Staying in control

December 28, 2014

fit-just-go-runI’m still enjoying the euphoria associated with having a really good year.  And while celebrating my successes is a good thing (but hard for me to do), I found myself getting swept away in some over optimistic thinking recently.  While I do want to capitalize on the fact that I’m starting out 2015 in good shape (for me), and I want to build on that, I’m also trying to temper those thoughts with reality.

What I mean is, I was so excited about not starting the year at the bottom of the mountain in regards to fitness and having to run up… AGAIN, that I started making my schedule out for 2015… kinda blacked out… and when I woke up I had planned a road marathon, two trail marathons, a 50K and a 50 miler for myself.  That’s a tad optimistic.  Especially given the fact that I’ve only ever completed ONE marathon in a year, and I wouldn’t call that “successful”.  I survived, but was much the worse for it.  In fact, I was out for a year afterwards…

I had also only given myself about 2 1/2 months to ramp up for the first event on my schedule.

Yeah… umm…

No.

So I pulled my name from the lottery for that event (Double Chubb) and spent some time thinking about how to do this right.

What I “want” from this new era of fitness is longer distance and consistency.  After last year I’m all PR’d out.  Except for the marathon distance I met every goal I set.  And a PR for the marathon should be pretty easy since my last one was a 4:45.  I was 10 pounds heavier and cramped up the last 8 miles and walked all but the last half mile.

I’m kinda done with triathlons for a while.  I still love them, but I really want to simplify.  Later in the year I may switch back to do a little cross training, but my focus is simple.  I want to do a spring, off road marathon.  Then train for a 50K in the fall and use a late summer/early fall road marathon as a training run.  That’s it.  Two marathon distance races.and a 50K.

I may do other races, but they will not be the focus.  I may do triathlons, but only if they fit in my workout schedule.

I guess I like the feeling I have right now when I run.  Like I can control what distance I go or how fast I run.  I can, if I want to, push well down into the 7s and even upper 6 minute miles if I want to.  Or, like today at Rock Bridge, I can run for miles and miles at a 12 minute pace.  My only complaint about last year was that I always felt like I had to push every run, bike or swim.  It was all about “faster”.  While it was fun to see that improvement, it was stressful.

I am in control.  I don’t have to push my training speeds to achieve some magical time goal.  If I have any time goal at all it is for the road marathon and that is to get under 4 hours.  Or, just under a 9 minute mile.  Given I ran 7:42/mi at my last half marathon, I see this as very attainable.  Could I run faster than that?  Yes, I think so.  But I don’t WANT to.  I like where I’m at.  The only thing I need to do is just increase the miles.  Slowly and carefully.  Stopping for a while at longer distances of say 18 or 20 and running those distances a few times before moving on, to get used to them.  Like I said.  Control.

And, quite honestly, now that I am comfortable with triathlons, if things fall apart and I have to back off on my main goals this year, triathlons are a great “plan B”.  No offense intended to my triathlon friends, please.  That’s not me.  But we are all in this for our own goals, and right now… mine are along a different path.  Who knows, after that first 20 mile run I may come crawling back to the pool and bike and never go back again.  But I won’t know until I try… Right?


In the bushes

December 15, 2014

Some athletes give themselves gifts for the holidays.  New tech or gear… a race sign up or two…  Maybe some shoes (curse you Running Warehouse…).  I, however…

For the last 3 years I have given myself miles for Christmas.  Last year this backfired and I had to take a month off.  Hopefully I have learned from that experience.  I sincerely doubt it though.

Grizzly_CoromFallLike the college student who swears to be good and not drink at the party, and does a great job resisting… for the first hour or so, and then one thing leads to another and you black out and wake up in the bushes outside your apartment (not that this has ever happened to me… just sharing the experiences of a friend), I found myself looking at a very decent mileage total for me for 2014.  On or about December 1 I had 15 miles to go to get to 1200 for the year.  That’s awesome.  With my standard 25 mile week I could easily get 1300.  No.  Wait.  I would need a few extra.

No problem.  Three or four miles extra per week and I’m good.  No more than that.

But I need to start ramping up mileages for marathons, 50Ks, etc. next year, so maybe a few extras.  One or two long runs… but that’s all.  I swear.

Then I blacked out…

Instead of the bushes, I woke up this morning 3 days into a “challenge”.  The 12 Running Days of Christmas.  Twelve miles on the 13th, eleven on the 14th, ten on the 15th… etc.  Until you either collapse, blow up, get hurt or make it to Christmas.  Now, granted, NEXT week will be a piece of cake (or two).  This week, well, sucks.  The whole challenge is 78 miles in 12 days.  With the majority (63 miles) coming in the first week.

…wait.  I just said 63 mile week.  Or, over twice my usual mileage.

What could possibly go wrong?

Lessee… Ten in the rain today.  Then the temperature drops.  Nine into the dark (I have to start late afternoon) tomorrow.  Eight cold ones on (and not the good kind) on Wednesday.  Seven fairly normal miles on Thursday and then it snows.

Bring it.

If I’m going to do this “Ultra” crap, this will kind of be normal.  So what is the strategy?

Slow the hell down.

Yup.

That’s pretty much it.

It’s all about time on my legs now.  Pace means nothing.  It’s almost like starting all over again.  Being able to run 3 miles at 6:45 is great.  But now I’m looking at running (any pace… just running), for 5-6 HOURS.  It’s a totally different mindset.  A completely different kind of stupid.  And the whole goal is to simply avoid the bushes…


Talk me off the ledge (again)… please.

December 12, 2014

I am not a mileage junkie…

I’m way worse.  I’m a WANNABE mileage junkie.  And this time of year I get “Seasonal Junkie Disorder”.  That’s where I SAY all year long that mileage doesn’t matter… but then I panic in December and do something stupid like put in a fifty mile week just trying to achieve some nebulous, meaningless mileage goal.

And… here we go again.

crazyThis year is not as bad.  As of yesterday, I’m at 1197 miles for the year.  Considering most of the year I was training for triathlons and only running 3 days a week, 23 miles a week is fine.  I will hit 1200 on my 10 mile run tomorrow and be done with it… right?

*sigh*

See… I have this friend…  and he does this thing every year… called “The 12 Running Days of Christmas”.  I don’t want to say or curse his name… but his initials are Shawn Goertz.

If my mad math SKILLZ are correct, this is 78 miles in 12 days and 63 miles of that in the first week.

I’ve done this before… and it hurt.  A lot.  I don’t think I was in as good shape then as I am now… but it hurt.  I also know that if I’m serious about ramping up for ultra distances, mileage needs to stop scaring me.  You know… big girl panties and all that.

It will also put me at 1275 miles(ish) on the 25th.  You know… with one more week to run the last 25 miles to get to 1300.

I need therapy.

p.s. If anybody is doing this craziness as well and needs some company, please call me.  I’m available every day but Tuesday (until after 3).  I can only run about 7:45/mi for these distances at the fastest.  But I will GLEEFULLY run 10-15 minute miles if you let me run with you…

…please?


Gear check

December 10, 2014

gearSo it’s the end of the year and I am looking at going after some different goals next year.  Marathons and ultras, mostly.  Maybe an offroad tri if I can find one (you would think with as many trails as we have in Missouri there would be AT LEAST one…).

But since it’s the end of the year I have kind of been taking inventory of my gear.  We all know you can never really have enough stuff and most of us are at least closet gadget freaks, if not full blown hoarders (you know who you are…).  I have desperately tried to stay pretty minimal on the gear, which, in focusing on triathlons, is REALLY hard to do.  The lure of 3 different wetsuits and a cockpit full of electronics strapped on a $10,000 bike is seductive and I did fall into that at first.  But no.  Now I am perfectly happy with my bike, wetsuit and other gear so unless it breaks, I’m using it.

Unfortunately, my other gear is fraying around the edges a bit.  Not shoes, of course, those are perishable items with a known life expectancy.  It’s the other stuff that is starting to die.  I should really record purchase dates and set them up with an aging summary (no, I’m not anal or anything…) so that I know when to start expecting a breakdown.  This would be things like helmets, sunglasses and goggles, GPS, etc.

Some things, however, need no aging summary.  They announce their age… um… fragrantly.

That’s a kind way of saying all my clothing, most of which is 5 years old or more, STINKS!  When I take off my shorts or shirts now they just walk over to the corner and whimper to get into the washing machine.  And if I don’t wash them immediately or, even worse, forget them in the car or backpack… the results are, well, eye watering.  Now I know this happens with everybody, but when some of your shorts/tights/gloves, etc. are approaching 10 years old, the time between “mountain fresh” and “bog of eternal stench” is greatly reduced.

So I’ve been digging and researching potential purchases for next year.

On the clothing side, I need to replace most of my shorts and shirts.  I can get through the rest of the winter with the tights I have but they are falling apart by degrees as well.  Because of my build (read: legs like a mountain troll and a dwarf had a love child) I may have my wife custom make me a pair or two just so I don’t end up with 6 inches of fabric bunched around my ankles at the end of each run.  I have always liked Asics and New Balance running clothes and will probably stick with those shorts.  My socks of choice are and have always been SmartWool.  My shoes used to be New Balance but I have fallen in love with clown shoes from Altra (ugly… but comfy and stable).  Save for a good distance shirt with a pocket (Hoka makes some nice ones) and a singlet or two for hot weather (still too fat to go shirtless), I will probably just stick with race shirts.  If I’m gonna spend $$ on a shirt, I might as well get a race to go along with it… I have a decent hydration pack and two handhelds for really long stuff.

Where I’m going to have to lay out some cash this year is in 3 pieces of gear.  A good, bright, long lasting headlamp, a new GPS with a battery that lasts longer than 6 hours, and a good rain jacket.  After MINUTES of exhaustive research, here is what I want:

  1. Headlamp- Petzl NAO.  $160 but worth it.  Bright as a Night Sun spotlight, 20 hour battery (in reactive mode), USB rechargable and has a top strap to keep the damn thing from sliding down over my eyes suddenly as I bounce down a trail.  Yes, that happens now with my old Princeton Tec… A LOT.
  2. GPS- Garmin 920XT.  $450.  Hands down, the right one for me. 18+ hour battery, still waterproof for the occasional triathlon, and more features than I can even begin to describe.  I know Suunto and some others have long lasting batteries, but I need one watch for all of my obsessions endurance sports.  The Garmin is the only one that does it all.
  3. Rain Jacket- Patagonia Houdini.  $100(ish)  This mostly comes on the recommendations of others.  Whenever anybody asks about rain wear, this jacket always gets rave reviews.  Most of the time, unless it is below 50 degrees, I just run.  No jacket.  But some races (especially longer ones) require some sort of rain jacket and this one is supposed to be light weight and packable.  Unfortunately, nobody local carries it.

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.  As are links to cheap stuff or coupons.  I’m one of those odd males of the species that like to shop… :)


The problem with cross training

December 8, 2014

sport-spray-for-shoesRemember when cross trainers came out in the 80s?  A little bit running shoe, a little bit tennis shoe, with a sprinkling of basketball thrown in?  If you wear them now you are just marked as old.

Why?

The problem with the “cross trainer” shoe was and, to a degree, still is, that it is OK at everything… but GOOD at nothing.  You can do a little of any sport in it, but if you specialize, it will fall apart pretty quick because it is not made for intense, daily use.

Serious athletes have long since learned that purpose built, specialty shoes provide better support and last longer because they are DESIGNED for the singular type of abuse you plan on giving them.  Likewise with training.  If you want to be really good at something, you have to focus and specialize.

What does this have to do with anything…?

At my “advanced” age… That is 48 in 10 days…  Several years ago a sage doctor looked at me in the exam room, beaten and broken by “specialized” training for marathons, and suggested I look elsewhere for my endurance fix.  After initially snorting at him and dismissing his suggestion of triathlons as “cross training”, I spent the next 9 months trying to prove him wrong by coming back as a runner… and failing.

Low and behold, 7 years later I experienced my best year as an athlete by being balanced in my training for, of all things, triathlons (and somewhere that doc is getting his deserved “I told you so” on).  By being disciplined and not overloading one sport, I felt good and strong all year.  Not “GREAT” at any one sport, but good at all three.

But just like the cross trainer shoe, I also felt that I couldn’t be really good at one of the sports without giving up something on the other two.  AND, just like the cross trainer shoe… Once September rolled around and I changed my focus to running only for the fall, I have slowly started falling apart too soon again.  Nothing major, but my knees, achilles and back are starting to show some twinges that they did NOT when I was running less.

Again, what does this have to do with anything?

I REAAALLLY like to run.  More than anything else.  And I REAAALLLY want another shot at the marathon since it kicked my butt last time.  AND I REAAALLLY drank the trail running Kool-Aid this fall and am completely enamored with running AT LEAST a 50K next year as well.

…but I’m afraid I’m going to fall apart again like that old cross trainer…

I’ve found a plan that has me swimming on Monday and Friday and only running long on Saturday/Sunday (back to backs).

…I don’t know.  I just feel like I’m insane to even try this again…  And adding miles…?  Offroad…?  Something is wrong with me… obviously…


Stairs

December 2, 2014
Walters Wiggles- Zion

Walters Wiggles- Zion

Next year is going to be the year of challenges for me.  Maybe because I like to hurt myself… maybe because I want to believe that I am still capable of more.  Regardless, doing the same old races for years has gotten old.  I want new challenges, new distances, new scenery…

And NO.  I’m not looking for impossibly hard stuff.  I am not nearly a good enough hill climber on a bike to do SavageMan but I would try it if I had time to train.  What the hell.  Most people fall off going up that hill.  There is no shame in it.  Just a tough challenge and a bit of good comedy to boot.

Oddly enough, I was thinking about this last Wednesday morning while running stairs at a local parking garage… Doesn’t that sound exciting?

A few of us started running stairs in the mornings after we decided to take a break from track workouts for a while.  There is a 10 story parking structure in town that is well lit and fairly sheltered so we tried it one week.  Which lead to another week… which has blossomed into a semi regular thing.  We only average 5 people or so, but I have managed to come up with some routine workouts (thank you YouTube) that are challenging but only last about 45 minutes or so.  Just something to get us through the winter.  It’s fun, in a sick kind of way and we all tease each other about being sore (OK… I’m sore anyway…), but it’s good cross training.

Anyway, I’m staring at 2015 on my calendar and trying to decide what to do.  I can’t come up with anything right now that I WANT to do, outside of another marathon and then a 50K.  I don’t really have time to train for anything longer and I am 100% NOT interested in an IronMan.  I just know I want challenges.

The other thing that has been rattling around my head during those stair workouts is my eating habits.  Although they are MUCH better… They still suck.  Too much junk, not enough water or whole foods.  The hard part is that if I was only buying food for me, that would be one thing.  But coming up with a combination of meals that are AFFORDABLE (it’s SO much cheaper to eat food “products” than it is to eat real food… how sad is that…), easy to prepare AND (here is the hard part) palatable for the whole family (especially the picky 10 year old) is damn near impossible.  If I eat just whole foods I will have to get another job just to support that (which kinda cuts into training time). And customizing my meals to fit my body and my needs is impossible when we can only fix one meal for the family… who all have different needs.  This will be my biggest challenge next year.  I’ve got my weight ALMOST under control, but to lose that last 20 pounds I’m going to have to really get creative.  Maybe trying to supplement whole foods in to the menu instead of changing the whole menu?  Like, adding veggies/fruit/nuts as a staple side?  I don’t know.  I’ve obviously never been really good at nutrition in the first place.

I also think I need to take a break.  Like 2 weeks at least of no running.  Just cross training and swimming.  I’m tired.  I can feel it.  I need to rest.


Trying to go 7 for 7

December 1, 2014

I just don’t think I’ve ever had such a good year, physically.  Sure, I have had my nagging little sore spots and I have been tired a lot, but that is normal if you train hard enough.  But since I started working out again when I got to Columbia, I have not had a year that was, overall, as good as this one.  It truly has been amazing.

I’ve always said that I will never grace a podium or smell the fresh air at the pointy end of the pack.  And I’m perfectly fine with that.  This is about being fit and healthy and the vehicle I am riding to get there is endurance sports.  You can have your $10,000 bicycles and $1000 entry fees.  I went there for a while and didn’t like what I saw.  WAY too much pressure on myself, my finances and my mental well being.  Nope, I’m good where I’m at… finally.

In December of last year, I set a goal to finally change my evil ways for good.  It started with eating right and not drinking alcohol.  Then exercising regularly.  I gave myself until April to see where I was at, before I set race season goals.  I set seven total and I’m 6 for 6 so far, with one still outstanding.  This is what happens when you do it the right way:

Lose 40 pounds

I actually lost 50.  I started at 222 and my lowest was 172 during peak season.  I’m at 174 now.  I did it simply.  No alcohol.  Limited sugar.  Portion control.  No “diet” or fad foods.  No calorie counting or Juicing.  As I look back on it… It was easy.  I got hungry a few times… but that was it.  Yes, I even cheated on everything except for the alcohol… :)

Complete another half marathon

Once March rolled around and I saw my mileages going up and weight going down, I set a goal to do another half marathon and then immediately completed it in April.  Then I did 4 more races of half marathon distance or greater for the rest of the year.

Complete the Triple Challenge in Chicago

This challenge (3 triathlons in 2 days) was more about energy planning and race coordination that output.  The water was ROUGH, but I made it and didn’t really feel unsafe or uncomfortable.  The rides were AWESOME (not fast, just unique and beautiful), the runs were just runs.  The last one got hot.  But I never felt like I wouldn’t make it.  The only time I felt like I wouldn’t make it was simply trying to get from the finish line back to transition and then back to the start line for the next race.

Get under 48 minutes in a 10K

This was more a “hmmm… I’m running pretty good… I wonder if…” kind of a goal. I was feeling strong, a race popped up that was in the timeframe I was looking for, so I gave it a shot.  Ended up running a 46:43 on a HILLY course.  I may have to go after a sub 45 next year…

Get under 1:45 in a Half Marathon

After going for and getting my half marathon goal AND going under 1:50 for the first time, I smelled blood in the water.  I wanted 1:45.  Once the triathlon season was over and I could focus on running again, I went for it.  I came away with a PR of 1:43:17. I think, as a goal for next year (if I focused on it), I could get below 1:40.  I can’t believe I just said that…

Get under 22 minutes for a 5K

Oh… man.  This has been on my bucket list for years.  But one thing or another has always gotten in the way.  The speed work I did all summer had me wondering if maybe…

But I had stopped the speed work due to darkness and weather, so I just wasn’t sure.  I knew I needed to run 3 @ 6:58 to really nail it, but I’ve never run under 7 minute miles in a race…  I did know, however, that I was running MUCH faster race times than my training times were showing.  So, what the hell.  My old PR was a 22:15 and my first shot at it I ran a 21:05!  That :05 is going to eat at me though.  My second mile, for no apparent reason other than I must have lost concentration, was 7:24.  If I fix that… I can get under 21 minutes.  No. Freakin. WAY!  I have 3 more chances before the first of the year…

Don’t drink alcohol for 1 year

Honestly, I’m most proud of this one.  I decided on my birthday (December 19) last year, that the best gift I could give myself was to walk away from my beloved beer.  It was just counter to every one of my other goals (see above).  I have, thus far, survived St. Partrick’s Day, Memorial Day Weekend, July 4, 5 beer festivals, over a dozen new beer releases, a HUGE party in Chicago, Halloween, Thanksgiving and numerous other times, both good and bad, where a beer would have tasted REALLY good.  I have 18 more days until my birthday.  I can do this.

Some have asked if I will drink again.  Maybe someday.  I think my new rule will be: I will drink only that beer which is given freely at the finish line of a race longer than 13.1 miles.  Kinda like chasing a carrot…

But honestly, I like the way I feel so much better now…  I may pass on that rule most of the time as well… :)

I am already terrified about next year.  Just sayin’…


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