Next Race: 10th Annual 10K on the Noland Trail (Newport News, VA)

Countdown to Kansas

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Compromise, discipline, and balance

As with everything in life, if you want something bad enough you must be willing to compromise.  For me, this means passing on the North Face Endurance Challenge Half-Marathon in Atlanta, GA next month in order to train for Kansas Ironman 70.3 next year.  Training has its costs, and a half-ironman is no exception.  Bike ($1,000), indoor trainer ($239), helmet ($30)…I can go on and on, but I think you get my drift.  Being a cautious spender is absolutely necessary and the proper thing to do.  It is unfair to spend money on these necessary items without being willing to compromise.  That’s life.     
Just as important as good spending habits are discipline and balance.  You MUST be disciplined enough to run and/or bike and/or swim when it is the last thing you want to do.  Not only do you need to do it, but you need to be productive.  Every training session, whether 30 minutes or two hours, must make you netter than before.  4:30 wake up calls, 5:15 Power Bars, 6 am spin classes, morning and evening runs/swims, long runs and bike rides on the weekend are now the norm.  It will stay this way for the foreseeable future.  Eight months = 16 long bikes, 16 long runs, and 64 tempo/speed work sessions (32 each of cycling and running) – there is no time to waste if you ask me.  Soreness (pain is the bad one) is no longer an excuse; rather, it means I am getting the job done.  Keep pushing.  
Like discipline, balance is critical.  Mixing in family, work, and training is no easy task.  Family has and will continue to come first, no exceptions.  Luckily, my wife is a big part of my training and I am able to get in plenty of running sessions with her :)  Thanks for the added work Meg!  Anytime I can train in the confines of my own home and/or with the wife is a treat.  Work is work, enough said.  Basically, it is time spent thinking about training…just being honest.     
While not going to the North Face Endurance Challenge is certainly disappointing, I have no doubt it was the right choice.  The cost of the trip ($600+) and time away from the family made it a straightforward decision.  All part of compromising, being disciplined, and having balance.   

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Motivation and training (9/27/2010)

For a variety of reasons, motivation can be tough to come by some days.  Even the smallest of issues can send your spirit plummeting in a matter of minutes.  Quite simply, you need to dig deep and remember why you are pursuing whatever it is you are pursuing.  For me, it helps to visualize those good feelings and overall sense of accomplishment I feel once I have completed a hard workout.  True character shows and desires are made clear when you are able to overcome these inevitable bumps in the road.  If you really want something, you will follow through – period.  I do my best to live by this standard – Continuously Improve, Never Give Up. 

As I have continue to progress through my training, I have come to realize a few things.  For one, spending hours and hours hammering out the perfect training plan is not time well spent.  In fact, it should not even be called a training plan; rather, it is a guide that keeps you on track – nothing more, nothing less.  I love to challenge myself, so I may run twice in a day if I feel like it.  Heck, I may run three times within 24 hours if I join the wife :)  There is a clear line between overtraining and training by feel – I have learned the latter.  This does not mean I train 7 days a week (I still enjoy my Friday off day) but I do push myself.  A general policy of swim, bike, and run at least 2x each (really no more than 3), with a nice mix of easy, tempo, and long/pace seems good to me.  If I want to throw in an extra easy run or long bike, I do.  That is how I operate.  On the flip side, if I need a mental health day/rest day, I am not afraid to take it.  This training guide-type of approach seems to be the least stressful and most attainable.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sight set on Kansas

As you may or may not remember from one of my earlier posts, I made mention of what some may call an out of this world goal: completing a half ironman.  This race, meant for crazy folks, consists of a 1.2 mi swim, 56 mi bike, and 13.1 mi run – each event being completed one after the other.  When I think of such as race, a few words come to mind: exciting, scary, challenging, and life-changing (we can count this as one word). 
I was first introduced to the ironman back in 2008, shortly after the wife and I got married.  I remember tuning in to NBC one Saturday afternoon and running across a broadcast of the Ford Ironman World Championship in Kona, HI.  Immediately, I was hooked.  The physical and mental strength of the competitors was inspiring and to be honest, made the wife and I feel pretty lazy.  So much so that I immediately followed up the telecast with an inspired gym session.  At the time, I felt as if I had no choice but to do so.
Before pressing forward, let’s back track a bit.  (I promise this will all make sense in a minute).  When I first began this journey to inspiration a few weeks back, my big goal was to complete a 50K by the end of 2011.  With time and dedication this is a goal I feel is attainable.  In order to meet this goal I put a fairly logical plan in place: over the next year or so progressively work my way up the proverbial “race ladder.”  With a good base in place (two 5Ks, an 8K, and a 10K) I would set my sights on completing a few traditional half-marathons (done two so far) followed by some trail races (North Face Endurance Challenge Half-Marathon, 10-miler in northern VA, etc.).  With some half-marathons under my belt, I would then move on to something more ambitious: a 25K or 30K – I am currently signed up for a 25K in WA next Feb.  To this day I am happy with this plan and still hope to complete a 50K at some point down the road. 
Well, something funny happened along the way.  I became a big fan of half-marathons.  Both Rock n Rolls, VA Beach and Philly, were great experiences that I would not trade for anything.  One of the best parts was being able to share the experience with Meg.  Her dedication and perseverance was inspiring on both occasions – despite “hitting the wall,” she finished both.  She even managed to shave 16-minutes off her first half-marathon time – go Meg!  On a personal note, I was able to achieve my goal of running the entire Philly half.  Going after a 50K means passing up future opportunities to run half-marathons with the wife, which is not high on my radar.  After running 13.1 twice, I must say it just feels right. 
This brings me to my point (finally).  Instead of pursuing a 50K, I am realizing a goal that previously I felt I wasn’t worthy/capable of pursuing.  On June 12, 2011, approximately 8 months from now, I am going to take part in the KSwiss Ironman 70.3 in Kansas!  Yes, what you read is accurate.  I will always remember these words from Meg when I asked her to let me do this/believe that I can do this:

“I have no doubt that you can train for and complete a half-ironman and I support you if that is what you want to do.”

If you know my family, this is something they would NEVER say.

Clearly, I lacked enthusiasm in my response:

YEAAA!!!  I am SO excited that you believe in me!  Thank you!  I initially looked at Lake Stevens and Boise, the only catch is they are two of the harder ones.  The course profiles make them two of the tougher half ironmans in the US, with finish times averaging in the 6 hr range.  If Kansas is sold out though (I don't think it is), I will pick that one.  Heck, I won't say no to an extra month to prepare.  Thanks for believing I can do it!  I don't know what to say.  My family is not good for self confidence (you know how mom and D are), so your words mean the world.  Just bringing up Lake Stevens shows you are genuine.

Here are some thoughts for those who want me to justify why I am doing this.  I love running the 13.1 distance (a component of the ironman), especially with the wife.  Setting my sights on this half ironman means we get to continue this journey together (why mess with a good thing?).  As I said, I never thought I was capable on taking on such a feat.  However, after seeing Meg push through the pain barrier each time, why can't it be my goal?  Why can't I push myself that hard?  She does.  Overall, I feel my best running 13.1 and enjoy biking.  With some work on swimming, I will do it.  This is not spur of the moment; instead, it is something I have considered for a while.  As I said to Meg on the drive back from Philly, our half-marathons together have helped my self esteem and shown me I can push myself. 

So there it is.  I am imagining a dream that I never had the confidence to pursue.  While a 50K is great, I am selling myself short by making it my BIG goal.  With a supportive wife, a manageable training plan, and a positive attitude I will pursue this goal with all my heart.  There will be ups and down, high and lows, but one thing is for sure – come June 12, 2011, I will be suited up and ready to give it my all.    

I will end it on this – some words to live by.  While in Philly for the Rock n Roll Half-Marathon this past weekend, my wife saw someone with an interesting sign that she would later tell me about, it read: “You were a winner as soon as you took your first step.”     

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What a day for a race

What a race, what a race.  First off, the weather could not have been any better.  Sunny but not too sunny with a slight coolness in the air; temp at race time was around 65.  Luckily, Sunday morning started off on the right foot for Miss Meg.  Despite her inability to sleep Friday night (hotel noises), she was able to get some good shut eye on Saturday thanks to Mr. Sleeping Pill making a visit around 7:30; by 9:00-ish she was out.  We had set our alarms for 6:00 but the excitement had me up by 5.  I proceeded to make my bagel with almond butter and cream cheese (not digusiting, I promise) and take my act down to the front lobby, where I browsed the internet and read a little of 50-50; definetely got me pumped for the days events.  Around 6, I made my way to Mc Donalds to get a small cup of coffee to give me that little extra boost, as if I needed it. 

After getting my coffee, I made my way up to the hotel room where I arrived a little after 6.  The wife and a tired puppy were laying in bed, in the process of waking up.  We put on our race gear, took some photos, loaded our water bottles and snacks, Meg had her bagel (1/2 at 6 and 1/2 at 7) then we were off.  Puppy wasn't too moody when we left, thank goodness.  I must say though, she wasn't too happy when I returned to get Meg's sunglasses...understandable.

It was about a mile walk to the start line.  The city streets were flooded with fellow racers making their way to the event, some preferring to run rather than walk.  Perosnally, I like to conserve my energy...just saying.  Slowly but surely we made our way through the crowds to our corral in the back, making a brief stop at the UPS trucks to drop off our gear bags.  One good thing about starting in coral 19 of 22, the porta potties are plentiful; this was critical in my being able to run the entire half-marathon (yea!!).  No one it would have happenned otherwise...I had to use the bathroom at mile 4 again, but was able to hold it to the end.  After a 1/4 walk to the start line, the wife and I were off aroud 8:20.  Philly, here we come!!!!

The race started off great.  We both felt strong and motivated...the scenary was pretty darn good as well.  As we made our way towards City Hall, the elites were already passing us by on their way towards Kelly Drive (Rowhouse Row).  To give you an idea how fast they were, we had made it not even a mile and they were almost to four...WOW!!  Bets part, we saw Ryan Hall!  It was perfect, the wife and I looked at each other and blurted out - "was that Ryan Hall."  As we learned later, yes it was. 

Over the next 40 or so minutes, we continued to make our way through Center City, Phildelphia.  Thanks to the buildings and Eagle fans (it is only fair to blame them as well) our Garmins were going haywire;  distance, pace, etc. were all inaccruate.  With the exception of total distance covered, these issues worked themselves out once we made our way towards the Schuylkill River.

In the end, we finished in 2 hrs 33 minutes (11:45 pace); a 16 minute improvement over Meg's previous time!  Go Meg!  Depsite "hitting the wall" around mile 11, she hung in their and finished strong.  As usual, she made me very, very, very proud, showing the type of strong/determined woman she is.  I must say, her tactic for race number two, the first being VA Beach, was brilliant.  Rather than taking long walk breaks to rehydrate and Gu-itize, she took shorter breaks more frequntly on her way to shattering her previous race record.  Again, go Meg!  Along the way, I was able to achieve a personal mark as well.  Before the start, I was determined to run the entrie race, which I did.  When Meg would slow down for a break, I would move over to the side and run at a reduced pace until she could catch up.  We plan to use this tactic for future races we do together.

After crossing the finish line, we grabbed some bottles of water and our medals before making our way towards the bag pickup area.  After getting our bags, we took some post-race photos, threw on our sandals and slowly but surely trekked on over to Reading Terminal Market for the feast.  Meg deserves another thumbs up here for running with a bloody toe (yes, I took at photo of it) and a foot/side cramp throughout the race...that takes guts.  After the 1.5 mile walk to the Market, we grabbed our food (mac and cheese for Meg and a turkey sandwich for me) and proceeded to chow down.  After taking some more photos (real cute one of Meg eating her carrot cake) and grabbing some goodies for later, we headed back to the hotel.  Besides two trips to Subway, it was a night of relaxation and Giants football.  No need to talk about that last part :(

All in all, it was a great trip and a personal favorite in terms of  locations.  Philly more than lived up to the hype.  Most importanly, the experience was a much better one for Meg.  Good thing the Philadelphia Half-Marathon sold out today, otherwise, we'd still be agonzing over whether to run OBX or make a return to Philly.  Next stop Atlanta!    

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Philly here we come - a week in review

Well, we are one day away from getting another notch under our belt and I couldn't be more excited.  Running has gone tremendously well this week - about 20 miles under my belt with a mix of 2, 3, 4, and 5 mile runs (treadmill, trail, and pavement).  I even tried a two-a-day earlier in the week, cross training in the morning and running 3 miles (easy/tempo) at Sandy Bottom Nature Park after work.  Overall it felt great!  I am at a point in my training where waking up at 4:30 AM is no longer that bothersome.  Yes, there are days I struggle, but the excitement of being able to explore before sunrise takes over.  Nothing beats a good sweat and a challenege before work, the sense of accomplishment just makes the day that much better.  Running means a lot, and going a day without doing it doesn't feel right.  Among other things, it serves as a stress reliver, and a common point between the wife and I; we seem to talk about it for hours on end, planning out races and supporing one another to the end.  Great bondning type stuff - her enthusiasm is contangious. 

As I said before, it was a great week on running with one exception.  That is, the "breathing through a straw" feeling that has bugged me for a few days.  I love getting the wife flowers, but it is not my intention to have them as a permanent staple in the home; this seems to happen whenever I bring some home.  So, when this does happen, after a fews days I begin to wonder why on earth breahting all of a sudden is not second nature.  After some intial pondering - am I losing it, getting sick, etc. - it hits me...time to throw out those flowers that have been sitting on the counter past their shelf life.  After a day or two, the house airs out and all is well.  Half glass full approach - at least she likes them enough to keep them around, even when they are looking less than lively :)  By tomorrow, I should be good to go for 13.1, so all is well.

Since it has been a few days, I have some things to cover.  Namely, my visit to the nutrtionist and my running analysis.  The nutritionaist visit went well and was certainly an eye openning experieince.  Initially, it stressed me out - I was told that I need to hit x amount of grams of carbs, fats, and proteins, have at least x amount of calories per meal, etc.  As a result, the first few days afterward had me glued to fitday WAY TOO MUCH.  I kept working different meals to get that perfect balanced ratio of carbs-fats-protein (55-25-20) that was as close to 2,100 calories as possible.  By the time I had a proper meal calculated, I has burned off the meal in keystrokes.  Just getting up to 2,100 cals is enough to worry about. 

Case in point, on Thursday night, I adopted a pretty straightforward policy on eating that will allow me to maximize my running performance (the reason I made the visit) and take the stress out of the equation.  First off, as long as my carbs intake (with regard to total cals is) is roughly 45-65%, fats 20-35%, and protein 15-30%, I am happy.  In order to do this, I just try and eat balanced meals - some good carbs (whole wheat bread, bananna, apple), fats (almonds, avocado, light mayo), and protein (lean turkey, ham, or chicken).  In addition, I focus on carbs before/after exercise (proteins after as well), and having most of my proteins and fats at times when I am more sedentary.  Since I plan out my workouts in advance this is a plan that is easy to stick to. 

Honestly, there is no point in stressing out too much when it comes to sports nutrition, just use common sense.  This means, trying to avoid white sugar, flour, and fat, and focusing intake on all-natural foods.  Basically, stick to the neandrethal diet of Dean K - if it doesn't come from the earth - it is processed -try to avoid it.  Those all-natural, unrefined, "caveman" type foods are the best.  Most importnanly, I feel at my best when I am full of veggies, almonds, avocado, lean turkey, and eggs as opposed to pizza.  While I LOVE pizza, this is the truth.  Don't gte me wrong, if I want pizza, I will have it.  After all, I am in Philly :).

As not to ramble for too long, here is the bottom line on the Gait Analysis: improve arm swing, relax arms at a 90 degree angle, push off more with my toes, bring up the bottom part of my leg more while running, and STRETCH everything, a lot.  Since buying a Stick, I have had no issues with feeling tight while running, and would even say it has increased my performance.  I highly recommend one of these bad boys.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Add another goal race to the list

If you read back to my first or second entry, you will see the BIG goal that I am working towards; that is, completing a 50K ultra.  Because the mileage is a challenge in itself, I am not worried about time, only pushing my limits in order to make it across the finish line.  Thus far, I have some good races lined up to get me towards that goal: three half-marathons (9/19, 10/17, and 11/14), a back-to-back 8K/5K the day before the OBX Half Marathon in November, and a 10-mile trail race in VA on 12/5.  Depending on my recovery from the 13K/13 mile OBX Challenge, I may pass on the last one – don’t want to risk an injury.  Logically, there should be a gradual buildup between these races and the 50K; adding on mileage and course difficulty each time.  Well, I have found that race and it is the Orcas Island Ultra 25K on February 5, 2011 in Washington (a few hours from Seattle).
Based on the description and popularity of the race, it sells out each year, I am surely not going to be disappointed.   Here is a brief overview of the course from the event website:
Course: Beautiful soft and well maintained singletrack trails through old growth forest with waterfalls, lakes, cascading creeks, and views of the Puget Sound, the surrounding islands, and on clear days the Cascade and Olympic Mountain Ranges, including Mt. Baker, Mt. Rainier and Mt. St Helens.
Sound pretty good, huh?  Total elevation gain for the 25K is 3,910 ft; that should burn.  Well, that is all for now…just wanted to share a little excitement about this 15.53 mile adventure in scenic Washington State.  Don’t know if the wife will read this, but thank you for taking me seriously when I said this would be a good race.  Much appreciated support!  Glad I spent some time refining the easy, V02 max, tempo, and speedwork portions of my training (figuring out correct heart rates, intervals, etc.).  I am going to need it!   

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The long weekend

Glad the weekend is done.  Usually weekends are a time to recharge and recover, but not so this week.  Despite having to work this weekend and knock out a long run this morning (on the treadmill - I will get to that), I am in remarkably good spirits. 

To start things off, my 5 m run did not goes as planned.  Last night, I spent some time seting up the Garmin heart rate monitor (a pretty neat tool).  In order to mix things up a bit, instead of doing my easy/long-run pace (10:34/mile), I figured I would do max heart rate training (65-75% of my max (194); approximately 127 to 147.  After some tinkering, I was finally able to get the heart rate monitor working and get the data fields on the Garmin conifgured.  However, when I woke up this morning the Garmin was frozen.  Luckily, Meg was nice enough to let me borrow hers (all is well!!), but the rain decided to play games with my head and not make it possible to do an outdoor run.

Bottom line: despite starting the day off on tilt, I was able to put toegther a 5 m run on the treadmill at the gym (10:20 pace with 1.0 incline from 2.0-2.5 miles, 1.5 incline from 3.0-3.5 miles, and 2.0 incline from 4.0-4.5 miles).  All in all, I am proud that I was able to pull things toegther and knock it out.  Shows I am able to overcome adversity and that I have come a long way (special thanks to Meg and Dean K).

One good thing about running on the treadmill was that I was able to put some of the running anlaysis tips to the test (I saw a sports performance tech eariler this week for a Gait Analysis).  Big areas I focused on: arm swing (relaxing my arms, not putting them out to the side, and keeping 90 degrees in my elbows - better for momentum) and stride (ensuring my feet land in line with my knees and hip - was told my feet land 3 inches in front of where they should).  Short and sweet: the tips helped and improved my performance.  Also, the physical therapist recommended that I strech more, so Meg and I went out a bought a Stick the other night.  Since using the stick, I feel A LOT better - everything is looser and I don't feel as tense after a run. 

Overall, it should be a pretty easy week with Philly Half coming up.  A few shorter runs is pretty much all that is on tap.  Since discussing my intentions to fix my eating habits in my last post, I have improved a lot.  Each day I am getting closer and closer to the 50/25/25 - 60/25/15 carbs to fat to protein ratio.  Best part, I feel better since my eating habits changed!  I have more energy and stay fuller for longer.  Since starting my new diet, I discovered a new favoritie pre-run food: wheat bagel with almond butter!  So darn good.  My hope is to get things completely on track after I see the nutritionist on Tuesday.