Friday, September 30, 2011

I want you to join this team for pure fun!

I've got a marathon to think about in a week. 

I'm sending good vibes to my good friend running the Rock Creek Stump Jump tomorrow morning. 

If all goes well with his race and my marathon we'll be doing the Badapple ultra at the end of Oct.

I've got a solid 6 man team for another mudder in November.

Doesn't the mud race above look like fun? Care to join?

We want you on team Knuckledraggers! I would love to have a 40 person team getting muddy. We are not looking to finish in record time, we're not even planning on moving particularly fast. It's just plain fun and we'd love to have you along.

Post here or find me somewhere for the registry info.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Visions of moving bodies and forces of nature

I've had a number of creative habits like playing music and creating art in my life. None of these ever came to me as visions where I could see finished products in my head and went about making them real. For me it's always been about thirsts that needed to be satisfied. I get a longing and I start looking for something to satisfy it. Or there's a pressure inside me that I have to let out or I'll fall apart.

That was my creative life (not much time for it now) but is also the way I live my life. At some point I figure out that what I'm doing day to day has left me with a hole I need to fill. I do some internal work and either end up with a new hobby or obsession, or end up making major life changes. I used to get it with music and I used to get it with self destructive behavior. I can't live with the longing and I'm not able suppress myself very well. Nor do I want to. 

Running is one of those thirsts. When I'm out there I feel like something is gushing into me, filling me up. With running it has to do with walking out the door and feeling like I could stick with the training program for the one hour I did today, or take a turn that would make it into a 3 or 7 hour and my body will take it. There are days where I come back at 9am after running 15 or 20 miles and I'm full of the power of that, just roaring inside my head like crashing waves. I've already run 20 miles and it's 9am, CRASH! What else can I do today? ROAR!

Somehow barefoot or minimal really adds to that. The term minimal is coming to be associated with a certain kind of shoes but for me it's more than that. It means just me. There are no springs in my heals to add to my effort. Don't get me wrong I love gear and there are days where I've got my phone on my arm, sunglasses, running hat, compression gators, etc, but I think my best days are just shorts and nothing else. Those days there's no help. It's just what I'm able to do. I think if I had a loin cloth and no neighbors that's what I'd be wearing. That's what running is, something you can do with just your body moving in space and your breath flowing. 

There are all of these organizations out there like Movnat, and Crossfit that are about a different kind of fitness that involve a body with heavy stuff to move, and trees to climb. More than that there are the ever proliferating DIY sites for people who want to simplify by fixing stuff instead of tossing it. There's Slowfood for people who want to know about where their food comes from and what it doesn't have in it. All of these things resonate with me because they're about simplicity, but they're also about the integrity of the self.

Minimalist running is about acknowledging where technology has served us wrong and going back to what worked for millions of years. It's about taking another look at what has become the accepted best practice with all of the associated dogma and testing whether starting from scratch might not be our best bet at the moment. I work in a lab and scratch is where you end up over and over until the line of inquiry you're following turns out to be a fruitful one. 

To bring it back to the personal running is just about me moving for as long as I can, figuring out I can always do more, and then doing more. I don't know where it's going. I don't have any visions although I have some plans. I never have believed in long term planning, too many things in my life have shown me how easily those plans can slip away. All I know is that right now running is the flood that fills my soul and the fuel in my tank. It helps me center myself so I can be a good dad, it helps me show my kids what determination can do and how determination can be about enjoyment, and it just feels damn good to have gotten myself in shape for a marathon in two weeks and more to follow this year.

Thanks to all of you who are reading these posts and giving me feedback. It means a lot and I love you guys.
Good running and good living!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ninja running in fall

Ok, I give up, it's fall. It was an early start this year and I kept the Indian Summer thing in the back of my head, but today I was rooting around for warmer clothing and put all of my shorts away. I went for a barefoot run last week after a frost and the cold pavement was just too uncomfortable. I couldn't loosen up and the cold ground combined with my tightness just felt like it would be too easy to injure, so I put on my Merrills and continued.

I haven't been running barefoot lately, but I have been running. That's a change for me as the cold usually sends me into a pattern of staying up late watching movies and "not feeling up to (fill in anything active) today". My mom used to say that running in winter felt like flying to her. I remember waking up in fall and winter and she'd just be coming home, sweaty and glowing, full of energy. I grew up in a neighborhood where the white lady running around at 5am in the dark, was hooted at by guys in hoopties who thought she was a hooker. She had some fire in her and would holler at them until they took off. No one tries to pick me up at 5am and it took me a long time to figure out that glow she came back with.

Now I get it. I'm cold at first but within a few minutes of starting my body is doing the furnace, I warm up, find my pace and after that I'm cruising. It's hard to get in the habit of waking up in the dark and going outside in the cold, but it is so totally rewarding. The trick for me is to get up the first time my eyes open. If I start the snooze routine it's over.

The best thing about the fall run is being up during the sun rise. I get to come back to a warm cozy house with my babies waking up. They are full of energy and smiles. They hop out of bed and commence to buzzing about in their happy lively way. There's no delay while they wake up, they just go.

I'm trying to channel that energy. It's funny that my kids and their total aliveness remind me of my mom and hers. Here are some of the tricks I use to get me going.

1. Like I said, get out of bed the first time you open your eyes. Any snoozing leads to more snoozing people, and you know it. You know it when you do it and it feels so good. You'll savor it all the more on the days you get to do it.

2. Have some good running gear for the weather. Not only is it fun to have the gear, it really pays off at the beginning of your run. Some running tights and a neck sleeve not only make you look like a ninja, but start you off warm rather than waiting to warm up.

2.5 Did I mention you get to look like a ninja?

3. Be as excited as my kids are. I have a lot of tips in my writings that are about managing your mindstate. I am totally committed to the idea that if you mimic the physical cues associated with a feeling, you will feel that feeling. Act like you are excited, smile, breathe quickly, open your eyes wide, bounce around a bit.  You will get excited, whether or not you started out that way. I like to think in terms of chronology. Ordinarily something stimulating happens then you smile, you start to breathe faster, etc. If you switch up the order the effect is the same in reverse. This works and is really important!

So to summarize, get out of bed right away, dress up like a ninja, and act like a 4 year old.
Just a great way to start any day!

Good running and good living!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Run after the longest run

So Sat was 21 miles, I took a couple days off and Tues was 8 miles. Tues went pretty badly. It took me 4 miles just to warm up, my legs were tight and unhappy and I had to run/walk the whole thing. I felt good when I was actually running but kept getting tired. My recovery drink Sat was chocolate milk as I've read the study that showed some serious benefit to low fat chocolate milk as a recovery drink, and love it that I have a good excuse now. I've been rolling out my leg muscles once a day rather than the 3 times I committed to but I take pretty good care of myself and was a bit disappointed with the recovery time.

If there is one thing I have found again and again through running it is the fact that I will continue to spend time with the self pitying, depressive, soft part of myself that finds ways to try to prove that whatever I'm doing is too hard, or not worth the effort. I run with that guy on every run. He's always been there and I've spent a good deal of time in my life learning how to work with him.

I think that one of the most important things you can do in life is get comfortable with that guy. Everyone has one. For much of my life I despised that side of me and treated it like my enemy. It didn't work very well and it wasn't until I found a way to be more gentle with myself that I was able to start realizing some potential. That side of you is there to protect you, from failure, from disappointment, from pain. I talk to that side like it's a scared child. I ask a lot of questions. Why would I quit? Why not a little farther? Why not work on this important thing now?

I don't mean to be platitudinous, but we all get down, we all have setbacks, we all hurt. Be gentle with yourself and let it hurt. Wallow in it a bit. Let it go. Then set a firm deadline after which the self pity is over and stick to it. Set some goals for your post pity recovery time and collect some achievements. These will set your mind back on the right track.

I've got an hour run tonight, an hour tomorrow, and 15 miles Saturday. Then I taper until the marathon in Chicago. I'm getting really excited about it, still trying to decide if I'm barefooting or not, or just part of it. I've made tentative plans to run a 12 hour relay ultra with a good friend 3 weeks after the marathon. A little bit at a time with firm goals that are exciting to me. That's my recipe.

Good running and good living!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Longest run ever, again, and tech food

I think one of the best parts of being in the middle of my first real race training season, is that I keep running my longest distance ever. 14, 18 and now 21 mile distances are the longest I've run, the last was just this Sat. My run Sat was great. I was a bit creaky for the rest of the day, but spent some time rolling out my legs with a rolling pin and staying hydrated and I felt fine.

I keep coming back to mental tools in these posts but they are really important in longer runs. When you're getting worn out you start to lose focus, get a little slow mentally and that's not the time to relay on your creativity to get you through low spots. That's the time to rely on your preparation and strategies you have worked out in advance...and caffeine.

I use a few "tech" foods to get through runs that are longer than 12 miles. Anything under that and I don't even bring water along, but at 12+ I carry a water bottle and start with the Gu shots and salt pills. I had never tried electrolyte pills, but used them on my 3hr trail run last week and was amazed how much they helped.  I just felt better in general during the run, less run down more on top of things mentally. I had been running with an electrolyte solution mixed into my water bottle, but it was sweet, I got sick of the flavor and I don't think it worked as well. I took the pills 3 times an hour and at the end of my 21 miles I was peeing nice and clear within an hour of finishing, hydration achieved.

The other thing I used was Gu shots. For those of you who aren't familiar they are packets of sugary syrup that you take a couple times an hour to keep glucose in your system. In order for your body to burn fat, which is what you want to do on a long run, it needs glucose to burn as well. Fat is the source of energy for long duration exercise. Back in school we used to say that fat burns in a glucose flame. Without a dietary source of glucose your body will attempt to provide it from internal stores which leads to destructive catabolism, bad news.You need to take in something to burn to keep you moving and it's only the ultra running folks who are stopping for pizza and burgers mid-100 mile run.

The last hour of my longest two runs I've had Gu chews with a touch of caffeine. It was just the kick in the pants I needed. In the last legs of a long run my legs start to feel a bit fragile and while I never really get demoralized or exhausted, a little rush from the caffeine really makes things flow nicely at that point. Rather than drifting in and out of focus it puts my head back in the game. I'm definitely a pragmatist when it comes to this. I've also done longer runs where I ate mostly corn meal, or stopped by the house often enough to grab peanut butter on toast regularly. These worked fine and my stomach handled it well, but the tech stuff just fits in a tiny pocket in the back of my shorts and I can just stop at the house every hour to refill my water and get a smile from the fam.

A long run is not something you just stumble out the door for. Taping nipples, lubing thighs and taking stock of gear will keep you from a world of pain later. I've had rug burns on the insides of my thighs for days because I wasn't paying attention during a run...and chaffed nipples?! Worst shower ever!

Good running!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wyld white boy of the savannah

I was doing some speed work today. I've been doing this with my mouth closed, trying to push the speed at which I can run without mouth breathing. I'm certain this has made me faster although I haven't been timing anything lately the way I used to.

On a day like today I am pushing as hard as I can such that I desperately want to open my mouth to get that big gusting breath, but then I just back off a touch and get it back under control. Although this could be a really nice technique article all about how you can push up your anaerobic threshold by doing this and get more efficient at oxygen delivery, it's not really what I'm excited about today.

While I was running I had a pretty good near PBS experience. I was running along pinching my lips tight, fighting the urge to open up and pant, when I had a thought. I decided I would try to put my 'suffering' in context by observing my run from the moon. That is to say I was going to try to put it into visual perspective to cue corresponding spiritual perspective.

As I rose from my body and tried to distract my relentlessly busy mind, the image that came to me was one out a nature show. It occurred to me that I have never once looked at one of those beautiful aerial shots of wildebeests and antelope galloping across the plains, escaping from the deadly predator, and spent even a moment correcting their running form or wondering whether they were pushing close to anaerobic threshold, or whether they were putting their feet down too hard. Obviously they are running like that from the day they're born and don't have to worry about unlearning good form or computer desk posture, but the point remains I think, that my aerial view experiment had its intended effect and gave me a different perspective.

The view from up there was of a funny looking two legger hobbling toward something or away from something and just trying to get his body to do it right. From the moon a 5 mile speed run, a 16 mile distance run, or a 100 mile ultra all look about the same. They are a tiny scratch on the surface of the pretty blue and green ball. I'm not going to try and get too deep about it, but it did help me to come back to my body and just get back to pushing. I did it three or four times during the run when I was feeling the pain and it helped.

1. Pretend you have moved just a foot or two above your body. Spend a few moments there floating above you thinking about how it looks to stare at the top of your head.

2. Start to withdraw and picture the area around you as it falls away. Keep falling away from yourself and watch you shrink into the distance.

3. Go as far as you want. I went to PBS helicopter altitude first and hung there. Later in the run I did space man at moon distance.

"Dust in the wind Dudes"
Good Running!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How much I love the things I think I hate

I spend most of my running time on roads. Last week I was running with a buddy who does all of his on trail, and I was on his stomping ground so we did the trail thing. It is much harder than the smooth flat road and there's definitely no barefooting it, I ran in minimalist trail shoes.

The thing about the trail run is that it's constantly changing. There are hills, rocks, creeks, turns, tree branches, roots. I fell once and tripped about 60 times on each run because I wasn't used to picking up my feet and when you get tired later in the run it's easy to get sloppy. The hills really beat me up, but by the 3rd run I had some strategies in place to keep me moving.

The last run we did was about 3hrs and even though it was harder than most of my runs to date, I look back on it and realize it was really more rewarding than most of my other runs to date as well. I guess this should come as no surprise, that the hardest or longest or most extreme is the most rewarding, but the length or distance isn't what struck me, it's more about how the terrain variety kept me mentally on my toes. There was no spacing out and no relaxing into a steady rhythm, it was all alertness and focus. The rhythm I fell into was less about cadence and the steady beat of my stride, and more about staying alert to the downhills so I could catch my breath and relax a bit, saving up for the big uphills and rougher terrain where I'd have to be really awake.

Uphills when you've been going for a while can tax your will to continue. When I ran the T-Rex 10 miler in July I kept cracking up when I'd get to a hill. On a trail you can hear the people out front and the people behind, but you can't always see them because they are around a bend over on the other side of a rise. On the other hand, when a big hill was coming up I'd hear a series expletives from runners ahead as they came up to it. I'd let one out and then I'd hear the same chain of curses behind me as each runner came to the hill. It was hilarious.

The game I played this time was called "I love hills". Every time I came to one of these technical sections or big hills, I'd crack a big ass smile and chant I love hills, I love hills, over and over until I was at the top. I won't claim it's necessarily true, but looking back at the run this really made a difference. Early on I dreaded the hill. Once I got the game going the hill just passed under me while I played chess with my internal quitter.

Games I intent to play in the future:

-I love to run on hot days
-I love hills
-I love tired legs
-I love tired days
-I love my inner quitter

Good running!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Five stages in your run and how to deal with them

I had a long talk with a friend today about the running process. Just about every run you go out on follows a pretty predictable sequence. This is extremely important for handling long ones, but what a long run is, has a habit of changing from week to week and that's part of the process too.

My run process goes something like this:

1. Figuring out what kind of run this is
The first part of any run for me is just figuring out how I'm going to feel. Some runs start out with me feeling invincible, running fast, breathing easily, loose. Some runs feel like I'm going up hill from the start. It is really important to do a good internal assessment here. If you don't any lows later on are going to take you by surprise and make things more difficult than they would otherwise be.

2. Settling in
Whether I started out smoothly or struggling the next part of the run is where I establish my pace and do some work on gait and stride. I'm trying to find a steady place that will carry me without too much constant checking in. Sometimes this goes quickly and I find my spot, sometimes I have to check back in over and over until I've got it down.

3. Just going
The truth is there are some runs where this never happens. On a good day this is the majority of the run. On a bad day it never happens and I stay stuck in 2 or go directly from 2 to 4. When it works it's the best. I had one today that by the end of a half mile I was gliding along feeling fast and loose and finished my 8 miles 25 minutes faster than I thought I would, total surprise. Last Saturday I had a 14 mile where I almost quit at 7 because I was still trying to find myself. Making this happen more often and for a greater portion of each run is really the goal.

4. The low
This is the moment when you start thinking about stopping and walking home. It's the moment when you feel tired and down and just want to give it up. Again, sometimes it's just a thought but it can also take over your entire process until you're just fighting that impulse. How well you handle the low has to do with how attentive you were during stage 1, and how well you know yourself and have prepared your strategy. I look out for this moment and use mantras (relax relax relax relax, fast fast fast fast) to get past it, anything to drag my obsessed mind away from chanting at me to quit. Hopefully I move past this moment and either back to stage 3 or on the last phase.

5. Finishing up
This is where you know you're home free. For me this usually comes about 60% done with the run. I know I've broken the back of the distance and I'm just pushing through to the end. I'm not always flying along for this part but I'm usually not fighting to keep moving. The more I run and the longer my long runs get, the longer this phase seems to be. I used to feel this for literally the last 40 yards of a run but these days it might be the last 6 miles of a 12 mile run. It's usually a pretty good feeling and is often similar to phase 3 with a nice rush.

For the longest runs these phases cycle between 3 and 4. If I'm prepared well and lucky enough to be feeling fluid and fast the lows are short and the going is easy. Even on the off days it helps to know my process and what is coming. Amazingly even a 2-3 mile run will cycle in fast forward through these 5 steps and anticipating them gets me through the lows.

Hope these help you with your process.
Good running!