Posts Tagged ‘Fitness’

We walked out the door a few minutes later than I would have liked. I knew I would still have time at the start, but at that moment I was feeling the nerves and wanted to get moving. Beth walked me to the shuttle, where I boarded up with fifty other runners to be taken up to Balboa Park.

Waiting in the crowd, I was expecting more nerves. As I slowly shuffled towards the start line in my corral I was expecting fear, anxiety and self doubt. I envisioned having to tell myself over and over that I could do it and not to give into the fear. There was none of that. There was… Nothing. Only determination.

The closer I got to the start line the calmer I felt. I emptied my head of all thought and just focused on the present. Everyone around me was texting, or taking selfies or facetwittering, and having made the decision to leave my phone behind, I enjoyed these moments of being unplugged from the world and just listened to the music and the MC for the event. By the time I found my corral, she was about nine ahead. Several minutes later, she launched the corral in front mine and I put one earbud in my ear. Then the count started, and at five I put the other one in. At one, I pressed play.

Nice job iPod. I seriously could not have picked a better song.

I started my watch as I stepped over the line and got to work. I made an effort to stay slow at first. I picked a few other runners to pace behind, but eventually broke away. The first thing of note was working the water stations. I wasn’t sure how this was going to work, but it quickly became clear that I had made the right choice in leaving my hydration belt behind. It’s true that maneuvering through the water stations can be tricky and I found that actually drinking from a cup while running is even trickier. The first one I damned near drowned myself, and after that decided, screw the time, I was going to walk through the stops when I needed them. Which, by the way, turned out to be just about all of them. I had considered skipping one or two, but once I got a routine down, there was no reason not to grab a quick drink along the way.

The thing I was totally not expecting was the elevation change. Hills, man. Steep, gnarly hills. All my running here has been down by the water, and while I was aware that San Diego had hills, I wasn’t really expecting to run them. As it turns out, I was quite wrong. I saw the first couple coming, and quickly came up with a plan: take advantage of the downhills and go easy getting up the other side. A couple of the downhills were so steep that I just had to focus on keeping my balance rather than going fast. A small price to pay for not toppling my fellow runners.

I settled into a comfortable pace and before I knew it, four miles had gone by and I came up on mile five. Sponsored by Wear Blue Run To Remember, this stretch of road was lined with the names and faces of service men and women who have been killed in action overseas. Running along the left side of the pack, I made sure to look at every name and every face as I went by. I was struck by how many of these heroes were just in their twenties, some with young families. So many young and promising lives cut short. Just following these pictures, were what I assumed were veterans holding American flags and giving up high fives and words of encouragement to us all as we passed. It was a touching display of respect for these brave people that have sacrificed so much for our country and way of life.

The halfway mark blended into eight miles, then ten and before long I was running up to the twelve mile marker. Up the hill and into the tunnel lit with flashing lights and a disco ball, I reached into my right pocket and pulled out this small piece of metal and rubber.

image

This shifter knob and the tail light are all I have left of my Triumph Bonneville. In a homage to it, and my story I decided to carry it with me for all 13.1 miles. For the last mile, I closed my hand around it and pushed just a little harder.

The crowd thickened considerably as the pack got closer to the end. I made the last turn and I could see the finish line. I picked Beth out in the crowd and gave her a high five as I ran passed. It was so close. Just keep pushing.

My feet stepped over the line, and it was over. So many miles run, injuries sustained and years to get to here. I slowed to a walk and made my way through the crowd towards our prearranged meeting point. We embraced in the street, and she said “Did you see the time?” I had been keeping track along the way, but the accuracy of my watch was a little off, so I mostly just watched my pace. I had no idea what my time actually was. I started the morning with a goal of 2:10:00 and in the end, I crossed the finish line in 2:05:48. I couldn’t have been happier with that.

Back in the hotel, I feel pretty good about what I accomplished today. The last time I ran 13.1 in training, which was a few years ago, my time was somewhere around 2:20:00. I’m pleased to see the hard work and training paid off. The plan for now is to get home, take a few days off and rest, and then start planning the next race. I’ve got a time to beat.

Here are the official stats of my run:

Advertisements

Up before dawn. 

From my hotel window the city appears to be comfortably asleep, but I know that at least 30,000 other people are starting their day the same way. The water is heating up for my coffee and oatmeal, and I stare nervously at my race bib. I’m relatively confident that today is going to go alright, but still the nerves manifest themselves in a quickened heart beat and a minor tremble in my fingertips. Just in the last six months alone, I have run nearly two hundred miles to train for this race. I know I can do this. I have a reasonable plan for the race, and if I stick to that, everything should be just fine. 

Welcome to my early morning pep talk. 

I know it’s easy to be overwhelmed at the thought of running 13.1 miles. I can feel it now while having my coffee. It’s a good time to remind myself that like everything else in life, rather than be overwhelmed by the enormity of a problem, or event, breaking it down into smaller parts makes it much more manageable. So, what do I need to do right now?

1. Eat, drink, shower and get dressed.

2. Find the shuttle to the start line

3. Warm up and stretch

4. Run

And that where it gets tricky. Running the first few steps and thinking about the 13.1 miles ahead can be daunting and demotivating. After I cross the start line, what’s next? Salt every couple miles, a gel every 45 minutes. I also break the race into quarters. Counting up to the halfway point rather than down from 13.1. Giving myself these smaller goals inside the larger one helps to not get overwhelmed. Most of all, I have to stay positive. I think I’m pretty good at that. Am I nervous? Of course. But am I going to fail? Nope. Am I going to quit? Not on your life.

As I have checked off my training runs, logged the miles, and finally arrived at the morning of the race, it has occurred to me that training for and running this race has become about more than just running a race or checking off some bucket list item. This year it has become a part of my survival story. I didn’t die on that road in September. I’m still in the fight and I’m not quitting.

Here goes nothing.

We got on the flight yesterday afternoon. Just about six hours door to door, I forgot how long the transcon flights can be. The captain was a friend of mine from my days on the Airbus, so we chatted for a few minutes before I settled into my seat next to Beth. It’s always nice to see a familiar face. We got in late-ish last night and grabbed an Uber to our hotel in the Gaslamp Quarter. This morning, I was up at 0530, just before dawn.

Twenty-four hours to go.

In my entire running career this is the closest I’ve ever been to running this race. I have mixed emotions as I sit here in bed waiting for the sun to come up. My default is to say I’m nervous. That’s mostly true. I’m not especially worried about the distance, or the course. I’ve run in San Diego many times, and while the route is different and certainly longer, none of that really bothers me. It’s all the unknowns that come with running my first real half marathon. Things like, where do I get the shuttle? How will I find the right start line? And mostly, water. I’ve trained all my long runs with a hydration belt, carrying 40oz of water with me. My impression is that this isn’t something people do on race day, so I’m going to have to hit the water stops. I know that’ll slow me down, and I know I can do ten miles without water, but since that’s not ideal on race day I’m going to have to make it a point to stop. Since I’ve never actually done this before, I suspect it’s going to be a learning experience.

I’m putting together a plan for tomorrow morning. The timing will depend on when I start, which I’ll find out later today. I’m assuming I’ll be up at 4ish, make some coffee and oatmeal, relax for a few minutes and get my gear together. Since I’m not running too fast I’m expecting to be on one of the later busses to the start line. I have a plan for the race, and I think it’s reasonable. I’ve been training my long runs at a 10:00 per mile pace, so I’m hoping to be done in around 2:10:00. Is it lightning fast? No, but it’s who cares? I’m getting it done. After this race is over and I start looking to the next one, I’ll start figuring out how to get faster. Right now, the goal is to get it done, the time doesn’t matter as much.

Considering my history with attempting to run races, I’ll spend the rest of the day wrapped in bubble wrap and looking both ways before crossing any streets. This is happening.

Twenty four hours to go.

Seven

Posted: June 19, 2015 in Running
Tags: , ,

image

I had a plan when I left for the rail trail. I was just going to take it easy. The planned run was seven miles, and since it was the longest run I’d attempted since I trained for the half two years ago, it made good sense to not try to kill it, just get it done.

I picked up the Nashua River rail trail in the center of Pepperell, Massachusetts. Heading west, it’s flat, well shaded, protected from traffic, and runs pretty much forever. Ok, not like, to Narnia forever, but long enough. The total length of the trail is 12.3 miles, so it definitely fit my needs for distance running.

So, I had a plan, a route, this old ass iPod, and as I got to the beginning of my route, I thought, “To hell with going easy. I’m just gonna see how fast I can get this done.” The week before I had pretty well destroyed my 5k time thanks to the Hollis Fast 5k, a mostly downhill course that draws thousands of runners, all there to beat their personal bests. Sure you can’t use the time for anything official, but it’s a great confidence booster, and a great event. So, armed with some extra confidence I set out.

I’m not going to drone on endlessly about the minute details of a long run because, well, no one wants to read that. However, I will say this: Something I’ve noticed while out on a run is that every now and then, the absolute perfect song comes up in the playlist, and it’s exactly the thing I need to hear at the exact moment I need to hear it. On this run, I had two of these back to back. Somewhere between miles four and five when I was starting to lag a little, these two gems popped up, and got my intensity back up:

Given their obvious awesomness, I thought I’d share.

Seven miles. 66:29. It’s no land speed record, but I’ll take that all day long.

image

It’s the end of May, and now that I am finally done with training, I can start to relax and start thinking about other things. In the last couple weeks, I have been starting to get my head around going back to the mountains. Not quite ready to tackle the Whites just yet, I decided a good training hike would be to go back up Mt. Monadnock… On a Saturday.

Yeah, so weekend days are not usually my first choice to walk up one of the most traveled peaks in the country, but it’s the only day I have, so it’s going to have to do. I pull into the lot and it’s packed. People from all over travel to Jaffrey, New Hampshire to climb this mountain. While admittedly it’s no Everest, I would never refer to climbing any mountain as easy, and this one is no different. The result of this mass misunderstanding is that hundreds if not thousands of people, flock this place of elevation in an effort hike the White Dot to the summit.

It’s been nearly two years since I’ve been here, and just as long since I’ve shouldered a pack and endeavored to climb any mountain. The last effort was on Mt. Moosilauke in August of 2013, a humbling trek that forced me to reevaluate my systems and make some much needed changes. The beating I took on that trip finally forced to admit that I needed to streamline my system and trim pounds to make a more manageable kit. Armed with a new, lighter pack, trail runners instead of heavy boots, lighter trekking poles and a gopro, I was ready to put some of those changes to the test.

Despite the crowds, I made pretty good time to the summit. Initially, I thought I would be annoyed by the mass of hikers on the White Dot trail, but on the ascent, I found it enjoyable to exchange pleasantries with people as we passed. Arriving at the summit in just under ninety minutes, I could see it was going to be a struggle to find a place to sit. The wind was blowing hard, and the throngs of hikers made it difficult to stake out a spot that would provide some shelter. I found a free piece of granite and took a seat to enjoy some much needed rest and a snack. The real benefit to Mondanock on a Saturday was the summit people watching. Everyone seemed in good spirits, and enjoying taking the requisite summit picture poses. I mean let’s be honest, no one comes to Mondanock on a weekend seeking solitude, right? So I might as well take a few minutes to enjoy the show.

I let some of the groups filter out before I picked up my gear and made my way back to the trail. For the hours of toiling to reach and recover from the summit, I always find it a shame that more time can’t be spent enjoying the view. Since I got a late start, I needed to start heading down. This is where the crowds became a bit of a problem. I’ve said before that the descent can be more dangerous than the climb up, so I’m not racing down the mountain, of course. I also know that a group only moves as fast as their slowest hiker. So with some of these larger, slow groups, some patience was going to be required as I maneuvered down the mountain.

The descent was uneventful until about 15 minutes above the parking lot. I could see a lone hiker ahead of me who I had been trailing for some time. Our pace seemed about the same until all of a sudden it wasn’t. As I closed the distance I could see him doubled over in pain and groaning. I stopped to ask if he was ok. “Yeah I’m just cramping up,” was his response. As it turns out it was his first time hiking a mountain, had gone through his two liters of water and was getting pretty dehydrated. I passed along some encouraging words and pressed on. But as I walked passed him I got to thinking. I had some extra water in my camelbak, and here’s a hiker in trouble. Sure, it’s not far to the parking lot, but dehydrated and cramping, that parking lot might as well be on the moon. I’ve been that guy, downed on the trail, and when I needed help someone was there. I couldn’t just leave him like that. I stopped and turned around. When I got back to him he was sitting on a log catching his breath. I told him that while I didn’t have much left, I had enough to fill some of his bottle so he could have a little more water to get down to the end of the hike. We snapped a quick photo, shook hands and parted. Helping that dude out was the right thing to do, and maybe next time he goes out to hike, or to work, and sees someone else in trouble, he might do a little something to help. You know, pay It forward and all that.

image
Hey look I’m on Instagram. Internet fame achieved. Reality series to follow.

All in all a good day, and a good return to hiking in the mountains. Hopefully more to come this year.

FTR – 09 July 2014

Posted: July 30, 2014 in Running
Tags: , ,

image

Fuck. This. Run.

I said that today. And I meant it.

Im registered to run the Smuttynose Half Marathon in October and my training program started last week. Well, it was supposed to start last week. The last month or so I’ve been battling a series of frustrating injuries that have interrupted what has otherwise been a very successful year of running. I’ve spent the better part of the last 6 months running in the wrong shoes that have put me in the place no runner ever wants to be: pissed off and on the disables list.

Awesome.

Yeah, that just about sums it up. What I have right now are crippling shin splints in my left leg which I’m pretty sure are radiating pain into my ankle. It’s the worst. The worst Jerry, the worst. So last month, I took a few weeks off, got some new shoes, saw a podiatrist, tried some insoles and the result was… More injury. Clearly, I’m doing it wrong… I took another week off, and ran in an apocalyptic thunderstorm (which I highly recommend by the way) in a different pair of shoes… No change.

So, in a last ditch effort of frustration, I went to my local running store, bough a pair of Altra Instincts, which I ran in last year, and compression sleeves and planned to run today. My leg felt, ok.. Not great, but should have been fine. Should have been…

The short version is that it was 90 degrees, I was slow, and even with my trusty Altras, the pain was ridiculous. I turned my 5 miler into a 5k, and ended up having to walk a fair portion of it due to the pain. I can’t begin to describe how frustrating it is to have to admit defeat in the middle of a run, nevermind the beginning of a training program, and worse yet, admit that I’m injured… Again.

With a mere 15 weeks to the half, it’s gonna be hard to get up to speed in time to make the race. But I’m going to give it everything I have. Just as soon as I get healed up. Whenever that is.

image

Recently, I read a book about the space race in the 1960’s. As one might expect, no account of those events are complete without referencing President Kennedy’s speech at Rice University in 1962. You know the one I mean:

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win…”

Like so many, I found those words inspiring, but realized that while I had heard this sound byte dozens of times, I had never actually heard the full speech. So, through the magic of YouTube, I sat down and listened to the 17 minute speech that talked about why it was important to take on the challenge of landing a man on the moon, and returning him safely to the earth. I know, I know, to raise funding and get there before the damned dirty Soviets (just kidding Putin, you da man). Still, I felt that I was missing something. So I read and reread the transcript, and I found this:

“All great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage.”
– William Bradford; Plymouth Bay Colony 1630

Thats interesting. Anything worth doing is hard, and greatness lies in the courage to endure the difficulty. We might be onto something here.

Much in the way Kennedy challenged the american people to develop the means to land a man on the moon, using materials and technology that had yet to be invented, (which I’m sure at the time seemed a daunting task) we must challenge ourselves to do great things. Things that are difficult, and sometimes scary, and things we are absolutely certain we can’t do… Until we do them. It took me a long time to figure this out. I have spent a great deal of my life avoiding challenges that seemed too hard, or in my opinion, certain to fail. Until recently, I had positively identified my comfort zone and set up shop.

The comfort zone… Yeah, you know, that place under the blanket, on the couch curled up with the dog and the remote control. I love that place. It’s warm and cozy, requires no effort to enjoy. The dog looks up at me, wags her tail, and gets an approving scratch behind the ears for her trouble. Everyone is happy. Sounds great, right? Totally. Here’s the problem: What good are we doing ourselves by letting life pass by on the couch surfing daytime tv? Are we alive? Of course. But, are we living? This is debatable. Staying in our everyday routines, on the proverbial couch with the pooch, is safe and we know we cant screw it up. Getting outside the comfort zone means being willing to risk failure. This is obviously undesirable. Which begs the question: why? Why are we so afraid to fail? Vanity? Insecurity? Low self esteem? All would seem good reasons to stay ensconced in the relative safety of an epic dog hug, Seinfeld reruns and video games. To some degree, I struggle with all of these issues, and it’s not always easy to put them aside.

Notably, no endeavor worth doing is without risk of failure. It can’t be. We have to accept that, and more importantly, learn to embrace it. Failure isnt something to be feared, its something to learn from. With that in mind, locate the nearest emergency exit out of your comfort zone, and exit that mofo like its on fire. It’s making that choice, the choice to look uncertainty in the eye and take on a challenge, that defines us.

It starts with a choice. That’s the hardest part, choosing to go. Once committed to the challenge, less energy can be spent on focusing on how hard the thing is, and more on the overall goal. Thats not to say that I’m always confident. It occurs to me that if I cant be the very image of brimming self confidence, I can at least try to prepare as much as possible… And then fake it. Often times this translates to researching gear, techniques for completing the task at hand, and the experience of others. Part of my own insecurity lies in the unknown. But, if I develop a general idea of what I’m about to get into, I can mentally prepare. So, I pour over maps, read endless gear reviews to choose the right equipment, read and watch testimonials of those who have gone before me. Every adventure is unique, and one can’t possibly prepare for every eventuality but by laying the groundwork ahead of time, we can remove some of the unknowns. However, if and when we are faced with something we’re not prepared for, a simple, “Screw it, lets go,” may just be the answer.

That mental toughness is not innate. It has to be learned through experience. The first step is doing the thing that you’re absolutely certain you can’t do. “The way it works is, you do the thing you’re scared shitless of and get the courage after you do it, not before you do it.” (This was actually a George Clooney quote from a mediocre movie, but the point is no less valid.)

I submit the following short narrative of my wife’s (to this point) previously undiscovered inner badass. I like to refer to it as Warrior-Beth. It’s quite possibly one of my favorite things.

In July of this year, my wife and I took at trip to Sedona to celebrate our fifth anniversary with some outdoor adventuring. She thought I would really enjoy renting atvs and trekking out in the desert to see some Native American ruins. She was right. It was a blast. This anecdote isn’t so much about me. We are both motorcycle riders and didn’t give much consideration to the fact that riding a street bike has absolutely nothing to do with off road atv-ing. We get the quads, and I can tell she’s nervous. “How bad can it be?” I tell her. I promptly received the look husbands get when they say such stupid things to their wives… Who usually know better.

Undeterred, we head off into the Arizona desert. The large dirt road we were both expecting quickly turns into a rutted trail full of rocks. This trail eventually winds its way to the first of two “obstacles.” The obstacle in question is a steep, slick, rocky hill who’s grade is matched only by the size and number of the rocks found in it. We are going to have negotiate this treacherous slope on atvs we have never ridden before. Awesome. I look over to my wife to find that she’s less nervous now, and more freaking out. I couldn’t blame her. I wasnt sure how it was going to work out either. “Screw it….” I head down first and it’s uncomfortable and rocky and I have no idea what I’m doing, but somehow, manage to arrive safely at the bottom of the hill. I look up and I see she’s gotten around the bend, part way down, but I can tell she’s not going to be able to get it down the super steep part of the trail. I head back up to help, hop on her atv and just as before, slowly and awkwardly negotiate it down the hill. I felt bad that she was scared, but we had long since been committed to the adventure, and had to find a way to press on. We had plenty of time, so we took few minutes at the bottom to rest up and have a snack and some water. When she was ready, we got rolling towards the ruins

The vista was amazing, red rocks and plains for as far as the eye could see. When our engines were shut down we heard…. Nothing. Total silence. We could see the ruins off in the distance as we finally arrived at the second obstacle which was similar to the first in its grade and rockiness. The difference here is that there’s a slightly less steep way down. We take a look at it, and I tell her that just like before, ill ride down first and then come back up to bring hers down. I get the thumbs up and head down the hill. Just as I reach the bottom, I turn around to see her working her way down the obstacle with a huge smile on her face. She looked her fear in the eye, gave it the finger, and did it on her own. I asked her how she did it, and she said,”I just got angry at it, got it done.” I could not have been more proud.

This is the moment we should strive for. The moment where we overcome the fear, say some insulting things to an inanimate object, and accomplish something awesome, if for no other reason than to say we did it. My wife did exactly that. She did the thing that scared the hell out of her, only to discover that she was capable of more than she gave herself credit for. We should all be so lucky.

“But why, some say…. Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic?”

In part, the answer, as George Mallory so aptly put it is, “Because it’s there.” While I understand what Mr. Mallory is getting at, I think there’s more to it. The purpose of choosing the challenge, be it climbing a mountain, running a marathon or landing on the moon is to discover something in ourselves. To become better people as a result of our endeavors. The pictures of us triumphantly standing at the summit marker or crossing the finish line signify not just the physical accomplishment, but the mental strength and determination it took to get there. It’s about finding out what you really can do if you simply choose to do it.

We are all capable of great things. It’s up to us to step outside the box and make it happen.