From the beginning.....

Thursday, May 17, 2012


So I started a run streak on Thanksgiving Day last year. My intent was simply to keep off extra pounds from the holidays. Frankly keeping off pounds during the holidays is a bit easier for me (aside from beer) as I have an allergy to wheat and/or gluten. I have limited ability to consume anything with either of the aforementioned ingredients so pastries, cookies, dinner rolls...all the good stuff, kinda off the list for me. What it's turned into is something I never anticipated.

The streak helped me lose about 35 pounds and take my mile per minute times to places I've never seen, even in high school. I've also changed mentally, I'm stronger, more determined and So much more driven. I am constantly setting and reviewing my goals. Now, this is much more related to running at the moment than anything else, but I'm working on that.

To that end, I wanted to put out a list of my goals. Now, keep in mind that in recent years, I stopped making formal New Years resolutions and effectively dissolved my bucket list (things to do before you die). Since I'm not planning on dying, the bucket list became irrelevant. New Years resolutions are pretty silly since you shouldn't set goals once a year. I understand why it's done and the reality is that in my head, I do have things I want to do in the next year.  Last year around September/October, I decided to start my 'resolutions'. Now I have, in my mind, a lot of things I want to do, just at some point, not necessarily 'before I die'.

Reaching goals has always been a challenge, I suppose it should never be easy right? Really it's about following through with trying to achieve the goal. I've felt like I didn't really achieve much so far in life, which really isn't true. From the perspective of where I started, I've done fantastically well. Running provides real, tangible goals, both long term and short term. Two of my great passions now are craft beer and home brewing, along with running. Last year, one of my primary goals was to drink 500 unique beers in a year. Being something of an overachiever in this department, I made the goal with about 3 weeks to spare. In what could be considered collateral damage, I took down nearly 700 non-uniques along with the other 500 (yep, that's about 1200 beers in a year). A 'Unique' beer is the first time you've had one brand/style, 'non-unique' constitutes everything after that first brand/style. At any rate, it was an awesome year, a great goal, and I was pretty stoked to achieve it. It was done about 3 weeks after I started my run streak, and so I started really considering what I could do with my running habit.

After a lot of thought over the last several months, here is a list of running goals. These goals have been contemplated over the months, some decided on even before I started the run streak. Let me put an asterisk by the goals that I thought were totally unrealistic, if I used the word impossible with any regularity (or validity) I'd probably use it for those goals. I now consider them very realistic and am driving hard towards achieving them.

365+ consecutive days running at least 2 miles
18 minute 5k
* sub 40 minute 10k
* 1:30:00 half marathon
* 3 hour marathon (qualify for boston)
progressively PR each race I do during the year
run without injury
reach goal weight and still be healthy (170lbs)
raise cause awareness
promote running and good health

One goal I didn't start out with was influencing or inspiring others to get healthy, whether it's running, walking, working out or just getting out more to exercise in any way. Though I didn't have that goal, within my social media circles and primarily with people I know in real life, I've been 'spreading the health'. I wondered if people noticed my daily postings via mobile phone of my runs. I actually figured people were pressing the ignore button on them. Turns out that some people are listening, reading, and taking action. This is awesome. As much as my goals are about me, my health and mentality, it is becoming a way to be a positive influence with people I know. I'd like my blog to spread this even further, hopefully with coherent, relevant and relatable writing that people can read and take away something positive for themselves and the ones they love.

Probably the main reason I didn't start out with a goal of influencing people to get out and run, or get exercise and get healthy, was because I hate being preached to.  In fact, I may well do the opposite.  Tell me to post something as my status on Facebook, guilt me into thinking if I don't, I'm not a good person. The result for me is usually thinking to myself 'ok, I won't post a snarky comment, I won't reciprocate with a snarky status update'. To me, social media and Facebook in particular, is not a podium for me to have people

follow my instructions or believe in my cause. I know that's what a LOT of people use it for and I deal with it. It is a rare day if I post a political statement, a view on religion or an aggressive request to follow or give to a cause. Is it a great vehicle for this? Of course! Remember the old 'phone tree' information share? You call 10 of your friends, they call 10 of theirs...bam, all the sudden you have HUNDREDS of people to share with. Social media is this on steroids. Use it how you will, I choose to use it to share the fun things I'm doing, usually happy things. But I digress.

The point is, with my passive postings, people have a choice to be influenced or not. They seem to be choosing, more and more, to be positively influenced. Is it a goal now? I wouldn't say that exactly. I'd like to see it grow on it's own. It's reciprocal too, I love seeing other people's postings on Facebook and Twitter, it's encouraging to me. It's a great circle to be floating around in.

Do you run? Should you run? If you do, why are you running? If not, why not? What are your goals for running? Why are they your goals? In the industry I work in, and really any industry, the old SMART goal is tried and true, and it works. If you don't know it, look it up.

I'm just trying to run smart :)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

What to wear, what to wear.

Forecast for the run tomorrow, light running shorts, minimalist shoes, medium thickness socks, light breathable shirt, headband, mp3 player.

That's not what this post is really about, however. I'm thinking of how it is I decide when, where, and what to run from day to day. It's not unlike planning your clothes for the next day, the next week, or the days coming up when you have something going on.

Maybe you have a lunch meeting with a vendor, maybe you have a networking event one evening, maybe it's 'dress like your boss Wednesday'. Perhaps the CEO and a group of investors will be visiting the office, it's possible you have a conference or training session to attend, maybe it's ORANGE FRIDAY and the Giants are playing at home!

This is really the same way I think of planning my running mileage and locations for the upcoming days. Sometimes it's easy and kind of already planned out for me, sometimes it's not. I know my normal week is:

Monday - easy 2-3 miles - my hood, usually evening time.
Tuesday - ARM Academy track work out - local high school with the group, usually 4-6 miles depending on upcoming races, 6pm.
Wednesday - Easy 2-3 miles - my hood, usually evening time.
Thursday - ARM Academy tempo run - my hood, 5.5 with the group, 7pm.
Friday - Long run with a group buddy - Sawyer Camp trail(path) 8-12 miles, 10-12 am start time depending on weather
Saturday - Location run - 4-6 miles, late morning, early afternoon.
Sunday - If no location Saturday, location Sunday. Otherwise, easy 2-4 miles, usually afternoon/evening.

Now, this is a pretty straight forward, regular week for me, much like a normal week working (or doing whatever you do). As with most aspects of life, you will need to make adjustments based on planned events as well as unplanned events. For me, it's a little more simple than for others, but the idea is still the same. Probably also fair to keep in mind that not everyone is running every day. Two or three days a week is plenty for most and provides a few less opportunities for getting a screwdriver in the spokes of your running regimen (or other workouts, I understand people do things besides run for fitness. True story.).

Some of the running schedule adjustments that I handle:

Friends asking to run.
    Different distance goal
    Different average time goal
    Different desired location
    Different time of day

Schedule conflict.
    Self-inflicted, ran out of time-poorly planned
    Short notice event plans
    Other sporting event (read as softball game)
    Surprise phone screen for a job
Upcoming event, running related.
    Running a 1/2 marathon with less than two week's notice

Unexpected physical impairment
    Self-induced (hangover, softball game aches, too much standing/walking, etc)
    Stomach related
    Too dehydrated (alchohol, caffiene, or vitamin d related)

Desired location not available

Location not motivating (pretty much when I don't want to run in my hood)

Equipment not ready (it's true, you shouldn't run a lot of miles, two days in a row, in the same pair of shoes)

Now, sometimes these things come up and you are forced to change your routine, and sometimes you don't. A great example of this is last week when I ran my normal 5.5 mile tempo run Thursday night around 7pm, then decided to run a 10 miler the next day because a friend from the group I run with on Tuesday at the track workout suggested a long run. Normally on Thursday's I'd run an easy 3-4 miler. 

I decided to run that 10 miler because I have been drinking more beer than normal and wanted to burn off some of those calories en-masse. I also wanted to get a longer run in and don't normally do them on my own.  It worked but I also had some other expected results: my feet were tired because my distance 'stability' shoes were not 'rested' properly. Legs were pretty tired too. I was dehydrated because I had a couple of beers after my softball game Thursday night, and was day running on a pretty warm afternoon.

The fact remains that despite the off-kilter schedule, poor preparation, and fatigue, I was able to pull off a good, calorie burning run and I was flexible in my mentality to adjust. Too bad my running buddy had to listen to me whine the whole time: "I'm not sure I'm going to make it all 10 miles", "oh man, I think my legs are going to give out", "my feet are really killing me", "go ahead without me if you want to burn these last couple of miles up, I'm wasted", and something like "how far out are we" every 1/4 mile. I did apologize later.

Maybe your boss finds out about 'dress like your boss Wednesday' and puts the kibosh on it. Maybe your lunch meeting gets cancelled. Maybe your conference is moved from Las Vegas to Gnome, Alaska. Of course, if the Giants are still playing at home, you wear that orange!

What I'm trying to say is, in the end, if you want to run, just go out and do it. Run fast, run slow, run whatever your pace is. Walk and run, run and walk, take breaks every 5 minutes, every 10 minutes. Just go out and run. Run 1 mile, run a half a mile, run 500 miles (no, don't do that). Just run baby! Plan ahead, routine is great, but don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Get out and run! Don't worry about what other people think or say.

Running is your thing, get out and pound the miles out!

Mile high club!? Yes!

Am I running in Denver? Am I scoring on an airplane? NO! I sometimes don't know how many miles my legs can take in a day or in a week, and I learned a pretty valuable lesson a month or so ago.

I tend to think I'm pretty smart sometimes with running, and as you might expect, usually running will put me back in check. The week I decided to run 35 miles instead of my normal 25 miles is a great example of this. I'm training now for three distances at the same time, the 5 and 10k, along with a 1/2 marathon, so what I'm really trying to do is get my average mile times down over the course of every distance I run, plus hammering out solid track workouts and tempo runs. No real specific training other than that, I wanted to see how a high mileage week would affect me.

I didn't talk to my running group folks for advice this time and decided I was going to try a high mileage week. I see people in my Twitter feed running higher mileage and they range in age from much younger to much older than me (apparently I mentally blocked trying to also account for fitness level). I was aiming for 5 miles a day to get to my 35, which seemed reasonable, 5 miles isn't really much right?

Turns out you should increase incrementally by about 5 miles a week, not 10 miles. Now I know thanks to both my running group and my body.

I started the week on Sunday, and by Tuesday's track workout, I had about 16 miles pounded into my feet. I was feeling great, if suffering a bit of fatigue in my legs. That was expected. I ran my 5 miles or so on Wednesday, definitely feeling every bit of the 20 plus miles I had put on my legs. Also, track workouts can be pretty tough. Thursday is a regular 5.5 mile, semi-hilly tempo run, I knew my legs were tired and it would be a challenge. What I did was a  PR in that run (with great pacers), I think just below 37 minutes, and I was pretty exhausted. Legs were definitely tired and sore. It's pretty rare for my legs to be sore, having run somewhere around 145 straight days at the time, but they were both tired and sore for this run.

By the end of the week they were even more tired and sore, and I was done with the 35 mile week. I had actually run just short of 35, I think around 34 but I had learned a few things:

I learned a necessity to balance out challenging myself with understanding my fitness level and listening to my body.

On the other side of things, I learned that no matter what your body is telling you, you can mentally overcome physical exhaustion if you are up for the challenge, this makes sense too. Through my ignorance, I pretty much killed it on a run that I may otherwise have taken it easy on based on my workout plan.

I learned once again, the value of having smart people to run with, and that I should take advantage when I can. That's smart running!

During this run streak (now around 170 days) I have run with sinus problems, headache, sore muscles, sore joints, stomach cramps, hangovers, dehydration, mental fatigue, physical fatigue, and sore toes (yes, it's a problem!).  After the high mileage week, when I'm thinking of my daily run, as well as what I am doing for the week, there is a lot more flexibility in what I'm choosing to do. This makes it easier to plan the run(s), and keeps me from being lazy or making excuses to run less or not as hard.

In the end, I confirmed that I still have a lot to learn, but running is a patient teacher that will never give up on me.