David’s Still Right

I run plenty. Several marathons under my belt, average 15 miles/week most of the year.

But still there are days like today – warm, humid, and breezy, when the legs just work, and I think to myself that I don’t run nearly enough.

Lunchtime run; shouldn’t have been anything special. Rained all morning. I’m in the middle of training for Hartford, pumped for the New Haven 20K, and getting busy as all get out. This should have been a “Get ‘r’ dun” run, not trascendence.

But yet…

I headed up hospital hill for the first time in months, instead of straight up the river. Little later in the day for a lunch run than usual, but, hey, it’s still good to get out, right? Today was supposed to be an easy day.

I’ve been doing my first post-weekend run in New Balance Minimus. It feels like I’m both reducing my chance for PF recurrence by really stretching out my achilles on the first post-long-run day an also increasing it by tempting too much mileage in minimal sneakers (I think I broke myself doing that a couple years ago). So, I’ve built up to about 3 miles at a time in the Minimus, and don’t really want to do more until after the marathon.

Halfway up the hill, I realized I was still running, still feeling strong, and not yet puking. Which didn’t really square with most of the times I’ve run this hill in the past.

At the turnaround point, I checked my watch – 30 seconds/mile faster than I’d been averaging for the last couple months. Interesting. Sweating like crazy, but breathing easy.

Cruised on in with one of the fastest 5K times I’ve had on an “easy” run all summer; <27 min which, while not stellar, makes me happy, and makes me think that this may be a good fall. Long run times are still crazy slow, so I don’t know if I’m going to go for a sub-4 hour marathon.

Anyway, I’m moved to remember Dylan/David’s words (adopted for my masthead) – “You always find joy in running. You should try it more often.”

Middle summer night’s dreams

Great summer so far. I’ve worked a total of 7 days since June. Mostly vacation, part sequester, part taking care of teeth and checkups. (No cavities, good cholesterol, 10 pounds overweight)

Back from Scout Camp this evening. A whole week without beer. Somehow, I survived. Solid work through the end of the year, though. Not sure how I’m going to handle it.

Sad I missed D and Dianna at the Kelley race at Ocean Beach this weekend, but hope I can catch some folks at New Haven or the Hartford Marathon.

Funk, but not really

I’m actually having a great late spring – lots of bike, pretty regular running, and about a swim a week. Weight’s come off a little bit – down 5 pounds, thanks, as always, to MyFitnessPal, counting calories, and not losing the bubble every time I lose a pound or two.

Tough week – A couple of huge deadlines at work, a couple of huge deadlines at home, the end of extracurricular stuff for the kids, and the general middle class, mid-life malaise has made it really easy to stay up too late, and hit snooze instead of getting out for a run in the morning.

Think I’m on the verge of picking back up. Lots of vacation this summer, lots of good projects in the air. I’m pretty happy in general, it’s just a matter of staying off of my butt.

About to start off on a goal – Hartford Marathon 2013. Training kickoff date kind of snuck up on me, but I’m where I want to be – held a 15 mile base all spring, PR on the half at the Vermont City Marathon, and survived the Bluff Point Twilight Trail Race. All sorts of good.

What are y’all looking forward to?

Galloway

So, we’re up in Burlington for the Vermont City Marathon (again). The greatest thing is that there’s absolutely zero pressure this year – Melissa, my longsuffering wife, and I are running the two person relay.

It’s an odd concept to consider, that a half marathon is an “easy” thing. It’s not, of course, for folks who haven’t been wearing out sneakers for a good long while, but Missy and I are both around a half dozen full marathons each. For the record, she’s faster. And base runs each week have included an hour and a half or so for each of us for the last couple years.

Plus, we’re not actually “racing” the relay, though when she ends up posting a faster split than me on Sunday I’ll not hear the end of it.

Anyway, going WAY back, I’m a huge fan of Jeff Galloway. Back in 1999, coming off of a couple years assigned to a fast attack submarine as a professional Steely Eyed Killer of the Deep, Melissa bounced a copy of Galloway’s Book On Running off me one night as we enjoyed our DINK (Dual Income, No Kids) bliss. “Hey, if we do this, we could head down to Orlando to run the Disney Marathon, assuming the world doesn’t end at Two-Thousand-Zero-Zero (Party over, whoops, out of time).

I took a look, and the book made sense – keep using your legs regularly, even if you have to walk a little, and they’ll get stronger. Build slowly, and you’ll avoid injury. All sorts of good stuff.

So, we jumped into the training program, little knowing that our first marathons would end up postponed by a kid, two moves, two career changes, another kid, a war, and general malaise.

After Missy found out we (she, to be completely accurate) were pregnant with J, I stuck with the training program. Check the day, run the mileage, and amazingly it kept getting easier to crank out miles. I topped out the weekend after Veterans’ Day with a 16 miler that I finished without really feeling winded, but then Connecticut winter set in, the reality of traveling to Florida with an extremely pregnant wife became apparent, and we decided to take a pass on the Marathon.

But I kept coming back to Galloway’s book. A huge personal accomplishment – doing something actually athletic is daunting to a bookish, overweight engineer – was broken down into an algorithm that I had evidence could actually work. So, it kept nagging away at the back of my head. Big rides were the first milestones I knocked down – Spent 99-2004 chasing Lance Armstrong’s myth, and went from being amazed I’d ridden the Colchester Half Marathon course without stopping to doing 20 on a regular basis after work, and eventually knocking out a couple centuries in Texas. But even cycling worked on Galloway’s model.

I eventually ran a marathon on Galloway’s plan. And a couple more, though I’ve tweaked the strategy.

This afternoon, I actually got to see the Man himself. He was signing books at the VCM expo. We’d driven up to Burlington early, let the kids skip school, checked into the hotel, and hit the Marathon expo on Friday night instead of Saturday after the YAM Scram.

Galloway was packing up after signing books. Wafer-thin dude, jeans and a long-sleeved tee.

It’s tough meeting a legend. “Hey, you changed my life” or “So, like that book you wrote way back when, yeah, that one was pretty good, and I’ve spent the last decade and a half trying to live up to it” or just throwing myself at his feet in supplication. None of that seemed appropriate.

The general feeling was like back in 8th grade when you finally go up to a girl to ask her to for-real slow dance. Knew I wanted to say hi, but also knew that, late in the day Galloway was probably way more interested in packing up and getting supper. So, I , like many, many others, I’m sure, thanked him profusely for the huge effect he’d had on me. He shook my hand, said something gracious. And much like my first real slow dance, as soon as it was over I ran off to talk to my wingman (in this case #1 son) and figure out how the whole thing actually went.

Despite being a bleeding idiot socially, though, I love this whole running thing. Got to run with Bart Yasso when Missy did Philadelphia through the Runner’s World meetup. Get to train on a daily basis on the same roads that John Kelley and Amby Burfoot cut their teeth on. Meet interesting people from all walks of life through races, training, and the internet. And get to talk about tough stuff like it’s old hat (most of the country still says “Woah” when you say 5 miles).

I got to meet one of my heros today, and tomorrow, like a couple of days a week for the last decade-plus, will be a better day because of him.

April Fool

Brilliant run today.

We’re in the funny time of year where there are three phases of weather.

  • Cold and grey, which is fine, ’cause as we all know, April showers bring roads free of sand and salt.
  • Or it’s brilliant blue skies and freaking freezing, ’cause the folks up in Canadia are still trying to pawn off their excess of winter onto us good, hard working Americans, forcing us to burn more fossil fuels
  • Or, it’s just brilliant. Warm, verdant and green, and a beautiful respite from winter before humidity and tourists set in for the summer.
  • Not enough April showers

    Great run today at lunch. 5 miles on the long, hilly standby from the office. Waved at a former colleague running the other way, enjoyed the sun on my face when it was shining and the shade when it went behind the clouds. Legs felt good.

    Lungs were working free from almost two weeks of mucus, so apologies to anyone following behind – boy did it feel like sheets were breaking free. The good news is that I think I’m done with the spring 2013 edition of the Vulcan Death Flu.

    The bad news is that I missed about 8 days of running due to a head full of snot. Which is a shame, ’cause this was one of my best Aprils on record, following a decent February and great March.

    So, not enough post-workout April showers, for sure.

    Not enough rain, either. Spent some time yesterday working in the yard, and it’s dry like August. Wah.

    All in all, good start to the week.

    Perspective

    Or Frame of Reference is Important

    Went swimming at lunch today. Which is great, right? Trek 360 Bike

    Or at least it would be, ‘cept I ran into my buddy T., who was heading into the locker room as I was heading out.

    “Hey, how are you?” sez me.

    He sez – “Can’t talk right now – gotta take a pee break – I’m at 4500 on my way to 3K for the day”

    Well, crap. Right about then, my jammers seemed to get a whole lot roomier in the crotch. 4,500 yards and he’s not completely spent?

    I’ve got to throw in a little perspective. T’s one of those great guys who everyone seems to know who actually do walk on water. He’s supremely competent in everything he’s approached, one of the nicest guys on the planet, great wife, cute kids, and an absolute animal in the pool, on the bike, or running. He’s awesome to ride with – knows every road in southeastern New England, does a great job regardless of skill level, and never, ever, ever hesitates to say “Sure” when you want to ride. And, he’s spent the last 10 months recovering from a pretty serious crash, but is back to being able to tear my legs off at will.

    I’m a hack. I’ve been 20-30 pounds overweight for my entire adult life, and while I’ve developed endurance, I’ve never, ever been able to get my weight down to the point where I can develop speed. Anyone who has ever tried developing speed without dropping weight can tell you where that leads (straight to PF, ITB problems, or something that requires PT and ibuprofen).

    So, I popped on the headphones, pulled down the goggles, and started cranking. And y’know what? About 300 yards into it, I realized that while I’ll probably never approach Tracy’s level, I’m doing all right. My resting heartrate is down in the 50’s, I’ve still got all my hair, I’ve got the time and disposable income to have pretty much any gear that I’d like and at least one or two chances to get out each week. All in all, I’m doing all right.

    Perspective.

    I’ve spent the last 15 years chasing (almost literally) the myth of Lance Armstrong. My enthusiasm for fitness really did start with a bike similar to the one pictured above. Was reading about Armstrong’s ’99 tour, and watching the OLN coverage on basic cable. I needed to get back into shape, had some time on my hands with a new job, so figured “Why not?” Started watching the want ads in the newspaper, found someone selling the Trek second hand for cheap, and picked it up.

    And rode it, and rode it, and rode it, all the while hearing Phil and Paul in my ears.

    My lovely wife and I didn’t have kids at the time, so Saturday mornings were mine. The Trek shifted Saturday Mornings from fishing to cycling, but I wasn’t riding for me – I was riding with racing in mind, despite being in my mid-20’s, 30 pounds overweight, and miles away from any organized racing scene.

    Media didn’t help. I still look forward to each new issue of Bicycling, Triathlete, Runner’s World, whatever. Still love watching racing despite having my former heroes brought to earth over the last year. But I’m never going to run a 2:30 marathon, or do a 5 hour Half Iron, or drop the peloton heading up L’Alpe.

    I reached down to the bottom of the pool, tucked my chin into my chest, pulled my legs into my chest, blew air out through my nose, planted my feet on the wall upside down, pushed off, stretched tall in good Pilates stance, and glided out to the first line of flags. While my head surfaced to take the first breath of that lap, I blew out jealousy, disappointment, and false expectations, and pulled in a lungful of wet, chlorinated air.

    There’s a lot of folks not in the pool today, I thought, and pushed out another 500 with a smug sense of superiority over the couch potatoes who were just then sitting with a plate of fries. (MMmmm, fries) Even if I won’t ever be in the same league as the pros, at least I’m a step above the slackers, right?

    But while I caught my breath waiting for my last set, I realized that standing on a pedestal above the lazy was going to be as healthy as trying to reach an elite level while juggling work, family, and some semblance of making a difference in my community.

    Perspective. It’s about focusing on what’s actually changeable (controlling cravings for french fries for one). Focusing on actual flaws (Blowing off workouts for sitting on the couch) instead of perceived flaws (Bike weighing in at 19.5 lbs as opposed to under the UCI minimum). Focusing on awesomeness, like skiing a loop with my awesome sons, running River Road with my longsuffering wife, or the connections I’ve made in the larger running community.

    Perspective. Another thing that T. has to teach me. And has been trying to in his own quiet way every awesome loop we’ve done of Newport Island.

    B@$+dR@. (Still not there yet with the whole perspective thing)

    Lame Excuses and Lazy Long Runs

    Hi. I’m Jank, and I’m lazy.

    One of the biggest challenges that faces most of us is just getting our butts out the door. I know that I’ve got a terrible habit, especially on Saturdays and Sundays of saying “Well, I get up for work every other day of the week, don’t I deserve to sleep in one day?” And I probably do, and there’s always an opportunity to run later in the day, so I roll over and wait for #2 son to fly in the door and do the flying leap onto the bed when he’s ready for me to make him breakfast.

    Then we have breakfast, and I can’t run right after I eat. So we go to the hardware store, and by the time we get home, it’s time for lunch, and I can’t run right after I eat. So we have lunch, and I start into a project in the house or in the yard, and have a couple beers, and then I can’t run on a full stomach, so what the heck, I’ll just run tomorrow morning. 12 hours later, the cycle repeats, except Sunday School and church replace the trip to the hardware store. (Melissa, my long-suffering wife, usually avoids my fate, since she was born with a double ambition gene).

    Today was on track to be another typical Saturday on which I’ve blown off my Saturday run, until the lovely and talented Annalisa tweeted:

    I replied:

    And thought about trying to sit on the same lame couch.

    But, I’ve had some awful hangove.. uh, headaches, Mom. And I know folks who have migraines, and know that a headache is to a migraine like a Tonka truck is to an open pit mine dump truck – orders of magnitude different. So then the guilt kicks in at trying for a cheap laugh at someone else’s pain, and of sitting on a couch when there’s beautiful (if slightly damp) roads waiting for me out my door, and then my beautiful (and long-suffering) wife, who’s already banged out five miles while the boys and I were at pancake breakfast for the church mission trip, and …

    Enough already – I had to get out the door.

    So, I suited up, walked out, and the cool day had turned damp. Light sleet coming out of the sky. Enough to where I might be able to justify going back to the couch. ‘Cept – no.

    An hour later, I stroll back in the door. The run wasn’t a particularly special one – 6 miles at slug pace, and about a quarter mile cooldown walk with a gratifying cloud of steam coming off of me like in a superhero comic after a battle. And a lightness in my step for turning an ordinary weekend into good base miles.

    Cold Steel

    I. Love. Winter.

    There, I said it. I love winter.

    I love the contrast between inside and outside in the winter. Inside – warm, muted light, fuzzy, close to ones you love. Outside – The winter sun lights up everything without heat, and the snow removes contrast and context from the landscape, emphasizing . The imperative is to keep moving, to balance energy in the tank with work that must be done. Focus. Anything above the snow snaps into sharp contrast.

    Today’s ride was everything good about that – teens when I left the house, bright blue, high clouds, and shadows that can slice bread. The bike complained. Last week I’d ridden her hard and put her away wet, so there was some rust flaking off the chain, and some creaking as the bike asked why I’d neglected her. But, she moved.

    I don’t know what’s going on, but I’ve been getting slower lately. Just barely managed to get 12 MPH on the ride in. Not sure why so slow. I didn’t particularly try to hammer, but remember being really let down that it took so long, since i’d felt good on the bike, and the day was so beautiful.

    Good chance to make it up this evening.

    Slush / Splash / Chase

    Today’s awesomeness began this morning. The overnight light snows left a little bit of a dusting on the shoulder. Not enough to make it slick, but enough to leave tracks. Pretty cool to roll the front tire through it, see it get shiny on the edges, and then watch a steady stream of dirty snow the texture of an Icee keep growing out of the front of the fender. Got to work with the bottom bracket a sloppy mess. Commuter Details

    Swam at lunch, and tried out a new Jlab Go waterproof MP3 player. Dug swimming with tunes; wish I’d known how to make the player shuffle.

    Ride home was awesome. The days are getting longer, and it was still twilight leaving the office. Warm (For February) during the day, so the snow was pretty much gone. I had an extra half hour before supper, so I took the long way home, cutting down to Bluff Point and across to Haley Farm as the light faded.

    There’s a mile-long stretch between Haley Farm and Bluff Point that’s on the ballast for the Acela track. I’m kind of surprised there’s not a Strava segment on it, but also kind of don’t want to make one. It’s flat, flat, and a great stretch for group rides and runs – 5-10 minutes of plenty of room to stretch and talk. By the time I got there, it was actual no-lie dark, and I was enjoying the cold and silence and the tunnel of lights coming off of my handlebars and helmet.

    The first part of the trail is an abandoned rail bed. Flew around the corner, and almost biffed – caught the front tire in a frozen rut from the ranger’s pickup – three oscillations, and saved it. The cross bike is awesome, but the drop bars aren’t the greatest for manhandling the front wheel around ruts. Plenty of light, but no contrast on the frozen mud. I was happier than a pig in poop.

    The mud trail comes out onto the ballasted shoulder of the track. Cut the corner and managed not to clip the gate, and briefly sat up to enjoy the spin. About a quarter mile ahead, there was a group of three mountain bikers, so I dropped the hammer and chased until they went up the grade to the pedestrian bridge. Almost caught ’em, ‘cept they could make the sharp turn and rough cutoff. I had to continue on about another 100 feet, slow uturn, and crank up the grade.

    One little patch of mud on a south facing grade, and I found myself wishing for knobbies instead of the reflective slicks. Kept it upright, cranked over the bridge, and chased the flickering lights through Haley Farm. In hindsight, I think I caught the tail end of the Mystic Cycle Wednesday Ride – bunch of folks with nice bikes putting them up on the cars in the parking lot.

    Rest of the ride was uneventful – Thought I was going to die going up Fort Hill, but that’s pretty standard. Flanders headed north is the most awesome false flat for about 30 miles around. Flew down the Gold Star Highway, and kind of freaked out when a driver actually slowed up behind me for about 100 yards ’cause they were turning right behind me. Thanks Driver!

    Longsuffering wife had green beans and fish ready when I got home, and it was still warm…

    Somedays, I just love my life.