformation taken as fact goad me into such discussion, I always lose or get frustrated, so I simply listen and then once I’m sure I have enough facts to make a decision, I do so and stand by it.  If I’m wrong, so be it.  I accept that.

I’m finding the radical center to be my best philosophy for health and fitness as well.  I have tried huge distances and high speed.  I have tried short distances and very slow.  Neither works for me.  Middle distances and moderate speeds work best for me.  High mileage hurts (and not in a good way).  Low mileage doesn’t get me the results I want.  The same holds true at the table.  Tiny portions or extreme diets leave me starving all the time, unable to concentrate and dealing with a continuous headache.  Ignoring portions and just eating til I’m full is fine, but only if I exercise A LOT and pay attention to WHAT I’m putting in those portions.

However, sometimes I can be radical.  Sometimes I HAVE to be extreme.  I know for a fact that my body does not metabolize alcohol.  Therefore it is immediately (and, seemingly, permanently) converted to fat.  If I want to lose weight and keep it off, this has to go.  I can’t moderate my way out of it.  And, honestly, I don’t trust my will power enough to be able to stop at a moderate amount.  So, it’s gotta go.  Cold turkey.  100%.  Gone.  Any drink I have from this point forward will simply be a failure on my part.  Forever.

Another radical, but perhaps not permanent belief I have is this.  I am physically incapable of running distances longer than 13 miles.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I can DO it.  But the toll it takes on my body is unacceptable.  The goal here is to be physically active for the rest of my life.  I know that I am too overweight to push my mileages up now and if I do, I WILL get hurt.  So… my running mileages will stay at a moderate level until I am light enough that it is less detrimental to my body.  I “might” run a marathon or ultra some day.  That’s why I say this may not be permanent.  But I will not even entertain the idea until the scale says what I think it should say.  And, no, I will not “train” my way down to that weight.  That doesn’t work for me.

I think everyone has (or should have) a few things they believe in strongly.  As long as they don’t proselytize, I’m cool with it and even admire it.  I think I have known the things I have mentioned in this post (moderation, no alcohol, no long distances) for a long time.  I just couldn’t admit them.  I wanted to think that I could just run off a beer or two, or that burger and fries, with a few extra miles.  Seemingly everyone else can.  I wanted to think that I could run long distances like everyone else and that the longer I ran, the more weight I would lose.  But, for me, none of this was true.  I just found myself in a vicious cycle of working out more and more, with the results being less and less.  I tried to blame it on other things but the reality was it just did not work for me.

These admissions are not bad things.  I thought they would be.  I thought that waving the white flag and swearing off beer or marathons (odd to say those two words in the same sentence… no?) would be a failure.  But it’s actually a relief.  It has cleared my vision.  I don’t live in a dreamland of setting lofty goals that I know I will never be able to achieve (in my current physical condition).  I can live now.  With who I am and what I have to work with.  I can run the short route.  I can enjoy a homemade cinnamon roll with my daughter for her 9th birthday.  That’s OK.  Shifting from “that workout wasn’t good enough” to something, honestly, that is really hard for me to say to myself… “nice job”.

So hooray for the radical center…!  But having a passion for a few things is OK too.  I just need to look closely at those things to make sure they are REALISTIC.  Believing passionately about something completely unrealistic is a fools quest.  I played that game for a while.  I lost over and over again.

Today’s quote comes from an old baseball coach, who wasn’t original enough to make it up himself, but never cited his source.

“The difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you do”


I love choices

June 11, 2009

Did another hill repeat workout last night on the bike.  Ended up doing about 18 miles with the repeats and I was good and tired when I got home.  I don’t “feel” any faster but at least I was able to maintain the same pace for all 6 repeats (within about 2 seconds!) so even though the perceived speed is not there, at least I’m consistent.  I also think this is a good sign for my endurance.  But I also realize that I need to start extending out my longer rides an add some interval work as well.  Need to change my biking plan a bit.

This morning was a group run.  Either the group was REALLY slow this morning or I was feeling pretty good because I sat on the heels of the lead pack until the turnaround.  I went short today (we usually have a short, medium and long distance marked out) because I really didn’t need more than the six miles I ran.

I know that sounds funny from a “runner’s mentality”, but when I am training for triathlons, I find that the more I measure and stick to a training plan, the better I feel.  It’s easy for runners who do triathlons to default back to what feels good/they are comfortable with, but you can’t do that.  If you run extra miles it will actually HURT your other two sports.  I find this to be true (for me, no scientific studies to back it up) if I overindulge in any of the sports.  Setting realistic and achievable goals is important in any training plan but sticking to them like glue is CRITICAL in triathlon.  Balance is key.  I try to run 3 days, swim 3 days and bike 3 days (yes, I know that’s nine days).  Three days a week I either do two a day workouts or some type of brick and I take one day completely off.  This works well for me.  Your results may vary.  I also try to keep my schedule flexible enough to accommodate work and the occasional special workout that pops up.

For instance, this weekend there are a ridiculous number of rides, runs, triathlons and other stuff to do.  There are two 5Ks, a big triathlon and a smaller one on opposite sides of the state, 3 bike rides and a club aquathon.  Saturday I am planning on doing part of an early ride and then doing the aquathon (swim 400/run 1 mi, repeat til you pass out).  There is also a swim clinic afterward that I am going to attend.  And this is all before noon.  Doing fun stuff like this makes training interesting and challenging.  I think this is one of the main differences for me between this and my marathon training back in the day.  The vast majority of my workouts now are group workouts (until I get dropped!).  Most, if not all of my workouts for marathon training were solo.  This was tough for me.


April 9, 2009
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Sometimes you just need to say “thank you”.  Now, this has nothing to do with athletics and it has everything to do with athletics, so stick with me.

Whenever you do something bold like creating a club or group, you have a clearly defined starting point, but no idea where it will end.  I’ve started a few that are still around, but I’m not part of them anymore.  I’ve also started a few that don’t exist anymore.  Thankfully, last time I checked, I still do, though…  I think…

Anyway, to find something that is your passion and share it with others is a great gift.  To be unselfish enough to open it up to anyone is extraordinary and then to believe in it enough to carry it on for essentially a lifetime is truly unique and very special.

When the founding members of our local multisport club first sat down over a post run beer and batted around the idea of forming a club, I wonder if they ever could have fathomed what it would become.  I know a few of the names and a bit of the history behind the club, but it has been in existence for close to 10 years (thanks Brad and Mackenzie for the correction).  I have only been privileged to be a part of it for three years.  I don’t know the relationships, the politics, the ins, the outs, the opinions.  What I do know is this.  If it weren’t for the Columbia Multisport Club, I would never have achieved many of the goals I set for myself.  And these are NOT small goals.  Because of the existence of this club I:

Lost 50 pounds

Ran a 4 half marathons

Ran a full marathon

Ran a hundred miles in a month (actually it was 124)

Learned to swim (overcoming a pretty big fear of the water)

And soon:

Compete in a Duathlon (this Saturday)

Compete in a triathlon (May 9)

To some, including those founding members of this club, these may seem trivial or insignificant.  Some of the founders of this group have completed multiple Iron Man’s, ultramarathons, and any number of other ridiculously hard human achievements.

But I hope they understand, even though most of them have never met me, how incredibly important and positive an influence they have had on my life.  Even though they have never said a word to me, their influence on this community and the people in this club is nothing short of life changing and even perhaps life saving.

I know I am not the only one.  The club now numbers between 600-800 people.  Some come to play and socialize and work hard and compete.  Some have come and gone even in the short time I have been a part of the club.  It would be nearly impossible to meet and get to know them all.

But by the mere presence and attitude of this club, hundreds to perhaps thousands of people have done things they never thought they could do.  I hear it all the time on my morning runs with the club.  And all of them say the same thing.  “If it weren’t for this club and these people, I would never have been able to do (X)…”

So tonight I walked up to one of those founding members and simply said “thank you”.  It was hard for me to put into words for him how special this group is and what it means to me.  I’m not a super active participant like some and I don’t socialize as much as some do, but it is a huge part of my life and something I look forward to daily.  My clumsy thank you speech to him was in hopes that I could remind him that what he and his friends did way back in the day is still having huge positive impacts on peoples lives.  Sometimes when you are “in charge” of something like this, you don’t always get to see or hear that part of it.  But I wanted to make sure he did.

It’s funny… I think I know what they would all say.  Something like “hey, we just set up the times and pick the routes.  It’s up to you to show up and run/ride.”  This is true.  But without Mark and Joe and Mike and Brad and Mackenzie and Betsy and Sherry and a hundred others that either created this club or kept it going through the years, I wouldn’t be writing this blog entry.  I wouldn’t have achieved my goals or be motivated to set new ones.  I wouldn’t be who I am today or who I want to be tomorrow.


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Goal setting season

January 3, 2009

Distance: 7.2 mi

I would be lying if I said that I didn’t feel just a little bit guilty for turning early this morning and watching everybody else keep going on the 10 mile, out and back run that is our usual Saturday habit.  As a part of my goals (more on that in a bit) I am cutting back my mileage and increasing my intensity.  But everyone else is gearing up for spring marathons so they are already starting to stretch the miles out a bit.  Case in point, most ran 10 this morning, but some ran 3 before we got there and some went up to 5 more after we left.  I felt like a weenie for only running 7.  But I can’t get sucked into the mileage vacuum.  That is not my goal, at least for a while.  So I will let them go for now and just enjoy my “short” 7 miler!

I love the excitement in the fitness community around this time of year.  And I am not talking about the gym set of “talkers” who join a gym as a part of a resolution and then bonk after a month and never come back.  I’m talking about the true, dedicated fitness buffs who get fired up in the dead of winter while everyone else is snuggled down under the covers and begin to craft their evil plan for marathon domination, et al. for the year.

So far, in the group of 10-15 people I hang with, we have set the following goals:

Six are running the Boston Marathon

Several are running the Little Rock Marathon

One is doing a river paddling race this summer from Kansas City to St. Louis!!

I am doing my first triathlon, duathlon and will probably add 2 more this summer before the Club Nationals at the Redman in OKC in September.  I also want to get below 22 for the 5K and swim a mile without stopping.

Two are running their first marathons

One wants to run her first IRONMAN distance this year.

This is just what I am aware of so far.  I am sure there are more that I am missing.  I have heard rumors from others about the Leadville 100, a 72 hour race, RAAM and many more.  This group is amazing.  I’ll bet their isn’t one major race of any kind in the US that someone in our club hasn’t done.

The cool part about all this goal setting, besides it’s very inspirational for me, is that I know that, barring injury, these people WILL get there.  They walk the walk.  I learn tons from just listening to them.  It’s only the first week of January, but I’m already fired up about this year…!

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Just RUN… Leave the Garmin at home.

December 6, 2008

Distance: 10.5mi

Miles to go: 1227


Image by mcmrbt via Flickr

So it looks like I am going to be somewhere around the 850 mile mark for the year.  Considering I didn’t start running again on a full schedule until about the end of June, I would consider that to be pretty good.  It is a much better result than I thought I was going to have round about February, that’s for sure!

Running this time of year is still hard for me when trying to dress for the weather.  This morning I got up, fully expecting to see temps in the 20s, but it was 37.  Almost shorts weather for me.  Then I walked out on the deck to get a feel for it and was really glad I did.  Winds of 10-20mph made it “feel” like about 20.  I sulked back inside and put on my tights.  I was fine through most of the run but did get a bit warm toward the end and had to take off my gloves to cool off, but I think I got it pretty much right.  I bought this wind jacket for my bike (think “don’t hit me” yellow) but have worn it more running than anything else so far.  The up side to it is it cuts the wind out.  The down side is that it doesn’t breathe so it collects sweat at the elbows.  Gross, I know…  sorry.  The only other alternatives are over $100 and I don’t have that kind of jingle to drop on my hobby right now… 😦  No matter.  I’ll make it work.

The crew I ran with this morning was smaller than usual.  Some were running a local 5K and others have already started training for the Boston Marathon so we won’t be seeing them much.  It was just me and two other people.  Talk centered mostly around pace, with one of them mentioning she wanted to run a bit faster than she usually does but just couldn’t nail her pace down.  I asked her what pace she wanted to run and she said about 8:45 (marathon pace), but she was either too fast or two slow.  The other girl that was with us had taken off at about an 8:20 pace and was saying that she couldn’t tell what she was running either.  I thought this was odd since both were wearing Garmin‘s with  all the bells and whistles (most of which were going off continually because they were breaking pace or heart rate limits they had set).  The were watching the Garmin’s closely, checking every 30 seconds to a minute.  I simply had my trusty Timex to rely on.

So I asked them if they had ever run just by feel.  They pretty much said “no” and that they relied on their tech to help them.  This got me to wondering if maybe they were relying on the Garmin too much…?  So I said, “Ok, for the last 4 miles, I’m going to run an 8:40 pace”.  I let them pull out and swing back, and pretty much pretended I was alone.  They would get out ahead of me and then drift back and ask if I was ok.  I said yes and that I was just running 8:40s.  They checked their Garmins and I was usually within 5 seconds of my goal pace.  Now I’m no pace master, but I know how it “feels” to run a certain pace and I just speed up or slow down until I hit that feeling.  I think this is a great exercise for anyone.  Run without a watch or Garmin and just see how you do.  Or run with a buddy and pick a pace, slower than you usually run, then try to hit it.  Have your buddy check it and let you know how you are doing.  It’s not as easy as it sounds!

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My own personal demons

October 23, 2008

This weeks TIART from Runner’s Lounge hits particularly close to home with me.  It’s about weight management and running.


Image via Wikipedia

To say that I have the “anti-runner” metabolism and body type would be fairly accurate (think: Gimli in running shoes).  I can and have always been able to lose a pound a week (if I run 40 miles or more), my problem is that I can do nothing and eat nothing and gain 5 pounds a week.  Unfortunately, over time I have “done nothing” more than I have run 40 mile weeks.  Like the 10 YEARS I spent on the couch with a bad back.

The net result has been a slow, steady weight gain and roller coaster weight gain/loss unless I maintain very consistent training schedule.  Things like injuries are a double whammy for me because I have to recover from the injury and then re-lose the weight I gained while I was not exercising.

I think the best thing I can offer is to dispell a few myths:

  1. Running, even with a balanced diet, absolutely DOES NOT equal guaranteed weight loss.  And any weight you lose must be continually beaten back by continued running or it will come RIGHT BACK ON.  The problem is, in order to run AND feel good, you HAVE to increase your intake or you will feel sick and weak and tired all the time.  Which is not conducive to more running.
  2. There is NO goofy formula, dietary supplement or magic stick you can shake at your “diet” that will replace, healthy, balanced diets.
  3. There is a reason the word “diet” has the word “die” in it.  The only way to guarantee that any diet works is to stay on it until you die.  Never “diet” again.  Just change your lifestyle (run) and eating habits (lay off the McDonalds and eat a piece of fruit instead).  Eat what you like (within reason) and try new, healthy things from time to time
  4. Yes, beer is mostly water.  No, that does not mean it can SUBSTITUTE for water.  Nice try…  You have to drink more water than you ever thought you could… and then have another glass.  Every. day.
  5. For soda (yes, even “die”t soda… see #4.  Just because it says “Coke Zero” doesn’t mean it has no impact on you.
  6. Sacrificing yourself to the pizza gods by swearing later loyalty only to raw veggies DOES NOT HELP.  Moderation and consistency… Not binge and starve.
  7. Nobody said this was easy.  If they did, you have my permission to kill them.
  8. “Six Pack” should refer to your abs, not your after workout carbo load.  Otherwise your abs end up looking more like a keg.
  9. Putting anything in your body you can’t pronounce or spell without looking at the label is probably NOT going to help.
  10. YES, you HAVE to cut back and moderate.  NO, there are NO SHORTCUTS.  …and you can never stop.
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October 21, 2008

Distance: 8mi

Miles to go: 1386

Marathoners, you know that tiny bit of a letdown you get when you are running a course where the half marathoners run with you to a point and then split off?  You are in a huge pack of people and then you come to that turn where you go right and they go left and suddenly you are alone?  It’s both depressing (I still have a long way to go…) and exciting (I still have a long way to go!) at the same time, for me anyway.

I was reminded of this, although not in such a brutal way, this morning.  I had settled in behind a pack of about 10 runners and was just cruching the miles and listening to them talk about this past weekend’s races, etc.  I knew most of them and had assumed I would be with them until the end.  Then we made a turn (ok… I made a turn) to follow on to the longest route.  I looked up and I was completely alone in the dark.  Startled, but undeterred, I vowed to follow up with them later to hear the rest of the story and trudged off into the last few miles alone.  I learned that, although I am getting faster,  I am still the slowest of the “A”, or longest, route runners.  This was emphasized by the fact that by the time I got back to the start of our run, the parking lot was EMPTY… heh!  All the honking I had heard on the way down the last hill wasn’t frustrated drivers, it was all the people who had already finished and were heading to coffee prompting me to hurry the hell up…

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