Friday

'Tis the Season for Fitness Resolutions

Simple tips to making your fitness resolutions stick in 2016


Half of us will make a resolution for the new year and about eighty percent will fail. When it comes to setting a fitness-related New Years Resolution, the failure rate is even greater. How can you set yourself up for success in 2016? Here are my tips -

Understand that the typical resolution(s) fail for a many of reasons but have a few key themes involved. The biggest failure theme is failing to plan the success of your new endeavor. Typically planning is pushed back until the alarm clock goes off on January 1 and, after a long evening of revelry, you expect yourself to leap out of bed and into your resolution. You hit the snooze button on your alarm clock and your new goal. You realize you're not "feeling it" today and go into January 2 feeling a bit guilty and unaccomplished. The downward spiral has begun!

Avoid the "I'll start tomorrow" attitude, or pushing back beginning action towards your goal. You suddenly find yourself looking bleary-eyed at the start of your resolution (and your mirror) on January 1 with a goal and no idea how you're going to do it. The result; guilt, and an overwhelming instinct to return to comfy old habits.

What can you do to prevent the resolution failure spiral?

Start planning your new habits now


  • Inventory your gear. You're not going to get anywhere without the proper gear. Worse, you could end up injured. Research the proper footwear for your newly desired activity. You may want to get fitted a a local running specialty shop for shoes. Tell the staff what your plans are so they can direct you to the best shoes for you. Do not skimp on shoes. Sore feet will not get you where you want to be!


Following shoes on your assessment list should be socks, bra (if appropriate), and outerwear. Again, a little research will go a long way and you don't need to empty your bank account. I'm what you might call a "dumpster runner" - I run in whatever I have around at the time. None of it matches and most of it was purchased on the cheap. The key is to get clothing made from moisture wicking materials and layer for maximum benefit in cold weather.

Make the necessary purchases before you turn the calendar page. Remember to take time to put the stuff on...just to get the feel for how your new gear fits and works.


  • Assess your time and money budget. Print a few monthly calendar pages from your computer and plot out when, where and how much time you plan to train. While many people use the calendar on a Smartphone, putting your schedule on paper gives you a more comprehensive look at the first month of your training. These planning pages become the foundation of your training diary (more on that next post)



  • Choose a venue for your activity. If you're joining a gym, go there in advance to get a feel for the place. Visit at various times of the day including the timeframe you plan to exercise. The staff should be able to tell you when the busy and slower times are. You'll also want to be aware of any special classes going on that may limit your activity. Classes being held in the pool may keep you from lap swimming and spinning classes may delay getting on the bike trainer, for instance.

Simple tips to getting started

  • Just a day or two of planning and dress rehearsal will go a long way towards keeping your fitness habit on track. Hold a few "dress rehearsals" If you plan to train in the morning then get up a little early each day just to get your body used to it. Slip into your training gear. Make the most of this time by going over your gear or even driving to the location you plan to train at. 
  • Plan your route to the gym. Practice driving to the gym in your morning and evening commute. Get a feel for parking and how long it will take you to get in the place. 
  • Map a few routes. If you're like me you'll be training outside all year. Take the time now to plan a few routes to run or bike. Walk or drive those routes in advance of your start dates to get a feel for what they look like at the time you plan to be there. You'll avoid unpleasant surprises and feel comfortable by doing a few preview visits. 

Sunday

Running in winter. Whats cold got to do with it?

Reaction to Cold: How the runners body responds


Cold weather will have an impact on your body and your training no matter how well conditioned you are. There are five body changes at all year-round runners need to be aware of: 
  1. Vasoconstriction-constriction of the blood vessels. 
  2. Tachycardia-Increased heart rate
  3. Tachypnea-increased respiratory rate
  4. Brochospasm-constriction or spasming of the smaller airways
  5. Dehydration-loss of water.  

The major effects of cold are the root of all other cold related problems. Combat them and you'll enjoy your winter running with decreased risk of illness or injury. These five body changes are the building blocks of system failure caused by cold environmental conditions. They all stress the healthy body and a greater impact can be seen in runners who are not prepared for cold weather action.

Cold conditions do not have to be extreme to cause problems. Even mild decreases in temperature are enough to trigger those five major effects of cold on the body. Runners can have increased heat losses through radiation and conduction and those losses increase by 25 to 30 times when a body is in contact with a cold or wet surfaces such as wet cotton socks. 

Any condition or disease that involves vasoconstriction, respiratory or neurological impairment can put a runner at increased risk during exposure to cold. In general, increased cold exposure risk increases with:
  • Circulatory, vascular or neurological disease
  • Raynaud's Phenomenon
  • Alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, or energy drink use
  • Trauma or Hypoglycemia
  • Prior cold injury
Better health means better performance in cold environments. Exposure to cold decreases mental capacity with increased risk of injury, accidents and errors.

While often considered during the hot summer month, dehydration is a major threat during cold periods. Evaporation losses, sometimes referred to as insensible losses, increases with cold atmospheric conditions. Respiration moisture losses account results in large amount of fluid loss through evaporation. These respiratory/evaporation losses  increases dramatically in cold environments as the moisture in exhaled breath increases. Dehydration is more prevalent with excessive use of caffeine or alcohol. Prolonged exposure to cold and dehydration are important variables to evaluate as both increase risk for hypothermia.

Environmental exposure to cold is also linked to decreased mental capacity. Reduced mental endurance has been shown to increase the risk of errors and accidents. Runners should be taking this into account when training in cold environmental conditions for any period of time.

There is an increased risk of physical injury while operating in a cold environment as joints and muscles become stiff and strength decreases. These factors lead to sprains, trains and muscular micro-trauma as well as acute injury. These effects can be seen in the well-conditioned person just as easily as in those who are not in good physical condition. Risk of injury can come from external spouses, too. Make certain you can see and bee seen by others. There is no better friend on a winter run than a trusty headlamp and bright reflective vest!

Factors in remaining warm include maintaining good food/nutrition status, adequate fluid and hydration and maintaining reasonable physical fitness. Runners should be preparing their wardrobe with as much care as their body during cold weather. Layered clothing with moisture wicking ability is best. Dressing in layers allows the runner to shed clothing as body temperatures increase and put it back on when needed.

Don't neglect your head, hands, and feet. These body parts should be treated to the same level of moisture-wicking material the rest of the body enjoys. And don't forget the sun glasses. Sunglasses cut down on UV exposure, snow/sun glare and have the added benefit of keeping the wind out of your eyes. 

Tuesday

Why are we running outside?

This piece was originally written for my track team. After receiving several positive comments I thought make for a nice post here, too. Go ahead and apply the spirit of this piece to your cold-weather training. Rather than retreating to the climate controlled world of the gym, embrace the possibilities of training outside - in all seasons.

Read on...

Hey Coach, this is supposed to be indoor track...why are we running outside?


This is the question I've heard many times during our first four weeks of indoor track. Since many of the student-athletes have been asking about this, its safe to think parents may have the same question.

Let  me explain.

I'm guessing the question comes up because, as the name implies, indoor track is an indoor sport yet we've been outside quite a bit. While this is true, there are many reasons why the coaching staff will take the athletes outside this time of year despite the obvious drawbacks of limited daylight and cold temperatures.

Training for the indoor track season (typically) takes place in the hallways of our school building. Most indoor track teams face the same limitations that come with running hallways as few have dedicated indoor track facilities. The stress on the body that occurs from a daily dose of running on hard-tile floors can cause overuse  injuries and stress on the athlete. The various aches and pains that emerge between the second and third week of practice can be attributed, in part, to the surfaces we're running on. Athlete conditioning and footwear also play a role. The coach has to balance the training needs against environmental limitations to prevent injury as best as possible and still get the team ready to compete.

Sean, Nick leading other runners
The weather conditions so far this season has provided us with a fantastic opportunity to train outside. We've been able to be on the track, the parking lot, sidewalks, and grass. The ability to train outside on these different surfaces will reduce the training stress on the body as well as preventing some the boredom that comes with repetitious activity indoors.

But what about the cold? We've been lucky to have temperatures between 40 and 50 degrees this season but it can feel a bit colder. Some people get worried they will get sick from training outside this time of year. While colds and general illnesses tend to spike around this season, training outside is not likely to be the culprit of illness. Here's why:

You get sick from coming in contact with a virus or bacteria or some other pathogen. You cannot get a cold (or the flu) from being cold. You have to come in contact with the disease that causes the illness. That means contact with objects or other people...indoors or out. This is why washing your hands is so important. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have confirmed that simply washing your hands is the most effective way to prevent the spread of disease. Period. Don't want to get sick? Wash your hands!

If you're sick, tell the coach. This is simple. If you're already sick (its not your fault, it happens no matter how hard we try to stay healthy) you need to tell your coach. If you have a fever, sore throat or congestion in your chest you shouldn't be at practice and certainly shouldn't be training. These symptoms indicate that you're already sick and your immune system needs all the calories, rest, and sugar-free hydration it can get to fight off whatever it is. Sick? Tell a coach. Practice can wait. Your health is most important.

In addition to having contact with a disease, your immune system has to be weakened or susceptible to that disease in order for you to get sick. Now this is where things can get tricky. Vigorous exercise can, in the short term, weaken your immune system. Marathon and half-marathon runners and triathletes can sometimes get sick during or after a strenuous part of their training cycle or after a race. Thats because, even if they've been washing their hands, they've come into contact with a disease and their immune system hasn't recovered from the stress of training or long race. Student-athletes can face a similar situation. Good coaching practices that keep workouts reasonable, yet productive, will help avoid some of the training stress that can wear down your immune system. Thats part of the coaches job. You have a bigger job...

The athlete can do much more than the coach when it comes to keeping fit and healthy. Getting enough sleep, proper nutrition, and sugar-free hydration (along with hand washing) are all controllable by the athlete and will contribute to a stronger immune system and better state of health while training. You'll be able to train hard and remain healthy.

Training in the colder weather has its health advantages, too. You'll notice your nose running when your training in the cold. This is, in part, due to the impact of the cool air on your sinuses - the cool air reduces swelling and promotes drainage. Thats a good thing...looks awful, but it is good. As we rid the accumulated mucous from our sinuses we also flush away many of the germs, bacteria, viruses, that are hanging out in there. Keeping well hydrated with sugar-free drinks helps keep this mucous and secretions thin and able to drain well, preventing congestion and the "stuffy/runny nose" many people seem to get this time of year.

Key points:
Training on a variety of surfaces reduces injury.
You don't catch a cold from being cold - you get sick from contact with a disease. Wash your hands!
Your immune system can take a beating from strenuous training -  you can help by eating, sleeping and drinking healthy!
Training outside in the cold weather can actually help the body and keep you strong while enjoying your fitness!


Sunday

Suddenly November

Can it be true? Time moves faster as you get older.

November is here and I've just come to realize how long its been since I'd done any writing. So much water has gone under the bridge in these last few months and gone by so fast. With respect to whatever sundial or abacus is measuring the pace, 2015 is nearing a close and there remains a few topics of unfinished business to address on Living Running Writing.

Lets back up to September and the Rochester Half Marathon. The Rochester Half was to be my forth and final installment of the Four Seasons Challenge - running four half marathons in the year. The Rochester Half turned out to be the icing on the cake of achievement. It wasn't my fastest run but it was by far the most fun. The company and the course were simply the best.
Before the Roc Half 


 A random guitar player strumming and belting out tunes as we approached the Turning Point boardwalk. 





At the end of the race a woman walks up to me and asked my name. She looked at me and says "you don't remember me, do you?" A bit stunned, I have to say "no" and she goes on to tell me that I delivered one of her children 19 years ago...almost to the day.

Saturday

Training plan in shambles? Try my 6 suggestions to getting back on track.

Try these 6 suggestions to get yourself back on track.

Get into a training routine long enough and your bound to face a few obstacles. Anyone who's followed a training plan knows that situations come up that take you off course and threaten to derail your fitness effort. Life/family moments, emergencies, injuries and work responsibilities can conspire individually or team up against you. Let your training plan take a beating too long and you risk a loss of fitness and before you know it, lapse in to couch-sitting, channel surfing mediocrity.

Be ready to face training adversity with these simple strategies -

Let whatever is derailing your training run its course. Sometimes life happens and you just have to go with it. We often start to beat ourselves up for not exercising adding stress to the situation. Ask yourself if the added stress of not exercising is making the situation worse. Of course, if  you can slip in a good run or strength session during these times its best to do so. But when you can't you may feel that added stress on top of whatever the situation is you're dealing with. Rather than compound the stress - let it go and try not to worry about your training until the situation is over. Short breaks in training don't necessarily spell catastrophe for your overall fitness.

Get out and start again, start over if you have to. But back off. After even the briefest of time away from your exercise routine it would be wise to return to activity at a slower pace or lower intensity. Jumping back into your training where you left off may sound like a good idea but puts you at risk for injury. Worse, when you notice you're not at the level of fitness you were before the break, you may start to focus on how much you "lost" and risk further discouragement. Instead, give yourself a warm up period, a taper up. Go back in you training journal (you do keep a training journal, don't you?) and find a favorite route or workout from a few months ago and start there. You may want to simply do what feels comfortable for a few days, just to get back into the swing of things. By doing so you'll feel better, reduce risk of injury and build back your confidence.

Work on the parts of your routine you can. Can't make that 10 mile run this week? Missed your yoga class? Too tired for your favorite cardio session? Stop looking at what you can't do and discover what you can do! Find parts of your program that you can do, perhaps at home or at work, and give those movements renewed attention. During a recent injury-related break from running, I was able to focus on my core routine without aggravating my injury.  Doing so let let me feel like I was doing something to keep my routine and level of fitness going in a good direction.

Revisit and revise you goals to adjust for the change. Reality check: based on what you've gone through and whatever it is you're facing now, are your goals still valid? It's a tough question to ask yourself, but it has to be done. I recently lost five weeks of my current training cycle putting my 2:00:00 half marathon goal in jeopardy. Reviewing my goals reminded me that the (original) goal was to finish four half marathons this year (I added a time goal after half #3) and to stay out of the casket if at all possible. Going back to my original goals reminded me that I am still on track to achieve what I had originally set out to do. If your goals don't match todays reality, can you safely ramp up your training to reach them? If the honest answer is yes, then go get after it! If not, retune your goals with the benefit of knowing your overcoming obstacles and still moving forward.

Rewrite your training plan. Rewriting your training plan goes hand in hand with revisiting your goals. Your plan (and you do have a training plan, don't you?) is exactly that, yours. Keep the motivation but dump the stress in your plan. If your goals change, then change your plan to match.

Learn from it. What, if anything, could have prevented the situation in the first place? Can you anticipate future problems? Learning from where you are now is the best way to prevent a "next time" from happening. Add a plan B, a set of alternate routines or optional plans that you can pull out when your training plans go up in smoke. Having a go-to list of training alternatives will save time and decrease stress when you need them.

Thursday

LRW: Running, Writing and Interruptions

Running

This has got to be a conspiracy. As if being behind the eight ball with training and writing isn't enough. I'm now called to carry out my Civic Duty for the next few days...or so. Did I mention I'm working this weekend as well?



Writing

The good news is two sic-fi pieces are well into draft, both having potential to be NaNoWriMo worthy 50K words or better. On the bright side, there should be some time over the next few days to work on a couple of articles and shorts that have been sitting around.

Sunday

Getting out from behind the eight ball

Behind the eight ball

In a bad situation, in a losing position. 
The phrase comes from pool (or billiards). When the cue (white) ball is behind the eight (black) ball, a player usually has no shot. (Urban Dictionary)

My view from behind the eight ball 

Whatever was damaged during my stumble at mile 8 of the Shoreline Half is still giving me problems. Pain in my left calf at night, during the day, and now a fair amount of numbness on the outside of my leg persists five weeks after the injury. Thats five weeks of discomfort. Five weeks of not sleeping well. Five weeks of limited running. I haven't hit a double digit miles training run since July 20 and with the ROC Half now four weeks away, I am locked and loaded squarely behind the eight ball. My training plan is in ruin. My attitude is starting to suffer. My motivation is draining.

The warning lights are flashing

A relapse into mediocrity is a real potential in situations like this. We can all appreciate how easily one could slip back into poor eating habits (hey, I need the extra calories to heal this injury), sedentary life (hey, I've got stay off this leg for a while), and simply not running (I'll run when I feel better).

I've been on the verge of this relapse for a while. I felt great after a short run several days ago and was looking forward to increasing miles again (having self-declared the injury gone) only to be shocked awake that same night by intense, stabbing pain and muscle fascinations. I was demoralized until last night.

Getting around the obstacle 

The daughter of close friends just had surgery on her ankle to repair some serious damage. At the ripe old age of 16 or so, she'd sprained her ankle so many times that the joint had become unstable. Her she is just a few days after surgery, casted from toes to knee, trudging along on crutches, at the end of summer vacation. Sad? No. Discouraged? Nope. Quitting? Absolutely not! This young lady talked about changing sports from a soccer focus to softball. She even sat on a overturned bucket and put on an amazing display of pitching...casted leg, crutches on the ground.

Heres the lesson; her attention had shifted from looking at the injury to looking at the next thing she could be great at.

Looking around the obstacle even if its a big one 


We all end up in the unenviable position of a bad situation, a schedule snafu, or an injury at some point during training. The blogs are full of suggestions for athletes (even mature ones like me) on how to get over an injury or get their training back on track. Some of those suggestion may work, some may not. All the information people give you are things that worked for them. You are not them. You have to decide for yourself how to get around your obstacle.


Get over it. Injury is reality. Stop blaming yourself and stop the excuses. Yes it hurts, but sitting around isn't making the situation any better. In fact, its getting worse. I'm not going to jump back into the miles and risk further injury, I'm simply going to...


Change the plan. If you're training plan is trashed, maybe it should stay in the trash for a while. Cutting down the miles and intensity for a few more days won't ruin my chances of finishing the last half marathon of the year but I may have to let go of my 2:00:00 time goal.


Shift focus. Limited running is going to leave a void that could easily be filled by surfing the net or sipping coffee in the Adirondack chair. Not. Instead lets pick up the cross training and get a few good distance rides on the bike and hit the core training hard. A good bombing for the hips, glutes, and abs sounds like a winning idea.

Thankfully, this is the first true injury I've had to deal with in two years. I guess I shouldn't gripe about it too much.



Tuesday

Just one of those days

One of those days. 

How many times have you and me said that with more than a little disgust? 
Sunset over Rochester on a humid night
Today I had one of those days...but it in this case it was a lot different. 
Work as really been knocking the life out of me lately. I'm just coming off a long stretch of shifts in a row and have been looking forward to a well-deserved two days off. Today is day one of those days

I made it home and into bed well after 1 am this morning and was up with the sun at 6. The return of that pesky leg cramping, muscle pain issue kept me tossing and turning for most of those precious few sleeping hours so you can imagine how surprising it was to be able to get up on time. But I was determined to start my those days as planned!

As soon as a break in the morning aches and pains gave me permission I was out of bed and onto my plan. Today is a full day and it went like this - 

6am. Coffee in a quiet kitchen. Holding a hazelnut scented cup of steamy goodness makes any day start well. Garbage and recyclables down to the curb. Get the kids up. Get myself ready for practice. 

8am. Our first cross country practice of the season is today! I love coaching. It gives me one of the greatest joys of life. I am energized. 

11am. A meeting (interview, actually) that turned into great conversation and went exceptionally well. Sorry, no further details at this time. 

12:30pm. Volleyball practice. No, I don't coach this but I do have two girls playing on this team. What a gift it was to be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy watching your daughters display their God given athletic talents. Simply one of those proud dad moments. 

5:45pm. Speed Camp Time! Coaching adult speed workouts with our local Fleet Feet store has become one of the highlights of my week. I look forward to the sweat, the heat, and the challenge. The participants are fantastic people and the atmosphere is so invigorating. I come home from coaching (both high school and adults) refreshed and positive. Coaching gives me a totally different view on life. 

7:45. Around the table with my wife and kids. Yea, we eat together most nights of the week. We talk. We listen. We are a family. Our family meal time is a perfect wrap up to this one of those days. 

8:50pm. Writing. I haven't talked or written much about my writing projects lately and most likely haven't worked on those projects as much as I should be, either. But this is one of those days and I'm making the time to take it to the keyboard...even if just for a little while tonight. 

You see, I've had one of those days and just had to tell someone about it. I hope to have another tomorrow. 

Training Video Blog August 17, 2015

Got a hot run done today with 88 degrees, a dew point 67 and humidity at 55%, todays run reminded me of conditions during the Shoreline Half...and that race kicked my butt and injured my leg. 
No whining, its the first running injury in two years. I'll consider myself lucky. 

Anyway, today was indeed a hot run. A mid-day run. A run I needed to get in, needed to do. Have you ever had those? Just a workout you had to do. 

Common sense told me it was too hot and I should've run earlier. Running later is out because of a 3-11pm shift. So rather than nap before work, I ran. I felt better. Accomplished. 

Accomplished not because a had a good run in the heat, but because I broke inertia at rest. Thats the real accomplishment for you and me. Getting out the door. Getting it done. 

Thursday

What would you be doing?

The above Tweet (from @runnerbliss) caught my attention this morning. Not because it purports to be a quote from Steve Jobs, but because it made me stop and think.

Actually, I almost ignored the whole thing. After an immediate mental knee-jerk "I wouldn't be going to work" answer, I looked a little deeper inside. I found more questions and just a few answers.

If I knew today was my last day of life, what would I do?

I'd wake and spend a few extra minutes in bed looking at my sleeping daughter and wife. Yes, our little one still creeps into bed with us almost every night. She can be difficult to sleep next to but truly adorable to wake up with.

I'd get up, shower, dress and look in on my other kids, all of whom would be sound asleep.  Yes, I said dress...I mean for work. I'd feed the dogs, make breakfast and lunch and I'd go to work. And I would go to work. Its not that I'm overly thrilled with going, but if today is my last day I'd want to do all the things I'm supposed to do. Who knows, this may be the day I can make a difference for someone. Not by starting an IV or pushing some medication. The place is full of people that can do that.

I'd come home and go for a run. Yes, I think I would! Hey, if my heart is about to stop, I think I'd like to hear it beat loud and strong for just a little while longer. I'd want to fill my lungs with air, my blood with oxygen and feed it to my brain. I'd want to hear each breath, feel the sun or rain or snow on my face. I'd like to see the world go by at my pace...just for a little while. Running lets me know I'm alive.

At home, all six of us would be around the table for an evening meal. And we'd talk about our daily actives. I, of course would dispense valuable "dad" information pertaining to life and school and sports. They'd smile and nod from time to time. Maybe they'd listen.

We'd "watch" some television together later while the kids surfed their phones. But we'd be together. I'd be able to sit there and enjoy our family just as it is and dream about how they'll grow.

And then, as each good night is said, I climb the thirteen steps to my bed. I think I climb those stairs a little slower than normal. I'd listen to the familiar pops and moans of the stairs under my feet and feel the cool hardwoods...for just a minute or two.

I'd get in bed, covered with my favorite camping blanket. My wife would be next to me (chances are our youngest would be, too). Books would be read and songs would be sung. I'd listen and I'd smile.

And as I waited for the last tic of the clock, the last systole to occur, I'd close my eyes and kneel before Christ in my mind. I wouldn't need to say anything...He already knows.


In the end, its not about "doing what you want to be doing". Its about doing what you're supposed to be doing. In my case, I'm supposed to be dad...and this is what dad does.


Saturday

No Pain, Time to Gain

Today's the first day I woke up without pain in my leg since the Shoreline half marathon. That was three weeks ago for those of you don't have a calendar app on your iPhone.

More importantly that's three weeks of training that has suffered...and there's only nine weeks in this training cycle.

Because of a misstep at mile eight of the Shoreline I've had to contend with nightly leg cramps and spasms that have prevented a good night sleep and made walking for the first hour or so of each day intensely difficult. 

How has an injury changed your training program?

I've backed off running. I've taken it easy. I've been worried.

Having logged only 10-15 miles each week (and done so slowly) I've been preparing myself for the eventuality of not making my time goal in the next and final half marathon of 2015 and the Four Seasons Challenge.

As I mentioned, today was a lot better. After three weeks (and a conversation with Dr. Ted) I finally feel like I can start putting some miles on and picking up speed. 

How have you fixed your injury?

There's no quick fix here. No secrets to fast recovery. I just focused on a few simple things:
I backed off the miles and the pace. This was the hardest thing to do but giving myself permission to be injured and the needed time to heal was vital. 

I kept calories and hydration up.  A period of injury is no time to cut calories. The body needs good nutrition to repair. 

I increased sleep time as much as possible. Sleeping was difficult due to interruptions caused by pain. Adding in extra sleep time as often as possible made a difference. 

Foam rolling helped. Self care is always vital and periods of injury are no exception. 

Test email post

Good morning

Sunday

Hot, Slow, Generally Uninspired

Another hot training day.


We"re two weeks into training cycle #4 of 2015 and getting ready for the Rochester Half Marathon. This race is about 7 weeks away and I'd the 4th and final run of the Four Seasons Challenge 2015.

I'm still dealing with an injury from the Shoreline half marathon and not running my best. Whatever is going on in my lower leg is waking me up with pain at night and making it difficult to walk in the mornings.

Here are a few things I've got to get after and fix early in this training cycle -

  1. Sleep. My sleep has been horrible. I'm waking several times each night for a variety of reasons including pain in my left lower leg. It may be muscle spasms at night or soft tissue tightening and reacting to movement while sleeping. 
  2. Diet and nutrition. Boosting my calories (while still eating as clean as possible) improves my daily performance. I have gone off the wagon a little and started snacking and eating some stuff I probably shouldn't every now and then. 
  3. Warm up and cool down. These have both suffered a lot recently. Being crunched for time (who isn't?) has pushed the bad habit of not warming up well. Now that I think about it, that may be part of my leg pain issue, too. Cooling down, stretching and self care have also fallen off. I used to spend a few minutes every night and morning with my foam rollers. Not so lately. 



Saturday

Race Report: Shoreline Half Marathon

Heat and Humidity Dominate

One of the warmest days of the season played host to the Shoreline Half Marathon. 
Held on the shore of Lake Ontario at Hamlin Beach State Park, the Shoreline Multi-Sport Festival offers a half marathon, 5K, kids races, a triathlon and a duathlon. The sprint distance triathlon is one of the oldest tri's in the area. 
Athletes are treated to fantastic scenery running and biking through the mixed hardwoods and pines of the park. 

The breezes coming off the Lake Ontario usually offer relief from summertime heat and humidity. Usually, that is. 

The weekend of July 18 was a continuation of a recent heat wave that has settled on the Rochester area, and after a brutal winter, the heat is certainly welcome.

I found my customary back-of-the-pack starting spot and was enjoying the pre-race social time that comes with talking with other runners. There were several runners I'd coached at Speed Camp, many new friends I'd met through working at Fleet Feet, and even a couple of friends from high school who I'd not seen for thirty years.

Impressive as always was the variety of participants; fast, slow, large and small...but all going in the same direction. I was particularly impressed with a former colleague who was running the half with his wife and daughter; doing this race as part of the Four Seasons Challenge.

The mood was in tune with the event; festive...despite the heat and humidity.   

A familiar voice signaled the start of todays ordeal, wishing us luck and promising to see us at the finish line. 

And we're off, running through the park as the atmosphere hung heavy around our necks. The temperature at the start was 78 degrees, dew point a sticky 74 degrees. 

The course leaves the park around the 5K mark and heads out to the surface roads of Hamlin. It also leaves the relative protection from the heat as the lake breeze and shade become scarce. It was at the 5K mark that I noticed a lot of people walking and it was here that I first felt that today was not going to be the PR I'd wanted it to be. 

The route continued through flat, exposed farms. Despite the climate of the day, I was feeling strong at mile 5, 6, and 7. I'd done my homework and run through all kinds of weather, hot and cold, I'd stayed hydrated and well nourished. I also took full advantage of the aid stations every two miles. Garmin tells me that I was spot on pace approaching mile 8 and I was indeed feeling strong despite the heat. By now the air was so dense you'd think you could touch it or poke a hole in the sky and have water pour out. 

And then a misstep. 

I took my sunglasses off approaching the mile 8 aid station, wiped off my head and was getting ready for a drink and maybe a 30 second walk break. I fumbled my glasses when putting them back on and lurched forward trying to keep them from hitting the ground. Thats when I felt it.

A ripping pain ran down my left leg from glute to mid calf so intense I actually felt short of breath for several minutes. I thought I'd pulled a hamstring in attempt to recapture my sunglasses. 

I walked (limped) through the mile 8 aid station and continued to do so for the next five minutes. The thought off sitting down  and asking for a ride back came to mind. But the Shoreline Half Marathon is the third installment of the Four Seasons Challenge and dropping out would mean a DNF for not only this race for the entire years work...and that's not happening. 

What kept me going? My wife. My kids. 

My wife has been such a motivator and supporter during my training. She puts up with the added laundry and the hours I’m out running. She’s always there to nix the excuses I seem to come up with on a regular basis, too. When I gripe about the weather she is there to remind me “if the race were held today you have to run”…and that gets me out the door. My kids are likewise there and remain the cornerstone of these activities. I don’t want to let them down. Besides, I’d encourage them to finish a race when they’re hurting and I don't want to be a hypocrite. 

Limping the last five. 

I just did it, as the saying goes. Limping an ever slower pace over the last five miles. The heat and humidity continued to pound away at all of us on the course. 

I’m thankful to have finished with a time around 2:33:00 - certainly not the time I’l wanted, but given the circumstances, I’ll be happy with it…for now. 

Onward and upward. 

This is not where the story ends. The Four Seasons Challenge has one final installment left to go; the Rochester Half Marathon to be run on September 20. It seems further way than a mere 7 weeks, but there it is…


I’ll be aiming for that 2:00 mark this time!    

Thursday

Shugyo!

Who's ready for a challenge? We're now five weeks away from my main event of the year.

I'll be celebrating fifty years on this planet at he Shoreline Multi-sport Festival July 18 and 19. What a challenging weekend it will be! I'm giving myself a birthday gift of running the half marathon on a Saturday followed by a sprint distance triathlon on Sunday. What better way to celebrate the milestone of turning 50 years old than by achieving such a personal challenge.

You might call it shugyo - a warriors quest.

"Only by knowing where you are today can you determine where you want to be tomorrow" Forrest E. Morgan. 1992.

This training cycle has taken a bit of a beating over the last few weeks due to an odd work schedule and two-weeks of a respiratory illness. With the main culprits identified and soundly defeated (the cold is gone and the work schedule is under control), I can get back to some serious training...and writing.

Being a little behind in your training plan or any goal-oriented plan for that matter can be a good motivator if you let it. With five weeks left before the next goal race I am truly in need of motivation.

Its time to train with shugyo!

What is shugyo? Glad you asked. Shugyo can be described as a quest or even a pilgrimage that takes a warrior to what we know today as the "next level".  I was first introduced to the theory of shugyo while studying various martial arts. Shugyo was evident in any number of texts I was reading at the time (1995).  Living the Martial Way (Forrest E. Morgan, 1992) but the theory of shugyo into an actionable frame...one that I remember to this day. Hence mentioning it here. Morgan describes shugyo as a practice you take on by yourself, nobody there to drive you...you are the driver when training with shugyo.  It is an action taken on a special occasion, most likely outside of a gym and certainly not practiced in front of others. Rather, its a mindset in training and testing oneself.

Shugyo is a tool, a weapon in your training to be taken out. polished, and perfected as a means to getting to your "next level". I've been silently instilling this philosophy in the athletes I coach by giving them a special challenge on a weekly, monthly or seasonal basis. Its time to allow myself that gift a training challenge!

Over the weekend of July 18 and 19, 2015, I'll be taking myself to my next level. I'll celebrate being 50 years old by running a half marathon and a triathlon the following day.

I'll dig down deep over the next five weeks. I'll train with shugyo.

And I'll see you at the finish line!

Tuesday

Race Report: Flower City Half Marathon

Notes from the back of the pack during the Flower City Half Marathon.

I've taken a lot of pride in my renewed love for the sport of running and appreciate the gifts I've been blessed with. That mindset, along with a tremendous support team, is what pushed me through the Flower City Half Marathon on April 26, 2015. This race is also the second in the four-part series called the Four Seasons Challenge; four half marathons, one in each season of the year. The first race in this series was the Winter Warrior; a race around the Monroe Community College campus on a really cold, windy January afternoon.

The weather in Rochester, NY had been quite cold and snowy for two months leading up to the Flower City Half and my training plan took quite a beating. February gave us six hours of temperatures above freezing (yes, 6 hours) and the March snow piled up so high as to make visibility a real safety issue for running on the streets. We were all wondering what kind of weather April would bring.

Race morning arrived with cool but not cold, temperatures and a solid cloud cover...the typical Spring day in Rochester. I was nervous at the start line as I thought my training had been lacking.

Pre-race in the Blue Cross Arena 

Pre-race view of the finish on Exchange Blvd. 

I'd decided to use a pace group for the first time. While it seemed like a reasonable thing to do, that decision ultimately held me back. My first three miles were way too slow and as a result, my form was off. My Friend and unofficial coach, Greg, would later say "you didn't look good" in the first 5K. Greg has been a running coach for a long time and I've learned a lot from him directly and even more my watching him coach others. He's a great friend and supported me through my first triathlon last year. 

Greg did a most remarkable think at this race...he followed me on the course. I don't know how he did it but he just kept popping up at various points along the route snapping pictures with his smartphone. How he was able to jump in his car, navigate the City, and get to the most out of the way places on the route is still a mystery. 

At the start - photo credit Greg Sloan


My view at start line, pace group marker 

Slow "walking form" the first 5K at Frontier Field - photo Greg Sloan
One thing that set the Flower City Half apart from the Winter Warrior (my first half) is the hills. Like any dedicated (obsessive) runner, I'd spent a few hours previewing the Flower City course. Although familiar with the area, I became acutely aware of difference between driving the streets and running on them. The nausea that accompanied that realization haunted me until I actually got to the hills on race day. The best news of the day came as we reached the hills. Rather than being slowed by them, I actually gained time! Hill training had paid off, but not as you'd expect. I found that, in addition to tackling the uphill segments strong, I was able to glide with good form and increased speed to take full advantage of the downhill running as well. 

In Mt. Hope Cemetery - Photo Greg Slaon


Passing Wilson Blvd near Ford St. - photo Greg Sloan
Greg would later comment "you look better" as the race went on. At the finish line I was all smiles. Two down, two to go. I felt great throughout the race and finished strong, with a smile. My goal time of 2:00:00 remains a target to be hit as I finished the Flower City Half in 2:22 - just a few minutes faster than the Winter Warrior. 
At the finish - Photo Game Face 
Crossing the line - Photo Game Face
Greg and me at the BCA after the race

Post race debriefing


An old friend, Tom Coyle, owner of Monroe Ambulance and some pre race encouragement

Bib, shirt, finisher medal, and Four Seasons Challenge medal piece 

Winter Warrior and Flower City half marathon FSC pieces 






Saturday

LRW April 25, 2015

Living.

Its been a few days since I've been able to sit and write anything meaningful. There are a few things coming together now, new beginnings and goals to be reached and just a bit of breathing room. Its "go-time" for pen and paper, key board and screen.

Rochester Regional Health running shirt
Orientation at the new job (new RN job, that is) is now over and I'll serve my first shift in a new emergency department on Monday. I'm excited...and cautiously optimistic. While I've been out of the emergency-mode for a while it was interesting to see how fast the recall came back when we were discussing critical thinking, patient assessment and pharmacology. The sound of neurons snapping open was deafening! Feeling ready. Feeling confident.

Its an interesting time. Each step is a new page and where that step leads is a bit unclear. One thing is certain, by this time tomorrow I'll be better than I am today.


Running.

Thus endith Training Cycle Two.

Thats it. The cycle started on January 11 - the day after the Winter Warrior Half Marathon, my first event of 13.1 miles, will come to an end tomorrow when I celebrate the ability to run and finish the Flower City Half Marathon.

Bib and official shirt Flower City Half 2015
Cycle two has been nothing like cycle one (Oct 14-Jan 15). Cycle 2 actually felt and acted like number two - if you get my meaning. The Rochester weather took a tailspin toward the end of January and didn't recover until recently. Sure, there were a few "nice days" here and there to get out and get the training done, but not many. February was particularly brutal with only six-hours spent above freezing...yes, six hours. Wind chill frequently well below zero and permafrost earth made running outside (even slowly) hazardous. Along came March with its snow piles obscuring vision making foot travel even more dangerous. More time could have been spent in the gym, I suppose. The air inside the gym where I train was thick and confining. Almost as difficult to breath in as the attitude.

All of that is behind  me. The weather has begun to cooperate and I got in 26 solid miles last week! Everything feels good; the pace, the heart and the mind. This week has been the tapper in final preparation for the Flower City Half. Practice race pace, relax, swim, and get in that final fine-tuned run.

Writing. 

As I noted above, I'm ever so slowly opening up time to write. The fiction works are still on the front-burner when time allows. 

Friday

LRW 4/10/15

Living.

New job. New outlook. Two new jobs, actually. 
I recently made the tough decision to leave the hospital I've been working at for nearly four-years. The decision to leave was so difficult because I'd grown very close to my coworkers. The clientele was difficult, challenging at times, but almost always difficult to work with and it was the other staff members that made good work happen. Without the camaraderie and perpetual "back watching' we did for each other that job would have been impossible to manage. 

I'll be taking on a new position in the emergency department of a hospital two miles from my home. My commute will be cut substantially as will the cost in fuel and parking (parking at the new job is free!). Working in an emergency department is what I've always thought I'd do and going after that opportunity now feels comfortable on many levels. My roots are in emergency services and I've worked with many of the staff members at this hospital in my prior career. The transition should be smooth, albeit with a sharp learning (relearning) curve. 

I mentioned two new jobs; the new nursing job and...a coaching position with a rapidly growing running/fitness store; Fleet Feet Sports. Fleet Feet offers a wide variety of instructional programs and running camps throughout the year. I've been selected to coach the Speed Camp! Just getting an interview for Speed Camp was exciting for me. Getting the job simply makes my heart sing. Coaching is something I've come to enjoy over the last several years. I've always enjoyed teaching and public speaking and found that many (if not all) the principles of leadership and instruction translate well into coaching. I'll continue to coach my junior high and high school teams while looking forward to making the switch to coaching adults. 

Running.

A very windy run today. The good news is the temperatures have finally moderated into the mid-50's and I feel like I'm running well. The not-so-good news is we're in the middle of a wind storm with gusts of 40-50 mph.


Writing. 

I've put my writing projects on hold for a few weeks while I transition into this new job. I'm still making notes and doing scene work, character development, but holding off the actual writing of both the fiction and non-fiction works in progress. We'll be blogging and journaling throughout it all and I may post a few scene previews from the fiction work here. 

LRW: 3/13/15

Living.

The weather is starting to turn Spring-like; the sky has brightened over the past few days, and of course, daylight lingers just a little longer each afternoon. The seasonal tug-o-war now begins as our days herald a new season while our nights cling to the bleak cold we've become accustomed to.

The reminders of winter are all around us in the form of slush and snow. The building-size piles of snow occupying parking lots are beginning to recede exposing twisted shopping carts and debris picked up by plows.

The Erie Canal remains thinly frozen over. The trails alongside are still covered with considerable crunch, stale snow.
Erie Canal, looking West from Long Pond Road, Greece, NY

Running.
Another nice day to run!

Saturday

First sun and a nice run. LRW 3/11/15

Living.

We've had a few days of nice weather and its easy to see the results as there are more people outside. Its interesting to see car widows down and music turned up, people with short sleeves and shorts, and its barely forty degrees!

Running. 

The sun energized my run today. 8.3 miles fell away almost without effort. I ran well under blue sky and on clean roads. Of course there was effort and my legs felt the after effects of that effort later in the day.  This was the longest run in a month...again noting the damage our Arctic February had on my training plan.




Writing.

No writing today. The works-in-progress sit idle. Back to it later.

Tuesday

Pains in the leg & a return to medication LRW3/10/15

Living

My favorite blood pressure makes a rerun to the morning routine today. After a short three weeks away from an ACE inhibitor my blood pressure has steadily climbed above acceptable levels. One reading was even as high as 150/90.

To be fair, most of this trial time without medication was spent sedentary- the month of February was a bust for training plan and diet.  So it's back on an ACE inhibitor for me...albeit a lower dose...and another monitoring period begins. 

Running. 

The good news is the weather is fully cooperating today. 43 degrees, no wind. I'm running slow due to a lot of left hamstring and calf pain today- about a minute per mile slow. My shoes are in need of replacement and that could be part of the problem. We're 5 1/2 weeks out from the RRH 1/2 marathon.



Writing. 

I didn't write today but wish I had. Deadlines are there, they didn't come with motivation. Tomorrow is another day!

Saturday

Right Now. LRW March 6, 2015

Living. 

The temperature climbed up near freezing today making it a nice day to get out and run!

"Don't want to wait till tomorrow
Why put if off another day?
One more walk through problems, 
Built up, and stand in our way...
One step ahead, one step behind me
Now you gotta run to get even
Make future plan, don't dream about yesterday,
C'mon turn, turn this thing around..." Van Halen 
Those lines from Van Halen's Right Now sums up my training plan at this point. After loosing so much time to the brutal February and banishment to the treadmill it's time to get back into gear.

And here we are, on the verge of another Daylight Savings Time shift. I hate time shifts. Twice a year we go through the motions of changing our clocks, artificially adjusting time back or forward, to satisfy who knows what purpose. These time changes seem to have an ill effect on me. Each time shift causes me to be groggy, sleepy, and otherwise unmotivated for days afterward. I've logged in my journal from years past how my colds and other illnesses seem to come on around the same time we change the clocks, too.

There is another problem, too. How many of you struggle to change the clocks in your car or the time on your watch? Every years its the same thing; change the time in the car on the way to work than fiddle with my watch most of the day.

I'm feeling just fine on the eve of the 2015 shift to DST...as of now. I've gone out for a nice run and have a quiet evening planned at home with an early bedtime scheduled.

I still wonder of changing the clocks ahead or back serves any purpose other than to remind us to change the batteries in our smoke alarms.

Running.

My training today was a nice 4.3 mile run along West Ridge Road; a very familiar route. The weather is starting to cooperate...thats the good news. Warmer temperatures are melting the huge snow piles that block the view of traffic but are leaving crusty, crunchy, slushy ice behind. Visibility has improved while footing remains a bit tricky in spots.

The turn around point on my loop is the Bridge over the Ridge, an elevated walkway over one of the busiest sections of roadway in Western New York: Route 390 and West Ridge. Today was the first time on the bridge this year and it remains covered with about six-inches of snow.




Writing.

My writing projects are continuing as planned, as well. The two non-fiction projects are on target, with the first scheduled to go out as an eBook around March 20. I've been lucky enough to land a speaking gig to go along with each work of non-fiction, too! Paid promotional time is aways a good thing.

The fiction plots (I have two of them as well) are still sitting in draft mode. I'll occasionally add something, do some character development or world building in note form and set them aside. The plot lines are fairly solid.

Lastly, I've got a few sports-related articles I'm working on. I'm at the point to either drop a few pitches in the email or decide to post them here.


Tuesday

Training Video Blog 3/3/15

Today is my first run outside in nearly a month. The Coldest February in Rochester history has dented this training cycle. This second training cycle started after the Winter Warrior 1/2 Marathon and is planned to take me to the Rochester Regional Health duathlon and 1/2 marathon. Despite getting pushed inside and sentenced to the treadmill by the weather, I'm still planning to do the 5K/10mi/5K duathlon on Saturday (4/25) and the 1/2 marathon the next day.



Todays 5.3 miles was done in the Canal Park (Greece, NY). Its about the only place one can safely run in our area. The roads aren't in good shape; they're icy everywhere, making it difficult to get any stride or speed done. The good news is that I did get out and the storm didn't start to move in until I was just about done.

Monday

Training Blog: Intervals 3/2/15

Just finished 3.0 miles of interval training on the treadmill. Ran with increased intensity and good form.

I just can't stand the thought of training in March falling victim to the weather as it did in February. So, for now, I'll have to stick to the indoor program.

Winter training pushed back

The weather has turned my training plan into something resembling a wish list or a "wish I could have" list. Snow, wind and brutal temperatures have conspired to prevent many of us from getting our workouts in. Chances are you're in (or have been in) a similar situation this winter.

February 2015 was declared Rochester's (New York) coldest month ever. With a record breaking average temperature of 12.4 degrees, we saw only six hours above freezing all month long. And the sun didn't shine; not one single day met meteorological criteria for being a clear day. Snow piles from the nearly 48 inches of snow (still) on the ground block the streets and sidewalks of my normal running routes making it unsafe to run outside...not to mention the wind chills well below zero.

Getting back into the gym seems like the reasonable cure for the winter training stoppage, but its not easy. Constant shoveling and slow commutes eat up valuable training time. Breaking the inertia is so hard knowing you'll face brutal conditions and difficult driving just to make the 1.6 miles trek to the gym.

Should you let the winter soften before getting back outside? Waiting for the weather to improve may seem like waiting for the pot at the end of the rainbow. Wait too long and your hard-won fitness starts to drag while your training plan gathers dust. 

What do you do now? 

I've decided to train when I can, where I can. I'm not going to worry about getting outside or to the gym during bad winter weather - I'll think of it as a recovery period and adjust my training schedule later. No stress.  

Tuesday

Triathlon versus the Medication

This is a first. No, its not the first goal I've reached but it is one I'm very happy about. This achievement ranks up there with finishing my first 5K or sprint distance triathlon. 

You see, since I was a teenager I've been on blood pressure lowering medication. That's right, I've had high blood pressure since the age of 16. I'm now 49. 

The doctors have tried a variety of medications over these many years to get (and keep) my systolic and diastolic under control. Diet and exercise have always been part of the plan but never seemed to play as big a role as one would hope. Even as an amateur kick boxer fighting at 177 pounds my blood pressure was still a few ticks above the norm. A "good" reading for me has been in the range of 140/90...thats considered high by most standards. But thats me, even on medication. 

But not today. After 17 months of consistent endurance training my blood pressure is now considered normal or even low. Today, after reviewing months and months of readings, my doctor has stopped the medication.

And if that's not enough...my cholesterol values continue to be within normal for the second consecutive three-month period. That means the dose of lipid lowering medication that was cut in half several months ago is, you guessed it...gone. 

For the first time in adult life I don't have to take prescription medication. Why? Because I've done something totally different. I've trained differently. I've competed differently. I'm living differently. 

At the risk of sounding like a weight loss info-mercial, I can honestly say "I owe it all to triathlon." Well, maybe not "all." The desire to stay alive has something to do with it, too. 

What is clear to me is that training for endurance events has done something to my body that decades of diet, exercise, and medications couldn't. Looking past the medication its easy to see the ripple of benefits this type of training has brought to me. My body weight is down over fifty pounds, BMI down 7 kg/m2, and eleven inched off my waistline. I may just make it to fifty years old yet!

Enjoying the multi-sport lifestyle keeps training interesting and fun. There's always a variety of workouts and swim/bike/run combos that keep things fresh. I feel in tune with my body systems and having multiple disciplines to choose from means training isn't getting old anytime soon. 

Saturday

TVB 2/3/15 Eight Miles after Seven Days

Eight Miles after Seven Days

Thats right - seven days off from training. This is one of the longest breaks since starting serious training 18 months ago. The weather has been a factor in training this week. The dark, icy, snowy, windy days with temps below zero have kept me from doing much outside work.

Our youngest has been sick with a cold (flu?) and I find it difficult to get out the door during such times. Like any parent of a sick child, you find that your priorities get shuffled just a little. Thankfully, she's feeling much better.

Todays run took place at Canal Ponds Park. The roads get plowed fairly well here and there is very little traffic. The snow covered woods and ponds provided just the right amount of relaxing eye candy. The only sounds to be heard was the crunching snow in rhythm with my breathing and stride.



My spit would crackle and freeze at it hit the ground, reminding me of how cold it actually is.

Monday

Derailed

Derailed. Out of  balance. Off course. Distracted.

That's where I am now. I don't like it.

The weather, work, kids, illness, and kids with illness are the laundry list of issues that conspire to shred my training cycle.

The weather has just been too cold. To the point of being unsafe and so cold that my shoes have lost all flexibility. Its like I'm running on flat, hard pieces of plastic; slipping all over the place. The usual difficulties of winter running are compounded by the extreme conditions here over the last two weeks. I haven't been able to get outside for six days. Today is no different. 14 18 inches of snow fell last night. Wind chills are -10 now. I'm not sure I could make it to the gym for a bike trainer or swim workout now.

Frustration.

If its not the weather, its work. Work has been difficult. The last few shifts complicated with patient behaviors, early starts and late finishes.

My youngest is fighting a cold (flu?), too. Nothing distracts me more and re-sets my priorities than having one of my kids sick.

On the brighter side...I've been training for 18 months now. This is only the fourth or fifth time I've had to take a (unscheduled) break. I'm thankful for that and the fact that I remain healthy and injury free.

What do you do when life situations bowl over your training plans?

I'll regroup today. Reschedule a few things. Do some core work at home.

I'll lace-up and head out tomorrow.

What will you do?