Friday, February 26, 2016

My Philosophy

You don't see with your eyes, you see with your brain. And the more words your brain has, the more you can see.--KRS-One

For those readers that have given years of their life to read my words, you can attest to the fact that I read an awful lot. It doesn't really matter where it comes from as long as it is a topic that I find interesting. Similarly, I listen to music virtually every time I have a moment to turn it on. For those that follow me on social media platforms, you will discover my love of photography. The conglomeration of these things creates a particular sort of person with a specific set of beliefs.

I've learned, over the past year or so, many of the reasons that I love to run. Running, particular when you cross over into calling oneself a runner, is full of science, strategy, and intimate knowledge of how your body works. The first thing I learned when I became certified as a USATF Level 1 coach was coaching philosophy. I was told that if I didn't have one that I needed to get one. All of my favorite coaches, Hall of Fame coaches, are judged by the effectiveness of their philosophies.

If you were to look at the definition of philosophy, I will paraphrase and essentialize (I know, not a word) what it means, it says essentially that philosophers will come up with a way of life and live in that way. In today's world those people are considered heretics or extremists living in a manner not necessarily approved by the masses. It has already been proven that runners live kind of on the fringes. How many non-runners truly understand why we do what we do?

Every coach has such a philosophy. Percy Cerutty, Bill Bowerman, Jack Daniels (the coach not the drink), Paavo Nurmi, Arthur Lydiard, and countless others had ideas that were not popular at the genesis but have become doctrine for running now. I also believe strongly in Nick Saban's approach to coaching. I think overall, despite the many different schools of philosophy, a coach is a pragmatist.

I think I am a pragmatist. The pragmatic approach is to relentlessly pursue the truth. In theory, the truth can never be reached because the search can never fully stop. In simple terms, one will seek the best way to get things done using trial and error and some hypotheses without bureaucracy. Few if any coaches will know from day one which philosophy will generate the most success. If a coach is successful on their first shot it is likely based on luck and will sooner than later crumble.

Many of the Hellenistic schools of philosophy, coupled with pragmatism, shape my thought process as a runner. I will oversimplify here but state plainly what each philosophy means to me. Stoicism, maintains the emotions in a narrow range to not get too high or too low with performance. Eclecticism uses many philosophies to form an idea of the way of life. Aestheticism studies the beauty of art, music, and taste. And as I mentioned before, pragmatism, the relentless search for the truth. Spartan lifestyle is one dedicated to peak physical condition for performance and "Sabanism" incremental dedication to execution in the moment.

I take all of these philosophies and create the runner that hits the street everyday.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Twelve Marathons in Twelve Months: Logistics

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.--Benjamin Franklin

For everyone that has ever run a marathon, we all know how much goes into it. The training for a marathon alone is a pretty serious undertaking. Most marathon training programs are at least 16 weeks long. Most cities across the United States has a marathon in town or at the very least, within an hour's drive. That said, the majority of people that I know that have completed a marathon have traveled a tad outside of local to get there. In general, the week before a marathon, one's eating habits will change. The runner will begin to focus on hydration and caloric intake. The marathoner with an upcoming race will actually live like a professional athlete.

Now ladies and gentleman, for your reading pleasure, extrapolate that marathon out over 12 months. This is not for me to pat myself or anyone else for that matter, on the back. I am in the early stages of this year with 2 marathons completed and I learn more and more everyday. Some things you can read about. You can try to expand or condense based on one marathon. You can also go with old reliable, trial and error. Whatever method you use, it's a lot of moving parts that need to mesh in order to complete the ultimate goal.

At the end of 2016 I will have run a marathon in 9 states and 2 countries. That is significant travel. I have to figure out where will I drive. Where will I fly? Do I need to stay at a hotel? How early will I need to wake up in order to make a marathon driving. For the race where I need to get my number the night prior, it presents a different set of issues. I also have a family so when I think of travel, I try to figure out how many races will my family not be present. Then, my favorite part of the equation, how much will all this cost. Please send donations to: "I don't want to go broke dot com"

We would all like to eat like champion athletes but the reality of it all is that most of us do not. Accept for around race time or while in training, many of us will not do a great job with diet. Maybe I'm wrong about most of us. I don't really eat red meat at anytime throughout the year. I stay away from candy accept when I go to a movie. Fast food is a lazy luxury that I truly try to avoid. That said, while I am essentially, perpetually, in season, I don't succumb to the lazy luxuries and I've torpedoed red meat all together. Another challenge is to insure that you always have food. I am very particular about what I eat generally and specifically the night before and morning of the race, I eat the same things all the time. It is a challenge to make sure that I have those things available.

This may be the most important part of my journey. I have marathons 8 days apart. 14 days apart. 34 days apart. 50 days apart. I have hilly marathons, I have flat marathons, I have big city marathons and I have a trail marathon. All of these things require different recovery. For the single digit days in between it's basically survival mode. I haven't gotten there yet but I plane to run once or twice in between and just try to eat and rest. It isn't a perfect science but you must understand how your body recovers. How many days off do you need and how long can you run without being tired for the actual race.

Overall, there are things to be done in order to get me to 12 marathons by December 4, 2016. Anticipation and repetition are paramount in my quest for 12 medals. The goal is to be as loose as possible for every race and let my body do what I've trained it to do.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Nick Saban, Politics, and Marathoners

There can be no rise in the value of labour without a fall of profits.--David Ricardo

Not too long ago I began to read about what is widely called, "The Process". The process is Nick Saban's method of consistency. It sounds simple enough but probably the skills lie in the ability to get people to buy in to whatever your philosophy is. Recently I've watched the Presidential Debates. The thing you hear over and over again is "grassroots". Every candidate has someone, or a group of people, "on the ground" in a particular area in order to get votes. In my opinion, any person that voluntarily opens there door to go for a run simply because, well, why not, is considered a runner. That said, marathoners are a bit of a different breed.

Okay, so what do all of these things have in common? First, I'll discuss Saban's Process. Nick Saban is a 5 time National Champion in college football. His philosophy is to focus solely on the job at hand. Focus on the activity that one currently engages. If someone is lifting weights, the most important rep is the next rep. Of course everybody has a goal to win a championship but the championship doesn't happen without deliberate effort and concentration on a particular drill that may happen 4 months before the first game. His process is to live literally, in the moment.

Every presidential candidate has to win different states in order to win the election. Historically, the amount of resources spent in a particular state will garner a viable candidate a greater percentage of the total vote. Candidates must lose sleep and go door to door in some instances to get that elusive vote from a citizen. They will spend their money and resources and give everything they have in order to win. After the primary, depending how well or how poorly they performed, said candidate will get on the phones and take meetings in order to raise money to land in the next super important state to do it all over again. They can't think about 6 months down the road because of they have a poor performance today, tomorrow may never happen.

Of course marathoners think about the end of a race. The glory of seeing your family or getting that medal placed around your neck is a great feeling. That glorious moment will never come if you don't put in months of work and Saturdays of 3 hour runs. While you run those miles, at least for me, I'm pretty focused on getting from mile to mile. I take account of my pace, effort, hydration, hunger, etc. I almost live mile to mile. I know that if I go out too hard that I may suffer later. Even in training every workout is very important. Every workout has a purpose. Sometimes that purpose is to get faster. Sometimes you just need to do some slow miles. Whatever it is, it is a day to day operation. The idea of signing up for a marathon and setting a program is the long term view but that view is in the distance when you are dragging your butt 18 miles in the summer.

The goal for me is to run 12 marathons in 12 months but I need to finish one at a time. For each marathon I need to first train for the first one and recover for the subsequent marathons. The motivation when things get tough is the completion of the goal set but the day to day, meister like work keeps everything in perspective.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

In Theory It Should Make Sense, Technically...Right?

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.-- William Hickson

When I first attacked the marathon it was 2003. I thought I trained properly but after 7 hours of torture, it was pretty apparent that whatever training I did wasn't sufficient. I felt pain that I had never experienced in my life. The good thing that came out of that experience was just that; the pain. I knew what it felt like and I knew I never wanted to feel that again.

I changed my mentality. It's almost poetic justice that I was so tortured in the first one. I decided to give it a shot. The one thing about running a marathon is that you don't just... Give it a shot. It takes months of training and preparation. I thought I could run some. Take my 5K time and extrapolate it out to 42K. That was my plan. Clearly, it didn't work. I'm sure, for my hardcore runners, hearing that I expanded my 5k to equal a marathon is like nails on a chalkboard. 

I realized a while ago that in order for me, an average Joe Schmo, to get to the point where marathons wasn't as daunting of a task. I can run a 10k on zero sleep, indigestion, a 40lb backpack, and a tight hamstring and still get it done with relatively little effort. Running a marathon a year requires lots of training but the comfort zone is highly unlikely. 

A few months ago, I ran 18 miles on 4 consecutive Saturday's. The first one was tough but I had just come off of 4 Saturday's of 14-15 miles. Although the first one hurt, the next one was faster and hurt less. By the 4th one, it wasn't a cruise in the park, but it was more familiar. I can only imagine that my comfort can only increase as I familiarize my body with the stress of a marathon. 

I struggled a bit through my first of 12 marathons this year but I can only imagine that seeing the distance again, 2 weeks out, will make me stronger and trigger muscle memory. I have gotten  pretty solid at gunning it for 13.1 miles. My training has built my body into a vehicle that can shuffle along in the remaining 13.1. My idea makes sense, on paper. I'll find out February 13th, won't I?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Holistic Runner

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.--Aristotle

We can all go to "the google" right now and look up important things for a runner. Whatever link you click on, whether it leads you to Runners World or Competitor or some other publication, it will give you a list of items that you feel can be attacked one at a time. Here's the catch. You may or may not be right about that.

Every serious runner must be an all encompassing, holistic runner. What does that even mean, right? Let's take a look at the human body. There's the nervous system, skeletal system, muscular system, cardiovascular system, etc. Any one of the aforementioned systems are useless alone without the other systems. You can't just take out the skeletal system and expect to function or even be alive. The complete human being has infinitely more value than a heart or a brain. In some wonky, roundabout way, the same holistic approach applies to the runner... sort of.

Okay so here's a quick list based on what I think is important to the serious runner. Nutrition, Gait, Gear, Core, Flexibility, Hydration, etc. This is not an exhaustive list of what is needed but I am relatively certain that few will disagree with the importance of these items. Now I'm going to operate in a vacuum. Let's pretend that a runner has a great diet. Qualifier alert. Runners, in my opinion, eat to fuel and recover. If said runner eats what the body requires to perform and recover at a high level but that same runner doesn't stretch properly or at all then this person will not be at his/her optimal performance level.

The serious runner is best served when they can get all of these "systems" working well. Of course, elite runners will likely have the best most efficient, effective mix but if we remain balanced in our approach then success is more likely than if we are really good at one thing and horrible at another. You can be that dude with all of the state of the art gear but if you don't follow a program then you may just be the prettiest runner at the start.

Runners, serious runners can't really afford to just do things half way. It is more of a lifestyle than a hobby. In order to become a serious runner one must maintain a holistic approach to their running life, focus on organic gains because real progress will not happen day to day but year to year and use pragmatic methods in order to find out what really works.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Twelve Marathons in Twelve Months Part One: Callaway Gardens

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.--LaoTzu

After months of posturing. After all of the talk. After a 20 week training program. My journey of twelve marathons in twelve months began this past Saturday, January 30, 2016, in Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain, Georgia. I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know the terrain. I didn't really know how I would do. I only knew that this is one of the most exciting things I've ever done athletically.

I spent the last few days stuffing my face with whatever food I could find. I couldn't think about much else than relaxing when I could and never being hungry. I tried to remain hydrated and I monitored the tint of my urine like a freshman in his dorm in college looking at a pregnancy test.

The cool thing was that it was a family affair. We woke up at 4 ish and drove down about 90 minutes. The wife and kids were knocked out but it worked out. I drove with my music low in the dark and relaxed. I was so geeked up about the beginning that it helped to calm my nerves. I've run a few marathons but they have all been big city deals with lots of spectators. I realized immediately that I was no longer in Kansas. Actually, I was absolutely in Kansas. It didn't matter though because I had my fan club. 

I didn't expect the hills. It was 1300+ feet of elevation. Certainly that isn't a great deal but it's like Mt. Everest for a city kid from a predominantly flat place. It crushed me. I came into the halfway mark at my third fastest half time and my fastest half in a marathon. It was a double out and back so my family waited for me at 13. I looked good for them but after I passed them, I decided this would be a good opportunity to take some pics. After 14 miles I went into survival mode.

My feet burned and my thighs screamed but when I saw my wife and kids at he end, about 100 yards from the finish, I felt no pain. I scooped up my 2 year old daughter and began to trot to the finish line with my 5 year old son galloping next to me. I figured I would cross the line with them but then I remembered that at around mile 22 I bust my ass like an old lady without a medic alert bracelet. There were so few people that I laid on the ground for about 40 secs or so with my phone 6 feet away. With that memory in mind, I put my child on the ground and creeped in to a PR finish. I missed my goal time but I was a beautiful start, to a wonderful excursion.