Practical Preparing for My First Marathon

Preparing step 1 remove kitten from shoe

At this point the Glass City Marathon is under 100 hours away. The training preparation has been underway for months. Now is the time to trust my training and get out of my own way. To do that, I am preparing all the practical affairs of running my largest race to date.

Ready

The first thing to do is prepare for preparing. That may sound circular, but to ensure you have all the elements needed in place for a successful race, you need to identify them. I’ve been thinking about these elements for a while. I’ve run previous, smaller races successfully and have learned a lot about what works. Each time is a learning experience that can improve the next if you observe and make notes.

The Checklist

To make my checklist, I visualize the time leading up to and through the race, including recovery and exit from the area shortly after. This can help you to find the things that are unique to you and your situation and prepare accordingly.

For myself, I will be working late the night before the race, possibly as late as midnight. So, while meal planning began at the start of the week to prepare myself, the immediate period of concern begins Saturday before work.

I’m running a special event at work, several really. This event involves food and a lot of running around to answer questions, distribute materials, and generally administer the event. I know that I will want my vice of a Monster energy drink during the later event. My rest before a 5 am alarm when I am working until midnight will be of the utmost importance. This leads me to consider the first section of my checklist: Sleep

Sleep
  • No Monster or other caffeine after 6 pm Saturday
  • No food after 10 pm Saturday
  • Lights out and no screens once home
  • Bed at earliest possibility

All these steps are to let me try to get as restful a sleep as I can in the few hours I’ll have. I will actually want to be fairly tired and ready for bed when I get done with Saturday.

Set

You might look at this and wonder ‘What about alarms, laying out clothes, ect.’? I should be done preparing before I leave for work at noon on Saturday. Towards that end, what will I need the morning of the race that I can easily have staged? Let’s imagine that morning and make some highlights we can work with.

When I wake up to my alarm set for 5 am, I will want to wake up quickly. Drinking  bottle of water will help with that and re-hydrate me from the hours of sleep.

I’ll want to quickly get my race breakfast into my system. This time that is around a 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt and 2 tablespoons of honey.

I’ll then jump through a shower and shave my face before dressing in my race clothes. That has it’s own checklist, but should be folded up and standing by for me.

Finally, I’ll check on my gear, also with it’s own sub-list, and head out to the site, The University of Toledo.

Let’s look at this section of checklist then.

Morning
  • Alarm for 5 am Saturday, with a 5:05 am back-up on separate device
  • Bottle of water at bedside
  • Sufficient Greek yogurt, honey stock on hand
  • Fresh towel and razor set out
  • Race Clothes set out
    • Running Briefs
    • Running Shorts (Grey Starter)
    • Running Shirt (Grey Compression with Vents)
    • Running Socks (White New Balance)
    • Running Shoes
    • Hair tie
  • Check and load gear
    • Electronics
      • Charged Phone
      • Charged External Battery
      • Charged Fitbit
    • Charging Cable
    • Earphone
    • Wallet and Keys
    • Med kit
    • Recovery Shake
    • Long-run Pouch (Maybe)

Here we have worked out the things that need preparing before I even leave for work Saturday. When I come home, I’ll go straight to bed. When I wake up, I’ll give my self every time advantage and energy by having everything ready to go with just a cursory final glance.

The Long-run Pouch is a maybe as I’ve not decided on using it or not to hold the external battery and phone. I know I will not be using it for the liquid or other storage capacities as it gets heavy and slows me down that way.

There are other things I’ve already put on and checked off my lists, such as making a music playlist, updating and setting up apps, and planning my last 72 hours of meals.

Go!

I hope to be out the door and on the way to the race at 6 am. That actually feels like a pretty close window to find parking and make it to the appropriate starting area. I live no more than a 10 minute drive from the University of Toledo Campus. Yet, they  expect several thousand participants and volunteers at the event.

I have a plan for how to get to Campus and where to park there. I have a loose fall-back plan as well, but that may involve a warm-up run just to get to Start on time. At least I will already have my race bib from Saturday morning packet pick-up.

That was all the easy stuff…

Finally, I’ll just have to do the thing and run the race. I’ll have to be back at work a couple hours after I finish the race too, and I have made some preparations for that already, including having some very understanding co-workers and customers.

I am excited and I hope you are too. The RaceJoy App for Android and Iphone will be used for this race, so if you want to see updates in real-time, my bib number is 1114.  Cheer all the runners on through social media on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #RunGlassCity. Cheer me on through comments, the RaceJoy App, 2017miles Facebook page, or @RobJelf on Twitter.

Knowing vs Doing What Must Be Done

Knowing which way to go is the first step to getting there.

Knowing vs Doing What Must Be Done

There is a whole industry around motivation. YouTube channels and e-books abound on the topic. Motivational speakers, once a laughable title, are now multi-millionaires who thrive on the image of knowing reality shaping ‘secrets’.

Much of this seems to miss an important point.

Doing is fundamentally easy. The task may not be easy, for whatever reason, but the doing of it is. When you are an author, writing is a simple task in that it can be broken down into researching, developing, outlining, writing, and ultimately editing what your topic or story is. These are all actions with real concrete steps and moments of progress. If you are a bodybuilder it is similar. You plan, workout, measure your progress, recovery, and repeat until you reach your goal, be it a lifting capacity or a certain look.

So many of these motivators tell you to ‘do’.

I find that more often it is deciding, knowing, what must be done that requires a push.

Somethings are painfully easy to know, but there are still plenty of people in the world who may struggle with it. Most of us know that if we are hungry, we should eat. Likewise, if we eat, we should stop at a point of having satisfied our hunger. Yet, some of us also have conflicted motivations. If we seek to lose weight, we tell ourselves not to eat in some cases where hunger asks us otherwise. If there is not enough food in the pot to make leftovers, but more than I really wanted to put in my bowl, I may take and eat the extra half-serving anyhow. So as not to ‘waste’ the food.

In these little situations, we believe we know what must be done.

Yet, we’re conflicted by two knowings. Frequently, the easier thing to ‘do’ is the thing that wins out. Easier might not mean physically. A person may find it easier physically to ask someone for help carry a load, but psychologically that is a daunting task. And as such, they carry the load themselves, the ‘easier’ thing to do. In these tiny daily examples, we cause ourselves inconveniences and consternation that are relatively trivial compared to the knots we tie ourselves in on things that matter.

When something is important to us we make a mess of knowing.

We can find knowing what to do to border on impossible. There is a lot of research about decision making and decision paralysis in contemporary psychological literature. When faced with many similar options we find it difficult to compare them. It takes cognitive energy to find differences and then decide on the significance of those differences. When we are faced with very dissimilar options, we can have a hard time reconciling the vastly different consequences that the decisions may have. Also, when faced with few distasteful options, we may initially reject them all together and seek something else. We seek another option we don’t have presented, or we seek to separate ourselves by not making a decision.

When we decide, it seems to me, that we have only a couple results:

  • We’ve decided long ago and are seeking our justifying signal in the presented options.
  • We apply our imagination to simulate what the consequences may be for each option.
  • We cannot decide and allow the ‘non-action’ option to come into play.

Sometimes these can occur together, such as ruling out some options by heuristic and then projecting the results of the remaining.

But frequently we go with non-action.

There are some, albeit dubious, benefit to this. If we choose to be passive, and allow the non-action, default to occur, we can claim to ourselves, blamelessness. We can save ourselves the mental energy of working it out, and any physical action that needs to be taking can be avoided. Further, the consequences can be explained away as a matter-of-fact. In this way, we settle for careers and relationships that were not of the type we dreamed of when we were younger. We look in the mirror and ‘accept’ ourselves passively as if we have no responsibility or impact on what we see. We continue the same path even though it keeps circling back over and over, because deciding on another path is effort-full and difficult.

This is the crux of the difference.

The difficulty between knowing what must be done and doing what must be done. It is easy to call for help when someone is in distress. Believing that it is distress and knowing you must call for help is where people freeze up and fail. It is easy to take the physical steps of going for a walk, once you decide it must be done. For most people they do so constantly throughout a day. The decision long ago was made that when the bathroom calls, you stand, walk, and deal with it. When your job requires, you move to complete the next task, because the consequences of being paid is decidedly what you want.

The motivation we need, the guidance, is to make the decision that something MUST be done. The same as breathing must be done. The doing will handle itself because once you decide it MUST be done, well, there it is. Your motivation to start is right there in the word “must”. You may get it all conflated and confused, that you have to start doing something and need motivation to do it. Motivational speeches and prompts help you, but not to do anything. It creates a sense of empowerment and need. The reason so many tell you to chase what you love is because that is an easier thing for you to decide ‘must’ be done.

I suppose the trick is deciding that you must do something to progress yourself, and that the idle, passive, non-action things are what you must NOT do.

 

Patience? Recovery? No Time for That!

Patience, meerkat. Catch your breath.

I do not have the greatest patience in my personal life it seems.

I’ve recently been thinking about how I’m doing here. I feel like I face a lot of little obstacles. Exhaustion of a thousand little tasks and decisions. Add to this lofty ambitions, a dash of high expectations, no patience and a respiratory virus…

That is where I find myself.

About two weeks ago, I came down with a cold. I was already trying desperately to dodge the coldest weather so as not to irritate my leg. Now, with my throat feeling like I was swallowing a cheese grater, it took substantial effort jut to get through the typical day. And of course, that would mean one of my more atypical days for the year would be right there on the calendar staring at me.

Each year there is a sizable charity event that our company supports. It is an all day event spent interacting with 100+ individuals over the course of 16 hours. It was here that I forced myself through the peak of my illness because there was not really any other options.

I paid the price for it though.

The next day, I was essentially dead on my feet. I still had regular duties to attend to, but fortunately they trended light and I had help tag in to relieve me.

The impact on my running 6 days later was especially frustrating. Friday was a glorious warm day. It was perfect for me to launch into my longest ever run, peaking mileage as I enter one month before my first marathon. I was hyped. I had someone who was going to drive ahead in my route to support me even.

My lungs would not have it.

I still had, and still do at this time, a cough trying to get all the crap out of my lungs. As I set out on my run I felt good and strong. About one mile in I had a slight coughing fit, but shook it off easily enough. It was around mile 3 that I felt like I was in trouble. Like all the energy was just sapping right out of me. I was starting to really fall off my pace, each footfall starting to gain more weight as I swung my legs into it. When I was coming up a familiar and comfortable stretch of trail towards my first support meet, I was struggling. I kept running but hit my mile six support area 15 minutes behind my projection.

24 miles was not going to happen.

I was crushed. And coughing something furious. I felt slightly sore in my limbs and could tell that my uncharacteristic fatigue was from a lack of oxygen getting through my system. I had to call it a day.

The waiting game, again.

So, now I wait to have my lungs clear. The urge is to slam myself out onto the road as soon as physically possible. I am desperate to make up for lost time. These past two months have been brutal to me and my hopes. Patience and planning and strategic pushing can still get me back on track. I’m not giving up. What I am at this point is very frustrated. No point hoping for a miracle, however. There’s a price I will have to pay in time and hard work in the near future.

Why I Run: Curiosity

Curiosity of a huge tree

Are you someone who gets bored easily? I am. There are endless skills to learn, games to play, and projects to pursue. Yet, I have this strange habit of enjoying the planning and daydreaming of some complex thing and then feeling bored with it once the proof-of-concept passes. To stick with something, I need more than the passing interests. I need a driven curiosity to explore the limitations.

Shapes

I’ve often pondered the difficulties of having no reliable vision. To rely on the sense of touch to evaluate the size of a thing and guess at it’s shape. If you are handed a small ball, you instantly recognize the sphere. But it you place your hand out and feel a large surface, it takes more consideration. Is it at an angle or have a curvature? Where are the edges? What texture is it and can that help estimate the other features?

A large surface vaguely perpendicular to the ground could curve on an axis side to side, like a cylinder, and have a rough uneven surface, and you may think that is a tree. But what of a particularly large tree? I have seen trees whose trunks larger than some houses. It may then seem to be as a wall as the curvatures is so subtle. Yet, if you follow the wall, inevitably you would get the sense of turning in your movement. But until you went all the way around and found some element that you recognized, you might not be sure that the edge wasn’t just a bit beyond. That edge is the clue to be sure it is a wall, and that certain returning curvature the best support that it is a tree.

I often talk to my work colleagues and some of our customers about ‘feeling out the edges’ of this or that concept. It may be the rules of a game, or the conceptual space of a program. Sometimes I try to ‘feel out the edge’ of a community. And the above thought experiment is what has created that part of my language. I consider it very natural to look for the edges on unfamiliar shapes so I can plot them out. That is my curiosity.

I Want to Know it All

Perhaps it is a funny way in which my mind works. Or it may be a common ailment that most people keep put away from polite society. Endlessly and ruthlessly curious, I love to think on the complex. Even when it is of such complexity as to overwhelm or evoke pain at the handling. I love to run little simulation in my mind and test concepts in a system. Sometimes it is orderly, but most often it is a flight of fancy. But, once I find an edge, or I tire of looking, boredom sets in.

Not always a deep sense of boredom, but boredom with the shape of the thing. If I have found the edge, I am eager to move on. There are so many things in this world to experience and know. Some, I do wish not to experience for one gruesome reason or another, such as falling into a wood-chipper. But so much else is offered by this strange world, that I can’t help but want to get the basics and then fly to the next related, or unrelated, thought and explore it.

What About The Running?

It is a fair question as to what I am getting at here. At the root it is simple: What can be done? I once could not run beyond some basic attempt at flight from mortal peril. Today, I am pursuing ambitious running goals. Last year, I felt along the shape of running and my goals and thought that the half-marathon may be the edge. I got through it and felt certain for a moment that I must have found that edge as I trundled across the finish line all fury and desperation to be done. But, with a little rest and thought, I decided that that clearly wasn’t the edge of this thing.

There are people who have done amazing feats with their feets. Boston Qualifiers, sub-4-minute miles, 3100 mile races around a single city block, crossing the continent in a race, and so much more. And here when I first started this I thought I might be getting a little silly at wanting to run over 2000 miles in a single year. Still, I am pushing my own envelope, of flesh and air, and I am still curious as to what the end shape will be. I have a curiosity as to what this bio-mechanical apparatus can experience and do when asked ever more of it.

Digression into Story-time

I’m also curious about others. I was running yesterday on a mid-week long run, taking advantage of these spotty warm days, when in the middle of mile 9 a gentleman with at least 10 years on me came barreling past wearing a green race shirt. I’ve been out enough to recognize the signs of experience, and he was clearly a running veteran. So, I fell in behind him as best I could maintain to try and match his footfalls and watch his form. I wanted to learn all I could. I wondered, as he steadily pulled ahead of me despite my efforts, how long had he be running and what keeps him going?

The path I run crosses a couple roads and as we approached one such intersection, he was happily ahead of me enough that when the light shifted to allow our passage, I never broke stride to slow down. Coincidentally, four gentlemen, in formations of two, between green’s age and mine where coming up the road to turn onto the path. Green pulled right on ahead easily and as the formation turned onto the path, I slotted in right between the two pairs by blind happenstance. I can tell from my Strava that one of them was Tim and another Roger after the fact, but on the run I just settled in to this position and tried to maintain it.

Keep Up!

There is an interesting subtle pressure present when running around the same pace as others without planning it. With a pair only five feet ahead and behind me, I had to maintain pace discipline. And they were faster than me, if for no other reason than I already had 9 miles under my feet and they were relatively fresh in their runs. For around a mile, they unwittingly pushed me closer to an edge I was looking for. It was great.

I could hear them chatting to each other just over the sound of my earphones, which I admittedly always have too loud. I thought hard about dropping one or both earphones out to say hello. Reflecting on it I should have, but I had a real fear that any attempt to speak would kill my ability to keep pace with them, defeating the purpose. There also was a bit of a socially anxious sense that I had just inserted myself, literally, into their formation, happenstance or not, and felt perhaps best to keep quiet anyhow.

I think I can send them a message on Strava, so now that I am reflecting on it, I’ll say hi. Let them know I am talking about them with the world, ha! After about a solid 8-minute mile, I peeled off for some much needed water. I also had to head back towards my starting point as my running time was about up for the day. I’m now curious about them. How long have they been at it, why, and have they found their edges?

What About You?

Do you have curiosity driving you to explore something? Is there some other force that has you pushing to the edges or looking for the next thing?  Or should I be just reading about all those who have found the edges of what is possible for the human form and just cheer them on? I’d love to know what you think.

Humility, Hurting, and Healing: Dealing with Injury

IT Band Syndrome Injury Diagram

Humbly, I must first apologize

I made a commitment to posting regular blogs on here regarding my progress towards my ambitious goal to run 2017 miles this calendar year. I recently got a nagging injury that sidelined my progress and I stopped posting. As of today, my last post was just over three weeks ago. Anyone who was following my progress has probably considered that I’ve given up. Abandoned this project. I have not, but I have disappointed myself with that pause. I am very sorry.

No Excuses

At the end of my first week, I ran 15 miles on a small indoor track. In the process, I started down an injurious path. I pushed myself through the last 20 or so laps that day despite a pain growing in my right knee. Maybe I was pushing too many miles too quickly. Perhaps it was the noticeable inclination of the turns on the track. Either way, my long beaten shoes were a factor. I didn’t pay attention to what my body was telling me and pushed it in bad ways.

I followed that week with a fairly steady schedule, but whenever I had particularly cold runs, that pain would creep back, and I would try to ignore it. Finally, around the first week of February, I had two excruciating and short runs that was more than I could ignore. My right leg had what I’ve internet-diagnosed as IT Band Syndrome.

Pains Make No Gains

Imagine, if you would, spilling a pot of boiling water on the outside edge of your leg. That is effectively flared up IT Band Syndrome. The tendon that runs down the outside of the leg and connects the muscle groups of the thigh with the tibia just below the knee is the IT Band. When things go wrong that band of tendon can rub back and forth over the bony structures of the joint causing internal friction and inflammation of all the tissues in the area. The joint doesn’t hurt, or click, but the area just on the outside of the joint, and running up the leg, burns.

What’s more is that most tendons stretch well and can be loosened this way. The IT Band is a resilient sucker though. Because of it’s location, it is difficult to find movements that actually stretch it, and it is a strong powerhouse of a tendon capable of withstanding a lot of force without deforming. This causes IT Band Syndrome to commonly be a lingering and sidelining injury, ending running careers.

Searching for Solutions

After my excruciating experiences, I decided to try resting the injury, but that would mean no running whatsoever. When I had just posted an article about taking control by running I must relinquish that control. There were other factors going on in my life as well and between them all, I was stuck in something of a dark rut. Cold weather, injury, hectic real and mental life. These all pushed me back into bed at every opportunity.

I look for help, but my options are limited. For reasons I won’t get into, a physician isn’t available to help me, so I am left to my own devices. I purchased new shoes and tried to run in them with mixed results. spent two weeks hobbling around with a knee brace half the time, hoping it would help. Finally, I expressed my vexation on Facebook to friends and family, and finally got sent in a direction that my previous research had not yielded.

Push It, Push It Real Good

My cousin, Sam, pointed me to this Youtube video, which explained some of the mechanical functions of the IT Band. While I couldn’t quite manage the movement he demonstrates in the video, the mechanics gave me an idea. In the video, he describes how the muscles from the hip down to the knee are all pulling on the IT Band in various ways. Tightness in the hip and glutes can pull on the whole system and make the tendon too tight, leading to the injury. Thus the answer seemed straight forward enough: beat the holy hell out of those muscles.

So, I did. As best I could, I administered massage and pushed on the muscles of my right leg until I was sore in arms and leg for a whole new set of reasons. As I tried to study my pain and lamented my lack of progress in running, I noticed another pattern that emerged: my pain flared on frigid days. On more tepid and comfortable days, I could go much further and at a much better pace.

Recovery? Seems it.

While I’ve been admittedly wallowing and frustrated, I’ve not given up on my goal. I will just need to redouble my effort, reevaluate my plan, and recommit to the parts I let languish. Such as this blog. It pains me to let people down, and I also expect a lot out of myself. It is not acceptable to me to not meet the commitment of providing thoughtful and consistent content here chronicling my journey. Likewise, I found resting a tough pill to swallow, even if it was for the right reasons. There is no excuse that would satisfy me.

As of today, I think I’ve made the majority of my recovery. I was able to do over 11 miles today and plan a long run in what promises to be beautiful weather on Friday. I will need to be careful to work around any cold snaps that this winter and spring still has left for me. Additionally, I need to continue the therapeutic muscle releasing massages to head off bad flare ups of the IT Band pain again.

But, in the end, I think I’m back.

Why I Run: Control

Guinea Pig Takes Control

There are so many reasons, but here is just one:

Control

Promise and Potential

Life has not turned out the way I expected growing up. I thought I might be a physicist-inventor in grade school. Sketching contraptions and daydreaming their workings, I would hear about world troubles in the paper or on the nightly news and go about thinking how to solve them. I’m the weird kid who cried a little for the whales when I was in second grade and the teacher couldn’t understand how it affected me. I must do something about it, somehow.

But as I grew up, there were just too many things that were far too big. Not from a rich and connected family, there are hardships that consumed my attention. With a head so full of competing ideas, already I was thin on attention to spare. My schools were typical, but I am easily bored with the slow pace and pattern of repeated teachings. I should have stood tall for scholarship and recognition. But I could not be bothered, with life happening around me as it did.

My merits and my cleverness would be apparent to everyone, I assumed. I was willing to work hard, take risks, and do the daring. At 18, I moved across the country, channeling the stories from TV and books. Striking out to establish my career, find a wife, and start a family, I was confident in the world, if not myself. If you look for opportunities, you would find them. Yet, that was not how I found it to be.

Disillusionment

Life is complication. Simple work did not pay well, despite a hard work ethic. Indeed, I found my contemporaries slacking and protected from the consequences all while earning much more than I. I watched the towers come down just before I started college.

I am a high school drop out, and upon getting my G.E.D, I knew it would not count for much. The specter of my grade school dreams were haunting me. Dissuaded from physics, I sought to understand the issues and people behind the world’s problems. Jobs in these ‘soft skills’ are not available at the Bachelor’s level, and ‘career’ is an anachronism. Then I tried again, with graduate school.

An advanced degree is not the key to success I nor my partner hoped for. It was the connections that led our acquaintances and classmates to positions. We worked our way through school, but not in our field. Healthcare, an ever growing sector, seemed to have no need for those who did not fit neat boxes or have strong ‘networks’. So, again, I find myself outside the proscribed patterns of my childhood stories.

With recent developments in the world, those 15 years since I watched those towers fall while working studiously at a local church, I find myself still haunted by the urge to do something. I am still dwarfed by the scale of the issues in relation to my position in society. I am a thinker, a writer, and a dreamer woken violently into a world gone mad.

Control of Myself

In the midst of this mad world, I reached a point of torn apathy towards all things that I abused my own health wretchedly. Never one to smoke or do drugs or even have tattoos, I ate carelessly, slept randomly, and assumed my life obligations would maintain the rest. Yet, once more the story I told myself was all wrong.

One day, I tried to run and failed. After less than a minute, I was out of breath and willpower. Much as I’ve come short of affecting so many things, here was yet another thing that came before to seemingly limit me. This, however, was fundamentally different. For the mechanics of the body were right before me and I could grasp them for myself.

The internet has brought a vast well of knowledge to all mankind. I remember glancing at books about running in grade school, but it was at this moment of self-confrontation that I knew I had so much more available to me. Control. I could choose to find the information on how to conquer my body’s lethargy with careful use of the internet and applied plans of action to myself.

And I could not be stopped by anything other than myself.

When you set out to improve yourself and realize that all the tools, all the knowledge, and all the raw materials lay right before you, there can be no greater empowerment. I set upon my research on how to plan my ascension from passive weakness to capable action, I had only my own determination to rely upon. The information readily available, I need only absorb it, sort out the chaff, and apply a plan to myself.

With a plan and an understanding of the difficulties, I set out to push and coax my enfeebled flesh machinery past minor complaints. I alone, with the blessing of a whole body, had control over how far I ran each time I began to trot along. I could push and I could stop. The madness of the world had no hold on me. No crisis or corruption could touch me that was not of my own making when I ran.

I had a body and of it I was in complete control.

Of course, I still had challenges. Internally, there was motivation. Mechanically, there was soreness and potential of injury. Externally, there were obligations and conditions. However, all these factors would bend to my determinism, because I decide how to use my body. I could decide to wake up early, or not. And I was the sole being responsible if I missed a day because I simply did not exercise my right of control.

It is a blessing that when I tell my arm to move, when I ask my fingers to dance along these keys to tell you this, that I have that control. There are many in the world who do not for whatever reason. And there are many more, perhaps some reading this now, who may not have realized what control they have over themselves. If you do not like that you cannot run a distance, realize that if you have the mechanics of a typical human, however neglected, you have control.

You can will yourself to move, then you can improve upon that movement. If you can will yourself to read and think, you can improve upon your mind. You have control over yourself. Think, even those in prison can work to improve their bodies with nothing at their disposal but the body itself. That is all that is required.

And in a world gone made, I jealously love and exercise that control. There are days it feels as all I have.

Race Report: Dave’s 10-Miler – Delta, OH

Medal Acquired!

Race & Conditions

Never a better day to run in January

This is a few firsts for me. My first 10-mile (16km) race, first race report, and first race of 2017. Work wrapped up early Saturday and allowed me time to unwind before bed. I’m used to races starting early in the morning, so some part of me was eager to get to bed early to rack up some decent sleep before hand. But with this race starting in the afternoon, I found myself with some quality sleeping-in time.

Breakfast consisted of some mini cinnamon rolls and a Khaos Monster energy drink. Not exactly a finely tuned pre-race meal, but I’ve become comfortable to runs of this length. As a result, I didn’t feel particularly pushed to take it too seriously. Besides, some caffeine, slow and fast carbs seemed a fine enough start since I had a couple hours before the race.

With a 30 minute drive ahead of us, my other half and I headed out.

Considerations

My goal for this race was two straight-forward points: Finish under 90 minutes, and get the split right. I felt pretty confident of the first goal, so my real focus was on the split.

My personal condition for the race could have been better. Since my heavy work weekend of the 14th and 15th, I’ve been fighting a lot of sniffles, sneezes, and rebelling sinuses. In addition, I’ve been nursing what I suspect is a IT Band injury. I popped a couple asprin a bit before the race to help me complete if the pain flared up, but my leg felt fine Saturday and up to start time, so I planned to do the run right.

The weather was unreal. If I had awoke from a coma into this comfortable, snowless day and you told me I was in Northern Ohio in late January, I would not have believed it. I’m not sure the locals around the race could either as a sign around 1.5 miles in promised “Snow Ahead” pointing beyond the first overpass. Spoiler: There was no snow anywhere.

The Race

I felt good about this race. That said, I still nervously massage the outside of my right knee right till start, worried that the pain would flair up early and put me into a walk or worse. The Delta High School was open to us and by arriving an hour and 15 minute early, packet pick-up on site was painless. I’m particularly excited to have my first long-sleeved race shirt.

There were what seemed like a lot of last-minute registrants who decided the weather was too good to pass up. The High School gymnasium hosted the registration, packet pickup, and a small booth selling gloves, hats, and other cold weather gear odds and ends. I couldn’t help but feel a bit sorry for the guy working the booth. In years past I’m sure they made quite a lot in impulse purchases from folks who forgot gear or decided on a last-minute upgrade in single-digit weather.

Starting time

As start time neared, we followed the crowd outside and milled around for a bit watching the finally preparations of runners and event staff alike. With 3 minutes to start, I left her to find a place in the sidelines while I found a spot in the crowd behind the starting line.

The course map on the website had me a little confused as it had no arrows of flow and obviously required some looping and running back over passed territory. The entire course was asphalt paved country roads with little traffic. Opening announcements included directions to turn left or right at certain points. An older gentleman and I joked to each other that we’ll just follow the folks ahead of us, as if we are in the lead, we clearly took a wrong turn.

That said, as the race started off and we all channeled over the timing mats, things were very clearly marked. I’ve run with Dave’s Running events and running groups in the past, and they are really good at putting out clearly marked turn and mile markers. We took one loop around the High School area and then were off on the real race.

This race has hills. Why does it have hills?

After the first mile and the turn-around point for the 5k runners, we hit the first of the Turnpike overpasses we would cover. Where I typically run, there is very little in the way of noticeable hills, so when this came up, a few thoughts filtered through. I knew we’d finish where we started, so at least one more hill would be included. I worried about the impact of climbing the hill on my right knee. Finally, I remembered my pacing goal. I was coming on a bit too fast to be able to pick-up in the later half, so I chided myself and used the hill to slow my pace.

Everyone seemed to be in good spirits and a lot of runners were cruising at great speeds. I fought the urge to try and run with or ahead of many of them. I wanted to keep a near 9-minute pace early on and then lay into it after the 5-mail mark.

There were a few folks out in their yards as we all ran past cheering us on. The road was in surprisingly good condition and I intentionally ran on the shoulder when I could. I wanted  to remind myself not to charge ahead. Also, worried a tiny bit about traffic, which seemed fairly unfounded. It additionally seemed like a good idea to step off the road onto the soft shoulder for a while at a time to the softer impact of the dirt.

There was another overpass to cover just before the 5 mile mark. This is when I realized that I would have not two, but four hill-climbs I was not expecting. I dropped down the hill and into the 5-mile aid station ready for the challenge. I had maybe 5 steps out of the first half that made a slight twinge of pain prod my leg. Once I hit the gel packet and Gatorade at this station, I was ready for it. My Strava feed back had me right around a 9-minute pace for the last 3 miles and I wanted this race to be on.

Half-way point

Trying to keep in mind that I still had 5 miles to go, I picked up the pace and started to jockey ahead of folks who I’d been staring at the backs of for the past couple miles. Somewhere around 5.5 miles, I managed to sync up with a couple of ladies about 10 years older than me, if I had to guess. They kept dead even with each other and were talking occasionally. As I caught up to them, they seemed to kick up and ride right around me for almost the rest of the race. I would slip ahead for a mile, and they would be right behind me 5 steps. We’d swap places around a turn and I’d hustle a bit to get back in-line or ahead.

This was the little game I played to entertain me as I rocked along. My leg felt fine, and my nose, while running, wasn’t being too obnoxious. We collectively had a steady rhythm that took us past some folks we had long been following into the last 2 miles. In the last mile, I had planned to go for a hard push, and finish strong, but the hills had other plans.

Finishing up

Going up to last hill, I must have hit a rough patch. The ladies led off and got a good 50 strides ahead of me by the time I cleared it. Mile 9 was my fastest mile, but hitting that hill took a bit of steam out of my engine. For about half a mile, I felt a drag on my pace. I was still making good time, but I felt like there was more I just wasn’t mustering. Finally, when I rounded the last corner and saw the finish line in sight, I bounced up again in my pace. I finished probably about 30 seconds behind the ladies, and while I wanted to go congratulate them on a great race, I quickly lost track of them and lost my opportunity.

Results and Aftermath

Results

  • Chip time: 1:28:03
  • Pace: 8:49 min/mile
  • At 5-mile checkpoint
    • 44:48
    • Pace: 8:58 min/mile
  • Overall: 203 of 458
  • Overall Male: 145 of 245
  • Male 35-39: 21 of 33

There were water bottles and medals at the finish line, and my other half waiting for me. We ran into some acquaintances from work and she told me about the winning finishers. Inside the school they were serving Turkey and PB&J sandwiches with a variety of chips and some large cups of chicken noodle soup. The food was all fine, if not particularly remarkable. Results were fed to a computer in the gymnasium and of course to the race website. I was bib 321 for this race.

Well, about two minutes after I stopped running, my knee started to complain. And with gusto. The pain that flared up was considerable and made the step up the curb to enter the school something noticeable. In the time since the race, my knee has continued to complain at ant high step or certain movements, but it is behaving consistently with how I was in the days before the race. My shoes are about 200 miles past their need for replacement. With the coupon in my race packet, I’ll be on my way to hunt for new shoes on Tuesday.

Conclusion

In the end, I completed the race, made my goals, and had a good time. I’ve added the first medal to my collection for this year, and got a really nice long-sleeved race shirt. Not bad for 10 miles.

How to Stay (mostly) on Plan in a Busy Week

Plan to stay on track

No plan survives contact with the enemy

We’ve all been there. The dreaded BUSY WEEK. How do you plan to cope when things seem to turn on you and your goals? This was one of those weeks for me, and here is my strategy for dealing with it.

Time and Circumstance

In theory, all I need is around six and a half hours per week to reach my weekly goal. Meeting my weekly goal subsequently means hitting my big year-long goal. This is an important part of the goal-achievement process. Smaller milestones apply constant pressure to work towards the goal. Checkpoints allow you to adjust your flow of efforts and identify ongoing obstacles.

Sometimes, just squeezing a couple hours out of a week to do something other than recover from life can be practically impossible. You get called into work. Guests visit from out of town. Despite your best efforts, you hit a patch of sour mood and overwhelm. It could be the week a big work event is occurs.

This week was all that for me.

My scheduled and unscheduled non-running obligations devoured my hours. Around that, I also faced the gloomy, wet weather. The specter of depression loomed over me as I felt overwhelmed, losing track, insignificant, and just generally tired. It was time to pull out the contingency plans.

Plan B: Breathe

The first thing to do, whenever you get stressed out, is to slow down and take a breath. If there are no actual flames or immediate danger involved, not matter how your goal or plan may feel like it is going up in flames, you have time. At least time enough to take a deep breath.

Slowing down and taking a couple of mindful, intentional deep breaths is the most fundamental of self-care. You pay attention to yourself and your body’s need for oxygen. When you do your body responds with a slowing heart rate and a lowering blood pressure.  This will allow you a chance to reassess and rationally consider your next action.

Plan C: Continue

If this is not the end, then this is not the time to stop. It is time to regroup, tweak the path to achieving and identify how to overcome the overwhelm. Even with little time, wet weather, and a ton of unexpected obstacles, this week I regrouped and identified moments of opportunity. It was not my ideal performance or conditions. But progress towards my goals, even in the face of adversity, is the best thing I could hope for.

If you find yourself short on resources to do all you were planning, fall back on your contingencies. Minimums, alternates, and side goals will all help you maintain momentum even when your main goal seems to be slipping away. By taking these small steps , you achieve concrete progress towards your goal. This push can help you move on and make it through the hardest, most constraining times. Continuing is something to take small celebrations and pride in.

Plan D: Decide

If you run into conflicting priorities, torn between obligations to differing goals, just decide. If we linger on a decision, like ‘Do I try to get six miles in today between now and dinner?’, we risk killing the opportunity with inaction.

I’m really bad at this sometimes. I’ll be faced with half a dozen project or entertainment options for a small window of free time. Sadly, what I find myself doing is idling. I’ll check social media, read irrelevant articles, play a vacant game of solitaire or with a random code toy while I ‘think’ on it. Then, when I look up, it is time to move on to the next obligation, or my window has shrunk so I return to ‘thinking’ with a newly revised list of options.

The is a death of a thousand paper-cuts and rates high as my personally most infuriating bad habits. The best thing to do is use a series of defaults, heuristics, and quick, quality decision tools to make better quality decisions faster. Or, more plainly, just decide and get on with it. Something. Anything!

If the decision is ‘Do I get up, or stay in bed?’ decide quickly. If you decide you need sleep more right now, it is to your benefit to make it quality sleep by making peace with the decision and resting. If you beat yourself up lounging for another hour over not getting up, then you’ve just wasted that hour neither resting nor waking up! Even a ‘wrong’ decision made in earnest commitment is likely to be a more productive lesson than inaction.

 

One Week running 40.75 Miles. So many to go!

Inside Running Track

One week and over 40 miles down.

And it is only the beginning. I didn’t quite hit the 43 mile (69km) ‘typical’  week goal, but I’m good with what I did this week for a few reasons.

It’s been really cold.

And I’m prepared to run in the cold, but my phone isn’t. When my phone decides 50-odd minutes into a run to give-up, that really disturbs my flow. It appears that my phone isn’t going to do well when the temperature falls below freezing. With some careful fumbling and awkward running, I can cradle the phone in between my layer to warm it, kinda. Not ideal.

Speaking of layers, I’ve got clothes to run in cold down to 20°f (-6°c).  Even that wasn’t going to pass on Friday when it was 9°f (-12°c), a respectably miserable wind chill, and a long run to tackle. I was already behind from missing my Wednesday afternoon run and losing portions of my runs to phone crashes. It was time to take a drastic action.

Getting an inside track

Friday was my long run, and the (hopefully) coldest day of the year. It was no secret as the weather forecasts saw it coming as a huge contrast against our unusually warm mid 30s. Cold like that is an obstacle to me. Do not want. I took to problem-solving. Luckily, in my Facebook a week or so ago, I got served an ad for Promedica Wildwood Athletic Club.

They are located literally around the corner from the park where I do most of my running. Being familiar with where it was, and the Promedica name being a prominent healthcare provider in our region that I’ve even looked to work for, I checked them out. Thursday night, I filled out an online form to get in touch with them. Friday morning, I got a call from their Manager, Clint, asking me to come in and try them out. They had a really nice, though fairly small facility. A lot packed into a compact footprint. My interest was upstairs.

Running in circles. Or ovals.

As I came up the stairs to their indoor track, the small size of it really hit me. One mile on this track required 14 laps. That is around 377 feet per lap, and I have 15 miles to cover. My phones GPS didn’t get along with the steel and concrete structure, but at least with the track, if I kept count, I could track my distance.

While the temperature was comfortable enough for shorts, the track has its drawbacks. For one, running in one direction the tilt of the track near the corners made for some uneven impact on my right leg. My knee felt that difference over the trails and paved surfaces I tend to frequent. Secondly, it was tedious. I’ve ran on indoor tracks before in my dabbling years as the University of Toledo has a nice Rec Center. I know from that experience that I can’t keep count well without a trick, so a trick it was to be.

Using a combination of a memory peg system and mental imagery, I ran that 377 foot loop 210 times. Each lap was mentally different as I imagine the surreal to keep mindful of my lap number. I was carrying scythe while running through a desert fed by sand falling out of a hourglass sun for lap 87. When I made it into the 100s an extra sun or moon was in the sky. The number 2 is a clothes hanger, or as I’ve worked it by relation, a coat. All through the twenties I wore many odd and fanciful coats. It was odd, but it relieved boredom and kept me mindfully aware of my lap count. Whatever works.

A busy couple weeks ahead

This week has some special events at work this weekend that may play hell with my schedule, but with any luck the weather will lean warm and I can get some extra miles in here and there. I have my first race of the year, Dave’s Ten-Miler, in just two weeks and while I don’t realistically plan on running with the pros, I do plan to test my own speed and improvement at it. I would also love to network with some of the area runners. My schedule is odd for many of the running groups I know of in the area, but I’d love to know more faces at the races.

Always improving. The site I mean…

You may find some things have moved around on the site, and that’s intentional. As I pursue this project, I’m learning more about WordPress. As I learn and have time to experiment, I will be constantly improving this site with little functions and features. If you haven’t seen it already, I’ve split log posts and blog posts (need to work on that wording…) off into separate pages. I’ve made the homepage static with a progress tracker at the top. I’ve also planned a couple more pages that need me to do more writing yet.

The Learning Curve: Starting, Running, Recording, and Sharing

Starting

Today I learned…

Everyday of this year is going to be a learning experience. When you take on what is a big challenge for you, you can’t help but learn every step of the way.

The people who care

I tried to generate some interest in meeting up for my New Year’s Day run that got my official mile count underway. There was no surprise that only three people turned out to cheer me on. I have a lot of support out there, but it takes a lot to go out in the early cold on a holiday after late-night celebrations. More people will join me as the weather improves and my goal reaches more ears. But, this first run will stand out in my memory for a long time because it was the beginning. And it was real bloody cold waiting for folks to show up!

Moving through the cold

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