Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Why I'm mad as hell, and how that became a solid run.

Sometimes things are going really well in life, whether its a relationship or a job or training.  Maybe its life in general.  Then something comes along to crap on the whole parade.  Well I talk a lot about Chi Running and my "gorilla feet" and how running has been very, very good to me even I have bad days.  Last November I had a nasty ankle "hurt" that was most likely a repetitive use injury.  By January I figured that problem out and corrected the issue only to a have scar tissue in my other ankle flare up on all its glory.  Its still with me today.  It is worst in the mornings.  Funny thing is that it never really bothers me during a run.  Then recently I began experiencing pain on top of my feet.  Stress fracture came to mind.  I'm choosing to call it strain tendons. lol

The point is that I can deal with injury.  What are the symptoms?  What is the cause?  Can I correct it through form checks or do I really need to see a quack - I mean doctor???  However there are other situations that are not see easy to deal with in life.

If you are a fan, or "friend", you may have recently seen before & after photos posted online.  I realized that over the past three years I "lost" sixty pounds.  SIXTY POUNDS!!!  Freaking incredible.  EFFING AWESOME.  That weight loss was the result of running over 2300 miles.  One round of P90X.  Cutting the bad stuff and adding more of the good stuff.  (Wow watermelon is like crack.  Give me a knife and spoon and its ON!)  Needless to say I have been feeling really good lately.  Hard work is paying off and people are recognizing my accomplishments.  But there is always someone there to tear you down.

Someone close to me, who is clearly proud of my efforts and is also working hard to "get in shape", showed my before & after photo to coworkers.  Many of them were impressed and wanted answers.  What did he do?  How can I get the same results?  The usual stuff.  But then some "person" (I won't use the term clown because that would be mean-spirited) employed as a nutritionist says the person in the photo, the "after" is too skinny.  He needs to eat more.  He needs to be wary of heart damage and potential heart disease.  A guy who works hard, avoids excess and tries to eat "natural" is in line of heart damage?  WTH?!?!?  And someone could tell all this from a picture?  I do not know how the conversation went.  Maybe some key piece of information was left out to give a false impression of what I am about.  The conclusion the person close to reached from the critique of the nutritionist is that I MAY be anorexic.  Huh?

Anorexia implies the absence of food.  "God knows" I eat.  One day recently I inhaled 3500 calories.  Two thousand were from fresh fruit.  Bulimia is when one pukes after eating.  I haven't had a stomach bug in years.  I also finally found alcohol related wisdom that Neal Bushoven preached about in Meck years ago.  So my mouth is for food-entry only.  Then if I eat a lot and exercise a lot what is the issue.  If anything I don't eat enough to replace the calories I do burn.  But that is a financial issue, not a food issue.

Needless to say this little conversation killed my buzz from Saturday.  That morning was the Biggest Loser 5k Challenge. I got to meet Ali Vincent and Bob Harper.  Very cool.  I got see thousands of people committing to a better, fitter, healthier life.  What is better than that?  then Sunday was my day for a long run.  Eighteen miles were tough.  Not unexpected nor struggle-free, but a solid effort.  So maybe I was tired.  Then "Monsoon Monday" brought the gloom.  I was primed for the downer.

So at lunch time today (I'm a real estate professional - lunch time is when I say it is) I put on some shorts and ragged Five Fingers and hit the road.  The plan was for seven miles.  Recovery pace (whatever that is).  From the first step I decided to let my legs and lungs dictate the pace.  How fast would my legs turn over?  How deeply could I inhale/exhale and control the rhythm of my breath rate?  If it all stayed steady I would not worry about overall time or pace.  I also wanted to work on pain management.  Run swift and strong while not aggravating the mystery foot ailment.  I also wanted to run the ill will out of my head.  This funk had to go.

The wrap up - 7 miles at 7.13 minutes per mile.  Deep steady breath.  Solid form.  Absolutely no pain in my feet or ankles.  And brain fully flushed.  Had a fist full of bananas and spinach and a protein bar and half cantaloupe so I'm cool on the re-fuel.

Additional wrap up - I spoke with the "person close to me" and said while I am not mad at her I am most displeased with this nutritionist.  If somebody has questions then run with me and eat with me.  Then you can judge me.  But I rather you run than judge.

One more note - the highlight in the run was some lady in her Cadillac nearly broke her neck turning around to check The UnaRunner out while cruising down the road.  Very nice.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

who inspires me to run - super runners & not-so-much(s)

My morning once lunches were packed and coffee was made I finally turned on my phone to check emails that came in overnight.  Suddenly a message popped into the inbox from the volunteer coordinator for The Biggest Loser 5k.  This inaugural event is being held this coming weekend in Myrtle Beach and I cannot wait for Saturday to get here.  I shall a "pacer" for celebrity runner, which I am told is more of a "handler" than anything.  I assume I will be responsible for helping people cross the finish line.  Finishing and not finishing time is the goal.  But more importantly it is an opportunity of connect with other runners who may be in their first 5k, or running 3.1 miles for the first time ever.  This is a great chance to share why I love running and how my commitment to an active lifestyle has truly changed my life.

Inspiration is funny thing.  Some people do it for family.  Some people do it for health.  Some people do it to help prod some family member or friend into better health.  The short answer is that I run for me.  I have another post written about the reasons why I run.  But I am always looking for something more.

"Born To Run" was a big motivator for me.  There is much discussion about the "reality" of the narrative.  In spite of how true the book may be, the story pumped me up in a way that few things ever have.  And the third reading was as riveting as the first.

Ultrarunner Scott Jurek, also featured in "Born To Run", is an inspiration on the high-powered end of the spectrum.  He runs far and fast.  He was nearly unbeatable for several years.  He is vegan and focuses on clean eating.  After finishing a race he is known to spend hours at a finish line cheering on other runners.  I love the idea that no matter how good Jurek is, no matter how large his legend has grown, he still has the compassion to support "lesser humans".

Another source of inspiration are people who recognize they are unhealthy, overweight, on the entrance ramp to a slow death.  But when this person admits the problem and makes positive, lasting change then I applaud the effort.  My family watches "The Biggest Loser" and enjoy sees the progress all the contestants make.  I had to find my own "aha" moment, when I saw what mistakes I was making.  I had to realize how poorly I felt.  Discovering how good I can feel when I do things the right way was amazing.

I am also inspired by my mom.  She has struggled so much with her health through the years.  But she is doing better now and is giving a great effort.  This presents her with opportunities to enjoy life as an active grandmother, spending time with my daughters, not content to merely be a spectator.

Lastly, I am inspired by the recognition I receive for my progress.  I have had my own ups and downs.  Yet this time am nearly two years into my "new" life.  Every time someone says "good job" or "you look great" it tells me that people are taking notice and following my efforts.  Somebody may be waiting for me to fail.  Somebody may be hoping to learn some secret.  Somebody may look at me and appreciate the fact that I decided to make a change and plan everyday so I may succeed.

If you say "Its sounds like everyone inspires you" that is not entirely true.  While I applaud efforts great and small, the fast equally with the slow, the thick along side the thin, I cannot stomach people who give in to their fate.  In rare cases is a physical condition permanent.  Many things are reversible.  Effort cannot be short-circuited.  So I say don't give up.  Don't accept fate.  Change the changeable.  My hope is that on Saturday I find opportunity to inspire and to be inspired by a mass of humanity moving as one, toward a healthy future.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The struggle - perspective is not always reality

In a past career I worked for a company which supplied building materials for residential construction.  At some point my employer decided to offer installation services and tapped me to run a crew installed doors and windows.  One day we were on a job site (me and to flunkies) working in the pouring rain.  Being the great guy I am I let the others stay inside while to did the "outside" work.  After an hour or so I stepped inside to dry out as best I could.  So I'm standing there talking to one helper.  The other helper is sitting a bucket yukking it up.  At that exact moment our location manager and a sales rep walking into the house.  The manager sees us standing around and goes nuts.  He screams at us for being lazy and goofing off.  Never mind that most sane folks would not stand in the rain without an umbrella, much less try to operate a cordless drill in the rain.

It was at that moment that I realized that reality is not real.  If I'm busting my rear on a job or during a training session, then my reality is hard work and sweat equity.  If you see me kicked back or shuffling along then your reality is that I'm slacking off.  No too persons view off reality is the same.  Its all a matter of perspective.  What is your view or perspective of a situation?  Try looking at a level.  Where is the bubble?  Its location in the level depends on your angle of perspective.

That brings me to exercise and training.  I used to run slow.  And it hurt.  Now I am faster and when I run a solid pace it feels good.  If I try to race really fast it hurts but I enjoy it.  The difference between my usual pace and really fast is 8 minutes per mile versus 6.30 minutes per mile.  But try to get me to run slower than 8.30 minutes per mile without walking and I rebel.  My mind screams.  My legs refuse.  Running slow seems to be more of a struggle than running fast.  I said once that if I suddenly bought a Bugatti Veyron (really expensive, really fast car), why would I keep it in the garage???  I have had to learning that being fast does not require every run to be fast.  But that is the point of training.  Make something difficult turn into something easy.  Then find the new "difficult".

One's perspective does not always speak the truth.  One's perspective does not always tell the whole story.  Sometimes I "feel" that I ran faster or farther than my Garmin indicates.  Other times I "feel" that the run was more of a struggle than the Garmin would indicate.  This holds true for running with others and sharing personal stats.  People on the Daily Mile sometimes marvel at my speed or mileage.  But others do run faster and farther than me.  And I still see myself as that turtle, racing against a hare that is not napping.  Fortunately my "reality" is finally outpacing my "perspective".

When you look in the mirror what do you see?  When you look at your training watch or review old logbooks what do you see?  When looking at other runners in groups or competitions what do you see?  Being objective and seeing "truth" is often harder than any workout I could ever imagine.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Running, racing and "cheerleading" karma

Running can be a selfish pursuit.  My running has largely been a solo endeavor.  In years of on again/off again running I finally found a good group to run with but timing does not always work out.  But group runs and sites like the Daily Mile bring out the social aspect of running that I have come to crave.

Running or any exercise follows the old adage regarding computer programming - trash in equals trash out.  Poor food equals poor energy and effort.  Poor planning affects consistency and long-term improvement.  In my opinion the same can be said for the communal aspect of running.  We are always looking for an edge.  A way to tweak training. A method to reach that PR in distance or time.  Or that person or group to bring out a better effort.

I read Born To Run last year and was struck by the nurturing personality of ultramarathoner Scott Jurek.  He is considered the Lance Armstrong of ultras.  Among his oft-repeated accomplishments is seven straight wins at the Western States 100 miler in California.  As much for his prowess on the trails Jurek is known to park himself at the finish line and wait for each finisher to come in.  Jurek is super fast over such long distances and could be relaxing and recovering before most runners sniff the finish line, but he chooses to stay and celebrate each person for the commitment and determination to complete such an arduous feat.  He sometimes shows up to races he is not entered just to cheer people on.  I like that.  I like it a lot.

I didn't care much for it when I DNFed my first marathon.  That was also my first race entry in eleven years.  My next race was the Surfside Rotary 10k in January.  The morning was cold and windy and raining, hard from time to time.  My ankle hurt.  But once I finished and hit the bathroom I decided to park at finish line and cheer on the later finishers.  When there is no chance off winning then finishing is the victory.  I did the same after a strong showing at a local 5k as well as other races.  I even paced my daughter at her first 5k (35 minutes) because she wanted to run and I wanted to run WITH her.  Letting others know you care about their effort is a great boast.  Imagine how MLB or NFL players feel about a packed stadium full of loud raucous fans on gameday.

The North Myrtle Beach Running group clued me in to another way to give back.  On one Saturday run one of the runners asked about volunteer pacers for the upcoming Myrtle Beach Mini (half) Marathon.  The event planners were short on pacers and needed help.  For those unfamiliar with the concept, a pacer is charged with running a consistent time or speed per mile to set a pace for other runners who may have a goal for overall finishing time.  Elite professional runners may have pacers in some events.  New runners may need a pacer to stay motivated and on target.  Pacers are used in longer distance races and can make a big difference on race day.  I decided to try it and am set for an 8 minute per mile pace.  I cannot wait.

What I got out of focusing on volunteer pacing is a sudden strong increase in my own training pace.  After volunteering I had a sudden panic attack.  Am I fit enough to carry an 8 minute pace over 13.1 miles?  Will I fail and take a lot of people down with me?  What have I found in the weeks since then?  Hell no man!  I am much stronger than I thought.  The Mini was planned for a training run.  My next marathon is three weeks after the Mini and I had no plan but for having an easy steady day.  Now that I have the motivation to literally run for others I discovered how easy the pace is for me.  I can't wait.

Matt W. on Daily Mile writes the blog Run Luau Run and wrote about some similar thoughts this week.  Running with others is a great spiritual exercise.  Runners seek affirmation in training for others.  We seek opportunities to provide motivation and good cheer for runners on their own path.  Heather G, also on Daily Mile and the writer of Run Faster Mommy is cheering on participants as a spectator at a local tri event today.  She would rather be entered but is there to lend support for others.  These are the kind of people that make running and running events so cool.

I think that exercise is like childrearing.  Someone is always watching what you are doing, whether you are aware or not.  Children learn from parents and newbies learn from more experienced runners.  Do well and encourage others and the circle of karma is in effect.  If you see a smile on my face, know that I'm running as much for you as I am for me.  And don't be afraid to return the smile or wave.

(PS - new race goal.  I run fast to finish quickly.  I enjoy going fast and pushing my mind beyond its desire to quit.  I want to share that feeling.  Therefore I am thinking that in a future shorter distance race I want to finish then reverse course to find the last runner.  The person at the very back of the pack.  The final guy or girl that has no hope of winning and for whom finishing is the only goal.  The person on the brink of never entering another race if they don't finish.  The person that may benefit from a smiling face and encouraging words and shared strides.  That is who I want to run with on that day.)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Compulsion - Fight It or Ride It?

I have spent many moments in thought over the past couple of years regarding compulsion.  Not addiction.  Addiction oftentimes requires professional medical treatment.  The addict does not recognize the addiction. Compulsion on the other hand merely requires one to look clearly at oneself.  Compulsion can slip into addiction, but this is not a story about addiction.
Like most people I had little things I craved.  Dr Pepper was BIG.  Mrs Fields’ white chocolate macadamia nut cookies were another.  Groucho’s Deli (in Columbia, SC and other fine locations around the Carolinas) was another killer.  My compulsions were things that I could go without for weeks or months, then without warning I had to find IT.  As soon as I had IT I regretted giving in.  I felt weak.
Few if any of my compulsions were healthy.  I realized that my compulsions centered exclusively on food and drink.  Sometimes I craved the taste.  Other times I craved spending the money.  But it was always food or drink.  I would buy unhealthy food when I had good food waiting at home.
My "aha" moment came when I realized that the craving for taste was just that - for the taste.  I wanted the taste of Dr Pepper, beer, hamburger, cookie, whatever.  But I was not satisfied in my stomach.  I was not satisfied in my mind.  While the craving cured (temporarily) what I wanted, it never touched what I needed.
The "aha" moment came when I realized that food should be fuel for the body.  And a strong body worked to its limit can be more nourishing for the soul than any substance.  Fueling the body properly is my new compulsion.  A healthy compulsion.  In the morning I crave peach/banana smoothies made in my kitchen.  I relish making a salad to share with my wife.  I love eating a half cantaloupe or whole watermelon in a single sitting.  I am finding joy in the foods that build my muscles and provide energy and propel my running without clogging my heart or digestive system or bring “the crash”.  I am even researching veganism through friends encountered in cyberspace.
I see other people, people very close to me, struggling with these same compulsions.  My heart aches for them. I know how dangerous unchecked compulsions can be. I understand what changes need to be made and how tough those changes will be.  But the changes are worth the struggle.  Every day I feel that I am closer to being the athlete I never was.  I feel stronger and more in control of my physical and emotional being than ever before.

In closing you might ask "Don't you feel deprived?" or "Why deny the things you enjoy?  You could drop dead tomorrow."  First, I don't feel deprived.  I want to grow and develop and experience what being "in control" brings into my life.  Second, while tomorrow is not promised to anyone, untimely death is not guaranteed either.  Enjoying life no longer means eating or drinking whatever I can shove in my mouth.  Enjoying life now means running faster or farther than anyone thought possible of me.  And boy do I ever enjoy life.

Why I Run

Many people do things for many different reasons.  Some people choose to be lazy and sloppy and do nothing other than work, eat and sleep.  That used to be me.  But I was never happy with that lifestyle.  On occasion I would tie on running shoes and head out the door.  There were numerous starts and stops.  Aches and pains were commonplace.  I ran a 10k.  Even then I was not “happy”.
Then one day I looked at myself like a disembodied soul.  What had I become?  Pictures showed someone in pain.  Ill at ease.  Uncomfortable in most social settings.  But mostly aware of the damage I was causing myself.
I had struggled through the years with maintaining what I thought should be reasonable physical appearance.  I always hated to see pictures of myself.  ”Bloated” comes to mind.
During the summer of 2006 my family moved to Myrtle Beach, SC so I could begin a career in real estate (I know - great timing).  That fall when not working I spent time depleting a free stash of mini-bottles that came my way.  Not the smartest move.  At some point during the next year I laid out a set of goals - business, financial, personal.  One of those goals was to complete a marathon.  It was not a real desire of mine.  I thought it would look good on paper.
My return to casual jogging after four or five years off came in May 2007.  My mom gave me an iPod for my birthday.  After a few months I paired it with the Nike Plus tracking tool and started jogging around the neighborhood.  Nothing long.  Nothing far.  But heat and sweat and pain always drove me back inside.  That fall I managed to put some miles together and pulled off a couple of 10 milers.  Then I was done.
The next fall (Thanksgiving 2008) I was still in a bad place physically.  While at Barnes & Noble I spotted The Non-Runners’ Marathon Trainer.  It looked interesting, but really?  Logan run a marathon??  You must be joking!?!  Sometime over the next week I rediscovered that goal sheet; the sheet with “complete a marathon”.  Suddenly the idea did not seem sooo crazy.  I went back, bought the book and began reading.  IT WAS SO SIMPLE!!!  The book had 16 chapters, one for each week of the program.  I was to run four days each week.  The mileage for each day was on the page.  Each chapter covered a different aspect of long distance running - form, visualization, nutrition, hydration, etc.  But the writers left out “speed” or pace.  Finishing on two feet was the key.  Time goals are irrelevant for the first timer, the non-runner.
Well I followed the plan.  Made notes in the margins.  Even dropped 15 pounds in time for a Caribbean cruise and managed to run while aboard ship.  Even ran once shirtless!  GASP!!!
As for the goal of completing a marathon I did not have a goal race in mind.  I got the inspiration too late to sign up for the 2009 Myrtle Beach Marathon in February.  I was aboard the cruise ship the day of that race anyway.  The next best thing for my timetable was to map out 26.2 miles in my neighborhood.  One loop through cul-de-sac hell is 7.5 miles.  Three and one half loops through should do it.  Long story short I made it.  It was hell.  Thank god my wife was willing to get saddle sore riding a bike along side me for the final 8 miles.  And five days later, after the pain and soreness faded, I was hooked.
I did have some inspiration for unexpected sources though.  For a while I subscribed to a certain - ahem - gentlemens’ quarterly that most people “read” for the articles.  One month in fall 2008 there was a feature on supermodel Carol Alt.  When I was teenager I had a poster of Carol on my wall.  I was in love.  But that was a long time ago.  So I “read” the article and thought “so what”?  Then I actually read the article and realized Ms. Alt was FIFTY YEARS OLD at the time.  OMG!  She is/was gorgeous.  Her secret was a raw food diet.  Whoa!  That’s different!  But this got me thinking about what is possible regarding diet and aging and how the right foods can really make a difference in one’s life.
At the same time I started reading the blog by Steve Pavlina, a Las Vegas-based Internet entrepreneur and all-around deep thinker.  He had a series of posts on self-discipline.  Suddenly my mind was set ablaze.  Steve’s writings covered a broad range of topics but everything came back to being responsible and accountable.  He is also a raw-foodie and runner.
The marathon no longer seemed so daunting.  I had a text-book plan.  I had insight to the benefits of a healthy diet.  And I was beginning to develop a more self-disciplined approach to attain my overall goal.
But never once did “weight-loss” figure into my plan.  I did not focus solely on getting “in shape”.  I did weigh and record my progress daily; however my focus was on the mileage.
The next great leap in my evolution as a runner came in the summer of 2009.  Danny Dreyer is a runner and developer of an instructional running program call Chi Running.  It is based on principles of Tai Chi and efficiency of movement.  Through the fall and winter my running became less labored.  I will save all the boring details of races entered and finished.  Another started and left undone.  But what is important is that Chi Running drew me back into myself.  I centered onto my form.  Movement was key.  Doing something not for the sake of doing but with intent to do it better.  I am forever grateful to Danny for sharing this program.
One day I realized I had been running for over an hour and did not care to stop.  No longer a means to sneak in exercise, my running became an escape.  A portal to freedom and release.  A way to set myself apart from the herd.  And recently I discovered running is a way to join “the herd”.  I cannot imagine not running.
I run for family so I may be “here” for decades to come.  I run for friends, either kindred spirits in the race of life or as an example of what can be achieved with effort and dedication.  Yet in the end, and forever more, I shall run for me.