Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Season of Sweat II

My Season of Sweat and TV Challenge continued over the holiday.  I spent Saturday and Sunday running on the trails and utility roads of Umstead park, and Monday saw a nice gym workout at the Y.  In addition, I also got in a couple of walks with Hiroko along with some good old fashioned house work. 

The runs were both really good, but Sunday';s run was too late in the morning and turned into a major sweat-fest.  They were also plagued by the fact that my inhaler was running out and I was forced into making it last 3 day when it was going to run out in a day and a half.  Running on a sweltering day when your breathing is messed up is not at all fun.    Also, I had upped my mileage by way more than the recommended 10%.  More like a 30 to 40% increase from the week before, which along with my extra Jump rope sessions had my legs feeling like lead by the second mile of each run.  However, I was able to push through. 

I saw this on a blog and it really seems to fit nicely with a lot of the ideas that I have been kicking around lately.
As for My TV Challenge:  It is going strong.  Last week I watched just over two hours.  1 hour of Mad Men, 1 hour of Tosh.0, and I started the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but stopped watching because of all of the arbitrary and unnecessary changes made to the story.  I don't mind making some changes for the film versions, but it get pissed when the changes seemed to be made for no real reason, which seemed to be the case with this film.  Regardless, my TV viewing is still far below my goal of one hour per-day, and I was able to avoid getting sucked into any of the Memorial Day War Movie Fests, which show movies that I grew up watching as a kid and have seem tons of time.  Still, I an hard pressed to pull myself away from the Great Escape, Stalag 17, or Where Eagles Dare when they are on TV. 

I spent a lot of my time reading and getting together with friends, which is how I would like to spend my time rather than sitting in front of the TV wasting my life away.  I saw this on a blog and it really seems to fit nicely with a lot of the ideas that I have been kicking around lately.    

Thursday, May 24, 2012

My Season of Sweat

OK boys and girls, I have a new theme for the up coming summer and my impending race hiatus.  My goal is to make this my Season of Sweat.  This shouldn't be too difficult considering summers in North Carolina are high conducive to perspiration, regardless of the individuals personal preference.  Over the last week, I have continued  my TV challenge, which I mentioned last week.  Since Monday May 14th, I've watched exactly two and half hours of TV.  I watched a movie last Friday night that was 90 minutes long and watched Mad Men on Sunday for one hour.  That's it.

My best bloggin buddy, Morgan, wondered what I would be doing with all of my free time, and her question really got me thinking about the things that I truly enjoy doing.  I have been listening to a lot more music, reading tons (finished The Girl Who Played With Fire and have begun 1Q84), hanging out with Basil, and I have been more committed to becoming The Active Runner Dad.  This started with walks with Hiroko following work, but has also progressed to getting back on an early morning workout and running schedule.  Most night's, I am in bed by 10:30pm and up the next morning by 4:30am.  I managed to get up and run or hit the gym every morning this week before work.  Friday is my rest day, so I'll stay up a bit later, but this routine is what works best for me.  In addition to my routine, I've begun my new Season of Sweat.  Three days this week, I took up my jump rope in the evening to get in a second sweat for the day.  In addition, the last two days, I've jumped rope outside of our apartment in the nice humid NC evening rather than inside the cramped and overly air conditioned Y.  These jump rope sessions are only 30 minutes, but they produce a wonderful sweat.  Overall my goal is to embrace the heat that yet another NC summer is sure to bring and make this my Season of Sweat!  Do you have a theme for the summer?  If so, please share!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Single Track Mind

This kid is still in somewhere inside me

What is not to love about bounding over rocks and roots, darting between trees and ducking under limbs, jumping over streams?  I drive slow.  I don't like jumping off or climbing up high things, but when it comes to running a single track trail, it takes a lot to make me hold back.  I've fallen.  I've sprained ankles.  But, I still love it.  As a kid growing up in West Virginian, I spent tons of time playing in the woods.  I tore through the the paths, trails, and brush with a wild abandon.  We all did.  We were kids and hadn't experienced enough life to realize that we could get seriously injured, and the potential life altering consequences that might result from some our our more daring stupid adventures.  But now, I know better.  Yet, running single tracks unleashes the kid in me every single time.

After I got back from my visit to my hometown, I knew that it would not be long before I hit Umstead's single track trails.  I haven't run on them for awhile.  Mainly because I have had multiple races scheduled every month since last August, and knowing that I am not likely to hold back during my trail runs, I decided I would better off avoiding trails and the potential for a unnecessary injury.  But with only one race on my schedule until the fall, those single tracks are calling me.  I hit the trails both Saturday and  Sunday and found an uncharted level of joy.  Hands down, I get the most pleasure from running trails and would do it much more often if I knew of some trails that had just a bit fewer rocks and roots than those offered by my beloved Umstead. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Part 3 Building The Active Runner Dad: Greg.1: The TV Challenge

A massive thunderstorm woke me up the other night, and I staggered from my bed to unplug our household electronics.  I plugged in my computer the next morning, but forgot  the TV until I returned home the next day.  After a good workout at the gym, I came home sat down on the couch, push the button on the remote and nothing.  I hadn't plugged the TV back in, but rather than get up and rectify the situation, I decided to think things over:
  1. Hockey season ended for me.  My Caps are out, and as much as I love hockey -- I am no fan of any of the remaining teams. 
  2. I only like TCM and one show currently running new episodes: Mad Men
  3. I hate commercials -- especially the Time Warner Cable Commercials.
  4. Reality TV is a waste.
  5. My wife and I are old school in a lot of ways.  We have dinner together . . . at our kitchen table . . .every night . . . and we talk . . . No TV (ok, during Hockey Playoff exceptions were made), Cell Phones, or Computers.
  6. When I was a young kid, I was only allowed to watch 1 hour of TV a night, and I lived!  And, coincidentally, my weight gains seem to begin around the time this rule went out the window . . . hmmm.  
After pondering these ideas for awhile, a notion struck me . . . No not a notion . . .

...A Challenge!
Re-institute the old rule: 1 hour of TV a day.  Want to watch a movie that is 2 hours long, you better save up, buddy.  Game goes into triple OT, guess you won't find out how Ted met their mother this week.  Yep, TV on the net and Netflix counts, so you may want to rethink that 3 movies a week  and unlimited streaming plan.  

After thinking about things, I decided to except the challenge and left the TV unplugged.  Hiroko doesn't watch much more than one hour a night, and it is all cooking shows and project runway when it is running, so I won't get sucked into her shows that often.  Nor does she  really re-watch things that she has seen just to waste time, like I am apt to do.  She does watch some Japanese Shows on the net, but that is more her way of staying connected to her country and culture.  I don't have a game system because I realized long ago that I could not maintain a relationship with a woman and a game system at the same time.  I always sold them when I started dating a girl, then bought a new one after we broke up.  Once I got married the game systems left my life for good.  Regardless, I don't think my challenge will effect Hiroko in any negative fashion.  It is not going to turn into one of those: "you can't eat what you want because I am on a diet situations." 

The simple fact is that I need this challenge.  I want to build the active runner dad, and I can't do that if I come home and plop down on the couch to watch TV night after night.   I don't want to be the role model of the couch-potato for my child.  How can I tell my kid to turn off the TV and get outside and play if I can't do it myself.  So . . .  Challenge Accepted!

If anyone else would like to join me in my challenge, I'll be happy to share my Reading list with you: Currently I am 200 pages into The Girl Who Played With Fire and will be moving onto 1Q84 soon.  I am also reading Bart Yasso's Article about Running with The Amish in Runner's World form a few months back.

P.S. The TV remains unplugged.

Monday, May 14, 2012

My Body Ran 13.1 Miles, But My Mind Went Much Farther

This summer as I push through long runs in the summer heat, I won't be focusing physical distances the way I used to when I ran.  Instead, I'll be trying to track the mental distances covered by my mind.  Boredom is nothing more than the weakness of an untrained mind. It took me a long time to understand that concept.  I am sure that people have been trying to teach me some variation of that idea for most of my life.  But, I never really got it until I found running.  I often hear non-runner say that they get bored when they run, or ask me what I think about when I run.  And, honestly, boredom was one of the major reasons why I didn't like running when I was younger.  It is also one of the reasons why I have avoided running on tracks for the most part.  However, The Half Marathons that I ran in Miami and Pittsburgh have given me a much deeper understanding of the mental rigors of running.

Miami broke me.  By mile 11 I was mentally crushed and had a miserable race.  Pittsburgh's hills forced me to walk, but they couldn't break me mentally, I rallied, recovered, and finished the race on my terms, and turned in my second best time for the distance.  Following the race, however, I've struggled more mentally with irritability, part of this is due to the long drive both before and after the race, but the simple fact is my mind worked harder than my body.  I could easily draw a map of which streets that I went down during either of those races that would be reasonably accurate.  But, if I was asked to give you a road map of my thoughts it would impossible.  Even if I focused upon on the major topics, the undertaking would be Herculean.  Also, the results would be just random and weird, delving into my past, present, and future with little regard for linear order or completeness of thought. If  transcribed and read aloud to an audience of people free of context, I am sure my thoughts would sound like the pep talk of some self-loathing maniac, who has a near pathological hatred of the Pittsburgh Steelers and hills (actually that's not too far from the truth).  From moment to moment, my mind was able to search out for the tools that it need to hold my body together and keep me moving despite  all the physical signals being sent by my muscles that I should stop, lay down, vomit, and cry. 

In the past, my mind wasn't strong enough to move beyond the present and draw strength from other areas to fuel my runs.  My mind's lack of training or weakness came across most often as boredom mainly because I wasn't running distances that push me to where my body was sending physical reasons to stop. So, my mind would throw in the towel by sending signals of boredom.  At first I, like many new runners, drew strength from music, but as I have progressed as a runner and my mind has gotten stronger, I've shed my dependence on music and run with it only when I really want to listen to music.  Personally, I used to fear the physical distance I would need to travel to reach 26.2 for the first time, but after Miami and Pittsburgh, I realize that physically my body could carry me that distance today if needed.  I would not collapse from the physical strain of the distance.  However, my mental preparation and training is not where it needs to be in order to cover that distance.  I wouldn't feel the old boredom that plagued my early running efforts, but I know that my mind is not conditioned for 26.2.  Once, I have marked off my last race of the spring, getting my mind in shape for 26.2 becomes my new running focus.  I am not picking out a specific race or giving myself a timeline, but I am moving with a purpose.  Right now, that's enough.          

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Bends: Post Pittsburgh Half Marathon Decompression Chamber

I think that I am in danger of getting the Runner's Version of the Bends.   The simple truth is that 20 hours of driving in four days and a Half Marathon have left feeling spent.  I made it back into the gym yesterday, but kept my workout light and I am planning to run for the first time tonight.  However, my race schedule is looking bare and I don't want my post race euphoria to fade.  I have one race planned in June, and that's it.  After that, nothing.  The plan is to take a break and just enjoy running and working out without the pressure of training for a race.  In theory, I like the plan.  I am looking forward to some super sweaty Sunday in Umstead and early morning runs through the streets of Raleigh.  Last year, I spent most of July and August sick from the flu, and I didn't get the opportunity to enjoy my summer.  This year, I plan to take things slow and try to enjoy the sweltering summer heat.  Fun times, right?

Decompreesion Commence!

This all sounds good to me as I write it.  But, at times when I am sitting in my over air conditioned office, listening to the guy down the hall drone on incessantly to some poor bastard stuck on speaker phone, I begin thinking back on how much I enjoyed Running Pittsburgh and my nearly blank race schedule.  Then I find that I am browsing through upcoming races trying to justify ways to register for them.  I know that I won't give in.  But, the temptation is palpable.  I want the feeling that I felt as I lined up at the start or as I crossed the finish.  Heck, I even want the self doubt I had at mile nine as I wondered why the heck I was putting myself through all the pain for a silly medal and t-shirt (actually, a sweet long sleeve tech shirt).  Fighting through the Runner's Version of the Bends kind of sucks.  We have all been there, and I know that I just need to come up slowly.  Let the post race exhaustion fade and get back into a workout and running routine and I won't feel so bad about the fading of my post race afterglow.  I know it, but damn days spent in the post race decompression chamber don't just seem colorless.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Pittsburgh Half Marathon Race Report

First off, I had a blast at Pittsburgh Half Marathon and would suggest it to anyone looking for a challenging and scenic course with a lot of fan support.  I ran a good race, but not my best, and still enjoyed the heck out of myself.  Here is a link to my post with our pictures.

Background: I picked this race as kind of an afterthought.  I had my spring race plans sorted out long before I thought of running in Pittsburgh, but the race fit in perfectly with my annual early Mother's day trip to my hometown of Fairmont, West Virginian.  Also, other than my wife, none of my family had ever seen me run, so this gave them an opportunity to watch me run.  As luck would have it the race also fit neatly into my schedule and filled a gap between a couple of races.

Pilot Mountain
Concerns: In order to get from Raleigh to Fairmont, I would need to drive eight hours.  Then the drive to Pittsburgh would add on another two hours to my time sitting stationary.  I had flown to a race before, but I had never driven such a long distance, so I had a high degree of uncertainty concerning the condition of my legs come race time.  However, Hiroko and I made stops along the way at Mt. Pilot and the New River Bridge where we took some time to look around and eat some snacks before continuing our drive.

My other concerns were mainly centered on my unfamiliarity with Pittsburgh.  I have been to the city a few times, but only driven there once.  I was worried about all of the race logistics as well as the course, which I knew would be hilly.

Pre-Race: I was right to be concerned about the hills, and my own unfamiliarity with the roads, but the race day logistics were a total non-issue.  Hiro and I left Raleigh Thursday morning and the trip to Fairmont wasn't that bad.  Stopping and sightseeing helped a great deal.  I did a four mile run on Friday as a shakeout run, which also aided in keeping my legs fresh.  Saturday, was an adventure because our hotel had recently undergone a name change and wasn't in our GPS, nor was its new street name.  Eventually, we were able to find it, but the stress of finding the hotel put a bit of a damper on my time at the Expo.  Luckily, the morning of the race was much easier than I expected because the hotel was running shuttles to the starting area.  I can't tell you how much stress that relieved.  The start and finish areas were planned very well and there were plenty of "facilities" for the runner if you catch my drift.

The Course:

Ok, here is the skinny.  Before the race, I kept seeing lots of people ask the same question: is the course hilly?  There answer was never a straight forward yes or no.  I saw lots of things that said there were some hills, but the also stressed that the course had a negative elevation gain.  Let's just get this out in the open, shall we, the course is hilly.  It's Pittsburgh.  You're running across five bridges and at the meeting point of three rivers in the middle of the Appalachian mountains.  If you want a pancake flat course, you're in the wrong city.  If you want stunning views in a richly historic town with tons of support, you're sure gonna get it.  And, I think that should be how the question the hilliness of the course is addressed, but that's my opinion. 

Hills? Check!
The Race:  My wife, mother, and two aunts came to watch me run in this race.  It was the most support I have had at any sporting event in my life.  My family cheered for me at around the half mile mark the four and half mile mark, and the at the finish, and I can't thank them enough for all of their efforts!

From Start to mile 3 -- this portion of the course was pancake flat and saw me go out fast!  I won't say that it was too fast because I felt great and although the first mile was a blistering (for me) 7:44.  In my defense, it felt great and I was forced to run by feel due to Garmin interference from tall buildings.  By miles two and three, I was able to right the ship a bit and get back to a manageable 8:56 and 8:55.  Running through the downtown and strip districts was really awesome.  The crowd support was great with lots of people and bands.  I was really glad that I chose not to wear my I-pod.

From the 16th street bridge  to mile 6 -- This section was my favorite part of the race.  The 16th street bridge was gave us our first incline of the race.  But, the view of the Allegheny River was awesome.  Also just as I crossed the river one of the bands was playing "Float On" by Modest Mouse, which is a song that I love to run too.  The trip back over the Allegheny on the Rachel Carson bridge was awesome because the crowd grew larger and louder as we made our way back to shore along downtown.  Most of the people who had been cheering at the starting line had moved to the portion of the course between the Carson bridge and the Andy Warhol Bridge, which would take us back across the river for a third time.  The section of road between the two bridges was no more than a block or two and along with the bridges formed a crowd filled horse shoe.  Once across the Warhol Bridge, we had another nice climb up East Commons until we made the turn toward the Allegheny Center and the first Relay exchange and Aid and fluid stations near the mile 6.  I did mile 4 in 8:47, mile5 in 8:56, and 6 in 9:13.  By Mile 6, I the heat had risen and I had begun to get a side cramp on my right side that I would battle for the next four miles. 

Miles 7 through 10 -- this section was just dealing with pain. I don't remember much other than the climbing The West End Bridge across the Ohio River and that I had lost sight of the two hour pacer in the water stop at mile six.  The crowd around S. Main St. was awesome as were the crowds around the second exchange point at mile nine.  But, at this time the sun began to take a toll and forced me to drink to much.  I had fueled at the 45 minute mark and the 90 minute mark like I planned, but I knew that I had taken in too much liquid along the way.  My times were slipping, but the course was getting more hilly and the pain in my side was moving down along my ribs until it passed  just after the 10 mile mark. 

Mile 7: 9:13
Mile 8: 9:25
Mile 9: 9:40
Mile 10: 9:41

Miles 11 through the Finish: -- Here be where dreams fade.  At this point, my dream of a sub two hour half still had some life and my hope for a PR was still very real.  But then came The Brmingham Bridge across my beloved Monongahela, which originates in my hometown, and the bluff along Duquense University.  I made it across the Bridge without walking, but the climb up the hill to the university caused me to take several walk breaks, which cost me my hope for a PR let alone a sub 2 hour race.  The heat was harsh, but the hill was worse.  I wanted to finish strong, and didn't want my family to see me struggling at the finish line, so I made the very wise choice to walk a bit up the hill and run the rest of the way in once I crested the hill.  At the crest I took My last GU and headed for a strong finish.  My choice paid off as I was able to run in fairly strong and turn in a respectable time that I will be very proud of until I return to Pittsburgh next year and CRUSH IT!  Also, I was happily cheered to the finish by my wife on the left side of the street and my mother and Aunts on the right, which made the race all the more awesome!

Mile 11: 9:53
Mile 12: 12:18 
Mile: 13: 9:53

Over all time: 2:05:12

Monday, May 7, 2012

Pictures From the Pittsburgh Marathon

Hiroko & I: Pre-race
I ran in the Half at the Pittsburgh Marathon this weekend.  I am just back after an eight hour drive over some big old WV mountains, so my race report will have to wait a day, but here are some pictures that my wife took for you to enjoy.  Feel free to share them as you like.

Before the Start and at 9th Street Just Past the Start:


At The Four Mile Mark:

Just Before the Finish:

After the finish: