Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Most Interesting Runner in the World

Sometimes it's best to stay hidden in plain sight.--David Estes

Running, particularly recreational running, is one of the loneliest sports. It's almost religious the way runners religiously go for a run. In general, there is no congregation. People will run alone and whether they are back of the pack, mid-pack or elite, they have those lonely miles with only their thoughts.

The cool thing is whether you are talking about a mid-packer like me or a world champion like Mo Farah, oftentimes we end up on the same lonely roads as some of the sports brightest stars. It's funny that I mention greats like Mo Farah because he is a national hero in the UK. He has an unbelievable following on social media and he is basically a celebrity. But he is the exception and not the rule.

Despite being in the midst of a second running boom, roughly 55 million people that said they ran at least once last year, and 27 million runners that completed a race, running is a very niche sport. Many of our stars like Sallie McRae, Scott Jurek, Shalane Flanagan, or Ryan Hall may be able to walk into a Whole Foods, Starbucks, or Barnes and Noble and not get a second thought. One time I saw Mary Cain shopping in a store and no one had a clue who she was while I was like holy crap.

This is not a story about the lonely runner or looking for more publicity. I am simply making an observation that these amazing stars of our beautiful community are physically incredible but only lauded by us. Similar to my past vocation in finance, there were absolute rock stars of the hedge fund and money management world. These people are immensely talented and incredibly wealthy but they wouldn't garner a second glance feeding birds in Central Park.

Many of us have guilty pleasures and we fully understand cult followings. "Born to Run" and "Eat and Run" has created cult followings for Scott Jurek. No Farah probably has the most social media followers with about 1.2 million on Twitter but LeBron James has over 15 million. They are both equally important to their countries and their sports but running is not a spectator sport. You don't watch running, you run.

I love being part of this cult-like group of short-short wearing, technical tee sporting, Lycra warriors. It feels like the best kept secret.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sometimes Even When You Don't, You Still Do

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.--Albert Einstein

Yesterday was an awesome family day. I had planned on waking up early to do a nice run before the family day started but I overslept. Friday I hurt my shoulder/neck somehow and it hurt so much that I couldn't really get out of bed. I wasn't actually that upset like I am usually because I had this excitement abut the day ahead.

As soon as I walked into the visitor center I saw a bunch of signs that said Appalachian Trail Approach. Until yesterday I had never heard of Amicalola Falls but I felt like we would see some special things. 

I'm a city kid from Brooklyn so some people may thumb their noses at how I feel about the beauty of nature. That said, I felt like this place had beautiful trails and other sights. We hiked up the hills and it immediately turned into a little bit of a scouting trip. I wish that I packed running gear so I could have participated in the sweet nectar of this trail. I jogged a little bit carrying my 2 year old but I'll have to save the trail run for another day. 

Although I didn't run yesterday I did some work in the gym on Friday and I don't really do the gym too often. I also did legs along with calisthenics. Saturday I did all of this hiking with the kids. Despite all of this lack of rest, I still had to bang out my 18 miler today... And I did.

Last week I talked about how good I felt on my 18 mile run. Ironically, I felt pretty bad today and I found out that hospitals are equipped for non-medical emergencies. The ironic part is that despite how bad it felt I ran 10 minutes faster today than I did last week. Don't ask me how I do it, I justa do it (Old Italian Accent). I really have no clue and I intend to research it. The good thing about it is that I was back home before 10:30 and we ate breakfast as a family.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Say My Name, Say It... FARTLEK!!!

Dreams without goals remain dreams and ultimately, fuel disappointment…Goals cannot be achieved without discipline and consistency.--Denzel Washington

Some days just feel sort of good. I'm not saying that it's a good day. I am saying that it feels good. Although my kids rebelled against sleep for a few hours, I still managed to get some stuff done at night. I had a good dinner and although my wife got home late we spent quality time together. I woke up early and although I've been nervous about the speed work due for today, my legs felt great.

The past 4 weeks I did intervals. I've gotten great results. But just like any coach, I am concerned with the dreaded plateau. I've designed my program to adjust every 4 weeks to keep my body stimulated. Today was my first week doing Fartleks. Every time I say it I giggle like a school girl.

I thought 8 surges would crush me but before I knew it I was back to warm-up. This tells me that I am in pretty good shape but it also tells me that I probably need to work a bit harder. I planned my pace for both warm ups and for surges and layoffs. I was out of control and I went from incredibly fast to painfully slow. Clearly I have a lot to work on... which is good.

I've run this route more than any other since moving to Atlanta. I didn't think there was anything left to see on Moreland Ave. but low and behold, I came across a gem of street art. Although I thought finding this piece of art was awesome, the weirdest part of the run was the random dudes at 5am cheering me on as I surged in my workout. Why were they on the street at 5am? None of my business.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Running is...Loving Today, With An Eye On Tomorrow

The best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be.--Bret Hart

I'm like a goal setting machine. Unfortunately, not all machines work as desired. If all of my goals were accomplished, I would have been a millionaire 9 years ago and I would retire in 9 months. One goal in particular was accomplished today. The funny thing about this goal is that it's virtually impossible to document. There is no metric for it. I set 2 goals and one of them was to run 10 miles and have it feel like I ran 6 miles. That happened today.

As I ran today I felt the ease of my leg turnover. I started off really easy as I normally would on a double digit run. After the first mile I felt exceptionally good and the rest of my miles were negative splits because I searched for a pace that would make me work enough. In the past, after a 10 mile run, the rest of the day was pretty labored. I feel like I worked but I didn't have to adjust anything I did today. The test is also if I could run again in the same day. I could but I won't. The real test is the recovery tonight and the subsequent run tomorrow morning.

Aside from that, I really enjoyed taking pictures of Atlanta today. I recently started running on Peachtree Street and I've discovered some cool things. It's amazing that I find something new everyday to photograph.

Even better today was my breakfast. In general, I run with my next run in mind. This is not to say that I don't enjoy my run while I run it. I am saying that I will scale back or pick it up based on the run I plan to run the next day. I also eat with a mind to fuel and less to simply find pleasurable foods. We all know that some of the best tasting foods aren't necessarily good for you. Today I decided to eat what I wanted as opposed to what may have been best for me. I had two chocolate muffins because I accomplished a goal. I guess in moderation there is nothing wrong with that.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

It's Never Too Late, Until It's Too Late

Keep your face always toward the sunshine; and shadows will fall behind you.--Walt Whitman

I had a record (personal) breaking September. I started off October with a PR. All of that said, I don't feel great about October. I planned to take off 4 days in all of October and I have already taken 5 days off. Today is only the 13th, which tells me I am off course. In order to stay the course I will need to take nearly no days off the remainder of the month.

I can do that but what would 18 days straight of running do to my body? What I will most likely do is play it by ear until November. If I try to get back on course with big chunks of unplanned mileage I will almost certainly get injured. My goal from the very beginning was to be able to run as much as possible without injury. I always say to myself, self, how can I do more of what I love? I had to educate myself and tweak things. I had to use myself as a guinea pig. Literally, my goal is to simply do more of what makes me happy. In order to do that I have to remain injury free.

I've gotten into a serious relationship with injury prevention. Maybe I'm an injury prevention polygamist because I have multiple methods to stay injury-free. Foam Rolling is the main squeeze though. The I guess ice and Ace bandages would be second in line then elevating my feet is the newest but valuable member of the dysfunctional family. Sadly, stretching and I are on a break. I spend about 60 seconds doing and it and I get no results. I need to continue experiments because I'm sure research will tell me how and when to do it effectively.

In any event, I will assess my program and goals on a daily basis. For example, I plan to run one more time today but my knee feels crappy. I will ice and elevate and see how I feel later. If it doesn't feel any better I wont go out. My long term running is more important. Jeff Galloway is 150 years old (actually 70) and he still runs almost daily. He does a marathon a month. He is my inspiration for longevity. There is no way I will make it the next 30 years on the roads if I damage myself now. For now, I will push and set aggressive goals but I will be disciplined enough to listen to my body and do what it tells me to do.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Speed Kills... Literally (Not Really, But Sort Of)

Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.-- Muhammad Ali

Coaches since the 1800's have searched for the sweet, secret elixir of workouts. Particularly for running coaches, the search is for the balance of aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Plainly stated, coaches search for the right amount of effort and when to give said effort.

The body can be conditioned to run everyday. That ability has a caveat. One must run at considerable less effort than max effort. Usain Bolt, the fastest human in the world, runs 100 meters in 9.58 seconds. Extrapolate that over the 1609 meters of a mile and he would run the mile in 2 minutes and 33 seconds. That number is highly unlikely. Hicham El Guerrouj runs the fastest mile at 3:43. Spread that out over a marathon and it would take 1 hour, 37 minutes and 27 seconds. Dennis Kimetto holds the world marathon record at 2:02:57. It's clear that top speed cannot be maintained forever.

Speed work,similarly, cannot be done daily. It takes a lot out of you. Many of the injuries that a reported 70% of runners will suffer are based on doing too much, too fast. Trust me, easy days may the most important part of your workout week. I mean let's face it, everyone love to talk about doing X miles at some fast pace. Who wants to discuss their long run at 12 mins/mile. Bravado is natural and so is insecurity. It's hard to run all week and most of your runs are well be below the speed of your max ability. Save that effort for your speed day. Go out there and crush it. There is no sport where max effort everyday yields desired results. If you've ever watched a professional football practice, you will marvel at how little they appear to do.. Their full speed day is game day. There are no Hall of Fame practice players

Speed work leaves you more spent than an easy 10 miler. You should feel spent after a work out but if there isn't enough time to recover, your gains will be temporary.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Elusive PR (Personal Record)

It's just a matter of understanding what's necessary and discipline yourself to do it.--Arthur Lydiard

I ran a PR this past weekend. Whoopty Doo. I wonder if I spelled that right. I want it read with a twang of sarcasm and a little twirl of the finger. Now say it again. Whoopty Doo. You may say, "what's the big deal?" If you've ever chased a PR or accomplished a PR then you know exactly what I'm talking about.

The PR is everything for runners like me. I am every runner, every day. I won't ever win a race. So what do I train for? I train for the PR. If you were to really think about it, the first person great athletes need to defeat are themselves. Before the gold medal is placed around an Olympians neck, that Olympian has to absolutely destroy that voice that will stop you from forward momentum. 

The last time I PR'ed was 2008. 7 years is a very long time to chase anything. This felt like a championship. I remember the Yankees killed it in the 90's and then they went from 2000-2008 without a ring. When they returned it must have felt amazing. This felt amazing. I'm getting older and after years of falling short I almost let go of the idea... Almost.

The PR is the measuring stick for all runners. Certainly winning a championship or a medal is the absolute measurement of success but I will tell you that every runner on all levels will chase their PR. Shalane Flanagan ran a PR at Boston last year. She didn't win the race. She famously said afterwards, "I don't wish it were easier, I wish I were better." She trained to PR and assumed it would be enough to win. It would've been but just not on that particular day. I still love that quote and it made her a legend to me.

All of us regular, non-elite runners dredging up hills on Saturday and icing and doing speed work. For the average Joe keeping a log and adjusting their plan and trolling the web for coaching tips. For the person who loves to win but can't find a game to compete in, can't find a fight. When you need one last thing to chase... Chase the PR. Welcome to the club, we've been waiting.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Winter is Coming

...and I shall soon convert the disbelievers.-- Nikola Tesla

I'm driving up to Jersey this weekend. It'll be 13 hours up on Friday and 13 hours down on Sunday. I planned an 18 miler on Saturday before I realized I would need to run a half-marathon on Sunday. I fully intend on reaching all of my goals but what's the approach? 

How does a non-elite, close to 40, married, father of two manage 41 miles in 3 days? Believe it or not I'm not looking to be Superman. I could care less about my time in the half. Initially I wanted to PR. Grete's Great Gallop currently is my Half PR from 2008. It would be so beautifully poetic to PR at my old PR. Alas, that won't happen this year with this race. I'll run an easy 10 with a double tomorrow. I'll run an easy 18 (if there is such a thing) Saturday. I'll run an easy 13.1 at the half in Central Park, NYC on Sunday.

The amount of work I plan to put in over he next few days is frowned upon but I have trained and conditioned my body to not only handle the pounding but recover as though I'm running 3 miles. I will only know Sunday of the goal was out of bounds or not. Until then, just like NASA in the space race, I've laid out all of my options and failure is not one of them.