Wednesday, September 30, 2015

September Recap

When you are not practicing, someone else is getting better.-- Allen Iverson

Another month in the books. I logged 166 miles. This is my best month ever but there is good news and bad news. Which one do you want first? I'll give the bad news. I set a goal for 200 miles in September and I didn't reach it. It usually kind of sucks to miss your goal but in this particular instance I decide to not chase it. I created a marathon training program that didn't have that many miles so early on the calendar. Last month I pushed but this month I didn't push. I feel as though the long term goal of a marathon was more important than reaching a monthly goal.

One of the coolest things is that I got faster throughout the month. I've been doing speed work this month and it appears as though it has made me faster. Truth be told, I hate speed work but it has helped and is helping.

I did 30 runs with an average of 5.5 miles per run. I did 5 long runs(anything over 10 miles), same as last month but longer distances. Overall I feel like I improved. I took 7 days off and aside from a week when my knee threatened to throw in the towel, I've felt relatively fresh. In the immortal words of Jay-Z, "On to the next one".

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

It Never Rains in Southern California, But It Does in Atlanta

Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.-- Gloria Steinem

It's rained 3 days straight in sunny Atlanta. It's the most rain and clouds that I've seen since moving down here in late June. We even missed the blood moon because there wasn't a clear patch of sky.

I fell asleep on the floor stretching. Believe it or not, that happens a lot. I woke up at 4 am. Typically I set my alarm for 4 am but there is an unwritten rule in the great Magna Carta of sleep. If one falls asleep and wake up at a random hour, if said hour doesn't require being awake for work, then said named sleeper  is absolutely required to continue to sleep. I don't make the rules, I'm only a messenger.

So I still haven't done my 3 mile easy run. It is absolutely pouring rain outside and as beautiful as it sounds raining out there, generally running in the rain isn't pleasant.

Lately I've done some runs in the rain and it's something I like about it. Years ago I used to run on the local track in Bed Stuy Brooklyn. The track was usually pretty active with groups of folks and  people that didn't want to run through  the hood. One particular morning it rained and the track was a ghost town. I decided to continue the run. I said to myself, this is when he real work is done. So ever since that day, when it rains, I get excited about the solitude and the work that I do while others are nestle under their collective umbrellas.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Double Down

Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work.-- Booker T. Washington

I woke up today at 4am to run 6 miles. There isn't much special about that but it was the first part of a scheduled 12 miles today. I don't have a great deal of time in the morning so I can't just run 12 miles randomly.

Usually I'll do one of the runs pretty hard and the other one really easy. I want to log miles and time on my feet without really stressing my body at all. Easy days for me should be rest days in disguise. Rest days are active but not in the crosstraining, yoga way. It is active recovery. I make sure I nurse my nagging injuries and rest anything that may be overused.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Not Much Better, But Better Nonetheless

Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.-- Steve Jobs

This week I tallied 58.5 miles. It is the most that I have ever run in one week. I'm not proud of myself nor is this a celebration. The thing that I am happy about is how I feel. It wasn't a grind. I ran 7 days straight and I could have gone out today. I decided to rest because my program called for it but I don't feel beaten up.

Yesterday I did 15 miles. It was only 2 minutes faster than last week's 15 miler but this one felt so much better. It was also a new route where I got to see new things.

Unfortunately it rained the entire 15 miles. The good part is that I was completely soaked before I hit a mile. I got splashed by 3 cars and I was so drenched that I had to stop taking pictures because my finger or phone was to slippery and I couldn't slide the unlock button over..

It rained so much that around half way or so my brain said that it wasn't raining that hard. I took off my hood and I ran as though it was a light drizzle.

I'm excited about this week. I'm running a mixture of things. I'm doing a double, speed work, a long run and a tempo run. I intend to keep it simple this week and stick to the script.

Friday, September 25, 2015

No Better Time Than The Present

Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today. -- Benjamin Franklin

I was born and raised in a really tough place in Brooklyn, New York called Brownsville. It was a horrible place to grow up and I have zero intentions on returning. When you grow up like that and you decide that the Brownsville life isn't for you, one starts to make plans. You think about the necessary steps to get out and what precise you will do when you make it out. Almost like those movies where some small town girl decides that she wants to be a star in Hollywood. She'll spend hours tip toeing through the tulips of her imagination. She pretends to make Oscar speeches and such. In Brownsville, I just imagined the day when I wouldn't have to think about getting shot at.

The caveat to those dreams and how ones imagination can take them to different places is the fact that more time is spent in future plans like the red carpet. I thought of a future where I didn't have to walk past where someone tried to kill me 20 years ago. Oftentimes dreamers don't enjoy the ride. They think about the destination and places little value on the journey or the great stories born along the way.

For so long I hated training programs for that reason. I was focused on a 4 hour marathon or a Boston Qualifier. It's like you think about crossing the finish line with your goal achieved but you can't recall some of the great experiences during your program.

I want to cherish every run. The 3, 6, 8, etc., mile runs that will have longer stories to tell...with more character.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Prepping For Saturday

The best preparation for doing good work tomorrow is to do good work today.-- Elbert Hubbard

Today's program called for a 6 mile run. I didn't indicate whether it was an easy 6 miler or whether it would be done with pace. I decided that it should be a run by feel. If you happen to feel crappy then slow it down. If you feel fantastic then Godspeed my friend, in the immortal words of Gnomeo from "Gnomeo and Juliet", "Don't hold back, let 'er rip..." Of course accompanied by a Cockney accent made famous and acceptable by Michael Caine.

I felt pretty good today. I dropped my pace a little bit but not too much. I have an easy 6 miles tomorrow and a long run on Saturday. I don't want to go all out with two days left in the week. In theory, the long run is the most important run of the week with the type of goals that I have.

Usually I have a route for my 10 mile run and one for anything over 10 miles. I felt as though I needed to expand my horizons a bit so I scouted out a new route. In the past, in Atlanta, I've needed to fabricate mileage because I hit a dead end. I really didn't want that to happen on a 15 miler. So my kids were knocked out so I decided to drive along a street near my house. It was certainly long enough but it wasn't much to look at. Additionally, it wasn't the best of neighborhoods. It started off cool enough. Some recent hills. Actually, it's the hills that have tested me in past weeks. It passes the golf course where the Tour Chmapionship is being held this year, East Lake. Then it gets less cool and I'm not sure that I would enjoy that 6 mile portion of the run.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Sometimes I Feel...

I put a lot of pressure on myself. I think something's not good enough, and I won't stop until I feel like I've made it. I'm never satisfied.-- J. Cole 

There are days when I feel awesome. The run is great and the family is perfect. I do great work on my business and I do something to make me feel smart. Those are the days that are less exciting to talk or write about. Who wants to hear or read about someone's great day. Most people like to her about  miserable days or all of the negative stuff. I don't actually like to moan and rail on about my bad day... Boo...Hoo. My favorite things to write about are the regular, pedestrians run of the mill days.

Without a doubt I am not saying that I enjoy routine days but those are the days that are interesting to find something interesting. Sometimes I feel like a hamster on a wheel or perhaps a dog chasing its tail. Maybe we can find some other cliché saying to describe a basic day in sort of a rut. The rut, the wheel, or the tail are all okay provided one uses those routine days as high impact parts of a greater whole.

Yes, long runs can be mundane and speed work can be so structured that TD boring but those are the moments where your routine, if well-designed will yield outstanding results. When I pick my son up from school I ask him specific questions about his day. It could get boring but in the long run he will find better ways to express himself.

Sometimes I feel like the shake up is exactly what the doctor ordered. In general people don't really like routine days. Bagel with coffee for breakfast, turkey and cheese for lunch, and meatloaf Monday's. Movie night with the kids and schedule matching are certainly not what folks had in mind when they sat and watched Steve Jobs give a commencement speech at Stanford. But even Jobs did something routinely every day. Telling stories make it seem sexy but he woke up every day and decided to push the envelope. He made his rounds and looked over shoulders and reamed who needed to be reamed.

Sometimes I feel like unsexy routine can breed unbelievably sexy success.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Sometimes Change Can Make It All Seem New

All realities influence our practice, and that influence is their meaning for us.-- Wilhelm Ostwald

In the past 8 days I have done so many different things with my running that it feels almost fresh again. I'm not suggesting that running has been stale but it has been predictable. It's like Norm walking into the bar on that show "Cheers", and everyone screams, "NORM!!!" and the bartender, Sam Malone places a beer on the bar without so much as a non-verbal declaration as to what he wants.

I would wake up early, run 6 miles, moderately paced, 4-6 times per week. Saturday or Sunday I'll do a long run of 10 or so miles. Periodically I would feel great and conversely I would feel horrible at times. That has been my running for years. In general, once a year, I'll sprinkle in a marathon. For all of the love that I have for running I don't believe it would hurt to shake things up a bit. My goal isn't exactly to "shake things up" but that has been the result.

Obviously I love running so I never felt the need to change anything. Bert Lance, of the Carter Administration once said, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. I guess that was my mantra for recreational running. Phil Knight, Nike Founder, once said, "if it ain't broke, fix it anyway", is the new modus operandi that I've adopted as of late. I found that tweaking and doing things outside the norm has given my body an awakening of sorts and the excitement that I discovered in 2000 is reinvigorated now.

In the past two weeks I have done speed work twice. I've run on trails. I have done two runs without music. I've discovered new routes and new distances. Two years ago, I ran before sunrise 80% of the time. 95% of the time I ran before 10:00 am. Recently I've run at 4:30am, 11:30am 6:30pm and even 9:30pm. The aforementioned runs were all in the same week. I'm changing my day to day running and it's given me a jovial layer of sorts that is full of excitement and anticipation for the upcoming run.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

There is No Secret to Success

When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breath, then you'll be successful.-- Eric Thomas

Over the years I've read a lot about how to reach goals quickly. There are books about it. There is a very famous and popular book called the "One Minute Manager" and another book titled "The 4-Hour Work Week". These are good books with some solid principles but they are giving a half story. All success in all walks of life require sustained excellence over a period of time. We have all heard of one hit wonders. The reason this happens is because their successful first offering had very little substance behind it.

Another widely held belief is that an artists first album oftentimes are their very best. The reason for this, particularly for a good artist, is because of the years of pouring your heart into a certain craft. In general, no one wakes up on a Sunday void of talent and then on Monday morning they are amazing. Many of the reasons that books of this type sell quickly is because we live in a society where folks want to get to success quickly with very little effort. If someone wrote a book entitled, "150 steps and 15 years of sustained backbreaking work is the key to success", they wouldn't even sell a copy to their parents.

You can't gamble on luck. In my opinion, that is the only way to achieve success without the long-term work. This is why the lottery can get so huge. Folks want to just win the lottery and quit their jobs. I've been running for 15 years and I am pretty much the definition of average. The funny thing about that is I had to work my way up from sucking to average. I've made tons of mistakes. I've studied my running and others' running. I've ignored great advice and learned lessons the hard way. Every time I read stories about runners, the story is about hard training and set backs and overcoming obstacles.

To be completely candid, I don't really like the stories about "easy" ways to complete your first marathon. I'm not saying that nothing in this world should be easy. I am saying that most things worth going after require a little dirt under your nails.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Not Your Granddaddy's Eight Miler

Originality implies being bold enough to go beyond accepted norms.-- Anthony Storr

Yesterday's training schedule called for an easy 8 miler. In this instance easy meant to run by feel and attempt to not breath too heavily. The only thing etched in stone is the mileage. How one arrives at said mileage is at the discretion of the runner. I have a few 3 mile routes. Lots of 6 mile routes and a handful of double digit routes. I don't have very many 8 mile routes. By not very many, I mean zero 8 mile routes. I could go out on a 10 mile route and cut it short but that's just not my style. I had to sort of blaze a new trail.

I decided to merge a few routes previously run that I can get 8 miles. I also decided to run somewhere well-lit. After the debacle running in the dark he day prior, I had no desire to do that again. The good thing about well-lit streets, you can see the walking dead all looking for...something... at 5 in the morning. I didn't know exactly where I would turn but I just turned kind of when I thought that I should turn.

Then something happened. I felt like a tourist. I took a hit like every block because I thought some of the things were so cool. Some of the places I've been but everything looks different on foot. I also arrived at previously viewed  locations from different angles.

The views made me forget about the inconsistent knee pain for a couple ticks. I could have taken 30 shots on an 8-mile run because everything looked so awesome. 

Typically I zone out on my runs and think about life, family or business. This particular run I just looked around and enjoyed the sights.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Progress Can Only Be Achieved Through Discomfort

The superior man thinks always of virtue; the common man thinks of comfort.-- Confucius

Yesterday I did an early morning 8 mile run. It is the first of its kind. By that I mean it is the first under a different set of circumstances. My staple run is the 6 miler out and back. I've been running it as my key run for years. I remember, maybe 7 years ago, I sent my brother-in-law a text saying, the 60 minute workout is the key to fitness success. At the time, 6 miles took about an hour. I realized that my body reacted to that level of exercise. So I stuck with it. Even after it became less than 60 minutes, I enjoyed the distance and the work required in the 10k.

Years later, it is still my go to run but now its time to seek out that "aha" fitness moment with a new distance. Training on 6 miles have taken me through countless races from 5k to Marathon. I usually race and train based on those times. But in order to get to the next level I had to move to something different method of training. My ultimate goal as I said before is to run 10 miles in the morning, every day, like I run 6 now. Running 8 gets me a little bit closer to that goal. I didn't just want to wake up and do 8 miles, I wanted to start a new journey. Usually my new journeys begin with... you guessed it, a new play list.

I decided to run to Jazz. I ran according to my program so I had to keep pace. Since my last Marathon in April, I haven't thought about how fast or slow I'm going. I just run for the love and I run according to feel. I used to listen to Jazz when I studied so as I embark on a different type of run with a different purpose, I wanted to get lost in the music while I remain focused on my body and my pace. It started off with Dizzy Gillespie, "A Night in Tunisia". That song is long enough to be about a mile worth of music, depending on pace. It also has a introductory feel, like you are starting a show or something but it is still interesting and complicated enough to not be forgotten like most introductions.

My playlist then transitioned into John Coltrane, ""A Love Supreme, Part III: Pursuance". This song starts beautifully. As you move to begin work on your second mile you are usually warmed up and ready to move at normal pace. It takes 90 seconds for the song to really begin, much like the run. After that, it's like 9 minutes of "get up and go", multi-directional, beautiful sound that will pull you into mile 3.

At this point you are into your run and not really surging anymore, nor are you dropping speed dramatically. Miles Davis', "All Blue", is a very consistent and smooth piece of music that will keep the pace without boring you. There are a few points that the rhythm of the song will change just enough to reming you that Miles Davis was a genius and that you still have 4 miles to go.

After mile 4 or so I panicked in the dark as I could not see the ground so I lost track of the order of the songs. I do remember things that stood out that were simply an enjoyable addition to the run. "St. Thomas", by Sonny Rollins was great at the back end of a run because it's upbeat without causing mayhem. Dave Brubeck's, "Take Five" took the edge off of a difficult stretch of the course. "Koko", by Charlie Parker was the mayhem causing piece of music that under different circumstances would have been great. It just arrived at the wrong time.

Except for a stretch of about 1.5 miles I truly loved everything about the run. The course, the pace and the playlist were terrific.

Monday, September 14, 2015

It Is the Doubt That Fuels the Fire

If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.-- Rene Descartes

I've never been favored to win anything. In fact, I've never even been the underdog in anything. The underdog is chosen to not defeat the favorite. In reality, I've been largely off the radar... on paper.

Michael Caine apparently said, "Be like a duck. Calm on the surface, but always paddling like the dickens underneath." Why, you may ask, would I quote The Dark Knight's butler? I did because I once used that quote in an interview when asked to describe myself. I'm not much of a trash talker. If I receive any praise, it makes me very uncomfortable. I have a lot to say but only speak when it's necessary or helpful. My first semi-pro football game I stood on the sidelines staring across the field at the other side while the team got pumped up. One veteran walked over to me and sort of yelled, "hey man, are you ready to go!!!" I slowly turned my head and said, "yeah." That was it. 

There is only one other thing I love in this world more than running. My wife and kids. Everything else is either a distant second, not on the radar, or an afterthought. But with that love for running comes an angst. Sometimes you just don't want to get out of bed. Some days you don't want to do the long run. You set goals that cannot be met or you can actually feel yourself falling short. Running will tell you point blank what's what.

Aside from your own doubt, the doubt of others will no longer remain above the fray. Some will say, "why do a marathon?" Others will say, "just go to the gym." For every goal set, there are the voices in your head and the folks in your face that are telling you precisely why you cannot and will not accomplish said goals.

It is amazing how this idea of doubt can mirror life. I've been told that I would never get a degree. I've been told that the likelihood of me getting to the next level is so infinitesimal that it is a waste of time to try. Of course, hind sight is 20/20 and anything that I've overcome seems like a triumphant story but close your eyes and imagine the voices, the voices in the moment telling you that it cannot be done.

I run because I can. I set goals because I can still get better. I live because I have air in my lungs and I'm driven for the same reason.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Let's Get This Party Started

Your first projects aren't the greatest in the world, and they may have no money value, they may go nowhere, but that is how you learn- you put so much effort into making something right if it is for yourself. -- Steve Wozniak

Today began the official start of my very own, 20 week, marathon training program. Ironically the program began with a rest day. It worked out for a number of reasons. Today was the first full day of NFL. It's almost a holiday for me. Then I am resting and recovering from a long running 2 days. Lastly, I was hurt a little bit and the day of bed rest and actually not stressing my knee further probably helped. I got to watch football with a warming bean bag warming pouch from a teddy bear as I wrapped myself in my daughters princess blanket.

Tomorrow will be early morning speed work. The program itself is what I consider to be expert level. The speed portion is less so. One day a week will be dedicated to speed. The first one tomorrow are intervals. A 1 mile warm-up at 75% of 10k pace. 4x1200 meters @5k pace. Finish with a 1 mile cool down at 75% of 10k pace.

The program starts off with a few weeks of rolling up and down in total mileage. Then it gradually increases every week until the taper.

I have marathon goals this year and it's more than to simply finish them. I want to do them faster. I want to feel better during and after. I want to run more than 1 in a year. I want 26.2 to feel like 10. The only way I feel that I can get there is by following a program and staying in control of my running life.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body

One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.-- Bob Marley

I overslept so I didn't get up to do my long run. I didn't do my long run on the day before my program is set to start. I had to get this run in. I've taken a few days off already for the month and I really want to feel good going into my official training. So I went to the negotiating table with my wife. Usually my long runs are done very early on Saturdays. Typically they are 90 minutes to 3 hours so the last thing I want to do is leave my wife with a 2 and 5 year old midday. We decided that I would go when the little one napped and we would let the older one play with Wii.

It worked out great except for my first 400 meters or so it felt like Tonya Harding took a lead pipe to my right knee. I seriously thought that I would need to go back into my house. I decided to give it another go. There is a small trail about 2000 feet from my house and I told myself that if I could make it there I would  let it ride and listen to my body. Unfortunately I don't listen to anyone really, including my body.

Now for a little back story. I actually got about 8 hours of sleep last night. I NEVER get that much sleep. The weird thing is that I woke up feeling as though I had a hangover. The problem with that is I didn't drink last night. My back was achy and my belly was queasy. I still wanted to run. Weeks without that long run feel incomplete and my thoughts  aren't as concise. 

I struggled through this 10 miler today and although I don't believe in regrets, if I did, I would regret his run. I'm not sure what it is but it would go in and out of pain. There were points when I could go 3 miles with minimal pain. Then there were times when I couldn't go 3 yards with stride stopping, unbearable pain. I don't know why I kept going. I like to say that when my time is up that people will say that he worked hard, he was tough, and he was smart. This time around, in my search for toughness I may have achieved stupidity.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Everybody's Bucket List Race

Your goals, minus your doubts, equal your reality.-- Ralph Marston

The announcement was made today. The Boston Marathon application is set to open Monday, September 14, 2015 at 10:00 am. Many a serious runner wants to run this race. I don't know why really, but it's on my list too. I've visited the city and I didnt really like it. As a New Yorker, I hate all of their sports teams. Why would I want to run a race that is more prestigious than my beloved NYC Marthon?

This will be the 120th time that it will be run. So it could be that there is a lot of tradition. Nope. That's not it. I couldn't care less about Boston history. I refuse to wear their sponsor. I made my decision before the Boston Strong movement. I have nothing ill to say about The events a few years back but I decided I wanted to run Boston before that. The reason Boston is so enticing is because you have to qualify to run it.

I've run the NYC Marathon 10 times. I received guaranteed entry 9 out of 10 times. It is difficult to get guaranteed entry to New York. You have to be a member and run 9 New York Road Runners races plus volunteer for 1 event. That still doesn't equate to the accomplishment of qualifying, which for me is 3 hours and 15 minutes, for the worlds oldest annual race. There are probably other ways to get in but the idea of earning your ticket is so intriguing that it haunts my thoughts. My plan is to qualify in 2017 and run the Boston Marathon in April 2018 when I'm 42.

Oddly enough, since my mind shifted to the Ultra life, I've discovered another race to put on the old bucket list. The Western States Endurance Run 100 miler is now  something that I must do. Back in 2000 when I ran my first ever recreational run I discovered this thing called he NYC Marathon. I obsessed about it and 3 years later I ran it. The same thing has occurred with the WSER 100. I just discovered it in June 2015. I currently obsess about it and I expect to run it in 2018.

I run as often as I do because I absolutely love it. I set goals because that's what I do. Setting goals to do more of what you love better is akin to the person who decided to put peanut butter and jelly  on bread and eat it.