Sunday, December 26, 2010

Year End Reflection - 2010

Many times during the course of the year I am reminded of how lucky I am.  This year is no exception.  I have met and interacted with others in ways that I could never have imagined.  I started 2010 with a lot of stress and a lot of melancholy.  I end it in a similar fashion, but it’s different this time.  Last year I could not comprehend why I felt the way I did, this year I feel sad but I know why.  Aside from all of the things that I am going through I have a lot to be thankful for.  I can of course go on a listing spree but the fact is family and friends are the key.  Everything that I have learned I have learned through them and with them.

Never in a million years did I think I would like running.  After knee surgery the running days were behind me.  I have been blessed with a chance to rediscover this thing I dreaded.  I was able to embrace it even if my brain told me I hated it, my heart told me otherwise.  I started running because I was escaping something, and now running I have discovered that I no longer need to run.

I am really focusing on rediscovery this year.  I dismissed a lot of things in my past.  These events affected or influenced me more than I understood when they happened; now I feel I can start taking them into account.  I never stood back and looked for how events changed me, I was too busy finding a solution or resolving the problem.  This attitude has taken its toll on me hence the main reason why I greet this New Year on a sad note.

I plan to fight back.  I plan to really take a look at my experience and make sense of it.  I want to really delve into what makes me who I am.  I do not want to start the decade the same way that I did the last one.  In 2000, I had dreams and aspirations but no means or plan to get there.  2011 I am going to rediscover those dreams and aspirations and use what I have learned to make a plan and handle business.  It is not going to be easy, but nothing worthwhile is.

I pray that anyone who reads this takes a moment to be thankful.  But more than that takes a moment to rediscover what they want.  When we look within ourselves we find not only how truly lucky we are, but also that there are a lot of things in there we never took time to appreciate.  Discovery is defined as finding out information that was not previously known.  When we re-discover ourselves we find many of the answers we seek had been there all along had we just taken the time to look.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

After Finals Reflection - Houdini

Last night was the scene of the last final I shall take in 2010. I finished early and drove home in the rain. It felt like escape from the world of books and academia into the wild, it was nice. Since last night the euphoria has settled and I have had the chance to reflect. Do I think I did as well as I could have? No. Did I do the best that I could? Yes. You can always do better, but for me I have to settle on doing the best that I can for me. I work and drive the California freeways like a maniac; over 22k in approx 9 months is testament. But the miles and time does not bother me or feel as burdensome anymore. I feel that all those moments are endurance training and practice for the business of life. There are things we will simply love and others we will have to slosh through.

There is a story about Harry Houdini that reminds me of the work it takes to get anything worthwhile done. As we all know his name is synonymous with Magic and escape, but it should be another word for endurance. A blood vessel in his kidney burst because he was too tightly sealed into a canvas bag. He called his doctor after he had been urinating blood. Doctor said that he would be dead in a year if he did not take some months off from his lifestyle. He took two weeks off and sent the doctor photos and news clippings of his achievements for the next 15 years.

It takes a lot out of you to achieve what you want. I am not going to attempt to burst any blood vessels or jump into frozen rivers. School is something I want, but it feels like a missionary trip to the Congo every time I get there after a long day at work. Yet when I leave I feel like a better person and like I have done something worthwhile, Houdiniesque, minus urinating blood part. I know that finals went the best way that they could and that I will continue to do my best. The trick is to teach oneself to push a little harder. That’s the point that I am in. I feel that things are clicking and stuff is starting to fire on all cylinders. Hopefully this winter break will let me tick up the trail miles and motivate me to build my academic endurance up in order to get where I need to at school.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Final Exams - Last Weeks Running Wrap up - Daydreaming (cast away)

I had my first final exam last night. It was brutal. I feel like I was racing against the clock for a lot of it and it was stressful. It was an open book tests and the books were massive paperweights. There was just so much to cover that opening up a book was a waste of time. I was sort of angry I used the restroom after I completed the first section. We had three hours total for multiple choice and two essays and I did not realize how slow I was on the first part. I am not blaming a few minutes but it just was a shock when I got back to my desk and the more heavily weighted essay had me scrambling. Anyhow, one down two to go.

Last week it really helped to have a few longer runs. I was not really looking for a higher mileage week, but it just sort of happened. Often times I reflect on what actually goes through my mind when I run. I honestly have no idea. But at certain times, before the endorphins kick in, there is a place of peace that shuts out all internal noise. I am not sure what actually happens but I do not feel like another person pounding out the miles. At this moment any and all thoughts from my mind are pushed out and refocused on the task of moving and breathing. I relish the moments where I can be “thoughtless” and not feel bad about it. School and everyday life have been stressful and getting out on the road feels like therapy, the trails feel like vacation. There have been many mental distractions recently that have caused me to lose rest and really make me feel like I am not myself.

I daydream of what it would be like to just fall off the planet a’la Cast Away. I envy the self discovery but could live without the deserted island and the lack of modernity. But the reality is that falling off the planet is just an excuse not to get it done. Considering it more closely its the opposite of what I do when I run. When I run externally I feel like there is no need to run internally, so falling of the planet will have to remain a daydream.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Nike Free 3.0v2 Review

Shoe: Nike Free 3.0

The Nike 3.0v2 is an attempt at a more barefoot running experience.  I think that they do a great job promoting forefoot landing.  The shoe and it definitely is one of those “gateway” shoes get you thinking barefoot or at the very least a minimalist shoe.  Any runner who thinks, after reading “Born To Run”, that they can just go out and crank out a few miles barefoot, don’t.  The Nike Free 3.0v2 would be the shoe that can help you transition from a traditional trainer to a more minimalist shoe.  Please do not go out and buy Vibram KSO’s and attack the trails (confession?).  I did, and my calves hated me for a while, we had a rough break-up and we are barely now reconciling our differences.  On to the review.

Initial Thoughts:
The free was the first minimalist shoe I could wear in public.  I read a lot of articles regarding different shoes and the after my Vibram KSO debacle I discovered two things: (1) I am not a Tarahumara (shocking) (2) I need to transition intelligently to forefoot and minimalist shoes.  The shoe itself is a soft mesh top and very flexible sole.  The sole at first glance looks too spongy but it does hold up.  It is a series of squares.  The toe box is a little wide for me because I have narrow feet. 

Shoe Stats:
Weight: 7.1 oz
Drop: 4mm

The shoe itself is a wonderful tool to transition to a more mid-foot to forefoot strike.  However, in my longer runs in this shoe ~10 mi I found that the mesh seemed loose (no idea why just felt that way).  Also, running on roads, gravel will get between the square sole pattern and you’ll feel it.  When that occurs you will hear a “click” sound with one shoe and not the other; that kind of bugs me.  Another con is that the shoe did not perform as well running on wet pavement.  This maybe user error, over striding, but I figure a good fyi is in order.  On wet pavement it would slide a smidge, not a lot, but if I was faster it could be bad.

The shoe is well made, and it looks good.  I know that big companies like Nike have a bad reputation, but their shoes look good, let’s not lie people.  The sole is flexible, it’s pretty intense.  Having the toe touch the heel is quite easy to do.  The shoe is also responsive and will strengthen your feet.  Now would I suggest this as your all time running shoe?  Sure, if you are ok with your feet hurting while you adjust.  But be careful.  I changed the laces for lock laces, yankz work well too.  I really like how light it feels when I am wearing it.  It is light and responsive but I still feel I am not foregoing the entire cushion from a traditional shoe.  I like it and will continue to run in the shoe and in all likely hood buy the same version as long as they make it.  It’s a great transitional shoe that can take a lot of miles, it breaths well.  I really like it for shorter runs where I am really focusing on feeling how my foot hits the ground. 


Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Man in the Arena

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

 -Theodore Roosevelt

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Coaching - 11 hr 50 Mile Ultra Plans

I am of the firm belief that the individual should be self motivated and passionate about what they want to do. If you want something work hard and get it done. I have written a lot about the need to find that inner voice that drives you to greatness. Recently, I have blogged quotes that have impacted me and many of them are in regards to being self-reliant and the need for being one. However, something I have not written about as much is humility.

It takes commitment and courage to go after what you want whether it is a physical or mental barrier. It is not easy to leave your comfort zone and seek something greater than what you know. It is very easy to sit and be complacent with what life throws at us. Is that a way to live? Should we just settle with the handouts life gives or should we seek out and jump at opportunities? I clearly believe in the later.

In many of these endeavors we need the help of others. Now let me clarify what I mean by help. When I say help I am not asking for handouts, easy street, or a cake walk. I also do not mean help as in piggy-backing. Let me explain. There are a lot of times when people will ask you for “help” but in reality it is simply a request to piggy-back on some knowledge you have so that they may avoid the work and effort to learn. I will not even get started on those who go into a challenge thinking they are going to fail, that’s a tough spot to be in and it is not good (we have all been there but you need to rally out).

Why do I bring this up? I need help. I want to complete an official 50 mile run in less than 11 hours in order to enter the lottery for the Western States 100 in 2012. My schedule does not give me a lot of time and I am the first to admit I do not know everything especially when it comes to training for an ultra. However, I do know two things: 1. Humility is the best way to learn and 2. Iron sharpens iron. I was fortunate to discover I listen to a few podcasts varying from tri athletes to geeks in running shoes that have interviewed Coach Jeff and the information he provides makes sense and is very insightful. PRS is really committed to helping athletes become the best that they can be. I am really glad that Coach Jeff is going to be helping me prepare for the challenge I have set for myself. I have to be humble, because even though I do not understand a lot of the methods he uses, heart rate training, I have to admit he knows his stuff and has a wealth of information that I simply do not possess. Also, iron sharpens iron, if you want to get achieve great things you have to be around those who have and know what it takes to get there. I will obviously be writing more about it in the future.