Sunday, April 3, 2016

I love you fuelforfire...let me count the ways.

Okay, so a key part of training, racing and recovery is...eating! No, I'm not even talking about the "proper balance of micros"...I mean literally getting food into your pie hole and then onto your belly!

I seem to be in the minority of multisport athletes I know in that I just don't eat enough, often enough OR the proper amount of macros (protein, carbohydrates, fats) in order to fuel or recover from training or racing. Most of my athlete friends complain that given any moment during a training cycle and especially after a race, they would happily consume half a side of beef...and then the other side if possible. Or literally fight themselves to not eat everything in sight  all the time. That however is not me, nor has it ever been me. I'm the guy that no matter how hungry, small portions fill me up quickly. I try to force myself to eat or eat more and it just makes my belly bloat and makes me feel sluggish.

So, in order to fuel I need to graze all day by eating small portions of palette pleasing and nutrient dense foods. Enter...(angels singing)...fuel for fire. I got turned onto this product last year and can't get enough of it! Each 4.5 oz packet (the perfect size to fit in your gym bag, transition bag, jacket or car) is only 100 calories and has 10 grams of whey protein. With flavors like: Sweet Potato Apple, Mixed Berry, Tropical and Banana Cocoa (my personal favorite) there's something for anyone to like when it comes to taste. As for consistency and mouth feel, think of a cross between apple sauce and pudding. It makes it easy to squeeze/suck out of the single serving packets and swallow (keep your dirty thoughts to yourself). It's easy on the stomach, obviously because of that ingredient list...ya, all natural there! You can find out more about fuelforfire here or you can look for it at your local grocery store or health food store (or you can look for places to buy on the website). Have you tried fuelforfire? Yes, then let me know in the comments below. If you haven't and this review got you to try some, let me know what you think!

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Guinness Celtic gotta start somewhere

Well, you've gotta start somewhere...and today was the day for me. Forgive me competition gods, its been MONTHS since my last race.

Over the last 12-18 months my training and specifically my racing has waned partly due to my health issues, partly due to my listening to everyone tell me I train too much/too hard and partly because my thought that if I'm not going to do well...why pay money to go do a race at all. But the only way you get back on the proverbial horse is to climb your butt back up there.

Today's Guinness Celtic 5k, a race I've loved and ran for years seemed like just the event to break my cherry. Its a relatively flat out and back course (they shut down a 6 line highway so you get 3 lanes worth down and 3 lanes worth back) with a slight downhill to the turn. I've turned a sub 19:30 5k on this course so I figured I could maybe harness some mojo. At the very least I know the course really well and that would help with being anxious. This race normally has way over a thousand entrants so I tried to pt myself in about the first quarter of the field. The thought was it would make me slower and my normal jack rabbit take off would be in check and I wouldn't get burned out before the first mile. Hmmm. 

The gun goes off and I spend the first mile just weaving in and out of people trying to find clean pavement to run and hit the first mile marker at 7;28. Not fast by any means but at least I wasn't gassed out already. Now it was all about trying to find a decent rhythm/turnover/pace for the rest of the race. Did I mention its been months since I raced? So I get to the turn and and start the slight uphill back. I hit the second mile marker on a 7:43. I was hoping I'd stay closer to a 7:30 but could already feel my legs and knew there was a "just bear down and get through it moment"coming...and it came a few hundred meters into mile three. There's a little kicker rise and then it flattens out to the finish. All I cold think was "if I'm not about the throw up, I'm not working hard enough".  

I crossed the finish line in  24 minutes flat (7:44 pace) officially. That was way off my PR on the course (19:45) but hopefully I'll just keep getting faster now that I'm cleared by the docs to get back to heavy training and racing again. Its certainly eye opening to feel what you think is max effort...only to see that pace is no where near what you max effort used to be. Well, back to the track and speed workouts for me...

Thursday, January 14, 2016

A stroll, well more like a stumble, down memory lane

Digging through photos and photo albums to put together images for a family member's present, I came across this lot of pictures. Hard to believe that it was a whole TWENTY FOUR years and SEVENTEEN marathons ago I crossed the finish line of my first marathon!

Why did I do it? Well on a dare/challenge of course. My battalion commander at the time challenged us to run a marathon with him. By that he meant enter, start and finish a marathon he would be running because if memory serves, none of us saw him until the finish. Ya, as a 40+ year old guy I think he ran that marathon on a sub 7:45 pace and was grinning like a Cheshire cat as each of us dragged our asses across the finish line. 

He was fond of saying running, and marathons specifically, were the best metaphor for life: it takes great preparation, you can't cut corners, you need a good plan and focused execution in order to finish it successfully. Hmm, I had none of those! I went into that marathon with only a 12 miler as my longest run. I was only logging 25-30 miles a week going into it and I got the experience the "wall" first hand...and in great depth. Even now I remember making a deal with myself that "if I finish this damn race, I'll never do another one"...sadly, a deal I think I've made with myself at some point in EVERY marathon I ever started. But, but, but, that first marathon taught me so much and as my battalion commander said "once you finish one, you know you can always finish another".
 SO true! Sometimes just having the experience of knowing you've gotten through something like that gives you the mental toughness of knowing you can do that and a whole lot more. I wouldn't say that first marathon cemented my love of running...but I will say it taught me to enjoy pain. Does that make sense? Did you have any pearls of wisdom or learning from your first marathon?

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Just run...

Sometimes the only measure you that you did it. 

I get as wrapped up in the "numbers" as anyone else. Maybe even more so! I get so focused on keeping my heart rate in a certain place, monitoring effort, hitting a ceratin pace and hitting specific mileage that I lose sight of the world around me...literally. 

How could I not SEE this?! My favorite trail on a crisp New England afternoon. I mean of course I had my HRM/GPS on me..I just wasn't looking at it every 5 seconds. Haha! A great 6mi trail run, on my favorite trail...that I never really noticed until today. I always gauged the trail by "x" distance and the sets of hills and downhills...but its so damned pretty. The flora, the fauna and running beside that peaceful. Weird how all my agitation with training (or not training as mush as I've been wanting to) just melted away. Talk about finding your moment of zen. The world got a little better after that run. Now if I could just do better with time management to get work doe, my art projects and more training runs like this.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A Transformation Tuesday indeed.

The journey from fat guy (250lbs worth with a 44-46in waist, post broken back/pelvis and that's the only picture that exists of me at that weight) to fit triathlete/gym rat has been along a long and winding road. That "me", while almost unrecognizable to what I see in the mirror today, always sits in the back of my brain to this day. At times filling me with doubt about any endeavor and always telling me to take a day off. It's a constant reminder to never want to be that kind of me again. It forces me to strive to be a better me everyday. If it were easy, we'd all be healthy and shredded all the time. One of the reasons I scoff at those half my age or more. Try getting and staying fit with a 40+ hour a week job, bills, a mortgage, a spouse, a family...that's when being healthy and fit is a true testament to the work you do. I'm not gonna lie, NOTHING has come easy and yes some of it was self induced. I have beat, torn, broken and broken down my body and mind a hundred times over...and I'm likely to do it a few more times still...but it's always about picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and going at it twice as hard the next time. Eyes on the prize friends, eyes in the prize.

Monday, January 4, 2016

I don't know if I've angered the yoga gods or made them happy. Well, it is yoga so the gods should be sweet and benevolent right? 

But...OOPH! It's been WAY too long since I got in a practice of Bikram Yoga. Class was fantastic, if not extremely difficult due to the layoff. Yoga and especially Bikram yoga is a perishable skill. It was crazy to realize my lack of flexibilty and inability to get into and stay in poses that were a struggle before...but are now damn nearly impossible. 

There's no doubt about the multitude of positive things you get out of Bikram. Not the least of which for me is burning almost 900 calories while not pounding my back/hips/knees/ankles like with running. Its a great change with the bitter cold of New England and I never cease to be amazed at the little nuggets of wisdom that always drop out during class. Bikram was spot on with that quote. Now, its just a matter of keeping at this and making it a part of my weekly routine.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The 40th Annual Marine Corps Marathon...or as I like to call it "a lot of effort for a 15 mile training run"

Well, if anyone had asked my opinion about running a marathon, with no training and the longest run in 4 months being 10 miles (that being the Army 10 Miler that was a struggle), I would not only have said to not run the marathon but that it was a STUPID idea to even entertain the thought. But lets be honest...when has anyone ever asked my opinion...and when have I ever listened to good advice?!

I got into the Marine Corps Marathon through the lottery and had made travel plans months in advance. Even though all the work/life/training (or lack thereof) junk had gotten in the way, I figured at the very least I'd still come down to D.C. and have a much needed vacation. Honestly, I didn't really even pack to run the marathon hoping that would keep me from racing. I even kept saying it was a "game time" decision to give myself the "out". But then I went to the expo, saw everyone so excited to run, and thought I'd give it a shot. J was running it too and her coach thought I'd be good to pace her (throttling back to a 9:30 plus pace should mean I'd be theory at least) so that was the plan..pace duties and see how it goes.

Showing up on race day...what a mess! Stuck in lines with about ten thousand other runners waiting to get through security for almost 90 minutes! They were letting spectators...with kids AND dogs get in line with athletes?! And they only had like 6 access points to walk through. Jesus Christ! Finally, the assembled runners, with the start time looming and tired of standing in the rain, made a break for it and just walked through any opening. A quick stop at the porta-potty (did I mention the 90 minute wait?) and finally crossed the start line a whopping 30 minutes AFTER the gun went off (that'll mean more later). To add insult to injury, at most of the water stations, rather than hand out cups of Gatorade and water to runners, the volunteers (both marines and civilians) just filled cups and left them on tables to be picked up...WTH?! My Army just did the 10 Miler two weeks ago, forty two thousand runners and it went like butta!!! Ya, MCM...the 40th anniversary of the "People's Marathon" had your head firmly planted in your 4th point of contact (look it up). The only reason I wanted to do the race in the first place was because it was the 40th rendition thinking they'd pull out all the stops...and not only was it a total mess, now I have NO desire to ever do that marathon again (or maybe any marathon for that matter but more about that later).

On the Metro heading back after 15 miles
Anyhoo, getting back to running. The thought was if I throttled down I should be able to get through it. Did I mention the NO training?! And being a pacer I thought it'd help keep my mind occupied. But...because of the late start, we ended up getting stuck with those people that were looking to run a 6 hour plus marathon and the walkers so there was lots of stops and starts and yo-yo-ing for lots of miles.

Miles 1-5 9:56, 9:58, 10:26, 9:44, 10:18
Even though the goal pacer time was 9:30, the first five miles we're spent just trying to find clean pavement and keeping some type of pace. I thought that even with the the mass of people, we were doing well (or at least I thought I was) only to find out afterwards that folks on the side of the road beyond the 5 mile mark said I looked like garbage. oh boy

Miles 6-10 9:41, 11:02, 10:16, 10:37, 9:48
Amazingly the road hadn't opened up to this point. But the course turning back onto itself and the water station issue mentioned earlier didn't do anything to help stretch out the field of runners so the focus was to try and maintain some level pace and wait for the field to open up. I had just run 10 miles 2 weeks prior at the Army 10 Miler for 1:22 (my worst time so far) so I kind of thought that anything I ran over 10 miles was just a bonus. I can tell you that I was way more exhausted at this 10 mile mark than at the end of the 10 Miler and the pace showed it.

Miles 11-15 10:00, 10:18, 10:15, 10:48, 9:57
The road finally started to open up, I was hoping to set a decent pace around Haynes Point and then... my body just got angry. As I closed on mile 15, my knees and hips were just trashed. It felt like I had sand in my joints and it hurt. I talk all about the difference between "pain" and "hurt". I always think of "pain" being associated with fatigue and/or soreness and you're mind can overcome that. As a platoon sergeant of mine used to say "pain is just weakness leaving the body". But "hurt"...hurt means you're courting injury. In the past, as a younger athlete, I would've just fought through it and dealt with the consequences after...but this body...I think I may have beat it up too much over the years.

I'll be absolutely honest, I don't know if I'm angry at myself for deciding to call it a day or proud of myself for making the decision and not risking hurting myself anymore. While I know that stopping was the right and smart thing to do...that face says it all. Coming back on the metro after calling the ball, I was upset and doubting myself. There are a number of positive things to take away from the marathon I guess: that's the longest I've run since last year's Marine Corps Marathon (ooph), I can layoff my normal pace (the tight field helped with that too) and I can be smart and make decisions to save m body from unnecessary injury. Considering I can barely walk right now, maybe that was one good decision I made. ‪Now to get back to training and racing...but no marathons for the foreseeable future.