Thursday, March 31, 2011

Saucony ProGrid Peregrine Shoes - Video Test - Downhill

video

Running downhill and the Saucony ProGrid Peregrine Shoes are amazing downhill. Good Rock-plate, but calfs def felt the 4mm drop  The terrain changes and they responded well.  Judge the shoes response to the downhill for yourself.

Concerns About the American River 50

The AR50 is coming up in the next week or so and I feel terribly under prepared. I have an Left tendon injury that flared up in the last few days. It is manageable but I am not happy about it. I feel that I am cheating the ultra-experience. I want to go out and race my heart out, but I know that would be stupid and childish. I know that normally it takes 2-3 years of consistent running to begin to see the dramatic improvements and strength “runners” have. I being impatient go hard and fast and want results yesterday. My right knee is now bothering me because of the adjustments I subconsciously make for the left …trying to be patient but it is tough. I am lucky I have a coach and I am really trying to stick to the plan, but sometimes my heart leaves me.
Obviously there are other things going on that take the heart out of me…stuff I never share and only my voice gives away. I have practiced a lot making sure my face gives as little as possible, but my voice is not as malleable. In the coming days/week I will be praying a lot, and hopefully going in some new directions. I dread making rushed decisions especially over important things, it really bothers me and 9/10 it is not the right one. Where to begin? Sidenote: Something that has always bothered me is the concept of forever; when does forever start? You think of diamonds, space, etc, as going on forever…no one ever talks about that first step. There is so little associated with or in regards to the beginning. It seems to be to be either about the journey, or the fact that the journey ended or was completed, but rarely what made you start. Anyway, that was a side note, but it does bug me.

I really miss trail running. The last month has been terrible training wise. My level of fitness has decreased significantly. Also my legs just don’t feel strong; they feel like stiff and rigid as if their function was to not move. I know its maybe an after marathon slump or the pre-race depression a lot of runners have, but I don’t think so. I took LA like a training run as I am planning to do for the AR50. I want to be able to keep going, and for that I have to be smart and practice that patience muscle which seems to have atrophied almost to non-existence. I do miss the trails though…jumping over rocks bouncing of the sides of a single track dirt path with no idea where it goes and not really caring about the beginning or the end…just the present, being fully immersed in the act of being present and nothing else, that’s gold.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Pythagoras

Sorry for yesterdays free flowing thoughts. I guess it was just an introspective day. Pythagoras was a Greek philosopher most famous for the Pythagorean Theorem. In addition to his contributions to mathematics he contributed to other fields (particularly music) though it is uncertain since his followers would attribute much of what we associate with him after his death. Pythagoras was famous for believing in the immortality of the soul and it going through a series of reincarnations (animals), supposedly having a golden thigh, being able to be in two places at once, and founding a brotherhood dedicated to moderation and strict discipline. Most of the references we have from Plato and Aristotle are in regards to the Pythagoreans not Pythagoras himself but it is standard belief that he travelled extensively and possibly visited Egypt, Arabia, Phoenicia, Judea, Babylon and even India.

What is seen as his most important contribution by many is the brotherhood he founded. By all accounts they were Spartan-like. Many sources say they did not eat meat and stories range the whole spectrum with regards to the extent they would punish their bodies in search of enlightenment and wisdom.

Runners are members of the “suffer for a purpose brotherhood.” They say Pythagoreans used obscure symbols that even if they had never met they would recognize each other. Similarly runners know each other... the hat or tech tee of the local 10k race or the Boston marathon hat, etc. If you have ever gotten two runners in a room you know how long and varied those conversations get. We all know what we are talking about but the words simply do not come out the right way. I say minimalist you say barefoot, I say cushion you say support. But in the end we are all talking about the same thing, running, and why we do it.

Running is like the math theorem in the sense that we all know what it is, that it works, its important; however, we can’t do it right all the time. It’s a math formula that intuitively we can prove but it takes work. The work is what we don’t want to do so it just lingers in there somewhere. We all remember running like kids. We had perfect form, what happened? We remember being free and just giggling at the thought of running fast. Running fast where? Answer: In no particular direction and often times in circles.

I know sometimes I forget that even though I am devoted to a goal it is not the end…just like learning a theorem does not mean math is over. It is just a goal, and once I can knock that one out I will go onto the next one. Like running in circles as a child; got to make sure the circles are fun for you. Whether it’s a Spartan-like lifestyle to achieve wisdom or running when no one else wants too, you have to live the life, not just preach it…remember Pythagoras, get the knowledge then do something with it.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Why the ultramarathon goal?

An ultramarathon is defined as anything longer than 26.2 miles. They come in different varieties, 50k, 100k, 50 mi, 100 mi. These are the races that reach into your soul knock you out like Mike Tyson would have in the 90s and then teach you something. What that something is I really have no idea. I want the knowledge that these ultrarunners show on their faces, that sense of peace.

I am not really sure what I am trying to prove to myself by attempting an ultramarathon. I never really thought of myself as a runner until very recently and to be honest I am still scared of that adjective. Everyone who asks…I say… if you want to do anything you must invest.

Investments are time, money, energy, sleep and none of that can be easily regained. Why I am willing to invest so much of myself in the pursuit of a goal that I cannot name? I catch myself thinking of the steps that have brought me here. I was sad, depressed, overweight, angry, insulted and offended. But beyond all that I had an overwhelming sense of duty towards myself. I felt the responsibility of making the internal self image match my external representation.

When I looked in at myself I saw a stranger. I saw what I had become over the years and it made me want to vomit. The self I saw did not match the self I thought of and that not only sickened me but it scared the crap out of me. It lit a fire. Like Metallica says, “give me fuel give me fire give me that which I desire”…I guess that long look in the mirror triggered a transformation of sorts. By having my self-perceptions not match…I felt like I lived a lie, an unhappy lie. I know I could be the confident, well spoken, respectful and kind person I thought of, but it was not coming across. I could not even see it. I wanted it to show in word and deed… so I got to work.

I signed up for a marathon. Months ago there was a promise to be there from someone I believed in. The date was ingrained in our minds, march 20. It did not happen. They did not show up for whatever reason. Unfortunately, no shows are pretty common for me so I have learned to deal. I was very lucky to have someone there for me at the finish line, but what when the finish line was not so clear and the goals unsure? I want to run ultras because it’s a distance that requires I do it for me. It’s a selfish endeavor to run for stupid amounts of time seeking a goal that very few will ever know or even care to know. But I have seen the peace that the trails give…I have touched it. I did not have it for long, but I felt like I was one with myself…my physical and mental images were one; happiness.

I do not know what the ultra distances will hold for me. Maybe on a long run I will run into myself. Maybe I will find that person within me that holds on to so much junk and kick their ass; making me release the kung fu death grip on all those issues. Maybe I will find nothing, maybe I will find out where my limit is. But regardless, it is worth the risk because I refuse to have my limits set before even trying. I refuse to let baggage determine my future decisions and dictate my pace. I am tired of carrying that baggage and I hope that somewhere in the distance I can just drop it off and never find it again, bad airline style. I set the pace, I set my goals, God willing, he’ll show the way and maybe just maybe I will find what I am looking for.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

2011 LA Marathon Race Report

My original intention for the marathon was +/- 10 in the 4 hour range. I worked really hard to get this goal within my grasp, but in the weeks leading up to the marathon it became unrealistic. I had a lower leg injury and took 3 weeks off before the race. The week of the race my training was 3.7, 10.34, then the marathon; before that point I did not run at all. The 10 miler really helped get my head in the right place; it reminded me that I could crank it out if I was smart about it.

I spoke with Coach Jeff of PRSfit, who suggested we take LA like a training run. The plan would be to do a run/walk for as long as possible with no goal in site. Just focusing on good form but if anything hurt I would drop out and bag it. With this mind set the weekend was set.

A dear person to me S. gave me a ride to the start of the race. Straight up, if not for S I would not have even attempted the marathon nor started. The southern gates to Doyer Stadium were closed and Stadium way of the 5 freeway was a long, long line. We were running a little behind the expected arrival time so we took some Silverlake side streets and arrived from a different angle with plenty of time. In the car I had a Clif-Shot Gel (Expresso) with some water…I needed the kick and I gave up coffee for lent so I would not be getting that, and I had a banana and small bits for breakfast so the extra pep was a must. Originally my plan was to take a pack and run it solo without using the aid stations (ultra style), but seeing the weather and realizing my questionable fitness I ditched the pack idea and the waist pack idea as well (I was scared of GI issues). I put 6 gels in my pockets, 4 tri-berry GU, and 2 Honey Stinger - Chocolate.

Race start was a combination of excited newbies (like me) and seasoned veterans. I lined up between the 10/11 minute pace area. I thought that if I could hold that pace for a while I would be pleased at the effort. At the gun we moved like a wave with a lot of cheering and excitement. I really wish I had rocked a poncho or a trash-bag because the rain started before I got to the line. I had run in the rain before so I was not really concerned…my fear was wind.

The first few miles I focused primarily on keeping a steady pace and good form. I changed my garmin to only show total time because I really wanted to follow the plan and stay hydrated and fed so I did not bonk. I ran zone 2, sang a lot of songs that were playing on my iPod…I am sure I got looks but whatever. Because of the rain and wind a lot of the neighborhood music and displays were cancelled or I could simply not hear them. The first half was un-eventful...ran a lot and thanked every aid station person I could…they were the brave ones at least the runners warmed up by moving. I did not feel out of breath while running so mentally I still thought I had some in the tank.

Mile 16 I felt like quitting. The left leg I had babied for three weeks acted up. The pain shot up my leg and I slowed to a walk. I started scanning the road for bus stops or cafĂ©’s where I could sit and wait for a ride home. Walking it all started feeling better…and there was a downhill. I figured I would quit at the bottom of the hill…so I trotted along. Pretty soon I found myself at mile 18. I decided at that point that I was too close to just stop if I was feeling good (the pain had vanished)…mile 19…Salonpas had an aid station where they were spraying pain reliever spray.. So I stopped pointed to the area ahead of my ankle and the volunteer sprayed me. I thanked him very much for the help and headed off into the rain…that now smelled like peppermint/ menthol spray for a few yards.

I got the mile 20ish and kept repeating that it was just a 10k. I started imagining my regular route in San Clemente where I usually head up a long hill. I kept thinking…that hill is tougher than this so I better get out of my own head and just keep moving. I remembered a lot of people who see a marathon as such an unobtainable goal…something very distant. I was one of them; back in August when I started running. I remember thinking it was too far for any normal person to want to travel on two legs as opposed to four wheels. I decided to run for all those who didn’t or couldn’t. Many of them were facing debilitating disease or life changing events; one guy’s shirt said “think a marathon is hard, ask me about my girlfriends Chemotherapy”…every time I saw that guy I felt like a wimp for even thinking of complaining.

The other people I thought of were those who are too lazy to get off the couch. They know who we are. We are those who are the blessed born healthy and just opt not to go out there because we don’t want to push ourselves. We set the limit to the three sections of the couch and proceed to complain about how Hollywood is airbrushed and we could never look like that; you can just takes a little work and a little sweat many times over. I hope that everyone like that see’s or knows someone that ran this “rainiest” LA marathon on record gets motivated. No matter how bad it looks it feels great to be out there doing something good for ourselves but also supporting those runners out there for a cause or a loved one who couldn’t be.

S told me it was all downhill after San Vicente…hmm lies. Well…it is relative. There was a slope that any other day would be almost flat but on tired legs its Mount Everest at least. The end was rainy but very satisfying. I did not really feel proud of the run until today. It really did not sink in. For me the volunteers and crowds cheering in the rain made the marathon. They were out there supporting human achievement and cheering for everyone and that was awesome. I never hit the “wall” but when I almost did at 19, there was a man who handed me an orange a few words of encouragement later I forgot about the fatigue and just kept going.

After the race my friend was there to pick me up…almost perfect timing. The rain caused many runners to suffer from hypothermia according to the LA times. I was really lucky to have a friend there to help me out. We walked up Wilshire and I had the most delicious wild rice soup ever, EVER.

LA marathon Facts:
Of the 19,740 who finished 39% were women and 61% were men.

Over the final 4.5 miles, I passed 604 runners and 85 passed me.

Official Finishing Time: 4:56:28
Overall: 8,761 / 19,740

GPS DATA

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Injury Update #2 - Sunday Golf

So I am forcing myself to update even though I really would rather not because the prognosis is not very good. Coach Jeff has a 5k Fartlek run on the schedule for me and I am really praying I can roll out there relatively pain free and handle it. I am still not 100% and that really annoys me. I did not value pain free movement until my movement was not pain free. I would blissfully stroll along year by year making the perennial resolution to “get fit” or “be healthy” this year knowing that would last all of first two weeks in January. Usually the resolution is steadfast until the first paycheck in and immediately after happy hour is forgotten until the next December. 2011, started strong, built an aerobic base and was feeling healthy and bam injury. But in perspective I guess it is not that bad. A few weeks ago when I was running strong I was stupidly running in the rain and ill prepared on trails so I guess I was due for a set-back, I will try and be smarter next cycle so the setbacks are shorter and less irritating. I have noticed that even though I am sick my energy level is much higher than normal. I think that is due to the fact I am eating a lot better, getting sleep and the occasional nap instead of going 5 am - 10pm 4 days a week living on coffee (which I have given up for 40 days).

Saturday night I had a dream…I hit a loud cracking iron shot that bore through the salty so cal air and landed softly on a firm fast green so close to the flag I tempted gravity not to pull the ball in. With that dream and a set of clubs I played 18 holes on Sunday. My dream did not come true. I hit so many trees that it became a joke. It was to the point that I even landed behind a freshly planted tree on the 18th hole only to punch out…and hit another tree then get a kick onto the 17th fairway…yea a longish day. But I did hit some good shots; putts were terrible because I forgot to account for the ocean pull; but overall I was pleased that I got out there and tried living the dream.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Running Status Update

Still not running because of the leg injury and now I caught whatever my 2 yr old nephew had. I have been out of it almost 2 weeks. Two nights ago I tried running to see how I felt. My form was terrible in the first hundred yards I could feel my right knee making up for the weakness in the left. When I adjusted my form to even it out my lower left leg could not take the pounding of the concrete. Total run: 0.3 miles. I am going to try KT Tape at the suggestion of Coach Jeff. Who knows I may have to bag the LA marathon and that will really suck. Not going to lie. I am afraid of it now.

More than anything I am afraid of myself. I know how stupid I get when I go tunnel vision for a goal. Those occasions have usually wrecked my health and caused me issues. So I am going to be patient and take Coach Jeff’s advice. I will line up at the LA marathon and see if I can do a run-walk type deal, if not I will bag it quick to make sure I do not do further damage.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thales

True to the name of this blog I enjoy reading philosophy and dwelling on the context of its author because it helps me try and think out of my own “box.” I am going to do my best to keep it simple, if I don’t call me out on it. Politics tend to divide and will avoid political philosophy. Bottom line is do what makes you a better person and if reason tells you a person or proposition will make you better and society better well vote accordingly, but do not impose your will or beliefs on me as I shall not impose mine on you. Obviously it is going to relate to running or fitness since that is what this whole thing is about so on with the philosophy…

Thales was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher circa 585 BC. “Western philosophy begins with Thales” according to Bertrand Russell (i.e. the guy who wrote the book about the history of philosophy). . He is one of the first thinkers to try and explain the natural world without mythology. These pre-Socratic philosophers were trying to discover the substance of things, i.e. what they were made of and looked to the elements, wind, water, earth, fire, etc. Similarly, today scientists are continuously looking for the substance of things at the atomic level; dark matter and the infamous “God particle” (think Dan Browns “Angels & Demons). Thales theorized that “water” was the principle of all things. There is disagreement with whether he literally thought water made everything or if he was seeking a unifying principle, but I think his contribution was action. I think his biggest contribution is being the first to leave the easy explanation of looking far and deciding to look right in front of him. Instead of taking conventional wisdom he looked for the essence, instead of bowing to the gods he looked for solutions in nature. 

Likewise, running for me has been a roller coaster. As I mentioned before, I went straight VFF and barefoot, then back to shoes, now back to a minimal shoe. I found that when I ran in VFF I became more efficient and ran because it felt right. I added a shoe because I wanted more padding for the longer distance and never considered my form as a “work in progress” so it went downhill fast. I looked for solutions everywhere but where I started. I read reviews, articles, etc. I was reading voraciously looking for that magic bullet, a’ la sketcher’s shape up. But the truth is that there is no magic bullet, there is no gain without a little sweat equity and long term caloric financing. Instead of looking to the running guru’s I should have simply taken a pause, remembered what worked and prayed for the patience to work hard. The fact was I should have looked right in front of me, just like Thales.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Feeling better - Random Musings

I think that the detachment from running has given me some perspective. Over the last few months running had become my way of dealing with issues. The runner’s high gave me unique insights; the opaque became clear. In a few cases it illuminated shadowy decisions where I made huge mistakes, but that’s another story. Long trail runs became sessions where answers would just arrive. Since I have not run for a little over a week the answers are simply not coming. 

Often I get so involved with some “thing” that I lose sight of why I even started doing it to begin with. Ago, I fought with the “black dog” (a la Churchill) with random pubs and regretful encounters. These became fragments of who I thought I was with no unity or uniformity; just chaos with a few randoms sprinkled in. Running and an active lifestyle squared me away. Similarly as before I had forgotten why I started being “fit”. I started because I wanted to live and I was tired of the life I had led to that point (Dec 2009). I was not productive, lazy and complacent and that is not me; at least I did not think it was until I took a long look in the mirror. After that long look my mind changed and I discarded those things which held me back.

Fitness gave me a healthy goal that made me feel better and translated to my relationships with others. I try to be as kind and good to people as possible and many times I fall devastatingly short but I give it a good go. I got into the whole natural running and the VFF /barefoot running movement. After reading “Born to Run”, I swore I was part Tarahuama, but after a few hundred yards that delusion did not really pan out. I had to struggle and my calves reminded me that I am just like everyone else and not a superhuman. Running made me humble. Some days feel like Crowie, flying down hills and running down every runner on the road; other days I am the guy in “Office Space” sitting in traffic with the old man in the walker (with tennis balls at the bottom) moving faster than he is.

I am very lucky to have people close to me that are conscious of my black dog. Two people in particular have been there to help me out in opposite ways. One of them is hard on me and will not put up with my whining, the other is kind and offers helpful solutions that I have to try and remember or write down, or else I forget. I really do have a short memory for a lot of things, I remember the trivialities but not the big stuff, but I am working on it. Anyway, they mean a lot to me, easily my best friends and part of the handful of people I actually trust.  

Anyway I am sorry about the randomness. I am feeling better, even though I am not running. Hitting some wedges at the range yesterday helped. It was a lot of three quarter and half swings. Surprisingly accurate and I felt my muscles a lot more relaxed than I remember. I know my breathing was a lot better. A deep breath before a partial swing was resulting in 5-10 yards of extra carry on the wedges ergo visa vi I am excited to hit full iron shots when the leg heals up. I guess this whole returning to a more natural state has had a positive effect on my big boy marbles game. Hopefully it continues to translate and make me a better person and improves other areas of my life…I just have to remember to slow down and appreciate them.