Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Duck Out of Water

A progress report of sorts.  Not quite six months, but four months after I dipped my toe in the water and TRI'ed to expand my horizons by taking up swimming.  I had lunch with my Mom this last weekend (Ahhh!) and after I told her I took my first ever swim lesson this last summer, she begged to differ.  I grew up in Kings Point in Littleton, Colorado and apparently I lied...I had swim lessons when I was 6-8 years old.  It must have been a repressed memory because I don't remember it.  I do remember what I thought was my first ever swim lesson at SwimLabs in Highlands Ranch this last July.
I look like I'm up to no good...

Feeling I knew nothing about swimming, and seeing the benefits of coaching and education with my marathon training, I was eager to take the lesson.  I learned a lot and learned how little I knew about swimming,  I recalled it was much like golfing in that there are several things happening at once and screw up one and you could look like a prop on a cheap boat.  I'd highly recommend these folks or taking something similar.  They filmed the lesson and made comments on your take-home DVD with what to work on.  I posted the video and veteran swimmers and triathletes were either complementary or told me I'd swim in circles in a real race--that was pretty harsh. 




My swim times were suspect because I either had pools with crappy wall clocks and I didn't know what a regulation length pool was...meters or yards?  I actually brought a tape measure to my 24 Hr Fitness to measure the indoor lap pool because I was confused.  Imagine the looks from the other swimmers...what's he doing???  Near as I can tell my times posted on DailyMile were up in the 40 minute range.  I had no idea what that meant either and whether it was fast or slow--I figured the later.

My initial distances in a given session were typically 400-500 yards at most.  I wrestled with breathing, and had to incorporate breast strokes into the laps since I couldn't do the whole workout in the faster freestyle.  Even though I knew better, I could only breathe out of one side as I felt the need for more air.  So much for 4-5 years of marathon training and conditioning.  I felt like a duck out of water.

As you may have read here, my type A slightly aggressive self jumped into Triathlons (I didn't know how to spell it and misspelled it here.)  My first race was near disaster as I tried an open water swim at elevation in a wetsuit.  I wrote that I nearly got sick in the swim--in over my head as I wrote in the race recap panicking like Gus Grissom.*  After catching some hardware in my first three races I'm hooked.  More mockery..."is everyone slow in Colorado?"

Fast forward.  As a runner, everyone has that great race or training race where everything went right.  You weren't hurt, you had huge lungs, you didn't bonk, and you felt fast.  I had that swim last week.  It was ironic because I was traveling on business (a lot of that this year,) and plotted my workout to a 24 Hr. Fitness in Mountain View, California.  I'd packed my shorts (albeit my beach trunks...not my fast Speedo at home,) goggles, cap, and used a Marriott Courtyard plastic linen bag as my gym bag.  Classy!

Running on poor sleep and too much rich food and wine, I wasn't expecting much, but this was my best swim ever.  I did three sets of 500 followed by a 250.  As posted on my DailyMile I swam a 29:35 pace, but more importantly, it felt somewhat effortless.  Even better?  My first swim ever where I was able to alternate breathing out of both sides.  A breakthrough.  Apparently, there is one metric that is known among swimmers, and that's being able to swim a mile under 30 minutes, which I can now do.  As a runner, that sounds trivial, but believe me, it's not.

Below is video this week of my stroke.  I'm sure I'll catch crap from the primarily swimmers and triathletes, but I'm feeling much better about things.


I'll continue to swim a couple days this winter and as I enter January beginning to train for my first marathon in a year--May at the Colorado Marathon.  According to my FIRST training plan, this will make me a better marathon runner, and it will build my swim chops for triathlons again next summer.  I guess that would make me a duck in the water...

* Gus was an astronaut who flew in Project Mercury. Upon landing in the ocean, he was accused of panicking in the water, blowing the capsule door hatch, and sending a very expensive piece of gear to the ocean floor.  I'm not that old to have witnessed Project Mercury, but I did see the Ron Howard Film.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mr. Mojo Risin

Did you take my mojo?  Have you ever had mojo at a HoJo?  What about JLo with MoJo at a HoJo?  (I don't think she stays at Hojos.)  How about a Lobo who met a hobo who lost his mojo? Mr. mojo risin'...gotta keep on risin'...

My marathon mojo has been on hiatus when it comes to my running.  I'm hard on myself which is either a curse or blessing when it comes to pushing myself as a runner.  Regardless, it's like I've had diesel in my gas tank or vice versa.  Summer was a good one as my marathon "time off" turned me into a triathlete--so much for "taking time off."

As I've been reading Runner's World's Run Less, Run Faster based on the FIRST Training program, it promotes three quality runs a week blended with cross-training.  I've been toying with the concept the last couple of months.  I stopped by this weekend to pick up some of my new favorite Hammer Huckleberry Gel (that was not a paid endorsement*) and the runner behind the desk asked what I was training for.  "I'm in my pre-training training" I replied.  She looked confused, but it's rather straightforward...I'm not in the midst of a (16 week) marathon training plan, but working on ramping up my speed and conditioning to take on the 16 week plan.

My runs earlier last week consisted of a tempo run by turning up the speed dial to sub-seven minute miles.  The second run was goal pace miles cranking up to 7:35 mile pace miles.  The runs were separated by a one mile swim.  WTF????  That's not a typo.  Saturday was a (short) long run of eight miles.  Long runs by FIRST and most marathon training plan definitions are around 30 seconds slower than your intended marathon goal pace.  I started with a warm-up mile of an 8:10 pace, then settled into a 7:53 pace.

Nothing special...no medals...no crowds, but this was a good one.  7:53 felt quite comfortable.  I'd strapped on my Garmin HR monitor and watched as I started in my Zone 1 (less than 135 HR) and gradually edged into Zone II (around 142.)  Afterwards, I'd synch my Garmin and find out I'd averaged 136.  One digit over the top of my zone one.

What does that all mean?  My sub eight minute pace seemed effortless yet was at a BQ pace.  My heart rate was way below the "shit hits the wall" lactate threshold.  All good.  While only eight miles, this was a huge boost to my confidence.  Despite the temptation to run faster and run more days faster, I will stick to the discipline of my pre-training training.

One more month of this, a couple holiday weeks of laying low, then I will commence my first marathon training program in a year.  Game on.

Bonus blog questions;

1)  What's a Hojo?
2)  Mr. Mojo risin'...name the artist or song.
3)  College with the mascot of a Lobo?
4)  Double bonus question: why the sudden drop in HR around the 20 minute mark?

SeekingBostonMarathon stickers to the first 10 correct answers.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Three Things Thursday Including Best Job in the World

Random three thoughts for this (God Bless America, there's football on Thursday) Thursday.

FIRST

As I mentioned a few weeks back, I am reading Runner's Worlds "Run Less, Run Faster" book based on the FIRST training program.  Sounds like of a bit of an oxymoron...like airplane food.  I'm starting to buy into the program.  Fundamentally, it eliminates the garbage mile days and replaces it with alternate work-outs (swimming, biking, rowing, and the like.)  Three days of the training are not for the timid as they push you.  I'm in what I'm calling my pre-training marathon training, or building back some speed into my diet.  The cross training days allows me to fit in some biking, but more often some swimming.  As you've read here, the extent of my swimming experience was Marco Polo or re-enacting the opening scene of Jaws.  I continue to swim at least two days a week and I'm up to the point of swimming a mile.  It's easy to bike or run a mile, but try swimming one--not so much, but it's getting easier.  Core strength is building, and speed is coming easier.  Encouraging signs.

Off-Season?
I had a humorous exchange on twitter yesterday with good running buddies, Ally and MarathonBrian.  Brian said that he was now in his (using Joey from Friends hand-gestured quotation marks) "off-season."  What the hell kinda oxymoron is that...airline food?  After this last weekend's NYC Marathon (I WILL get there some day,) I saw many runners posting their runs this week on DailyMile talking about how great they felt a few days after the race--so much for a layoff.  Let's face it, we're all (running) addicts and there is no such thing as an "off season."  Brian retorted that his season started last January and two weekends ago was his 16th race...so that would be an off-season of the rest of November and December.  (Insert crowd laughter.)  After overdoing it myself last year, my idea of an off-season was taking time off from Marathoning and took up Triathlons.  So much for an "off-season."

Best Job in the World

From the completely unrelated department, last night was the CMA's which is not normally a "circle the calendar" event for me as I'm not much of a country guy, but my brother was attending the event.  Having gone to California when he was 18 to become a rock star, he enjoyed a good life of recording and touring with some notable acts and even has appeared on the "Tonight Show." (Does anyone watch that anymore?)  He eventually had to "settle down" after getting married and having kids.  His job?  Artist Relations for Taylor Guitar which is a vital function to get artists to use their gear.  He essentially hangs with the top musicians in the world and shows them their new stuff...I'm sure it's work and has it's stress like most jobs do, but come on...he gets to fly around and play guitar with famous people.  Last night, while backstage at the CMA's he watched as Taylor Swift stole the evening using what else, but a Taylor guitar.  Both were visions of beauty.  Tim has always been my hero, but he may have moved up another notch last night.  Best dude in the world with the best job in the world.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Behind Blue Eyes: Angels and Demons

For legal reasons, the original post has been redacted.

For many runners, we all run for a reason; running for something or running away from something. If stress were a reason for running, I would be an Olympian.  I was diagnosed with clinical depression two years ago. I'm embarrassed to write those words, but I'm hoping that hitting the "post" button on this blog may help me deal with it in some way or perhaps help others.

Two and a half years ago, I decided to quit a job due to a variety of personal and professional reasons. With 20 something years in telecom sales experience, I had been recruited to go to work for a local company. Less travel and chances for some international work was appealing. Upon tendering my resignation, the CEO of the former company told me he would be forced to "blacklist" me in the industry if I went to work for a competitor. Knowing this, I still took the job, and naively felt that if I went about my work honestly, ethically, and legally sound, I would have nothing to worry about. Having someone with seemingly infinite financial resources with a personal campaign against me began to gnaw away at me.

For legal reasons, I can't say much, but stories began to emerge about me stealing company data. Industry peers and customers who I've worked with over the span of a 20 year career know about allegations against me. It's difficult to measure the impact. All the allegations are completely false and quite troubling considering the hard work and over 1 million travel miles I've expended to build a strong reputation and lifestyle over my lifework. With three kids within two years of starting college, the financial implications are troubling as personal bankruptcy emerges as a possibility which obviously limits their options. College funds have been used for legal funds.  All of the above invades dinner conversations far too often at home.

A warning letter was sent and five months later a lawsuit was filed against me--that was two years ago. The trial was postponed last week for the third time and may happen next summer. A lawsuit where I know I'm 100% innocent, I can manage, but going against someone far more powerful with no regard to the personal damage that a wanton attack causes a family was too much to handle. I have been in therapy for the last two years and have tried natural approaches and three different medications to manage the demons that invade my thoughts not only every day, but nearly every hour of the day. Trying to go to sleep at night is a burden as I replay my situation over and over. I ran more. In fact I ran too much as I've chronicled here. "PR" is not in my current running vocabulary, as I took the summer off to physically rest my body. I have only recently resumed ramp'ing up with hopes of a Spring '12 marathon.

I have never been a fan of prescription drugs and not a fan of anti-depressants either. Just like the commercials describe, the side effects of these drugs can be just as bad; drowsiness (understatement,) nausea, and the anti-Viagra. Running while on these drugs range from grogginess or some kind of ephedrine rush that would have me banned from running if I was pro. Neither of which are good for running. Running and drugs don't mix well.

Depression is not a choice, just like diseases like alcoholism or arthritis aren't a choice. I am working hard to "snap out of it" but I seem to be stuck in this pattern.

At times I can tell that my kids don't like the Dad they look at, and my wife deserves angel credit for either not feeling the same or not saying she feels the same way. I can't say that I like myself right now very much either. As a salesperson by trade, I must walk out the door each day full of confidence--this does not help. If sales were a battlefield, I have little ammo nor armor. I do not find solace in a prescription bottle yet continue to medicate.  While running does not block out the demons entirely, it's one of the few times when I'm at my best. My other angel.

"No one knows what it's like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind blue eyes"

"Behind Blue Eyes"  The Who

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Back to the Future

Many years ago, Universal Studios opened the Back to the Future ride at their theme park in California.  I loved the original movie; George McFly confronting the bully (funny how life imitates art,) a stainless steel DeLorean, and time travel.  Time travel was right after invisibility as the super power I most often dreamt of as a kid.  My brother had a music gig at the park when I was out visiting and got me into the park for free. BTTF had just opened and I stood in a three hour line to hang with Marty.  I finally got to the door and the intercom announced the ride was malfunctioning and was shut down.  Sheisse!

Flash forward 18 years later, and I was back in California several hundred miles north in San Francisco's (South) Bay Area.  As I often do, I polled my virtual friends on Facebook, DailyMile, and Twitter looking for a good run route.  I stayed in San Mateo this week and got a number of interesting options and narrowed it down to the Bay Trail in Foster City and Sawyer Camp Trail in the Half Moon Bay area.  I'd run a segment of the Bay Trail (closer to Redwood City) before, and while crushed pebble path and water views were tempting, the Sawyer Camp Trail was touted as a "favorite" from one of the locals; Run in Syn.  Sold!

I got to bed early the night before and got up at o'dark thirty to take the short drive west to the trailhead.  Single lane windy roads that suddenly turned hilly surrounded by vegetation hidden by skies as dark as expresso had my runner geek amping up for a great run with nature--no ipod required.

As my GPS informed me that I was nearing my destination, several cars lined the road.  Hmmm...pretty busy for a weekday, but they were wearing orange vests, not runner reflective vests, but construction vests.  I pulled up to the gate and my headlights saw an omonous closure sign.  Was this closed like my favorite Waterton Canyon back home?  Today my adult amusement park (trail) was indeed closed.  I pondered for a moment and thought about ducking under the padlocked gate.  I knew I could outrun the 40 workers, but on an out-and-back they'd be waiting for me on the return armed with shovels.

I turned my DeLorean around and headed back to the hotel.  With not enough time to hit the Bay Trail and still make my 8:30 AM appointment, I settled for the treadmill accompanied by ESPN.  I have dealt with many an obstacle to my training but this was another first.  Damn you Biff!  I will however return back in the future because in the dark it looked like an awesome run.

Do you pack your run gear if you travel for work?  What cool runs have you discovered?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Belt One Out

I recently recieved a new running belt to try out.  A beltless belt if you will from The Roo Sport.  A belt without a belt you ask?  How is that possible? A review on one new belt lead to a comparison of the different mobile feed bags I use in my marathon training and races.

Fuel Belt

The Fuel Belt is the one you will see on the poor bastard on the side of the road out on their solo long run of 16-20+ miles.  This does the job of carrying four small water bottles along with a velcro pouch in front for nutrients.  Each bottle has an elastic string that keeps it in the elastic band which is pretty easy to access on the run with or without stopping.  My only product complaint, is that the velcro compartment is way too small to carry the equivalent of 20 miles of gels, or shot bloks; muchless a phone, plus keys, etc. so you'll have to have short pockets to assist.  My emotional complaint is that every time I put this one on, I know I'm going long and it's likely to be painful so it's a bit of a love-hate relationship.  I don't like the extra weight either...it feels okay putting it on, but after a long run, you're dying to get it off.  (Kind of like ski boots after a day of skiing.)

Amphipod Belt

I've got my more marathons under my belt with the Amphipod as it's probably best equiped to carry the most gear with it's stretch main body, elastic bands and back-pack clips. You can load this thing up and it's not going to slosh around a lot.  Just like Nathan they have other models that can carry liquids and goods at the same time.  I prefer to use liquids on the race course and go light as possible.  With a zipper, it's a lot like a fanny pack but the fashion police won't label you as a tourist or nerd.  I've used this in both my Boston races among others.

Nathan

While this one is not a belt, I've been meaning to test drive a hand held water bottle for the long run where you're halfway between "no water is not gonna cut it" and you don't want to wear the army water (Fuel) bottle belt.

As U2 would say, "I still haven't found what I'm looking for" as this one touts a one way water spout that keeps the water in the bottle until you go for a gulp.  A good thing it was only water because on a short four mile trial, this thing was splashing water all over me.  As Napoleon Dynamite would say, "It's a piece of crap it doesn't work!"  I'll give it another try, but sorry Nathan, it wasn't working for me.

Roo Sport

Which brings me to the Roo Sport which is a portable versatile pocket that attaches to any pair of shorts via magnets.  It has two pockets and when it's not filled up you can barely tell it's on which is it's best feature.  Unlike the fuel belt or amphipod where you're have to endure being "strapped in" for 3-5 hours, this won't constrict you like they
will...a beltless belt, brilliant!  Only recommendation to the good folks at Roo is to add an ipod eyelet.  While it can easily fit your ipod, car key, and nutrients for the run, it's not meant to lug around your new iphone 4s--it can probably lug around a smaller/lighter phone, but my iPhone was a tight fit and I'm not sure it would handle quite that much weight.  I've had Roo out for training runs and really like it.  I'll want to test 'er out on a shorter race before marathon testing, but from my first couple rounds, I'd have to give it too thumbs up.

About Me

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Average guy w/ an above average appetite for marathon racing and triathlons. Ran my 5th Boston in '15. 3:21, 1:29, 19:21 PR;full/half/5K Opinions & wit are mine