Friday, July 31, 2015

To Run, Or Not to Run... With Music

No. Try Not. Do or Do Not. There is no try.--Yoda

I love running with music. Many people don't care for it. Some are absolutely against it. Often times people will take a stance and give dirty looks to those that run with music. In a funny twist, maybe if they gave those same dirty looks to folks that text while driving, or text while ordering food, or text while doing anything that requires full attention, we would have less incidents. Many races will say, music not allowed. I have never seen that enforced. I think for race directors it is completely a CYA sort of thing. Sounds like something a lawyer would cook up to protect the organization that put the race together.

I always run against traffic. Running this way allows me to see oncoming cars. I also will run on the sidewalk if traffic is not sparse enough. Most people do tons of things to music. Why should running be excluded? Obviously, if you run with music you need to be safe and aware of your surroundings. I have even heard people complain about how annoying it is. To that I belly laugh. Have you ever gone to the gym while waiting for some dude to finish his fourteenth set of bench press and you just want to jump in for your quick set but because he is blaring Metallica or MOP or Justin Bieber he can't hear you? It happens all of the time. People workout to music. I've seen people in the workplace zone out to their favorite tune. Drivers commute to music. Surgeons operate to music. BUT I CAN'T RUN TO MUSIC?

I was in the search for headphones and my headphones died on me so I started using the Apple issued headphones. They were serviceable headphones. I'm no running diva I can wear virtually anything as long as I can hear it and they stay in my ears. Of course all Winter I wore a hat so the headphones had pressure to keep them in place. Once summer hit I ran with a headband but that is very uncomfortable. So I needed solid headphones to stay in my ears. I did tons of research. By tons, I mean that I read some reviews. I gravitated towards the one that reviewers said were best fit. The box said guaranteed not to fall out. WHAT? Where do I sign up? I bought the Yurbuds. Those things were horrible. I never made it more than 2 miles before they slipped out. For a longtime music runner this is like a hamstring pull.

I returned them to the Best Buy. Of course the company said they guaranteed it to fit but they wanted me to take a picture of it in my ear and then send it back to them so they could custom fit my ears with the perfect model. I mean, yes I have tons of free time to do all of this (sarcasm). My two year old could take the picture and my five year old could run it over to the post office. I wasn't doing any of that. I did a little more research. I had avoided the Beats 2 Wireless because they aren't running headphones. Lebron James is the spokesperson for them. Dr. Dre is affiliated and they were expensive as well compared to other options. Additionally, reviewers said they had the best sound. I wasn't too interested in that. Ironically, the headphones that I was dead set against ended up being amazing. I run six days a week for at least an hour at a time, generally, and I've had no issues.

Look, I believe strongly in letting people live their lives. For those who love to run with music... no judgement. If you do not run with music, I ask to not be against those that run with music. Just don't try to talk to me after I wave.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

At the Buzzer

No matter how much humanists talk about "objective values", the phrase always sounds vaguely confused.-- Richard Rorty

Running is one of the purest, most beautiful sports I've ever had the pleasure to participate. There are reportedly about 55 million runners in the United States. Approximately 18 million runners completed a race last year. Amazingly, very few people will get their friends together with chips and guac to watch the "match-up of the century" at the Boston Marathon on a 150 foot big screen television with triple HD with 4D and surround the block sound. No one is going to stand up and scream at the television and call Ryan Hall, or Kara Goucher, or Paula Radcliffe a bum while simultaneously flinging a foam finger at the screen.

The purity of running, as opposed to other sports, lie in the fact that it is very difficult to fake it. By fake it I mean that you can't just have a monster "game" and get the MVP. It is hard to sneak up on the running community and come out of nowhere to win a race. I've seen Lebron James have a bad gam and then come through in the final minutes. We all remember the Michael Jordan "Flu Game" when he was sick and still willed himself and his team to victory. I recall Kirk Gibson hobbling around the bases in the World Series. Or going back even further when Willis Reed came out of the locker room to uplift the Knicks. These are all great stories that couldn't possibly happen in competitive running. Runners still need to go out and put in all of those miles and have a good performance to win. I've seen boxers get beaten down for eleven rounds and then score a knockout in the twelfth and final round.

The beauty of running is that it can be a solitary or community sport. The vast majority of my runs are alone and in the dark. I love the solitude and the meditative state that I can enter on the road for 6, 10, or 13 miles. That said, I've enjoyed running in groups and having conversations with folks that just "get it". Besides, what other sport can you line up right beside an 80 year old, an 18 year old, a woman, and a man, right next to each other with the same chance to finish ahead of the other one. Not even in corporate America, judging by the pay scale, can a man and woman line up equally. The Women's and Men's marathon records are only about ten minutes apart and Ultra-Marathons have even smaller gaps with women routinely beating men, like Ann Treason back in the days.

I played football for 13 years, boxed for 7 and played basketball for a bit. I cannot, at my age, be very serious about my career in the aforementioned sports. As a runner, I can continue to get better. EVERY... DAMN... DAY.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Wait... What do you mean I'm not Kenyan?

A social movement can rouse people when it can do three things: simplify ideas, establish a claim to truth, and, in the union of two, demand a commitment to action.-- Daniel Bell

Today is Tuesday. On Tuesdays I torture myself. Maybe I should call it Torture Tuesdays. I usually run multiple times at various points of the day. I do one hard workout and just keep going at it. The reason for this is the hopes that eventually I will gain strength and perform better because of the strain to my body on this one day. Tomorrow is a slight recovery day. I won't run until later in the day and I may sleep in a bit. I will probably wake up at 6:00am.

This Torture Tuesday was a little different. I have been reading a lot about how to attack hills and heat. I've learned more about pre-run diet. I've watched film of many of the great runners and created a gameplay as to what to do when I hit the road. I read about bounding up hills as opposed to the typical slow grind. The only problem is with my new game plan is that I can't just roll out of bed and run with a beautiful, gazelle like stride nor can I bound up a hill consistently like Pepe Le Pew bounding after a black and white cat for some skunk love.

In order to make some of these changes I will need to train to do these things for an extended period of time. Sure for 800 meters I can hold that perfect butt kick and land beautifully under my body with a mid-foot strike. Early in my run I can spring off of my mid-foot and drive my elbow like a piston. After a little bit though fatigue sets in and the form begins to suffer. It's amazing watching the great Kenyan runners glide through the miles as though they were twirling and singing in "The Sound of Music". They have the grace of so many of the speed designed animals we watch in amazement on the National Geographic channel with that half-dumb look with our bottom lip hanging making our mouth gape. The real problem is how smooth it is when they run. I am 200 lbs with all the grace of a Hyena on acid.

Of course with practice and conditioning I can maintain form better. If you can do it for 400 meters you can do it for 40 miles. It will just take some work. Unless I am willing and able to run 80-120 miles per week at 5000 ft. elevation it is unlikely that I will reach their level of excellence. That said, If they don't run 80-120 miles per week at elevation they will not reach their level of excellence

Monday, July 27, 2015

Obsessive Compulsive

I like focusing on the details.-- Charlie Trotter

Today I had another rough day on the roads. I don't feel like I ran well at all. More importantly, I didn't really enjoy myself today. There wasn't anything about the course or distance that was exceedingly difficult. So now brace yourselves for the excuse train. I gained five pounds over the weekend. I spent twenty-eight hours behind the wheel of a car. I didn't really eat. I was awake for thirty hours straight two days ago. I only ran two out of four days. It was way too hot. I am not used to so many hills and humidity. So now that we have that crap out of the way lets get to the real story.

I just haven't been performing out there the way that I want or need to. I actually hate excuses and I am very annoyed by those that make excuses. I love to point the finger; at myself. So what would any other self-respecting, anal retentive person do in this situation? Of course, obsess about it. I downloaded and read as much as I could to find answers to why my performance has slipped. I assume that my happiness coefficient will change once I work on the actual tangible aspects of running.

First I read a few articles on running hills. I'm doin a few things wrong that could possibly be more efficient and energy saving. I guess that is sort of redundant, efficiency is in essence energy saving. I found that bounding up hills and quick turnover on the downhills may be better. Loose fitting white clothing is best for the heat by a lot. I also learned that some studies show that training in the heat can yield better results once you go back to cooler temperatures. Heat training works similarly to high altitude training.

I read a few things about the plateau phase, which is the point at which your body no longer responds to exercise. As I read about that I discovered how exercise can produce diminishing returns. Apparently the body is an incredible machine. The ability to understand that as amazing as the body is, one must take care of ones body. One must also learn the best ways to make it go. It's like putting spare donuts on a Ferrari and filling it with regular gas. That car can do special things so it requires special treatment. Every aspect of today's run could have been better if I had read about it before I ran. 

Tomorrow is a new day with new knowledge. Everything from pre-run snack to foot strike to color of clothing to adjusting workouts to exit the plateau phase are all details that can make me a better, happier runner.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

In the Back Streets of Dirty Jersey

The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.-- Vince Lombardi

It felt good being back north in New Jersey today. Amazingly, I never thought that I would say, much less feel anything even remotely close to that emotion to miss New Jersey. That said, it was good to have less humidity and less heat. The route I took today had just as many hills, I believe, as some of the routes I've discovered in Atlanta but there was a slight breeze and the humidity did t bother me at all. It had to have been 50% or less. 

The best part was that I ran on a familiar route across the George Washington Bridge. In the past, when I ran that bridge, I ran it from my home, which was five miles away. I always did that route when I did over 13 miles in training. Psychologically, that path gave me some anxiety of a super hilly course and usually a twelve mile jaunt through New York and New Jersey. To only run a portion was oddly enjoyable. I never take more than a week off but I did this course multiple times during my marathon training. 

Much of training for the New Jersey Marathon was during January, February, and March. Those are very cold months. I would return with frost bitten fingers and exhaustion from those runs. I signed up for NJ with about Seven weeks to go so I had to ramp up immediately. I ended up suffering through a roughed-up Achilles because of the increase in mileage and intensity. I did lots of running before work so I never stretched before or after properly. I achieved my goal of being prepared to PR that day. I was fit and well-conditioned for that race but the load that I imposed on my body took me into that day with a weak body. 

Because of the bad memories from training, it felt great to run that course with no pressure and little to no regard for time. I ran an easy six and the base I'm building for the Callaway Gardens Marathon on January 30th was added to today. I ran from the door to New York and saw some beautiful views in the process. I also felt momentarily what I think is referred to as "flow". It's that feeling when your body takes over and everything feels as it should. It didn't last forever but my legs were just going and whether or not it was an uphill or downhill, people in front of me or behind me, my legs carried me to my destination with very little incidence or thought to what I was doing, I didn't look at my watch nor did I care how far away I was from completion. 

Sometimes routes bring good memories and sometimes bad ones. It's a beautiful thing when your commitment to accomplish a goal is married to your passion and pleasure in doing something. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Travelling Man

Traveling tends to magnify all human emotions-- Peter Hoeg

I will be traveling this weekend and like all travel, my running will be arbitrary at best and likely to happen outside of my plans. The good news is that I will be in a familiar place. I don't need elaborate plans in order to get my run finished. Let's be realistic though. How many runners do you know that has an itinerary for their runs? That said, I need to be strategic about it or I run the risk of not actually running for four days... no pun intended.

The unfortunate part is that I drove for fourteen hours before I was able to get to my destination. I had only slept six hours the night before (not a complaint) and I took a three hour nap in the middle of the day. The rough part was the drive and the fact that as I write this I have been awake  for twenty seven hours. The plan is to wake up around six tomorrow and run across the George Washington Bridge (Love that bridge). I may be absolutely comatose tomorrow morning after being awake for probably thirty hours before I reach the bed.

Runners aren't cry babies so I will figure out a way to complete my runs but here is a little insight for those that may struggle with travel and running. I think if you are on a business trip in a hotel I would just run out the front lobby for a quick out and back before the day's meetings begin. It is a good way to get it out of the way. That run may also give you a boost to perform later in the day. If you wait for later to run you may have a longer than expected day and it may interfere with meals. Sometimes on business trips one has to have a drink or so with some folks and then the run is completely out the window.

If you are on a cool vacation somewhere I would ask around for some really scenic views but try to stay on a relatively straight line because no one wants to get lost in the caves of wherever. Its easy to get lost in the beauty of a wonderful place but if your mileage starts to increase and you can't get back the good news is they will make a movie about you. The bad news it will be based on a true story in memory of...


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Just Making My Rounds

I tell a student that the most important class you can take is technique... You have to learn the process. You learn it through endless repetition until it belongs to you.-- Jaques Pepin

I went for a six mile run today. Since I moved to Atlanta I haven't done many six mile runs. I used to do a six almost every day back in New Jersey. I had done it so many times that three mile runs felt like nothing. I had the route mapped out. I knew exactly when to pick it up. I understood my body and my breathing on that route that I didn't need a watch. I could run it blindfolded.

The great thing about that route is that I trained for marathons and half-marathons. I ran unofficial PR's. I remember graduation morning that same route. The only bad thing is that I wasn't really growing. If I ran a race that was too  different than my favorite route I suffered for lack of conditioning (see other post about conditioning).

All of that said, there are many positive things that can come from repetition and drilling. I can feel the six mile runs now unlike I did in Jersey. It isn't just the heat, hills, and humidity. It is the lack of training at a particular distance. I'm going to work on getting back to form where three feels like one, six feels like three, ten feels like six and a half, well, feels like a half but with less recovery.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Let's Get High

Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart.-- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

We have heard lots of talk about the Runners' High. Many of us like to believe that it is true. Many of us couldn't care less whether or not there is a runners' high. There is medical talk about endorphins and how it makes you feel. In reality, the runners I know just love to run. This is not to say that people that believe in the runners high are actually on something.

I recently read an article about the runners high. The actual title is called, "The Runners' High: Opioidergic Mechanisms in the Human Brain". The title alone would make one want to concede their argument and go for a run. It gets a little complicated as the researchers speak about different types of endorphins and blah, blah, blah, but the point is at the end of the journal article is that there ar significant changes in the level of euphoria for those running long distances as opposed to not.

Of course more studies need to be looked into and research, in my opinion, cannot exist without opposing viewpoint. I have always tried to convince new runners to get out there and run for two weeks or so to get the "high". Just like any other drug, once you get high, your brain begs you to get high again. Once you get on the road and you only stop running because of responsibilities or the inability to carry your body for forty miles you have probably experienced the runners' high.

Sometimes ignorance is bliss. There is a part of me that loves to believe that I have some spiritual, otherworldly, out of body connection to running. Running gets me and I get running. That is the ideal, cult in the desert mindset right? This time around science has peed in my Cheerios and said hey numnuts, it's your brain doing all of this stuff that I won't even try to pronounce or spell. 

I guess in essence it's like a drug addict trying to explain why they like to get high. Of course science will explain dopamine and serotonin but the addict will not and most likely cannot. I don't really want to think about why I love running or why it feels good. I just want to open my door and let her rip.

The other side of the coin is the question of why doesn't this work for everybody. If the feeling of getting high was consistent with running I am sure more people would do it. I don't have scientific information to back my next statement but I think people like to feel good. Perhaps the effort that one needs to put forth in order to "get high" isn't worth the price of admission. Ironically, it's pretty easy to get high on crack. All you need is $5 and a pipe and boom, you're a crackhead. To get high off of running, one needs to run a substantial amount for a considerable amount of time. The subjects in the article I read ran about 21k which is about a half marathon. Who wants to do that to get high? The funny part is, after one gets high on crack the long term effects are effectively short term death. The long term effects of the runners high is an increased life expectancy and reduced disease. 

Look, I can't really explain it but I can't stop doing it and I can't wait to do it again.

Monday, July 20, 2015

If you can't Beat 'em Join 'em

Every battle is won before it is ever fought.--Sun Tzu

Anyone that has read the last month of posts can tell you that I have really struggled with the heat and humidity down here in Atlanta. So often times I try to run very early before the sun comes up. I run when I know the clouds are over head to cool the city a little. I've made these adjustments in order to have a more enjoyable run. I am all about running for love... obviously, as well as enjoyment. Unfortunately, the runs are less enjoyable when it is blazing hot outside.

I feel great after the run. I feel a sense of accomplishment. During the run is a different story. Usually when there are few people around I sing whatever I'm listening to. It is a challenge to not be happy when one is singing. How many people do you know that will sing angrily in the shower? About half way in my runs though that grimace appears on my face because it is so hot. I am sweating all over the place and that initial pop I head in my legs has taken a flyer on my get up and go.

The only thing I can think of is to learn to enjoy the heat, humidity, and hills of Atlanta. I have dredged through some of my recent runs because of the conditions but dredging must come to an end.  Instead of checking the forecast on my phone I will just adapt, adjust and overcome. I will literally check the weather more than ESPN these days. But today is a new day. I will not run and hide from the hills, heat, and humidity. I will attack it. Within a few weeks I will be calloused to the conditions and I will once again sing my songs out loud.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Shoe Review... Sort of

Our dignity is not in what we do, but in what we understand.--George Santayana

I used to buy a pair of shoes, dog them out and then buy another pair. Every running shoe person would say something like, every 300 miles change them out. I always noticed that I never noticed how many miles I put on shoes. I did notice when my shoes were worn on one side. I noticed if it felt like I ran barefoot in a pair of shoes. I've even heard the range as wide as 300-500 miles and then change them. Usually when a range is that large, the folks volunteering the range have little idea of what one may actually need.

I've decided to train in multiple pairs of shoes. I have been running for long enough to know that different shoes will do different things for me. I would say three pairs of shoes may be good once you hit the point of comfortably having more than one pair. In general, people have running shoes, gym shoes, casual shoes, and something else random in their closet. So whether you believe it or not, most folks are stockpiling shoes for multiple functions. I like to have an everyday training shoe, a long run shoe, and a race day shoe.

I've used the Nike Flyknit Free 5.0 and 4.0 for nearly two years now for my training runs. There is tons of research out there for barefoot type running. I didn't use the research as much as I used actual opinions. I know a few Ultra Runners that will wear shoes more minimal than that in an Ultra- Marathon of at least 60k and up to 100k. When I heard this I was blown away. I always recommended the Free series of shoes to only be good for 5k and max 10k. I decided to experiment with the Flyknit Free 5.0. The show is super light and comfortable. Little by little I ramped up the mileage. The last thing I did in those shoes was a Half-Marathon. I used to supinate when I ran (run on the outside of foot) and now I am closer to neutral. I believe it strengthened my foot.

Although I haven't used it in a little while, I have used the Nike Pegasus for quite some time with different iterations. Most recently I have done distances over ten miles in the Pegasus 31. It was less effective for me after my stride moved from heel to midget from a year training with the Free. That said, the Zoom Air in the heel helps when my side gets lazy and I can no longer maintain my form. I am not yet the strong, disciplined runner I'd like to be so the shoe saves the day when I'm dragging myself through the street for a fifteen miler.

Then we have the race day shoe. I love the Nike Lunaracer 3. I have already purchased it twice. I got it in April 2015 for the New Jersey Marathon and I have only used it maybe 10 times. It is about 6.5 ounces and has a highly responsive midsole. It is very light and gives that bounce to fly through toward your race goal. Shoes wear down and if you have a couple in the stable they may last longer.

I am not suggesting that you go out today and buy three pairs of shoes. I am also not suggesting that you purchase the three that I use. This is not a recommendation. I am suggesting that we research our footwear and experiment. Take the hard data and make better informed decisions.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

There's just something about Race Day

You are what your record says you are-- Bill Parcells

I woke up early. I laid out my gear for the day. I took a few deep breaths. Then I kissed my wife goodbye and walked out the door. I swear, I walked down the hallway like those guys in "The Right Stuff". I have a job to do this morning. It isn't like every other morning. It's race day.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Good Enough to Eat

Change will not come if we have to wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.-- Barack Obama

It's no surprise that many running blogs and websites talk about nutrition. Eat and Run by Scott Jurek is called 'Eat' and 'Run' and is peppered with recipes about different meals. Run Eat Repeat is a popular blog that talks about food daily. I have been a serious runner for some time but now I would fashion myself a low talent, freelance, emphasis on free, unpaid, professional runner. I can no longer eat whatever and hope for the best. All food consumed has true purpose.

I won't pretend that I have a nutritionist or that I fully understand the effects that each meal has on me. I will say that after a strong run, like today, or a not so strong run, like yesterday, I usually take stock of the days meal. I think about if I ate too much. Did I have too much sugar? Am I bloated from the dairy products? My favorite one is when I don't eat. If I don't have a meal and I go for an early run I usually produce stronger performances. I've experimented over the years with how much food is necessary for me to get through a half-marathon. I know that I perform solidly on an empty stomach but that performance wanes after a 10k or so.

I try to eat the right amount of food that won't weigh me down in the early part of the race but will be sufficient enough for miles nine through thirteen. It's difficult to find the right mix. One needs to experiment with what works best. Everyone has a different metabolism. Each body will burn energy differently so there is no plug and play method for what works.

The unfortunate thing is that if we are running a ton; we are generally very hungry. I don't know the exact science behind it but it seems like the hungrier I am, the more haphazard cravings I have. I know that the body may crave what it needs. The body may need protein and our conditioned image of protein may be a big steak. There are countless avenues to attain the manifestation of protein but we can't go after what we may not know exists.

The bottom line is that I am changing my diet little by little. I am not looking for a magic bullet or the Magna Carta that will change the way I use the bathroom. I reality, I don't think such things exist. I can generally eat tremendous amounts of food or nothing for sixteen hours and there aren't any books out there that can tell me which day is which and how I will perform under said circumstances. What I do understand and respect is real data and actual history.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Journey of a Thousand Miles

That makes zero sense-- Adriana Suarez-Ligon

I've always tried very hard to navigate what it takes to be successful. Ironically, the recipe remains the same in virtually all walks of life. Whatever formula you need to apply to be successful in school, sports, relationships, or business has the same ingredients. There are no excuses or secret sauces that can get you to a goal faster than others or in different vocations.

I want to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Three hours and fifteen minutes will get me into Boston. Unfortunately, I am not very close to that goal. I have experienced success doing other things. I have experienced failure as well. It is pretty clear what needs to be done in order to fail miserably as well as succeed fantastically.

Let's just isolate the high GPA people out there. This is an easily digestible analogy for all. In order to get a high GPA one has to study. Likely this student has memorized the course syllabi that explains exactly how to grade is configured. They organize their time and realize that perhaps they could spend less time on X because it comes easy to them. Potentially that student needs to spend considerable time on subject Y because it was unclear in class. There are even times where, despite the already lofty GPA, that student will seek out study groups or tutors.

The same applies with running. If you will run a hilly course, one needs to train on hills. If you need  certain qualifying time for entry into a tiny marathon in Boston, one would need to know exactly the pace required and then train to accomplish said pace. There are no secrets, just lack or abundance of effort.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Conditioning vs. Fitness

We laid out all of our options for the project and failure wasn't one of them.--Gene Kranz

I write this post in the dark. No air conditioning or fan either. There is a storm down here and we have no power which, also means no intraweb. Please forgive me if anything seems weird. I am posting from my mobile (British accent).

I've been thinking a lot lately about being fit and being conditioned. It doesn't seem like there should be a difference but there is. I've researched the topic but I cold to find much on it. The bad news is, I'm going to draw my own opinion about it. The good news is, I will posit something potentially thought provoking.

Anyone who works out consistently is probably what one would consider a fit person. You know that person. They can run a 5k or a 5 miler. They have pretty good form in the gym when they lift. Usually, that person can do some push ups or pull ups. That fit person is by no means killing it at any one particular thing but they are fit enough to participate in any physical activity. Sort of like he jack of all trades scenario.

The contrary person would be the conditioned athlete. I guess saint contrary may be incorrect. The well conditioned athlete is also fit. Usually that athlete is very fit. The one caveat to their fitness compared to the person who is generally fit is that they have taught their muscles and their respective cardiovascular systems to perform at a high level for particular movements.

Here is a bad example. About ten years ago I had already run 3 marathons. I had played football for 13 years but I hadn't played for a while at that point. The bad example is that it's me. Although I was fit enough to run 26.2 miles, I was pretty winded by the equivalent of the second half. Now let's take two real athletes. Mo Farah and Floyd Mayweather are good examples. Mayweather may be the most well conditioned boxer in history. Mo Farah is on the fast track to be a Hall of Fame Olympian. Floyd is very fit but not conditioned to maintain championship levels of speed for six miles. No one would argue that he can probably run a 10k faster than most but he has not built his body for that. Mo Farah can run forever but he would find challenges keeping his energy up while throwing punches, dodging punches, dancing around the ring, and absorbing guy shots. As incredible as they are in their respective sports they would likely be subpar if not completely irrelevant in another arena.

Now for the point. We may be all fit people but if we don't condition our bodies to do what we want it to do, one will find great difficulty in achieving those goals. We have fast and slow twitch muscles. There is aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Figure out what your goals are and tailor your plan around conditioning yourself to perform like a person who accomplishes goals. If you want a fast time, you have to train fast. If you want to do ultras, you have to eventually add more miles.

Monday, July 13, 2015

It's not Rocket Surgery

Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.-- Henry Ford

I went for an easy ten mile run today. The point was to actually stay under control and maintain the same pace throughout the run. I wanted to focus on my stride and use a little energy as possible. That was a good plan except for I couldn't resist the urge to go off of the planned route. Typically when I change the route, I tend to surge or decelerate because of the uncertainty. The tangent part of the run was incredible.

I set out to do a five mile out and back on the Atlanta Beltline. The Beltline is pretty flat and i wouldn't have to worry about getting lost. As I ran happily on the Beltline I ran to the end of it. At least it was the end of part of the Beltline. Directly in front of me was Piedmont park and what they call a PATH lane alongside the park. Before I began to run that lane, I could see the steep incline of the coming hill. So much for the easy 10 miler. I start to run up the hill on a long straight path and then I see an entrance to the park. I ignore it... that's not the plan I tell myself. Then I see another one. Crap, it looks so cool in there. I ignore it anyway... that's not part of the plan. Finally, I just can't do it Captain, I don't have the power; to ignore an entrance into the premier park in the city of Atlanta.

On top of going into unchartered territory, kind of like Columbus, the park had significantly more shade. It was 90 degrees when I ran and probably 90 percent humidity. I'm looping around and carefully picking my turns. Then I see a Trail Rules sign. The first thought into my mind, why not? The first step is to admit that you have a problem. I do have a problem. I am from the rough and tumble neighborhood of Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York and we didn't get green space like that. On top of that, running is a cool individual sport. It becomes even cooler and more liberating on a trail. One can just lose themselves by focusing on the ground beneath. 

The unfortunate thing is that I went out with the goal in mind to take it easy and potentially find a go to 10 mile route. Runners, I believe, have many go to routes. For instance, one might have a 3 mile route, a 5 mile route or a loop that they can get to consistently and show off to their friends. I really wanted to focus on my aerobic running. I read recently that aerobic running is the running that burns oxygen and not sugar. Therefore, because oxygen is easier to produce than anything else, the body should be more efficient. Granted right now I am absolutely bothering scientific facts but it made me think. I kept my pace steady and I forced myself to not work too hard. That is until I begin to bounce around the rocks on the trail like  fifth grader, at recess, on  a sugar high. 

I couldn't wait to see the next turn or next adventure. By the time I came out of the forest like Daniel Day Lewis in "The Last of the Mohicans" I had spent more energy than I had liked and my pace was all over the place. Despite the less than successful outcome in my experiment today, I find myself wanting to better understand how the body actually works. I don't want to think on the run but I do what to coach and train myself to perform at a higher level. Running, more than many people think, is a game of strategy and process. The longer one goes, the more they need to think about every move.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Decent Performance

All I know is that I know nothing-- Socrates

My first mile today may have been my best ever opening mile of a race. The Atlanta Beltline SW 5k was good to me. I didn't feel like I was pushing too hard. It was a little choppy in the beginning because of congestion. I couldn't open up until the first quarter. I still managed to cruise to a solid first mile. Then the hills kicked in. For those that have been following my progress down here, you know that I've been struggling with the hills of Atlanta. The sounds sort of like a reality show. Certainly a show that I would never watch. In any event, the hills slowed me down but only by 23 seconds and 19 seconds respectively, per mile, for miles one and two.

Right now I am listening to a Jazz piece by the Dave Brubeck Quartet called "Take 5". Oddly enough, I probably didn't need to give the name of the song because he was apparently a one hit wonder back in 1961 or so. It's really smooth and calming. If you listen to it, I am sure you would recognize it. I did slow down on two of the three miles I ran this morning but I am pleased with the comfort in which I ran. I didn't push too hard to maintain decent speed. In the book, "Born to Run", one of the people, Micah True, better known as Caballo Blanco, spoke to the author about running, "easy, light, and smooth..." That has become my goal.

Of course I want to be faster but at what cost? I am not willing to sacrifice the joy of running so I can cross a threshold of time that is a microcosm of what running actually means to me. My shuffle list has moved on to John Coltrane's "Love Supreme- Part One: Acknowledgement". His piece, isn't as smooth as the aforementioned music but it is equally, if not more beautiful. Sometimes I wish I could design a playlist to pick up right when I need it and bring me down when I need it. Faster paced music on those rolling hills might have made a difference in my speed. I believe on the longest climb I listened to ASAP Rocky "1 Train". That song is great for a steady part of the race. 

I am willing to sacrifice comfort for speed. I am willing to look into ways to increase my speed through a number of means. I would change my diet some. I have already adjusted my stride a little. I would change the amount of work I do in a week to have fresher legs but I don't want to trade the beautiful runs on the trails. Running to landmarks at five in the morning is one of my greatest delights. I've done Fartleks without losing the joy of the run but some other methods are less attractive.

My search begins now. How do I get faster without turning running into a chore? Ironically, as I wrote that line, Miles Davis' "All Blues" blared into my ears. The irony is, I entered into the realm of retrospection and I feel as though this song can be both retrospective and introspective. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Reflections Eternal

The cowards never started and the weak died along the way.-- Bill Bowerman

I moved back to my every other day program in order to prepare for a short race tomorrow. I'm still trying to get everything back to normal after Tuesday's bonk. It's really hot down here and there aren't any routes that I've discovered without a hill. Thankfully the hills should prep me for the Conquer the Cove Trail Marathon next June.

Usually when I run I can get my thoughts in order and come back focused and ready to go. The days when I don't run I find other ways to get myself in order. I went down to Starbucks and had an atypical Chai Greèn Tea Latte and read about Running Science in Barnes and Noble. Bookstores are an escape for me. You can open your imagination up to myriad topics and just runaway with whatever topic you choose. Usually I choose to peruse the running books or economics. Both topics fascinate me and are puzzles.

No two runners are the same. Each runner has a different foot type. People have different bone structure or pain thresholds. Steve Prefontaine was known for his ability to experience pain and push through it. So the puzzle is actually trying to figure out what type of runner you are. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What types of hydration works best for you. I can drink 100 gallons of Gatorade before and after a race but when I drink it during it tends to give me GI issues. Water tends to cause early cramping. I generally don't stretch. These are things that I've learned after running for so long. I am adding pieces to the puzzle and the picture is getting clearer.

Don't waste your off days. Enjoy them or make them productive in some way or another.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Book Review

Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?-- Frida Kahlo

Born to Run : A hidden tribe, super athletes, and the greatest race the world has never seen
Christopher McDougall

Born to Run was a pleasant surprise. Overall, it is a true story that smartly adds drama and intrigue without losing the original idea. The original idea, I believe, is to tell the reader about an amazing people  with amazing abilities. Christopher McDougall plays an integral role in how the book plays out but he masterfully keeps himself out of the limelight from beginning to end.

The author gives background as to why he decided to seek out the legendary "Running People" the Tarahumara or Raramuri. McDougall, like the majority of runners, found himself oft injured. Heard about these Native Americans living in Mexico that could run forever and never get injured so he went on a mission to find the secret sauce.

In his search he met amazing people. The beauty of the book is how he gave human stories, historical fact, and scientific information. He seamlessly and organically kept the story moving by connecting one small piece and then giving that small piece an entire chapter to explain its significance. There were so many characters that at times I forgot that it was all true. The book is a historical account dressed as a novel.

Chapter fifteen changed my running life. It is also the chapter when he really began to reveal the secrets to running well, healthy, and for a long period of time. Although there was little mention of short distances much of his discoveries had application to all forms of running.

Born to Run, as I learned the more I read, is a story for ultra runners and folks that love running in general. The Tarahumara ran for pleasure as well as for life. They ran from intruders, they ran after food, and they ran to get from point A to point B even at 200 miles. This is not telling the story of the blazing fast track people. He does touch on some track legends like Jesse Owens but sprinters have no place at the table here. 

Many track legends of coaching like Joe Vigil, Arthur Lydiard, Vin Lanana, and Bill Bowerman are peppered throughout the story and he does a great job keeping all of them on equal footing. Bowerman did seem to get the short end of the stick in regards to the other coaches.

I would recommend reading this book because of the interesting characters, historical accuracy and scientific fact. I was surprised because I expected more of a reference guide instead of a story that continued to build impulse before letting you in on the secrets. Once you knew the secrets, you didn't get an aha moment because the book pulled you in to make the discovery by adding up the pieces and presenting it by letting you provide the answers.

No Run for the Weary

I have no fear of failure, provided I use my heart and head, hands and feet - and work like hell-- Charles Merrill

Yesterday I didn't run. That should be the end of this post right? Even on the days I don't actually leave my front door I still think about it constantly. I thought about whether or not I could go out for a quick run. I decided against it because of the four runs I did yesterday. I walked in after the fourth run and I felt horrible. I succeeded in pushing the limit but I paid the price. 

Although I didn't run I spent a good portion of the day thinking about this running life. I finished reading "Born to Run" which, I will give a book review later. I planned out some routes and I read tons of other blogs. I also learned more about humidity. I feel as though I didn't have to worry as much in New York or New Jersey but it is imperative that I am prepared for the onslaught of soggy weather.

I did go out for my morning run today on a short trot to a familiar place. I haven't really run the same loop twice until today. I wanted today to be a nice easy sort of deal that I didn't have to think about or struggle with the heat. I never want running to be a chore. I run when I want to and i push when I want to. On that same token, I relax when I want to.

Summer begins Fall marathon training and for all those running this Fall, the good news is, the really long runs start closer to September. I would say build your base now and get ready to crush the marathon this Fall. Find that joy in running over the Summer. Whether your joy is running with a group, crew, or club or if you like to take in the sights, try to get motivated by something other than completing the marathon in October or November. For some, that is motivation enough but for others it could be overwhelming to think that you will spend 16 weeks preparing to do something that many will think you are out of your mind for doing.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Four Times a Runner

Fortune favors the bold--Terence Phormio

Why in the world would I run four times today. I ran this morning because I love morning runs. I ran to Run Club. I did the Run Club route and then I ran home. If I can get somewhere on foot why not? The Run Club isn't very large so we all agree ona pace by feel and not time. Generally folks are happy to run a slower pace then they would on their own. I take a slow shuffle there and a slow shuffle back.

That isn't the only reason I ran four times today. I am trying to test the limits of the human body as Bill Bowerman once said. I'm running a Trail Marathon next year with an elevation of about 3,000 feet. I felt great this morning when I did 3.1 miles. I felt good on the 1.6 miles to a cafe near Grant Park. I felt solid on the first half of the run and then the heat and humidity coupled with hills took over. The good news is that this was my third run of the day.

One can't get better without taking risks and doing things that make them uncomfortable. Yes, I would like to get faster but that isn't what I mean by get better. I want to get better at running. I want to r longer with less effort. I want 3 to feel like 1 and 10 to feel like 3. I want to run EVERY DAMN DAY (see what I did there). The only reason for speed is in order to do more miles in less time with less recovery. It would be awesome to run 20 miles a day but how long would it take and will I be productive afterwards. I am not even sure if I ran 20 miles today that I could go and do it tomorrow.

I mentioned Bill Bowerman earlier and he has become my new muse of sorts. The Pegasus was designed to be the shoe for every runner, every day and I love that about it. I am every runner. I will never win a marathon or a 5k but I am on the streets and trails most days doing what I love. Bowerman didn't start running until later in life. He was a football coach and former player yet he is legendary in the world of running. He made me believe that I can impact running without being any good at doing it. There is an old saying that those who cannot do, teach. It is unlikely at o will ever cross the finish line of a marathon in under 3 hours but if I can motivate or inspire someone else to do it I've done something tremendous. Someone I know once said that if you inspire one person, you've done your job.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Humidity Wins... The... Humidity... Wins!!!

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science-- Albert Einstein

I was so excited today when I found the other side of the Atlanta Beltline. I had heard so much about it but hadn't seen more than a half mile stretch of it. Although I have found that short strip to be pretty much a place where I want to run every day, I am a long distance guy and I need at least a 6 mile out and back to stay consistent. I finally read a map properly and realized that on a recent run under the Krog Street bridge, in another 3 blocks or so is where the Beltline picks up. I saw the sign and took off gleefully up the paved path. There were a lot of offshoots but it was so humid and hilly I decided against getting lost today. 

I started to hit my stride and enjoy some more awesome street art.

That enjoyment ended abruptly... again. Once again my headphones choked under the pressure of my abundant sweat. I couldn't get them to stay in after about two miles or so. I had to place them in my pocket and continue on without a soundtrack. This time I did do the obnoxious thing and ran with music sans Yurbuds. I did turn it down when I saw other runners and particularly when Raekwon spoke about his $500 jeans on "The Morning".

On my turnaround I felt really weak. The humidity started to kick my butt. As I reached the hills it became harder and harder to maintain my pace. I looked at the forecast and it said 72 degrees and cloudy. I threw on my old reliable Miler and went for the run. The weather people lie I tell you, all lies. Going up the hill I felt like it was Harlem Hill in Central Park New York on the third loop of an 18 mile race. In reality the climb was maybe half of Harlem Hill and it was closer to mile 5 instead of 14.

My fitness has suffered a little with the move but Atlanta has delivered somewhat of a rebirth for my running career. My fitness will return but my love for running has only grown and continues to do so. I don't know what tomorrow will bring but I can't wait for my alarm to go off and spring out of bed to hit the road on my next adventure.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Wet Peaches

Innovation can best be defined as man's attempt to create order, in his own mind and in the universe around him, by taking risk and creating risk.-- Peter Drucker 

Ah, the Fourth of July. Cookouts and fun in the sun with fireworks. Not this year. I spent it running the AJC Peachtree Road Race. The Peachtree Road Race is the most popular race in Atlanta. It had over 54,000 finishers. The main reason for the lack of cookouts and fun and n the sun was because of the torrential downpour that ensued upon the beginning of my wave.

I've run in the rain before but this one was a distraction. It could be because I was moving at a solid pace in a new city before the sky truly opened up and I couldn't rely on familiarity to pull me through the course. The Yurbuds headphones whose motto is a guarantee not to fall out, fell out at the 2.5 mile mark of a 6.2 mile race. Needless to say I was really upset.

A little sidebar about my love for music and the combination of running and music. I am actually writing this post to Mozart's 40th Symphony to give some clarity to my thoughts. I very rarely, if ever, run without music. Lots of people feel that runners shouldn't run with music but I feel like Eminem when he responded to Will Smith and cursing in one his songs. I run to escape and enjoy the view. I wish I could do everything with music in the background. Imagine if someone did a movie about you. What songs would play for graduation day or the birth of a child. What song would play after your first marathon or while you binge watch Breaking Bad n Netflix. What music would accompany every moment in your life. Everything from that 750 millionth trip to Starbucks or that moment right before you interview for your dream job? Amazingly, at this moment, my shuffle went for Mozart Symphony no.40 to Aida: Marcia E Ballabile by Verdi. That just shifted my mood so I'll get back on track.

After I slowed to get my headphones to not keep falling out I figured that I could drop 20 seconds per mile to get back to the previous pace (I know, bad math). The stupid headphones were so slperh after the sweat that they wouldn't stay in for one step. I had to just carry them and run without music to a dud screaming Beer and T-Shirts. That is another reason I run to music. That, plus the incessant, your almost there, when you are 40% complete. In any event, I then ran into the first of a series of hills, after losing my tunes. Then the rain picked up and I could no longer avoid the massive puddles and streams of water cascading towards me because of the downhill and the amount of rain.

I know it sound like I'm complaining but I'm just giving a play by play. The rain was a welcome relief from the heat. If not for the rain, it would have been 95 degrees and humid. I would take rain over that any day. I'll give the headphones one more shot with the different size that came with it. On top of that, I am only tech savvy enough to write a blog and take photos on the run. I might have just put them in wrong but after my next run, if they fall out, I will be upset and think of some analogy to describe what I will do to the salesperson at Best Buy and to the exhibitor at the Health and Fitness Expo.

I met a few good people before and after the race that I may or may not see again (I didn't take names) and I truly enjoyed the race. Although my performance wasn't what I wanted, I felt good and sort of fast on my trip on Peachtree Street in Atlanta, GA. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Pre-Race Jitters

Successful people have a bigger fear of failure than people who've never done anything because if you haven't been successful, then you don't know how it feels to lose it all.--Jay-Z

Tomorrow I will run the largest 10k in the works with approximately 65,000 other folks. The AJC Peachtree Road Race on July 4th is kind of a big deal. The weird thing for me is that I don't typically get that serious race day feel unless it's a half-marathon. Recently the feeling only comes up when it's a full marathon. I felt that way right up until the point that I walked into the Expo. There is something about this race that gave it sort of a marathon feel. I started to get my game face on.

So I'm walking around this place and I'm talking to the exhibitors and then I see a booth for Jeff Galłoway, legendary running author and coach. It was super exciting to meet a guy in his seventies, whose written over ten books about running and can still do a marathon a month. 

I've not trained for this race nor will I attempt to PR here because it's hot, there will be 7 million people running, and I just want to enjoy my first race in Atlanta. That said, I feel as though tomorrow will not be a run of the mill 10k. I want to go out strong and finish strong and pick off as many as I can.

One last note about Jeff Galloway. Just in the brief moment that we spoke, he encouraged all types of runners to get better at their running. He walked people over to other places just to help them out. He spoke with such joy with everyone about running it became contagious.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Beautiful Sights and Uphill Battles

If music be the food of love; play on.-- William Shakespeare

Today marks the unofficial beginning of Fall marathon training with the Chicago And Marine Corps Marathon in October and the New York City Marathon in November. I have no intentions of running a marathon this Fall but I'm conditioned to get in gear in early July.

Atlanta is a cool running town. It's big enough to have tons of things to see and small enough to get there on foot. I did a 6.28 mile run and I had to control myself from taking more pics. Skybiew Atlanta was cool last week when I visited with the family but seeing it with lights in the dark was downright artistic. 

I do wish that I had known about the less than gentle incline along Auburn this morning. I didn't expect that much work today but seeing some is this stuff was worth the extra effort. I also wish I did a better job at choosing a playlist. I ran past the Ebenezer Baptist Church where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Was a preacher. As I ran by, the I listened to Pusha T, My God. It was almost disrespectful. Maybe disrespectful is extreme but it certainly did not fit. 

I want to build a playlist with Classic Western Music but it has to work with my route and my intensity. I probably wouldn't shuffle a list like that. It would have to be precise, almost surgical where the surges in the music match the surge in effort. Or even those moments where one needs to reign themselves I the music could match with calming, serene melodies like Fur Elise by Beethoven or uphill runs could be soundtracked by Promontory from Last of the Mohicans. It always seems like that song is for battles or going uphill.

Despite the score of this particular run would have been best served by classic western music, as I approached my turnaround I felt that "We gon' make it" by Jadakiss and Styles P would have bought me into the halfway mark strong and ready for a good kick back home. 

For now, it's foam roller time and learning more about my new running headphones. The wireless bud from Yurbud. I read reviews and it said best fit. After that I was sold. I just spent the last six months or so running with the Apple headphones. Those are great for anything but running. I sweat like Patrick Ewing back in the days and after half a mile, I'm tucking those things back in my ear every hundred yards. I'll report back Saturday how they felt in the AJC Peachtree Road Race.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift-- Steve Prefontaine

I didn't actually run today. It was an off day although I love running on the first day of the month. After the trifecta yesterday I didn't want to cheat my system of one off and one on. Bill Bowerman believed in going really hard when it's time to work and resting effectively. I did calisthenics today to strengthen my body. I never lift weights because I was oft injured and without having to tackle anyone I lost interest in being massive. That said, the gym in my building has a machine leg press and I do high reps to get my quads stronger and strengthen my knees (if that actually works).

Although here was no pavement pounding or trail blazing today I did register for two of the twelve marathons I plan to run in 2016. It was like a moment of truth signing up for the first one for January 30, 2016. The Callaway Gardens Marahon in Pine Mountain, GA will be the marathon I actually train for while the others will be an adventure in figuring it out. I imagined some sort of music in the background as I clicked and swiped and added emergency contact info. Maybe Vivaldi Four Seasons played with the anticipation and anxiety. Amazingly this step isn't the easiest. It is the hardest. Once I register for a race my record of completion is impeccable. As much as I talked about twelve I twelve, it wasn't real until today. There is money on the table and bibs to be set aside for me. The other race was the Publix Georgia Marathon on March 20, 2016 which, will begin 10 minutes from where I live. 

I'm not sure if music for anxiety or anticipation fits or if a joyous tune like Night in Tunisia by Dizzy Gillespie is more apropos or music to express relief like Vincent Guaraldi Christmastime is Here (don't judge me just listen to it)