Pittsburgh Marathon Official Blogger: Training Notebook

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Set the Gearshift for the High Gear of Your Soul – Here is where I outline my training for the week.  The miles, the pace, where I ran, how I felt. All the logistics.

 

12/31/19: Cross-training: Gym workout – Kettlebell exercises, Stair Climber, stationary bike

1/1/19: 3.00 miles (8:38 minutes/mile)

1/2/19: 5.00 miles (10:15 minutes/mile)

1/3/19: 3.00 miles (9:33 minutes/mile)  

1/5/19: 10.10 miles (9:42 minutes/mile)   

1/6/19: 5.00 miles (8:37 minutes/mile)

 

The training plan I chose for the 2019 DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon is Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 2 Marathon plan.  I had used his Novice 1 training plan in the past, and it served me well. But at this point, I know I could afford an increase in weekly mileage considering what I was able to accomplish at the Cape Cod Chowdah Challenge.  I’m not going as fast as I used to in training, my running form is much better, and I am much smarter about taking care of my body.

The only modifications I made to the plan is that instead of a full rest day on Friday, I would do some yoga.  Also, I flipped the Saturday and Sunday runs, so I would have my long run on Saturday rather than Sunday. From experience, I prefer the long run to be followed by a shorter run – in this case exactly half the mileage of the long run – rather than the other way around.  There are many benefits to gain from a recovery run when your legs are tired from the long run the day before.

The workouts on December 31st and January 1st were both after Phish concerts, so I was basking in the post-show glow.  But I was also dealing with tired legs from dancing and standing for hours over the course of a few days, and also all the secondhand cigarette smoke I was forced to inhale being in such close quarters.  Plus, I was exhausted from staying up way past my normal bedtime. Still, I got both workouts in.

The first run of the training – three miles on New Year’s Day – was particularly special for a few reasons.  The excitement of the very first training run cannot be overstated, but we were also blessed with a sixty degree day in the New York metropolitan area.  I wore a t-shirt and shorts, and even took advantage and busted out my sandals – a rarity for this time of year around here. Even though I aimed for a comfortable speed, the weather pushed me to a pace of slightly above eight and a half minutes per mile.  

The next day wasn’t as smooth.  My original plan was to run before work during the week in the neighborhood where I work in the Bronx.  But the night before, I got cold feet. I knew I was going to feel much more comfortable running in Jersey City after work, even though I preferred exercising before.  The only issue is I get home much later in the day this school year since my school had altered its hours. It was going to be more of a hassle, but I preferred avoiding the logistical nightmare that running in the Bronx would entail.

I felt terrible during this run, even though it was my usual route near my apartment.  I was antsy getting home from work and being stuck in traffic, and I suffered the consequences during the run.  I felt like I was plodding, and even though I was rushing to finish, I went much slower than normal. Yet, I still felt out of breath.  I knew I would have to get used to running in the evening again after a long day of dealing with sixth graders.

The next day, I decided to listen to my body.  I was tired from trying to catch up on sleep since the Phish concerts and returning to work after the holiday break, so I took a quick thirty minute nap upon getting home.  When I woke up, I felt energized and ready to run. I felt nimbler and lighter with each step, and even though I ran along the major thoroughfare near my apartment – and stopped at every red light to stretch before starting again when it turned green – I was much quicker than the previous day while barely breaking a sweat.

After skipping Friday’s yoga session to visit my grandparents for a couple of hours, it was time for the Saturday long run.  P3R was holding a Kickoff Training Run for the marathon, but because I worked Friday, there was going to be no way I could get to Pittsburgh in time for it.  So instead, I was there in spirit and held my own Kickoff Training Run in New Jersey, participating virtually.

I had heard it was a beautiful day in Pittsburgh, but that wasn’t the case over here.  It was a rainy and gloomy morning, but that never stopped me in the past. I had an enjoyable run, where I felt fully present in my body.  

That’s the biggest difference between long runs and shorter distances for me.  During short runs, I’m always thinking, “Is this almost over?” whereas for long runs, I’m just along for the ride.  I felt so good that when my running watch beeped to tell me I had reached ten miles, I was at the bottom of one of the steepest hills near where I live.  I continued up that hill to conclude my run, hence why my log says 10.10 miles. Since I know the course in Pittsburgh is especially hilly, I have to take every opportunity to tackle a hill.

Sunday’s run was a culmination of everything I had done during the week.  It felt effortless, and I wasn’t trying to go fast, but my body had gotten used to running again.  Naturally, my pace picked up even though I was still putting the same level of effort in as the other days.  

Most of all, my legs feel fresh, and I have no lingering effects from past injuries.  I consider this a good sign and a promising start to the training.

~

 

Got a Clif Bar and Some Cold Green Tea – Here is where I write about nutrition for the week – usually something that is working for me or an issue that has come up in training.

 

I’m a big proponent of intermittent fasting – especially running while fasted.  It helps me use fat as fuel and not rely heavily on carbs.

Unfortunately, this is going to be especially tricky to do during the week since I am running in the evenings.  I’ll already have eaten my lunch – which consists of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a small bag of pretzels – by the time I start running.

In order to combat this, I have decided to control my portions during the week, especially when the mileage is still relatively low.  I don’t want to add unnecessary weight by eating too much. In addition, on weekends when I can run fasted, I will also incorporate a cyclic ketogenic diet.  Basically, I’m limiting my carb intake to only immediately after runs. So far, it has worked pretty well this week, and I have had plenty of energy on each of my runs.  The real test will come in the following weeks as the mileage increases.

~

 

Whatever You Do, Take Care of Your Shoes – Here is where I discuss what shoes I ran in during the week – if I ran in shoes at all!

 

I ran in my Luna Monos twice; the two occasions bookend the week in training.  It was the only two really nice days in the week, so I knew those were my only chances to run in sandals.  I would’ve considered barefoot if it wasn’t for the cold and wet ground from the rain. To be honest, going completely unshod will have to wait for the spring, and I’m totally OK with that.  

I ran in my Brooks Ghosts, Vibram FiveFingers, and Altra Escalantes one time each.  Naturally, I felt lightest in the FiveFingers and probably felt the most mindful as well.  I like how the other two shoes complement each other, working out different areas of my legs.  It’s part of the reason why I cycle through different shoes. While I probably had my “worst” run in the Ghosts, I know it was my mindstate that caused it.  It wasn’t the shoes’ fault. In fact, they probably helped mask my shoddy form.

I know I could run a marathon in the Monos, Ghosts, and Escalantes, but I’m curious to see how far I could get in the FiveFingers.  That might be a focus of mine during this training.

~

 

If Life Were Easy and Not So Fast… – Here is where I offer tips in mindfulness and staying present.  In running and in life.

 

A lot of times when setting off on a run, it can be particularly tricky to block out all of the noise – the responsibilities and chores that await you at home, your work life, the grueling commute.  But now, I have the added task of being an Official Blogger. I’m writing for this blog and also posting on social media for the first time during marathon training. I had gotten the hang of letting go of all of the stresses of everyday life while I ran.  Now, I have to deal with stresses that are directly related to running. How am I going to be able to cope?

Honestly, this challenge was part of the reason why I applied to be an Official Blogger.  Every moment is an opportunity to practice mindfulness. I can’t be thinking about an Instagram post or a tweet or a blog post while I run.  I have to be completely present in the moment, because running is what got me here. I can’t lose sight of that. I have to block out all of that noise to be able to train effectively.

Part of that is definitely due to the fact that I was away from social media for so long.  I have deprogrammed myself from its gravitational pull, and I am able to check in and out when needed.  

So my recommendation to you is not to go completely cold turkey as I did.  Instead, I want you to take note of the moments you do go on social media. Are you aware of what you are doing?  Are you on social media for a particular purpose? Or are you just mindlessly scrolling? Make a note to yourself of the instances you do go on and how long.  By holding yourself accountable, we can use social media as it was intended – as a tool to connect to others – rather than as an isolating piece of technology.

If you do start to see that it has become an addiction and you can’t control these impulses, deactivate your accounts for a time and use that to recalibrate the way you go about living.  But before you do that, be sure to follow me on Instagram (at barefootboyfriend) and on Twitter (at barefootbfblog)!

~

 

…On the Soul Planet – Here is where I share thoughts on the encounters with other runners along my running trails.

 

Ah, ‘tis the season of all the New Year’s resolution runners.  I came across many during this week and the numbers will surely dwindle as the frosty New Jersey winter starts rearing its ugly head.  

While many regulars experience this at gyms across the country and hope and wait for the crowds to disperse, I have the opposite reaction on the running trails.  I hope and pray that the new runners stay. That they find something they can cling to. Something they enjoy and keeps bringing them back for more. It’s a difficult, yet rewarding path if you stick with it.  And starting in the dead of winter certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. That already takes a certain mettle and resolve that many people don’t have. Certainly more than working out in the comfort of a heated gym.

So when I come across these runners – many of them in bulky cotton sweatshirts and sweatpants – and they avert their eyes in shame to avoid having to acknowledge me – the runner fully garbed in moisture wicking clothing, carrying a handheld, and in sandals – I make sure to smile and offer a friendly, “Good morning!”  You’re one of us. You joined the club and get all the perks. You don’t get a patronizing, “Good job!” or “Keep it up!”. Or worse, the intimidation you might feel at the gym.

It is my duty to be an ambassador for running.  It has changed my life, and I know that it can change other people’s.  I gain nothing by acting like the type of runners that I hate coming across on trails.  Maybe that is all they need to stick with the habit. Let them know to, “Come on in, the water is fine!”  The trails are big enough for all of us. And I want everyone to be able to enjoy.

Because maybe I didn’t start running on January 1st.  But two years ago, that was me. And everyone has to start somewhere.   

~

 

Concepts I’ll Ponder – Here is where I discuss one pressing thought that has come up in my training – either in the middle of a long run, in the shower, as I drive to work.  Usually a large scale problem I am tackling.

 

As I embark on yet another marathon training, I think back to one of my all-time favorite books: the Bhagavad Gita.

In this ancient Hindu text, Arjuna – the Pandava prince – prepares for war with the Karauvas.  He meditates on the effects of the impending violence and has a moral dilemma that he must grapple with.  What is his duty – or dharma – to his family?  What is his purpose?  He asks his charioteer, Krishna, for guidance and his reply and advice is what constitutes most of the Gita.

Just like Arjuna stood on the precipice of the battle, I stand on the precipice of mine.  Eighteen weeks of sacrifice and dedication and hard work. But I think about my dharma, my purpose, and what is right.  But unlike Arjuna, I don’t have Krishna as guide.  It’s just me.

These past two weeks I skipped out on holidays with family, so I can write and exercise.  I turned down invitations to social gatherings, because I was too busy or tired from work.  I spent time focusing on Pittsburgh and P3R when I could’ve been spending more time planning and perfecting lessons for my students.  I wasn’t even able to help one of my closest friends move into her new apartment. And between now and May 5th, there will be more of the same.  And it’ll only get worse once I start training for ultramarathons.

Is this selfish?

In my path to enlightenment and self-actualization, I am going to have to make difficult choices, just like Arjuna did.  Training for marathons is a commitment. So is writing. And they are also two of the most solitary activities humans can take part in.  But while I have to make tough decisions at times where I have to choose between myself and others, I remind myself that I do this for me.  So I can be fulfilled. And through that, I can fully give myself to others in those moments when I am able to. Completely unencumbered. Free.            

I want to be there for others.  Entirely. 100%. Running and writing allows me to do that.  It takes up a good chunk of my time, but it allows me to completely enjoy those few instances of respite with the people I care most about.  Whether that is a quick conversation at my grandparents’ house on my way home from work or a board game night with close friends. This gives me meaning and purpose and fills me with love that I am able to channel to others.  

~

 

The Writings of the Helping Friendly Book – Here is where I provide a quote of the week.  Usually from whatever I am currently reading.

 

“Even the best pep talk or self-help hack is nothing but a temporary fix.  It won’t rewire your brain. It won’t amplify your voice or uplift your life.  Motivation changes exactly nobody.”

 

– David Goggins “Can’t Hurt Me”

~

 

Scents and Subtle Sounds – Here is where I serve up a jam of the week.  A song that pumps me up and gets me ready to run.

 

“Harry Hood > Passing Through > Harry Hood” Phish – December 31, 2018

I am a total sucker for any “Harry Hood” jam, and while this wasn’t the best one I have seen live, it was definitely one of the most memorable.  My girlfriend and I had our best seats for any New Year’s Eve show at The Garden – just a few rows behind the stage. They hadn’t yet played the song during the four night run, so I knew it was probably coming this show.  When I heard the unmistakable beat emerge from Jon Fishman’s drum set towards the end of the second set, I knew it was on.

For anyone who hasn’t been to a Phish concert, there are some songs in which the fans have a “glowstick war” where hundreds upon hundreds of glowsticks are thrown into the air.  “Harry Hood” is one of them; during a few moments in the song, you’ll see the crowd in the arena light up in the fluorescent hue of the glowsticks.

One of those moments is the quiet part right before the jam.  As glowsticks were thrown into the air and the music mellowed, I couldn’t help but feel pure joy.  I had never seen “Harry Hood” played live at a New Year’s Eve show, and I think that added to my feeling of nostalgia in that instance.  The amazing year I had. The memories of the 22 other Phish shows I had been to over the years – many of them in this same arena. All of us there to listen to our favorite band.  But also to celebrate life.

As the jam builds and then slowed to a crawl, I saw Trey walk over to Page – we were maybe seventy feet from this interaction – and mouth something to him.  The end of “Harry Hood” is usually jubilant and triumphant, so when the jam started losing steam, I knew they had something up their sleeves. When they started playing one of their new songs – the fictional Kasvot Växt’s “Passing Through” – my suspicions were confirmed.

One of a few mashups on the weekend, it worked well, because the song fit “Harry Hood”’s general vibe.  It wasn’t a subtle transition into the song – certainly not as smooth as the mix of “Wolfman’s Brother” and “Party Time” three nights earlier – but it fit thematically nonetheless.  The chants of “Hey, way oh, way oh” echoed through MSG.

But I will be the first to admit that we as the audience dropped the ball, because it was clear the band wanted us to continue singing as they brought it back into “Hood.”  It made for an awkward transition as Fishman even feebly tried egging the crowd on with a quiet “Hey, way oh, way oh.” But all was forgiven when the familiar D-A-G chord progression signaled to all of us that “Harry Hood” – and set two – was about to go out with a bang.  

The final three minutes is why I love Phish, and they bring so much happiness to my life.  These type of jams are what got me into the band and got me into long distance running. The peak, the absolute bliss.  As Trey is wailing on his guitar and Page then brings the song back to the memorable outro, the crowd cheered loudly, and I couldn’t help but tear up because of the overwhelming happiness I felt in that moment.  A perfect way to cap an excellent year. You can feel good about Hood, indeed.

I listened to this song before heading out on my ten mile run on Saturday.  Sometimes we don’t specifically need pump up songs before working out. A specific song that carries significance in our lives is even more effective.   

~             

 

A Picture of Nectar – Here is where I insert the photo of the week.  I hate taking my phone on runs, so usually there is only one contender.

angrycatboy

A selfie with my cat, Carson, after my long run on Saturday.  This clown has so much personality, and here his grumpiness jumps out as if to say, “I’m hungry and instead of feeding me, you’re taking a photo with me?  I hate you, human.” Keep in mind, I had already fed him before stepping out the door, and I was only gone for less than two hours. After taking this photo and feeding him, my cats had already eaten twice in the day before I even put anything into my stomach.  I may have scored this cool photo that would’ve netted me a bunch of points if I was playing Pokémon Snap, but let’s be honest.  He knows how to play me to get what he wants.  I may have had a great kickoff training run, but he’s the real winner here.

~

 

The Final Hurrah – Here is where I conclude with a poem for the week.  Sometimes about running. Sometimes about something I thought of while running.  Haikus, tankas, sonnets, limericks – everything is fair game.

 

I wrote this tanka when I was in the sixth grade.  As I contemplate the dilemma that faces me on the dawn of another training – being present in others’ lives versus focusing on individual objectives like a marathon – this too also surfaced.  Even at such a young age, it seemed like I had a glimpse of what was in store for me years down the line.  

 

Friendships are fragile,

They can break into pieces

Destroyed forever.

Some will flourish as you grow.

That is a treasure of life.  


 

Set the Gearshift for the High Gear of Your Soul – Here is where I outline my training for the week.  The miles, the pace, where I ran, how I felt. All the logistics.

 

1/7/19: Cross-training: Gym workout – Circuit training

1/8/19: 3.00 miles (9:06 minutes/mile)

1/9/19: 5.00 miles (9:12 minutes/mile)

1/10/19: 3.00 miles (8:45 minutes/mile)  

1/12/19: 11.00 miles (9:05 minutes/mile)   

1/13/19: 5.00 miles (8:12 minutes/mile)

 

The second week of the Hal Higdon Intermediate 2 training plan increases the mileage by only one mile.  The long run on Saturday jumps from ten to eleven. So it is a very gentle increase before a step back the third week.  Which works well for me, because this is the first time I’m training in primarily minimalist shoes for the duration of an entire plan.  All the tendons and muscles in my feet and ankles are slowly getting acclimated.

On Monday though, I wanted to specifically go much harder.  I copped out of an intense cross-training session at the gym the week prior due to New Year’s Eve, so I wanted to make up for it this week.  I want to make sure that I’m giving the same effort on cross-training days (which wasn’t always necessarily the case when training in the past).  I fell into a bad habit of just including an extra rest day when I was supposed to cross-train, but now that I have a plan of attack at the gym, I have no excuses.

I went through an intense circuit training routine on Monday that consisted of deadlifts, kettlebell swings, and one of those dual action exercise air bikes.  I usually do twelve reps of both deadlifts and then kettlebell swings with no rest in between, and then hit the exercise bike at top speed for a full minute immediately after that.  I only allow myself thirty seconds of rest after each cycle. After six rounds of that, I had a good sweat going and was eager for more. After some split squats, calf raises, push-ups, pull-ups, hanging leg raises, and some time with the Stair Climber, battle rope, and Jacob’s Ladder, I was ready to call it a day.  I just created my new baseline for cross-training day.

After last week, I decided that most of my weekday runs would take place along the major thoroughfare near my apartment.  Yes, there were more cars I would have to deal with, but I would run in the opposite direction of traffic. Plus, the boulevard is well-lit, so there would be no need for a headlamp.  But the main reason why I wanted to run along this route was that I usually feel antsy when I run at night after work. I just want to get it over with, so I can relax at home. But running along this avenue, I force myself to stop at every stoplight and take the opportunity to stretch.  This slows and calms me down and teaches me not to force things to get it over with. Ironically, even though I am stopping to stretch, sometimes my pace during these runs are better than those in the park when I’m not stopping.

My fastest run was Thursday’s run, where I clocked an 8:45 minute per mile pace.  But that one shouldn’t coun,t because even though I was running along the boulevard and stopped at every light, I was rushing and running as fast as I could, because we were having dinner with my family for my mom’s and grandma’s birthday.  I was more encouraged by my weekend runs.

Saturday and Sunday both hovered around twenty-five degrees – the coldest days I had run in so far.  It can be tricky to run in the cold, because it takes a little extra time to warm up and get loose. In spite of that, I had some of my best runs in awhile.  

On Saturday’s eleven mile run, I hit a very comfortable pace that I felt I could maintain for an entire marathon and still have energy left at the end.  After four miles, my legs started to get into a rhythm, and I noticed that I was getting more of a push off on each step. Without even trying, I ended up with a negative split on the run, and my tenth mile turned out to be my fastest of the entire run.

Sunday I felt even better.  My momentum from Saturday carried over, and my first mile was under eight and a half minutes per mile.  I gained speed with each mile, and when I glanced at my watch after the fifth and final mile, I was elated that I was under eight minutes per mile.  Not that speed is my focus anymore, but it is super encouraging to feel like I’m getting faster. In fact, I can’t be sure, but ever since switching footwear and changing up my running form, I don’t think I’ve run a sub eight minute mile.  I wasn’t even sure I was ever going to be able to again. What’s more: my muscles and joints don’t ache as much as they used to after a tempo run.

I will say this though: the one area I need to improve on is with yoga.  Last Friday, I skipped it to visit my grandparents and this Friday I skipped it because of my hectic schedule.  I incorporated a warm up routine before my long run on Saturday and followed it up with a cool down routine after it.  But I need to make sure I make time on Fridays to include a lengthy session with plenty of hip openers. It is the one area in my body that I feel like could benefit from some stretching and strengthening.  My favorite video to use is Yoga With Adriene’s forty-five minute deep stretch routine. I’m considering keeping her warm up and cool down routines before the long run on Saturday anyway, but including the deep stretch routine will be a point of emphasis next week.  

~

 

Got a Clif Bar and Some Cold Green Tea – Here is where I write about nutrition for the week – usually something that is working for me or an issue that has come up in training.

 

Even though it makes me feel like a toddler, my favorite drink post workout is chocolate milk.  Usually, a glass of chocolate milk before bed is better for my body than any foam roller. Who knew that part of my bedtime routine as a kid would come back into my life when I became a budding ultramarathoner?

I was first introduced to this godsend after the Rock ‘n’ Roll Brooklyn Half Marathon, my first race.  When I crossed the finish line, I was ushered to the buffet line of post race goodies. I took the bottle of Gatorade, grabbed the bags of pretzels and potato chips, snagged the Clif Bar, and enjoyed the ripest banana I have ever had in my life (seriously, my girlfriend and I still talk about how delicious the bananas at this race were – no other banana has ever come close to topping it).  All of those foods made sense. But when I was offered some Nesquik, I was absolutely puzzled. I was sure I was going to eject whatever I had in my stomach onto the grassy turf of Prospect Park. Regardless, I shook the bottle and hoped for the best.

The second the cold, frothy libation touched my lips, I knew I was experiencing a sliver of heaven on earth.  I felt my body cartoonishly feel re energized, like Popeye downing spinach. I felt absolutely spent, and this was the only thing that kept me from collapsing.  

From what I’ve read, chocolate milk has a few things working in its favor.  First off, it’s a fluid, and any fluid is going to help rehydrate you. In addition, the carbs help replenish depleted glycogen stores, which give your muscles fuel.  Finally, the protein helps your muscles heal and recover after a strenuous workout. The fact that it is also tasty as hell is just an added bonus.

Since my midweek runs are in the evening, I have made sure not to fill up on dinner in order to make sure that I have enough room for a refreshing, tall glass of chocolate milk before bed.  Even though I may be sore in the moment, I usually wake up feeling completely rejuvenated and ready for my next training run. The same thing applies to cross-training; it works just as effectively after working out at the gym.   

To those of you who have never tried chocolate milk after a workout, there is no better time than the present.  And to those of you who have, then I raise my glass and toast to your health(y muscles).

~

    

Whatever You Do, Take Care of Your Shoes – Here is where I discuss what shoes I ran in during the week – if I ran in shoes at all!

 

It’s safe to say that the Monos – barring an unseasonably warm day – are retired for the season.  Running barefoot is also out of the question. So in essence, this leaves me to alternate between the Ghosts, Escalantes, and Vibrams.

The total tally for the week ended up being: 16 miles in the Altra Escalantes, 8 miles in the Vibram FiveFingers, and 3 miles in the Brooks Ghosts.  

It is absolutely heartbreaking, because they are probably my favorite “regular” running shoe.  But the Ghosts are falling well behind in the rotation. It’s nothing really against the shoe per se; they are extremely comfortable and provide a sufficient level of cushioning without being overbearing.  But when I wear them, it is just so easy to revert back to older bad habits and turn my brain off when I run. I don’t have to think about where I step, because I know the shoe will protect me. Also, they feel extremely heavy especially compared to the Lunas or Vibrams.  I just feel so much slower and clumsy in them. By keeping them around, I made it a point to not forget how to run in regular shoes, but it is becoming an absolute chore at the moment.

Even the Escalantes can feel heavy at times, but they feel so much more natural.  The zero drop in the heel gives me more explosion now that I’ve gotten used to running in them.  While they can feel clunky on shorter runs, the Altras really shine on the longer ones. The wide toe box is just what the doctor ordered when my foot starts to swell miles in.  It also allows me to wear multiple socks on long winter runs. It such a durable, sturdy shoes that I know can take the pounding of many miles on asphalt. I was thinking about the Strolling Jim 40 Mile Run (another race birthed from the twisted mind of Laz Lake of the Barkley Marathons) at some point down the line, and this shoe is almost definitely the one that would make the trip to Tennessee with me.

The unsung hero of this training so far though has been the Vibram FiveFingers.  They act as a way to recalibrate my running form, but now that I’ve gotten the hang of it, the biggest benefit of the Vibrams is that they are so light that I feel like I could go really fast in them.  Some of my fastest times in training have come while wearing the Vibrams. The issue I have to figure out is this: are they fast because I’m switching from a heavier shoe to lighter one – like the principle behind a batting donut in baseball?  Or is it because I’m running the day after a long run (though does this even make any sense? Why have my fastest runs each week come the morning after long run Saturday?)? Regardless, I want to continue to test my limits with the Vibrams and see how durable they really are.  

Though the Vibrams have also gotten me thinking about investing in racing flats again.  I know that’s how I sprained my foot, but I’m a completely different runner now. Maybe I’ll look into the Brooks Hyperions or the Altra Vanish-R (for the wide toe box primarily).  Any comments or suggestions for racing flats are more than welcome!

~

 

If Life Were Easy and Not So Fast… – Here is where I offer tips in mindfulness and staying present.  In running and in life.

 

One of the things that gets mentioned ad nauseam is focusing on one’s breath.  And here, I am going to mention it yet again, because it really is that important.  

In almost everything I do, breathing plays a vital role.  It has been said that running is 90% mental. While I completely agree with this sentiment, breathing probably comes in at 8%.  But that 8% arguably props up the 90%. It’s the Stockton to its Malone.

Listening to one’s breath is so important when running that it is a primary reason why I stopped listening to music altogether on runs.  I need to be able to control it, and I use the steady rhythm between my breath and my strides to center me. If I am running too fast, my breathing will be a telltale sign.  The piece of advice I always give people is you should be able to talk comfortably when you run but not be able to sing. That’s when I know I am right in that sweet spot.

I’ve been able to get rid of side stitches by focusing on my breath and making sure I inhale and exhale deeply.  No joke. I’ve also started to even use nasal strips upon the recommendation of ultrarunner Hal Koerner. As someone with a deviated septum, nasal strips have worked wonders for my running.

Breathing, however, has also had a similar effect on my meditation and in my life.  Your breath gives you something to stay grounded and present within your own body. Many times, especially if you are just starting out with a meditation practice, it is easy for one’s mind to wander.  Then, when we notice that our thoughts have drifted, we beat ourselves up for it and feel as if we have “failed” the meditation. Don’t look at is as a failure: it is simply an opportunity to bring your focus back on the breath.  In this case, I learned this lesson on the running trails and have been able to apply it to my meditation and yoga practices.

Whenever you are having a bad day and your mind is filled with anxious thoughts, it is just an opportunity to come back to the breath.  More often than not, breathing brings us back into the present moment and centers us.

Sometimes, it really is the simplest things that help us be mindful: our breath, the contact between the soles of our feet and the floor, or our heartbeat.  Use it to your advantage! Every moment is an opportunity to be present in your own body.

~

 

…On the Soul Planet – Here is where I share thoughts on the encounters with other people along my running trails.

 

As a white cisgender male, I am fully aware of many of the privileges that are afforded to me in life.  Some of them I experience while running. A perfect example took place during my run on Wednesday night.

On the docket was five miles.  I didn’t want to run three straight days along the boulevard out and back from my apartment, so I decided to head into the park near where I live.  By running along the main loop, then around the track, then along the circumference of each of the parking lots, and then along the pond before heading back to my apartment, I can usually push it to around five miles without having to head into the running trails in the marsh that lies over the bridge.  During the day, I love running in the wetlands. At night when you can’t see the animals that lurk, not so much. I have a headlamp I have used on occasion when I am feeling especially brave, but on this night, I opted for running around parking lots like the crazy person that I am.

As expected, there was nobody in the park at this time, save for a few cars passing through on their way home from a long day at work.  When I arrived at one of the remote areas of the park, that was when I noticed a parked car, but I assumed that nobody was in it. As I started running away from it, I noticed how wrong I was: the car started following me.

I didn’t think much of it until I saw the car was continuing to follow me as I crossed the long parking lot.  It maintained the same exact speed as I did and was on my tail. I didn’t want to flinch or show any sort of hesitation, so I kept going at my pace as it trailed me.  

When I got to the end of the parking lot and was prepared to turn, I knew this was my moment.  The driver hadn’t seen my face, so as I rounded the corner and was ready to come face to face with the car, I acted like it was too hot out (it definitely wasn’t).  I took off my winter hat and bulky sweatshirt to reveal a shaved head (that is complemented with a healthy amount of facial hair) and a form fitting muscle tee. As quickly as the car began following me, it was even quicker driving the hell away from there.  

I don’t share this story to brag about what a tough guy I am (I’m definitely not).  I have pulled similar moves when I would be followed when I first moved into this neighborhood, and it was much shadier than it is now.  In fact, that was a contributing factor to why I shaved my head when my hairline started receding. A lion will hunt a Thomson’s gazelle; it won’t mess with an animal it’s unsure about.  

I share this story as a word of caution.  This story could have had a different outcome, especially if I was female.  Not everyone we come across on the running trails has the best intentions. That’s why we have to be mindful and super vigilant of our surroundings.  It has happened before where I run down a block and am greeted with waves. Later on, my girlfriend runs down the same block and is greeted with leers.  It is unfair, and it makes me super appreciative that I am able to run at any time that is convenient to me without having to consider the ramifications.         

   I will say this, if I am ever mugged during a run, they will be just as disappointed as the people that have broken in to my car in the past I’m sure have been.  They will only make out with one, maybe two energy gels, and the cheapest model of a girl’s running watch (which I decided on my last run, I’m naming Cleo).

That being said, maybe I’ll opt for the marsh next time instead of the abandoned parking lots.        

~   

 

Concepts I’ll Ponder – Here is where I discuss one pressing thought that has come up in my training – either in the middle of a long run, in the shower, as I drive to work.  Usually a large scale problem I am tackling.

 

Sometimes when I run in Liberty State Park, I think of An American Tail – an animated film I loved when I was really young.  You probably know the movie: it’s the story of Fievel, a mouse who immigrated to the United States, was separated from his family, and then spent most of the movie searching for them.  

But I specifically think about the song from the movie: “Somewhere Out There” by Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram (who seemingly is involved in almost every duet from the 1980s).  When I saw the movie for the first time and specifically remembered the song – first introduced in the film when Fievel and his sister Tanya sing to each other under the night sky even though they are miles away and looking for each other – I cried myself to sleep that night.  I was probably a few years old when I first saw it, so this is definitely one of my first memories. But I remember thinking – and dreading – what it would be like to be separated from my family: my parents, my sister, my grandparents, and my great-grandparents. Even though I hadn’t experienced anything remotely like Fievel went through, the scene had tapped into my darkest fear of losing a loved one.  

Maybe it’s seeing Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty in the background and remembering Fievel’s journey that brings my mind to this memory.  Maybe it’s the vastness of running under the clear sky that stretches as far as the eye can see across the bay. Thinking that maybe we’re all looking up at that same sky – the same clouds – on this Saturday morning.  We’re all under its protective blanket together.

I think of the distance between everyone I care about.  My sister is in Texas. My brother in Miami and potentially moving to Seattle.  Most of my closest friends are split between California, Georgia, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Wisconsin.  I think about when my grandpa came to this country from Cuba. He was separated for awhile from my grandma and my mom, who was just a child at the time, while he tried to start a life for all of them in the U.S.  That time away must have been difficult for all of them. But it was a sacrifice that had to be made.

At some point, we also might be moving.  And I think about what it would feel like if I have to do the same thing.  To leave behind my girlfriend and my cats for a little while while I start building the foundation for our lives together.                   

The thought makes my eyes water even more than they already were with the pounding of the cold winter wind coming off of the Hudson.  But like in the movie and in the song, it is comforting to know we’re sleeping underneath the same big sky, wishing on the same bright star that we would be reunited.  It gives my run that morning direction and meaning. If I am able to cross off the weeks of a marathon training plan, I am also able to also count down any amount of time where I would have to be away from those closest to me.  Maybe the loneliness of running would be my only solace in the face of crippling sadness.

Also, can we talk about how cats are always the villains in movies?

~

 

The Writings of the Helping Friendly Book – Here is where I provide a quote of the week.  Usually from whatever I am currently reading.

“If you have worked for thirty years doing the same [thing]* you’ve hated day in and day out because you were afraid to quit and take a risk, you’ve been living like a [wimp]*.  Period, point blank. Tell yourself the truth! That you’ve wasted enough time, and that you have other dreams that will take courage to realize, so you don’t die a [pathetic wimp]*.”

– David Goggins “Can’t Hurt Me”

* – Words and phrases were altered in order to keep my blog as family-friendly as possible.

~

 

Scents and Subtle Sounds – Here is where I serve up a jam of the week.  A song that pumps me up and gets me ready to run.

 

“Where We’re Going” Hans Zimmer – “Interstellar: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack”

When I was training for the Chowdah Challenge, I started listening to movie soundtracks when I would warm up for runs since I stopped listening to music during them.  It didn’t have to be stereotypical soundtracks like Rocky or Chariots of Fire.  In fact, two of my favorites were the soundtracks of Inception and Interstellar, both by Hans Zimmer.

Rotten Tomatoes be damned, I actually loved Interstellar.  But truth be told, I’m a sucker for anything by Christopher Nolan, so I may be biased.  If you haven’t see it, it’s a thought-provoking film set in a dystopian future where astronauts travel through a wormhole to try and search for a new planet that humans can inhabit.  The movie deals with themes such as isolation, love, family, human connection, time travel, endurance, survival, and sacrifice. Yep, right up my wheelhouse.

The song “Where We’re Going” stood out in particular, because it came at a significant moment in the film.  As I prepare for my eleven mile run and start putting on multiple layers of clothing and stare into my Accountability Mirror, I think about how malleable time is.  Past, present, future all melds into one and affects each other. Who I was informs who I will be. The things I do now are a product of the past and affect my future.  They are all connected by one strand.

This song slows down time for me.  It grounds me to the present and allows me to view the past, present, and future and the magnitude of it all with an omniscient perspective.  It truly encapsulates the sheer power of time and space and gets me into the right frame of mind heading into a run or going to work. It lets me stare into the sky and contemplate the mysteries of the universe and life.

~             

 

A Picture of Nectar – Here is where I insert the photo of the week.  I hate taking my phone on runs, so usually there is only one contender.

 

mebaby

 

All of this thinking about childhood, An American Tail, the sky and the universe, time travel and Interstellar came to a synchronous conclusion when I received the above photo in a text message from my sister.  This was me probably around the time I saw An American Tail for the first time.

I wish I could talk to that kid like Matthew McConaughey did through that wall.  I want to be able to tell him to hold on tight. To be prepared for the journey. To never let that light go out.  You have no idea what lies ahead.

That same person is buried underneath it all.  Past, present, and future all melds into one. This is me.  This has always been me. It used to only come out with the assistance of psychedelics.  Now, I can summon him after a long run or a lengthy writing session or a deep conversation.

This might be more relevant to the training story than any staged photo of me running would be.  Because what are we if not a product of our pasts?

~

 

The Final Hurrah – Here is where I conclude with a poem for the week.  Sometimes about running. Sometimes about something I thought of while running.  Haikus, tankas, sonnets, limericks – everything is fair game.

 

The streets are empty

Howl and listen for a sound

Nobody responds

 

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Set the Gearshift for the High Gear of Your SoulHere is where I outline my training for the week.  The miles, the pace, where I ran, how I felt. All the logistics.

 

1/14/19: Cross-training: Yoga (45 minutes)

1/15/19: 3.00 miles (9:27 minutes/mile)

1/16/19: 6.00 miles (10:08 minutes/mile)

1/17/19: 3.00 miles (9:46 minutes/mile)  

1/18/19: Cross-training: Yoga (1 hour & 15 minutes)   

1/19/19: 8.00 miles (9:05 minutes/mile)

1/20/19: 6.00 miles (9:09 minutes/mile)

 

A few things immediately jump out when you look at the schedule for the week.

The first thing is the total mileage.  Every third week on most of Hal Higdon’s training plans are “step back” weeks, where you cut mileage a little bit to allow your body to recover.  But more importantly, it helps you get ready for the increase in mileage the next week. One step backwards to take two steps forward essentially.  Scheduled step back weeks are crucial to any training plan; I didn’t incorporate any during my training for Cape Cod and ended up paying the price. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake this go around.  

The next thing that jumps out is I skipped cross-training at the gym on Monday, and instead opted for a little bit of extra yoga.  After skipping my planned yoga session Friday of the second week, I noticed my body was a little tense after the weekend long runs.  So I opted for flexibility and recovery over strength and explosion. It was a reminder that everyday serves a purpose and to avoid skipping days if at all possible.  So on Monday I focused on a deep stretch, pranayama routine that helped clear my mind after a long day at work and heal my muscles. Even though I did yoga on Monday, I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again and skip Friday’s session.  I went back to it and even included some work on my feet in the routine. My plantar fasciitis predicament is nearly completely resolved, so I figured a little extra love couldn’t hurt in the healing process. If that wasn’t enough, I did some pre-run and post-run yoga routines before my run on Saturday.  Especially with all the hip openers I incorporated, I definitely felt the difference on my runs.

The final thing that jumps out is probably the most significant: what happened to my pace?  

This is probably the most encouraging thing about this week.  After the previous Sunday’s five mile run where I averaged a shade over eight minutes per mile (where I even ran a sub eight minute mile on the final one), I knew what I had to do: I completely shut it down and lay off the throttle.  There is absolutely nothing for me to prove during the training. I can’t let my ego get in the way. I have to make sure I’m going slower and taking my time in order to avoid injury. I need to save my effort for race day.

But of course, I can be my own worst enemy.  When Cleo beeps and lets me know what my mile split is, it’s human nature to want to go faster.  So I need to put measures in place to stop myself. During the week, I am now exclusively running along the major boulevard near my apartment.  It can be monotonous running on the same sidewalk there and back, but it essentially becomes an improvised fartlek workout. I use the traffic lights to dictate my speed and pace.  When it tells me to stop, I take the opportunity to stop and stretch, maybe walk around a little. So with stopping to stretch and varying my speed along the way, it’s possible these weekday runs are serving me better than if I was just running in the park at an 80% effort week after week, risking injury.  We’ll see if it pays off in the end, but my performance on the weekend runs keeps me hopeful. I definitely wasn’t even close to pushing myself and my pace hovered around nine minutes per mile.

Overall, this was an extremely important week in the training, and I felt like it could’ve even been a turning point.  When I noticed my speed was starting to return, I had the sense to dial it back and focus on maintenance. As they say, sometimes the best ability is availability.    

~

               

Got a Clif Bar and Some Cold Green TeaHere is where I write about nutrition for the week – usually something that is working for me or an issue that has come up in training.

This is a problem I’ve dealt with for most of my life.  It probably stems from the fact that I come from a Hispanic household, where it is imperative that you finish your plate.  My friends: I’m talking about the affliction known as overeating (who am I kidding, I also just really love food).

That was part of the reason why I really took to distance running at first, especially in contrast to weightlifting or other forms of exercise.  You mean I could eat and drink practically anything I wanted with little or no repercussions? Sign me up!

Not so fast.  Especially so early in my training, I’ve definitely feel the effects a day after I really stuff myself.  I’m talking multiple large plates of pasta, full roasted chicken with a tray of rice – really swinging for the fences here.  

It’s tricky to make sure you are getting enough calories to fuel a run where you may be burning over a thousand, sometimes two.  But too much is no good, and it starts to be detrimental.

I’ve introduced a novel concept during mealtimes that has completely changed the way I eat and how I feel during runs: I stop eating when I’m full.  Mind blowing I know, but it has been an absolute game-changer. I’m not starving myself and watching what I eat, so I have enough fuel for my runs. But I’m also no overdoing it.  So when I do run, I feel much lighter. Even though it’s not my goal, maybe this will lead to me losing weight. But more importantly, I don’t have that terrible feeling after I eat a gigantic meal where I feel like someone has to roll me around.  

It all comes down to slowing down and listening to my body.  I overeat when I am stressed and especially when the food is delicious.  By slowing down, my stomach has time to send my brain the signal that I’m actually full and to stop shoveling stuff down my gullet.  No matter how tasty it is. And if I get hungry later, then I’ll just have a quick snack to hold me over.

Besides, I’m looking to become the next Hal Koerner, not the next Joey Chestnut.  I don’t need to spend $20 every time I go to Taco Bell; save it for after the race.       

~

    

Whatever You Do, Take Care of Your ShoesHere is where I discuss what shoes I ran in during the week – if I ran in shoes at all!

There were only two shoes I brought to the dance this week, and it should be no surprise if you’ve been following thus far.  I alternated between my Altras and Vibrams, totaling fourteen miles in the former and twelve miles in the latter. At this point, they are 1A and 1B; the Altras are the workhouse – that top of the rotation innings-eater – while the Vibrams have been offering speed and a focus on my foot strike and form.  If the marathon were tomorrow, I truly don’t know which I would choose (and to further complicate matters, I am very seriously considering racing flats). Luckily, there are still fifteen weeks to go to make that decision. Plus, I’ve never put serious miles on the Vibrams. Perhaps the thirteen mile run that awaits me in Week 4 will be the perfect opportunity to put them to the test…              

~

 

If Life Were Easy and Not So Fast…Here is where I offer tips in mindfulness and staying present.  In running and in life.

Sometimes I don’t listen to my own advice.  Especially during times like these. So this is more for more me than it is for you.

Meditate.  Even when you don’t think you have time.  Especially when you don’t think you have time.  You may have a ton of other things to do. But when you’ve had a moment to yourself, the load feels a lot more manageable.  

Our lives are so busy.  Take a second to slow down.  It makes a big difference. Clarity.  You deserve it. A moment of relaxation before bed isn’t enough.  

When you reach for your phone instinctually – without purpose, without any clear reason for doing so – take a few deep breaths instead.  You’ll be thankful you did.

~

 

…On the Soul PlanetHere is where I share thoughts on the encounters with other people along my running trails.

I got my first words of encouragement during a run for the training.  It came during one of my weekday runs along the main road.

Since these runs take place in the evenings after work, I am usually the only one running.  Actually, I’m always the only one running. It’s cold, dark, and no one else besides me is going to run the sidewalks of Jersey City at that time of night.  But there are plenty of people walking – either on their way home or from the grocery store or heading to the bus stop to get home. My cheerleader was one of these.

I used to be scared of hecklers when I first started running.  Especially running in a city and especially since many of my trails take me near high schools, this is only logical.  But I’ve found in my experience that the people who cheer you on come from a sincere and authentic place, rather than a sarcastic one.

I used to not know how respond when I was greeted with a,”Way to go!” or a “Keep it up!”.  I would just smile and wave and go about my business. And this is what I usually do. Except when I come across someone like I did this past week.  

As he was headed my direction, before we locked eyes with each other, it was easy to tell from the bag he was carrying, the look on his face, and the way his shoulders slumped that he was coming from work.  When he saw me, his face transformed: he smiled and gave me a: “Keep it up, way to get after it.”

I smiled back, and responded with the same thing I awkwardly say to the guy who rips your tickets at the movie theatres when he tells you to enjoy your movie before I have a chance to catch myself: “You too!”

Except it’s not a slip.  I truly mean it. In that moment, we’re both tired.  Me from my run, him from work. It would certainly be easier to not even bother: for me to skip my run or for him to take a day off of work.  But we’re both putting in the hours and putting in the miles.

His face brightened when I said it.  He understood what I was putting down.  

Let’s not forget to wave hello to the non-runners out there on the trails.  There are lessons all around us – people we can learn from – if we are open to the experiences and not shut off in our own little worlds.                

~   

 

Concepts I’ll PonderHere is where I discuss one pressing thought that has come up in my training – either in the middle of a long run, in the shower, as I drive to work.  Usually a large scale problem I am tackling.

So I have a confession.  I’m just going to come out with it, because that’s just my style.

I recently had an interview for a job that would’ve forced us to move from New Jersey.  It may have contributed to my thoughts and feelings in last week’s notebook, and it definitely influenced this week’s training.  Even this notebook to an extent as I reread it. It’s difficult seeing the forest for the trees where you are in the midst of it all.  

Spoiler alert: I didn’t get it.  I’m not exactly heartbroken, because it did come up at a pretty inconvenient time – especially in the middle of the school year.  It also just came up out of the blue; it wasn’t something I was actively seeking.

Still, I’m not going to lie and say that a small part of me isn’t bummed.  It’s no surprise that my girlfriend and I are looking to one day leave this area, and this would’ve given us a pretty nice setup.  If I closed my eyes and envisioned the future, this alternate future definitely seemed like a very real possibility. And we were intrigued, even excited by it.

But that’s what makes me who I am.  I know, more than most, that the path to success isn’t linear.  We all expect it to be. But it ain’t. When we’re working hard and everything is looking up in our lives, we are expecting for that final satisfying payoff that is supposed to come after the montage.

But life doesn’t work that way.  It would’ve made too much sense after all the work I put in and what I have overcome to get a close to ideal job that sends me away from the New York City metropolitan area.  That would’ve been too easy.

No.  There is more work to be done.  I’m not finished. I’m not there yet.  And that’s the mentality I need to take.

Marathon training is the same way.  We might not see the improvements, the small victories.  Sometimes the negatives are more apparent than the positives.  It’s easy to get discouraged when you aren’t getting to the payoff.  

But progress isn’t linear.  Instead, sometimes we just have to trust the process.  We might not see those small improvements because we don’t have that big payoff, but that doesn’t mean that you’re doing something wrong.  That it’s not working. Sometimes the biggest thing is to block out the noise and self doubt and just keep at it. Either at work, applying for jobs, or training for a marathon.  

I can focus on the small bump in the road.  Or I can choose what to give importance to. I trust the process.  I trust where I’m going. I just have to keep at it. One step at a time.   

~

           

The Writings of the Helping Friendly BookHere is where I provide a quote of the week.  Usually from whatever I am currently reading.

Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive then in a fog, and I believe running helps you to do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life”

 

– Haruki Murakami “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running”

~

 

Scents and Subtle SoundsHere is where I serve up a jam of the week.  A song that pumps me up and gets me ready to run.

Animals” Pink Floyd

If I’m going to put Pink Floyd in here, I can’t really just put one song; I have to put up an entire album.  This is the only way to properly consume the band. And there’s no better one to stick in here than 1977’s concept album Animals, one of their more underrated works.  Sure, it’s hard to call an album that topped the charts in both the United States and United Kingdom “underrated”, but anything that’s not The Dark Side of the Moon or The Wall is underrated in my eyes.  Besides, it’s my favorite Pink Floyd album, which is definitely not a popular opinion.

When I was in high school and first got into the band, I immediately fell in love with The Wall.  The themes of isolation and abandonment resonated with what I was feeling at the time.  As the years went on and I became a part of the workforce, I definitely began to gravitate towards Animals and its Orwellian undertones.

There are only four songs on the album (five if you count the two parts of “Pigs on the Wing” as separate), and each is characterized by a different – you guessed it – animal.  They are meant to symbolize the various classes in society.

The “dogs” are the everyday businessmen: an empty existence, a loss of individuality, and simply following the orders of their master or superiors.  The unaware “sheep” who are satisfied with grazing in the field, enjoying the spoils of this life. And the greedy and ruthless “pigs” who rule over it all.  I mean, it really is no wonder teenage stoners everywhere bond over this band. But this album strikes a really dark and haunting chord when you are older.

I don’t intend to write a Sociology 101 paper here or debate the social commentary of the album.  The thing that looms over me – especially during a week that I’ve had to confront the future as far as my career and profession is concerned – is how do I balance that idealism from when I was younger with the practicality of the real world.  Almost everywhere I turn, I see people defined by their jobs and completely burnt out by the stresses. I see myself naturally gravitate towards mindless activities that help dull the ache. How do we stop ourselves from becoming dogs while also not succumbing to the temptation of becoming a sheep?  

Running and writing definitely help, but as the pressure mounts, it is hard to disconnect enough to be able to do this.  It takes a little more work and effort. Everything becomes a chore.

We are meant for more than this.       

   ~

 

A Picture of NectarHere is where I insert the photo of the week.  I hate taking my phone on runs, so usually there is only one contender.

medal monday

Courtesy of my girlfriend’s office Secret Santa – we now have a place to hang up (some) or our bibs and medals.  It’s been great motivation having to pass by it every time I step outside for a run, reminding myself of what I have accomplished.  But more importantly, what I have yet to accomplish. What hardware I am going to add to the collection. An exciting 2019 awaits, and I have even more things I’m brainstorming for the following year.  Buckle up, we’ve only just begun.

~

 

The Final HurrahHere is where I conclude with a poem for the week.  Sometimes about running. Sometimes about something I thought of while running.  Haikus, tankas, sonnets, limericks – everything is fair game.

 

Dogs, pigs, sheep, and me

We are all just cogs in it

Follow your own path

~

______________________________________________________________________

 

Set the Gearshift for the High Gear of Your SoulHere is where I outline my training for the week.  The miles, the pace, where I ran, how I felt. All the logistics.

 

1/21/19: Cross-training: Gym workout – Circuit training

1/22/19: 3.00 miles (9:55 minutes/mile)

1/23/19: 6.00 miles (9:47 minutes/mile)

1/24/19: 3.00 miles (10:06 minutes/mile)  

1/25/19: Cross-training: Yoga (45 minutes)   

1/26/19: 13.00 miles (9:33 minutes/mile)

1/27/19: 6.00 miles (8:38 minutes/mile)

 

This week, the mileage jumped up by five miles total – all of which came on Saturday.  Which means that on Saturday I practically ran a half marathon. Which was a reminder that I’m on five weeks away from the Hampton Half Marathon – my first race since Cape Cod.  

I needed the extra yoga last week, but I missed the strength training at the gym.  I didn’t have as much power in my legs last week, and my body just felt weaker in general.  I made it a point to get back into the gym for my usual Monday session (it helped that I was off from work due to the holiday).

I eased my way back into it with barbell back squats, pull ups, hanging leg raises, goblet squats, kettlebell swings, push ups, and some time on the battle rope and elliptical machine.  Even after just a week away from the gym, I definitely felt the layoff in my muscles. Because of it, I was glad I got back into the gym and vowed to do everything in my power not to miss another session.  After skipping yoga two weeks ago and now strength training, I realized just how essential both are going to be in the training. I’d almost rather skip a run if anything!

For the next two days, I continued my strategy of running alone the main road and stopping to stretch at every traffic light.  My hamstrings were tender and sore from the kettlebell swings on Monday, so I was running on tired legs the entire week. In spite of this, I was fairly happy with my splits, especially since I wasn’t going my fastest.  Plus, my legs felt like they were getting stronger as the week progressed.

I decided to incorporate a hill workout on Thursday.  I chose the biggest hill near my apartment – more than 100 foot climb over the span of a quarter mile – and just did repeats up and down until I hit the required three miles.  Considering this was my first ever workout strictly on a hill, I felt I did alright – even though I looked like lunatic going up and down.

After another Yoga With Adriene deep stretch video on Friday, it was time for the Saturday long run.  Saturdays and Sundays are the days when I could run in daylight, so I take advantage by running along my favorite paths: Lincoln Park and Liberty State Park.  Since I’m not close to vehicular traffic for the most part during these runs, I also try to take advantage and run as much consecutively as possible since during the week I’m stopping at major intersections.  

Saturday felt incredible.  It was a reminder why I prefer long distances over short ones.  I felt so good that I didn’t even consume the energy gel that I brought along with me.  I went at a slow, comfortable pace and even still was able to manage about nine and a half minutes per mile.  I had participated in a Reddit AMA with one of my favorite runners, Camille Herron, just a few days earlier. She had mentioned that she liked to run her longs runs at a pace of eight to nine minutes per mile.  Hey, if it’s good enough for a world record holder then it’s good enough for me.

I work up the next day with the greatest soreness in my calves.  I can’t even describe the feeling, it just felt like they were getting tighter and stronger.  Nothing was bothering me: knees, hips, adductors, heel. All the usual trouble spots. I knew I was ready for more miles.  So I set off with the same idea of taking it slow. But my legs carried me to a pace of eight and a half minutes per mile. Any doubt I had about whether or not I was getting faster with my new strategy had vanished.  Because I could have pushed the pace much much more. I was hardly out of breath when I finished the run. My legs and body feel the healthiest they’ve been since probably as long as I can remember. It was a week where everything clicked, and I know I am ready for the miles to start piling on as long as I continue exactly what I’m doing.  

~

               

Got a Clif Bar and Some Cold Green TeaHere is where I write about nutrition for the week – usually something that is working for me or an issue that has come up in training.

I had to make a major tweak this week as far as my diet is concerned.  This one thought I think has some staying power.

One of the many problems that I’ve been running into with running at night during the week is my diet.  I’ve made it no secret that I enjoy running on an empty stomach in the mornings, so my usual lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with some pretzels and energy bars has proven to be way too much.  I feel bloated during my runs and then feel full again after them when I have dinner right before I go to bed soon thereafter. I feel great on the weekends when I can go for my morning run after a cup of tea, but I needed to figure out something during the week.

I tried to extend my intermittent fast to encompass lunchtime, but that was too excessive.  I couldn’t consume enough calories in the evening to last me until my run the next day. So instead, I looked at my schedule and borrowed some of the things that had worked for me before in the past.

On the days I would run during the week, I would go back to a sort of cyclic ketogenic diet.  Instead of carb laden PB&J sandwiches, my lunch would consist of jerky, cheese, and nuts. Any carbs would have to come after my workout.

My issue with the keto diet when I tried it was that I wasn’t able to consume enough calories to sustain my long runs.  But that wasn’t going to be an issue during the week, where the mileage on a single run would top out at ten miles – and that wasn’t until a few months from now.  I preferred a cyclic ketogenic diet, but just didn’t want to be constricted by what and how I eat. Since this would only be for three days out of the week, it would give me plenty of flexibility.  

The results were immediate.  I felt much better on my runs.  It possibly also contributed to not needing to take an energy gel during my thirteen mile run on Saturday since I wasn’t so reliant on carbs.  

In general, now that I’m no longer a pescatarian/vegetarian, I have also cut down on my carb intake drastically.  I focus more on balance in my meals: meat, carbs, veggies, and healthy fats. But the biggest change has come with switching up what I eat for lunch three days out of the week when I can’t run in the morning.  I certainly get some strange looks in the teacher’s lounge as I munch on slices of cheese, but considering I’m usually sitting alone in a corner browsing Reddit, I’m definitely not concerned with winning any popularity contests at work.         

~

    

Whatever You Do, Take Care of Your ShoesHere is where I discuss what shoes I ran in during the week – if I ran in shoes at all!

The big piece of news in this department is I did what I set out to do last week: I wanted to test out my Vibrams on the thirteen mile run.

After running to two three milers in my Altra Escalantes and used my Brooks Ghosts during my six mile run (I opted for the Brooks because of how sore my legs were from the gym two days prior and wanted to give them a little bit of a rest with the extra cushion), it was time to take the Vibrams out for a spin.  

The most I had ever run in my FiveFingers was somewhere around seven or eight miles before my feet started blistering and the top of my feet started getting sore.  But I realized that this was early on in my barefoot adventure. I had learned so much since then and had improved my running form drastically. So I applied some Foot Glide on the problem areas on my feet, slid on my toe socks, and then put my Vibrams on after that.  

I can honestly say that the first mile felt almost no different than the last mile.  The lightness and effortlessness was no surprise, but at no point were my feet sore or hurting or blistering.  Even the temperature didn’t bother my feet. I had successfully completed nearly a half marathon in the FiveFingers and knew I could’ve done more.  In my eyes, they are on par with the Altras and Lunas as far long run options go. If I don’t get racing flats before the Hampton Half, then I might just go with the Vibrams.

Speaking of the Lunas, it was warm enough on Sunday to give them a go the day after my long run.  I easily put the six miles on them and achieved the fastest average pace of the week. It led to a very balanced week where the final tally was six miles each between the Altras, Brooks, and Lunas with thirteen miles in my Vibrams.  I can’t recommend switching between shoes enough; my feet and legs feel fantastic thus far.

~

 

If Life Were Easy and Not So Fast…Here is where I offer tips in mindfulness and staying present.  In running and in life.

One of the things that has come up recently is how impatient and anxious I feel when things are coming to an end and I’m waiting for the next thing.  This was especially true for the last few weeks at work when I thought that potentially I would be working elsewhere at an undetermined date in the near future.  It made my days feel longer and more unbearable than usual. I was crankier with my students, I had zero work ethic, and the minutes dragged on and felt like hours.

I realize where else I have felt this way, and it should come as no surprise if you’ve been reading so far.  You guessed it: on the running trails. Shorter runs have always been more difficult for me than longer ones, because I am constantly glancing at Cleo hoping she tells I have reached the end.  Even on the longer runs, the last few miles are always the most difficult – not because I am physically more tired – but because I am waiting for the end to come. This was especially true during my first half marathon and in my first marathon.  

When we see that the end is in sight, it is human nature to get impatience and anxious.  Take a step back and listen to how you’re feeling. Listen to your body and your breath. Knowing the endpoint causes us to feel this way, but what if we stop thinking about that endpoint?  Nothing changed from one minute to the next – just what’s going on in your head. If we don’t know the distance or time or when it is going to end, our brain is forced to recalibrate. We automatically bring ourselves into the present, rather than push ourselves into the future.         

Like magic, once I got word that I was no longer being considered for the job, work got a little more tolerable.  My students became funnier. I actually wanted to plan my lessons (well, wanted is maybe a strong word…I did it at least).  The passing of time had resumed its normal speed.

Be sensitive to triggers in your life such as waiting for in a long line at the grocery store or having to suffer through a grueling commute or even just waiting for your laundry to dry.  Listen to yourself, but instead of resisting the impatience you feel, just recalibrate the endpoint. By shifting our expectations, it creates space in your head to focus on the more important thing: the present moment.

  ~

 

…On the Soul PlanetHere is where I share thoughts on the encounters with other people along my running trails.

It’s clear to me that a lot has been on my mind.  It’s clear to me as I read over the training notebooks for this week and last week.  Couple in that I missed the update last week, and alarms should be going off that something is definitely up.

I won’t go too deep into specifics.  It’s always different for me talking about something while going through it it as opposed to after having gone through it.  But for this section, my most important encounter(s) with others did not come on the running trails. Here is the SparkNotes version:

My grandparents were taking down and putting away their Christmas tree that they put up every year.  It is an elaborate display with collections of ornaments that span many years. My grandpa was taking down one of the boxes full of ornaments when he lost his footing on the staircase and hit the back of his head on a hard wooden stair.  

He suffered what was originally diagnosed as a minor skull fracture, broken neck, and concussion.  But the most troubling thing was the internal bleeding into his brain. If it would’ve continued, he would’ve died, and they weren’t exactly painting a pretty picture for my grandma when they first took him into the hospital.  

Luckily he is much better now.  He needed a plate in his skull and a spinal fusion to his C1 and C2 vertebrae, but he has a collar and is sitting up and walking around.  He is extremely lucky to be alive, never mind have full function of all his extremities.

As I mentioned in the last training notebook, it almost impossible for me to see the forest for the trees.  In the third week, the big dilemma I had to overcome was not getting a job. This week, it was this. But these events no doubt have an influence on my training and impact my story of the Pittsburgh Marathon.  It’s just hard to tell it in real-time when I can only do what I have learned thus far in life: to just march forward. Just know that all of the interactions I have had with family members during this period is what will endure when this is over.  It’s just hard to tell the story when you don’t have an endpoint yet. These are just notes for me – mile markers – that I can look back on when it is time to tell the entire story.

~   

 

Concepts I’ll PonderHere is where I discuss one pressing thought that has come up in my training – either in the middle of a long run, in the shower, as I drive to work.  Usually a large scale problem I am tackling.

As I mentioned, these two training notebooks have been the toughest for me to write.  The least of my problems was not getting a job I was pretty excited to get. My grandpa had a nasty spill, I was in and out of the hospital, had to navigate through family drama that has a tendency to surface when something like this happens, still managed to get my training in and keep my focus, and spent an entire weekend writing two blog posts while my head is spinning.  This will make subsequent training notebooks and post seem like a cakewalk.

When I set out for my first series “The Eternal Saturn Return” I didn’t have a goal in mind.  I just wanted to share my story, so I had a record of it. What I have been through. And it gave me a compass for where I am going next.  For this series that chronicles my training, I am posting as things happen, so I don’t have the luxury of hindsight or seeing things from an omniscient point of view.  It leads to a much more disjointed narrative and resembles what I actually set out for this series: a notebook of my thoughts.

This isn’t a finished product.  Hell, my first series isn’t a finished product.  Because now, I know more or less the direction I want to go.  This blog will merely act as notes for the bigger project that is yet to come.  I have already had the advantage of living through all of the other stuff I wrote about.  I just had to tap into the memories that had been locked away for so long. Now, I just need to write about the things that come up.  This isn’t the final destination, but it will help give me a road map for where I want to get to.

I always knew the Pittsburgh chapter in my life would be about duty – as a partner, son, grandson, brother, teacher, friend.  And honor. Responsibility. And purpose. A confluence of everything I have learned in life thus far. Uniting a family. Improving my running.  Contemplating the future. Especially when it comes to my career and my life with girlfriend and the family we want to start together. And what I want to do in the future and does that come in conflict with it all.  Self-actualization.

Who knew it only took a few weeks for things to get so real?  And for all of those themes to already start manifesting themselves.

So please excuse the mess as I collect myself.  Like in a game of “Pictionary”, it may not make much sense now.  But there is definitely a plan that is starting to take shape.  

~

 

The Writings of the Helping Friendly BookHere is where I provide a quote of the week.  Usually from whatever I am currently reading.

“You don’t stop running because you get old, you get old because you stop running.”

– Christopher McDougall “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World has Never Seen”

~

 

Scents and Subtle SoundsHere is where I serve up a jam of the week.  A song that pumps me up and gets me ready to run.

“Daughter/It’s OK” Pearl Jam – August 3, 2000

When things got really heavy with my family, the music of Pearl Jam was the soundtrack and helped me ride those waves.  The words of Eddie Vedder and his experiences acted as my muse when I was too lazy and depressed to give my turmoil and heartache a voice.

During a time like this when I am forced to confront my past, I would expect other Pearl Jam songs to emerge from the recesses of my mind.  Instead, during a run late one night after getting back from the hospital – that acted more as a way to blow off steam than anything – this particular version of “Daughter” popped into my head.  Not so much the song itself, but the “It’s OK” refrain that accompanied it.

Any Pearl Jam aficionado knows that one of the most heavily sought after tags is Dead Moon’s “It’s OK” inserted into their song “Daughter.”  They will sometimes embed Dead Moon’s song into their own, and it becomes a cathartic and euphoric moment that can transform a show.

  According to their website, they first did this mashup in 1996.  But that was probably the first performance of note. It was the band’s first show after the tragedy at Roskilde, where nine people died during their set at the festival.  Because of this, the band seriously considered retiring at this point and it dramatically altered the course of their career.

As this section of the song begins, Vedder asks the crowd to do something.  He laments that the last time he asked a crowd to do something it was under completely different circumstances.  Emotion oozes from him as he interacts with the crowd, but he welcomes the opportunity to start anew.

My mom and I used to watch movies together when I was a kid.  The last movie we watched together before that fateful night eight years ago was Pearl Jam Twenty.  

My grandfather’s recent accident was seven years to the day of my brother’s car accident.

Vedder asks the crowd to “sing loud because it’s outside, to sing loud because you’re still alive.”  And that’s exactly what I did on that run.

Because whether it’s the words of one of your favorite frontmen or your own, sometimes we just need to hear that it’s OK.  And like the band did all those years ago, we can all start anew.

~

 

A Picture of NectarHere is where I insert the photo of the week.  I hate taking my phone on runs, so usually there is only one contender.

wowovava

 

After taking my grandma one day from the hospital to her house so she can get changed and shower and gather up extra clothes and toiletries before heading back, it became apparent that she needed more than that.  She needed to decompress, to talk, and to heal. Not just from the incident, but from just so many years that she hadn’t had that chance.

In that moment, I saw her as a person.  Someone vulnerable, with flaws, and with hurt.  It was a great talk for both of us, and by just someone actually communicating openly with her, a lot of positives for came about in the grand scheme of things.  

In spite of all that was going on, she went downstairs to send some extra food home with me, despite my pleas to just keep it here.  As I walked down the stairs to her basement – the same stairs my grandfather just a few days earlier has slipped and fallen on – I saw this photograph of my grandparents, my younger brother and sister, and me.  Since I don’t have many photographs of my family or of myself for that matter, I pulled out my cell phone and took a quick photo to just try and capture what I was feeling at that exact moment.

I felt a tremendous amount of sadness.  Of course because my grandpa was hurt. But also because he got hurt doing something so pure and innocent.  Something that he loved doing, and that they did every year. It was one of the ways they bonded. And we used to love to go there as kids and see their Christmas tree.            

The photograph has probably been there since it was developed twenty years ago or so.  In fact, my grandparents’ house has stayed more or less the same for my entire life. Just as neat and organized as I remember when I was a kid.  We live in a society where people change just for the sake of it. We update our cell phones every two years. Get new furniture just because. Change our diet, get a tattoo, whatever.  But my grandparents have always been the same.

They have always been content with their lives.  I want that. And I think I’m getting there. In fact, maybe it’s one of the reasons I still have the same ratty futon I bought when I first moved into my apartment.  It’s not the “stuff”, it’s not the exterior. It’s what inside. All of the memories.

I want to bottle this genuinely happy moment between all of us.  And I want to continue to provide them with GENUINELY good memories in their lives.  Like when my girlfriend and I go out to dinner with them at P.F.Chang’s or whatever other chain restaurant they enjoy.       

I want to show all four of them – like I did from my great-grandfather – that their work, their sacrifice, and their love was not in vain.  I’m not talking about just getting an education and being a professional. I want to be more. I am capable of more. We all are.

~

 

The Final HurrahHere is where I conclude with a poem for the week.  Sometimes about running. Sometimes about something I thought of while running.  Haikus, tankas, sonnets, limericks – everything is fair game.

 

Buried feelings resurface

Lean into the wind my friend

Watch the weather change

~

_____________________________________________________________

 

Set the Gearshift for the High Gear of Your SoulHere is where I outline my training for the week.  The miles, the pace, where I ran, how I felt. All the logistics.

 

1/28/19: Cross-training: Gym workout – Circuit training

1/29/19: 3.00 miles (10:28 minutes/mile)

1/30/19: 7.00 miles (9:15 minutes/mile)

1/31/19: 3.00 miles (12:07 minutes/mile)  

2/1/19: Cross-training: Yoga (45 minutes)   

2/2/19: 14.00 miles (8:51 minutes/mile)

2/3/19: 7.00 miles (8:54 minutes/mile)

 

This week was highlighted by a fourteen mile long run – my longest since the Cape Cod Marathon in October.  But it was also highlighted by frigid temperatures and icy conditions. Which explains the variability in my pace for the week.

On Monday, I was feeling particularly brave and went hard at the gym.  After a five minute warmup on the Jacob’s Ladder, I did eight rounds of my deadlift, kettlebell swing, and Assault AirBike circuit.  By the end of it, I could hardly stand up straight. Not as bad as the first time I ever did it with a personal trainer, but I definitely pushed myself.  Rather than extra weight, I focused on repetitions.

That was a theme for the rest of my workout.  David Goggins had put up a video a few days earlier where he explained how he got so much muscle while losing fat and not ending up with extra skin when he first lost all the weight.  He described his routine, which consisted of machine workouts where with very light weight he did 100 reps followed by 200 reps followed by 300 reps. Not that losing weight is my goal, but anytime that man speaks he has my full attention.  So I gave it a try.

The first exercise was flutter kicks.  I hit the first set of 100, but 200 and 300 proved to be too difficult.  But I still made it near 150 each time. After that, I wanted to try the same thing on the lat pulldown.  

It was a feeling I never want to forget.  The adrenaline that was coursing through my body during the 200 rep set and 300 rep set was tremendous.  Everything was on fire, but my cardio kicked in and I was able to focus on my breath. By the time I was done, my back felt swollen in the most satisfying way possible.  After a five minute cooldown on the rowing machine, I was ready to head to work. But I definitely want to try more of those high repetition workouts. I definitely see how it would work.  I don’t need my muscles to get bigger or stronger. I just need to work on the endurance aspect.

My first run of the week was a nondescript, easy three mile run along the boulevard.  The next two I had to succumb to one of my greatest enemies when it comes to running: the treadmill.

Much of the nation was hit with that polar vortex during the week.  While I wasn’t necessarily afraid of the temperature, the ice that had accumulated on the sidewalks made my two evening runs more perilous than they normally are.  The last thing I needed was to slip and fall on a patch of ice I wouldn’t be able to see in the dark. So I sucked it up and walked close to a mile to the gym. Believe me, this was a big sacrifice on my part.

I decided to try to maximize the treadmill as much as possible and use it as a tool.  During the seven mile run (which on a treadmill felt like it lasted FOREVER), I started slow but then gradually brought the pace up every thirty seconds until I reached close to my top speed, held that for four minutes, and then slowly brought it back down again.  During the three mile run, I utilized the same principle, but this time I kept a consistent speed for the most part. The variable this time was the incline, where I slowly brought it up to the maximum. And then I held that for a few minutes. This was easily one of the most painful runs I’ve ever had; my calves and hamstrings felt as if they were being seared with a branding iron.  But I stuck it out, and the walk back home felt amazing.

After a forty-five minute session with Adriene on Friday, it was time for my long run.  Without even planning it, everything was picture perfect. I had no idea what my pace would look like, and as my body was warming up, my first two miles clocked in at around ten minutes per mile.  But then I hit my stride and for the next ten miles, I fluctuated between eight and eight and a half minutes per mile. The thing is, I didn’t even feel like I was trying. My legs were in tune with my breath, and I felt like I could’ve kept going at that speed for awhile.  Maybe a full marathon? But I wasn’t going to find out. So for the final two miles I decided to dial it way back and cool down. It was a tremendously successful run, and I teared up a little when I realized it was my fastest pace at fourteen miles or over since the D.C. marathon almost a year ago.  No doubt, this was in large part due to a tremendously cathartic conversation I had on Friday night.

On Sunday, I wanted to mix it up and go trail running.  Since I don’t have work on Tuesday, I was planning a trip to Bear Mountain since it’s supposed to be beautiful, so I wanted to hit seven miles on an easy trail near my apartment (where I assumed my alter ego “Le Fou de Parc Lincoln”) to get ready for the difficult trails in Bear Mountain.  I’ve never gone running at Bear Mountain, so I don’t really know what to expect. I just know that trail running has a much different feel to it than road running does. My core, glutes, and adductors usually get a much more strenuous workout on the trails as opposed to the pavement. Because I’m much more used to the road, the seven miles was much more difficult than the fourteen I did the day prior.  Regardless, I’m glad I did it, because my body felt amazing. But it’s making me much more apprehensive about my trip on Tuesday.

~

 

Got a Clif Bar and Some Cold Green TeaHere is where I write about nutrition for the week – usually something that is working for me or an issue that has come up in training.

The last two weeks during my long run, I have taken an energy gel with me.  And each time, I come back home with the same energy gel and put it back in the box where it came from.

There was a time where I would be taking two or three energy gels while running that same distance.  Now, even though I go in with a plan to take it at the halfway mark, the moment comes and I just keep going.  Why bother if I’m not craving it or crashing?

I know this can’t and shouldn’t be my strategy for marathons and later on ultras, but for now, it’s working.  I’m not as reliant on the gels as I once was. It helps that I haven’t been so dependent on sports drinks, energy gels, sugars, and carbs in general, but I’m also curious if it’s a mental thing too.

When I started running, if I wasn’t taking an energy gel every five or six miles, I would start fading.  But now, after plenty of time on the trails, I haven’t gotten used to pushing my limits with very little in my tank.  

So during races, I’ll definitely try to stick to a plan, but in training, I think I’ll just continue to go based on feel.  I’ll still take that same gel with me, but if I don’t need it then all the better. Train fasted, race fed.

~

    

Whatever You Do, Take Care of Your ShoesHere is where I discuss what shoes I ran in during the week – if I ran in shoes at all!

During the week, I split time between the Ghosts, Vibrams, and Escalantes.  I wore the Altras during my long run, so they had the privilege of being the only shoes that were used twice in the week.

This week though, a new player has entered the game.  During my trail run, I wore Merrell Trail Gloves – a trail shoe I had bought awhile ago for when I was ready to go trail running.  I had only used them once, so I wanted to see how they would feel on a longer run in preparation for Bear Mountain.

I love the minimalist and light feel they provide.  I definitely didn’t feel like I lost any speed (though on trails you tend to go much slower than on the road) because of how lightweight the shoe is.  It shines on the packed dirt road and gravel, but on rockier and harder surfaces it was a little tricky.

We’ll see how it handles the technical terrain on Bear Mountain on Tuesday.  Worst case scenario, in a trail ultra it would be a good shoe to use for the easier dirt portions.  It definitely landed a spot in the rotation.

~

 

If Life Were Easy and Not So Fast…Here is where I offer tips in mindfulness and staying present.  In running and in life.

I learned this lesson as I was training for the Cape Cod Chowdah Challenge while also running the nine shorter races to qualify for the New York City Marathon.  And I see this lesson resurface many times throughout my life.

Focus.  On. One.  Thing. At.  A. Time.

I am a serial planner.  I found that out about myself when I was living on my own in college.  I couldn’t live without my whiteboard, calendar, and daily planner. Everyday has a to-do list, and it gives my day direction.

I’ve since backed off a little from it; I’m not a slave to it anymore.  However, one thing that I always felt when I would look at it and I was already feeling anxious or stressed or frustrated was how overwhelming the list felt.  I would set off to try and accomplish as much as possible, and it only compounded my stress.

This may seem basic, but when we have things to do – just focus on one thing at a time.  That first task on your list? Pursue it relentlessly. Don’t worry about how long your list is or any of your other tasks.  Just focus on that. It can be hard to do when we have a lot to do, but trust me, it’ll pay dividends because you’ll actually be more efficient this way.  Once that task is done, cross it off, clear it from your mind, and move on to the next.

I’ve definitely put myself in situations where I have too many irons in the fire.  As a teacher, I can especially feel this way at work. But it helps more in the long run to slow down, collect your thoughts, and tackle the problems one at a time.  Spreading yourself too thin will compound your frustrations and only add to the workload. Because you are now battling against yourself.

  ~

 

…On the Soul PlanetHere is where I share thoughts on the encounters with other people along my running trails.

Not on the trails, but this took place in the gym on Wednesday’s seven mile run.  It was a reminder of why the machismo in the gym prevents me from going more often.

I was about fifteen minutes into seven mile dreadmill run when two “bros” get on the machines next to me.  I was going at a comfortable conversational pace at this point, but like I mentioned before was increasing every thirty seconds until I hit my top speed.  That was my plan from the start, and I wanted to stick to it for the duration of the run.

I noticed the bro immediately next to me also start out slow, but kept glancing over to the dashboard on my treadmill.  Every time I increased the speed, he’d do the same, but always managed the go one step faster than me. I roll my eyes to myself, because I loathe this kind of behavior.  Seriously, just leave me alone; not everything is a personal challenge. Try your best and don’t measure yourself up to others. I had a plan, and it wasn’t dependent on him.  

But on the other hand, I also thought to myself “Oh, honey…”, because this fool had no idea what he was about to be in for.  He was clearly the typical alpha male you might see at the gym: there for only certain muscle groups and more interested in lifting for looks.  You can tell this was probably the one day he would allott himself for any cardio work. Because cardio is for sissies, as is the bro mentality.

I kept with my plan, and he kept on trying to outrun me.  Until I got well under nine minutes per mile, which was when he started grabbing onto the handrails to keep himself going.  I was generally unaffected and more or less kept my unfocused gaze on the “American Dad” rerun that was playing on the television screen in front of me.  

At a certain point, it was clear he had to bow out, because like a machine I just kept on pushing the button every thirty seconds and now my pace was under eight minutes per mile.  He brought the speed way down and walked while heaving heavily. When I reached my top speed of somewhere around six and a half minutes per mile and held that speed for four minutes, I heard him say “Oh, damn” over the music emerging from my headphones.  

I wasn’t looking for competition, but here we were.  Just stay in your lane bro, and I’ll stay in mine.   

~   

 

Concepts I’ll PonderHere is where I discuss one pressing thought that has come up in my training – either in the middle of a long run, in the shower, as I drive to work.  Usually a large scale problem I am tackling.

This week, I spent a few days incredibly anxious for uncertainty that awaits my girlfriend and I for the next few years.  Mostly what I am going to be doing and where we are going to be living. The job prospect from a few weeks ago planted a seed in my head that I’ve had a tough time shaking.  

I always talk about living in the present, but I couldn’t help but pay rent on the future in my head.  I even took it a step further and made some actual moves (but more on that later). But I felt like over the course of a few prep periods and some nightly conversations with my girlfriend, we had more or less planned our lives for the next three years.  A rough skeleton. Vacations, races, where we’re looking to live, looking to work. My plans for my writing. Vacations. Races. Mostly vacations and races.

Like I said, I’m a planner.  And we have to focus on one thing at a time.  But sometimes I have these manic bouts of planning that set up my path and allow me to live in the present so I can focus on attainable goals.  Or at least things that I have to work towards. And believe me, I now have plenty of things that I have to work towards. Because apparently two marathons and two half marathons this year, plus updating this website while I’m an Official Blogger for the Pittsburgh Marathon and then whatever comes after it, plus all my actual job responsibilities isn’t enough.

I’m excited to share these things on here little by little as they come up and become official, but just know that while I’ve been training in the present for the immediate task at hand (Pittsburgh, but before that the Hampton Half Marathon), I’m already setting up bigger goals for after that way off in the horizon.  I can’t let up for a second and let complacency consume me. But I’m not going to lie that once we had everything figured out, I had the biggest grin on my face for the rest of the week.

~

           

The Writings of the Helping Friendly BookHere is where I provide a quote of the week.  Usually from whatever I am currently reading.

“No matter what you or I achieve, in sports, business, or life, we can’t be satisfied.  Life is too dynamic a game. We’re either getting better or we’re getting worse. Yes, we need to celebrate our victories.  There’s power in victory that’s transformative, but after our celebration we should dial it down, dream up new training regimens, new goals, and start at zero the very next day.”

 

– David Goggins “Can’t Hurt Me”

~

 

Scents and Subtle SoundsHere is where I serve up a jam of the week.  A song that pumps me up and gets me ready to run.

“If We Were Vampires” Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit “The Nashville Sound”

Sitting down and talking to my girlfriend about the future, I couldn’t help but think about this song.  

Even though I had recognized his name, I had never listened to any of Jason Isbell’s music until this past September.  My girlfriend and I went to see The National at the festival they were holding at Forest Hill Stadium, and Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit was one of the opening bands.  Instead of listening before the show, I decided to go in blind, because sometimes I have more fun that way.

I loved the energy of the music and found myself trying to remember lyrics to certain songs I was hearing, so I can search for them and listen later when I got home.  Then I remembered that it’s the 21st century and I can just look up setlists after the show, so I stopped caring and just enjoyed the show.

This song closed their set.  While most of the songs they played were fun and up tempo, this was a melodic ballad and Isbell busted out the acoustic guitar.

Without even really understanding the words and comprehending the narrative of the song (as is often the case when you are at a concert and seeing an unknown band for the first time), the gravity of the song hit me nonetheless and I began to tear up.  It was a beautiful clear autumn night, and my girlfriend and I were getting ready to see one of our favorite bands on a rare night out for us. Just like Stephan Jenkins, apparently the four right chords can make me cry.

But later on when I got home and listened to song and read the lyrics, I began to sob.  The song had tapped into a fear and sentiment I have had my entire life and haven’t been able to put into words.  And it caught my off guard.

The song focuses on how ephemeral life is, and that maybe that is what makes love so powerful.  In the song, the immortality of vampires is used as a contrast to what we as humans experience. This expiration date is what drives us to have goals and dreams and plans and give ourselves completely to the people we love.  Because if we lived forever, we would see how silly it all is. He then laments that maybe after forty years together, one of them (him or his wife) would be gone, and the other would have to deal with the loneliness.

Like Isbell, I too think that maybe time running out is a gift.  Knowing that we don’t have forever is what made me feel a surge of anxiety this week concerning the future.  And it is what makes me enjoy the moments to the fullest when they do come.

I think about my grandparents and how long they’ve been together.  How dedicated they’ve been to each other and how in spite of this accident, they haven’t let on that fear has been consuming fear.  The fear that time may be running out. They may be the most practical and level-headed people I know when it comes to that kind of stuff.  

I think about how I haven’t had time to visit him since he moved into the rehab center.  Life just gets in the way. But maybe after I tackle Bear Mountain on Tuesday and force myself out of my comfort zone, I’ll head over to pay him a visit.       

“If we were vampires and death was a joke

We’d go out on the sidewalk and smoke

And laugh at all the lovers and their plans

I wouldn’t feel the need to hold your hand

Maybe time running out is a gift

I’ll work hard ’til the end of my shift

And give you every second I can find

And hope it isn’t me who’s left behind

It’s knowing that this can’t go on forever

Likely one of us will have to spend some days alone

Maybe we’ll get forty years together

But one day I’ll be gone

Or one day you’ll be gone”

     ~

 

A Picture of NectarHere is where I insert the photo of the week.  I hate taking my phone on runs, so usually there is only one contender.

nfec

Speaking of forcing myself out of my comfort zone: Surprise!

I have a master list of races that I’m interested in.  The races in the North Face Endurance Challenge series were some of them for when I started getting into ultramarathons.  When I was thinking about future races, for 2019 I noticed that there was a four month gap between Pittsburgh and Virginia Beach.  I wanted to give myself enough time to recover, but right now that seems like overkill with how good I feel. And I want to be able to take advantage of how in shape I’m going to be after Pittsburgh.

I had originally wanted to do these races as ultras, but they have many distances.  I figured the only sensible thing to do (as sensible as running a marathon a month after running one can be) was to run a distance I had accomplished before since this is a mountain trail race – a first for me.  I don’t want my first race experience in a trail to be an ultra. So I opted for the Massachusetts North Face Endurance Challenge. Yes, almost exactly one month after I am running the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon.  

So now I have three races coming up in the next four months: the Hampton Half Marathon, the Pittsburgh Marathon, and now the NFEC Massachusetts Marathon.  It is one of the hardest courses in the series, with plenty of rocks and technical terrain. The winner from last year won with a time that is slower than my slowest marathon.  Five hours is considered a good time for this course. But hey, it’s going to force me to get out on actual trails and Bear Mountain (another race in the NFEC series) is graded at a similar difficulty.  Plus, the aid stations have actual food. And Dean Karnazes will be there!

 With three marathons and two halves on the docket, that might be it for my 2019 racing schedule…or is it?  Stay tuned to find out!

~

 

The Final HurrahHere is where I conclude with a poem for the week.  Sometimes about running. Sometimes about something I thought of while running.  Haikus, tankas, sonnets, limericks – everything is fair game.

On the horizon

Lies the key to happiness

The future is now

~

____________________________________________________________________

 

Set the Gearshift for the High Gear of Your SoulHere is where I outline my training for the week.  The miles, the pace, where I ran, how I felt. All the logistics.

 

2/4/19: Cross-training: Gym workout – Circuit training

2/5/19: 3.50 miles (17:32 minutes/mile)

2/6/19: 7.00 miles (8:57 minutes/mile)

2/7/19: 3.00 miles (9:02 minutes/mile)  

2/8/19: Cross-training: Yoga (45 minutes)   

2/9/19: 10.00 miles (8:33 minutes/mile)

2/10/19: 7.00 miles (10:37 minutes/mile)

 

This week was another step back week in mileage, but the biggest variable is perhaps the pace of each of the runs.  As always though, there is a reason for it which I will get to later.

A new wrinkle that I wanted to incorporate was to include a yoga routine on the weekday mornings of the days I am supposed to run.  I want to be able to increase my flexibility, while also giving me a much needed boost in the morning before work. I miss going working out before work; running before work with my new schedule just doesn’t work, but I certainly miss the mental clarity that getting a sweat on early in the day produces.  So everyday began with a quick meditation and then yoga sequence. I went through a sequence for runners, a sequence that targets the psoas, my usual favorite deep stretch routine, and a routine for the feet. Each day I woke up, quickly scanned my body to see which area needed some extra love and attention, and then fired up the corresponding YouTube video.  I felt like this was one of the most productive step back weeks ever for me, because instead of getting antsy because of the perceived lack of gains, I took extra care in maintenance (though this isn’t to say I didn’t go hard: at the gym on Monday, I went back to the well with reps of 100, 200, then 300 of chest presses, lat pulldowns, and leg presses before “cooling down” with 100 flutter kicks).       

On Tuesday, I went through with my planned excursion to Bear Mountain since I was off from work.  It was an absolutely gorgeous day (I was actually able to wear shorts), so I definitely wanted to take advantage of the weather and the day off.

After the hour long drive, I parked near the inn and made my way over to my planned route.  Since it was my first time there, I figured I would take the most popular path: ascend on the Major Welch trail before descending on the Appalachian Trail.  The entire loop was about four miles, and while I only needed to run three that day, I figured I would hike the last mile and enjoy the day.

There were a few unanticipated speed bumps along the way.  The first one hit me as I started making my way to the trail from the parking lot: the Major Welch trail was closed due to icy conditions.  It was so beautiful that it hadn’t occurred to me that there may be ice still on the trails. Fortunately, the AT was still open, so I decided to make my way up the mountain that way before returning when I couldn’t go anymore.  

That’s when I encountered my next surprise.  That section of the AT is particularly rocky with a series of long stone steps.  It made running especially difficult, even more so when you factor in how steep it was in parts.  I went in overconfident and started running, until the steps ground me to a halt.

After the first mile or so, I started getting more comfortable.  Everything I had read about trail running kicked in: I started power hiking when I couldn’t run and then started running whenever I hit any straightaways.  Oddly enough, running felt like a rest considering the amount of climbing I had to do. The most frustrating part was getting into the rhythm of a nice jog before having to stop when coming face to face with what felt like a vertical climb.  

The next speed bump came a little before I hit a mile and a half.  I could no longer make my way up the mountain because of ice. I headed back and noted to myself just how much easier it felt.  Maybe I was getting the hang of it after all? Then I remembered that I was now going downhill. Of course it was going to be easier now.

Not feeling quite satisfied, I stopped about midway down the mountain to try going up it again.  It didn’t get any easier this time, but I powered through it. I returned to my car with an extra half mile logged, and the realization that the trail marathon I had signed up for a month after Pittsburgh might be harder than I originally anticipated.  But I was prepared for the challenge.

The next day I did an interval workout for a total of seven miles.  One mile warm up, and then 400 meters around the track and fast as possible before two laps around it in a slow jog to bring my heart rate down before sprinting another 400 again.  I did this until I hit six miles and then ran the final mile back home. It was my first time ever working out sprints into my runs, and I absolutely loved it. I can definitely see the benefit of including different workouts into your routine, whether it is hill, tempo, interval, or recovery runs.  

Speaking of which, the next day I absolutely needed a slow recovery run.  But I went back at it on my long run on Saturday where I pushed the pace on most of the run.  And then on Sunday, I went trail running again, but this time closer to home at Palisades Interstate Park.

I had to do seven miles and didn’t know what was awaiting me.  I had planned running a few miles along the Shore Trail before heading up the cliff to the Long Trail, reaching three and a half miles and then turning around.  

This run gave me my confidence back that was zapped after my Bear Mountain run.  I felt more comfortable running on dirt, gravel, rocks, and roots even though I felt much more susceptible to a sprained ankle especially when compared to road running.  I was happy with my pace, especially when you consider I stopped on multiple occasions to enjoy the view and a 350 foot climb was thrown into the mix. My final mile was even under eight minutes as I hit the dirt path on the Shore Trail back to my car.  I hadn’t been on these trails since I hiked them with my dad when I was really young, but I definitely want to come back as much as possible. It will be excellent practice for me.

For the future, I want to also continue including yoga sessions as much as possible.  I also want to keep mixing up my runs: either on trails or hills and incorporating some speedwork as well as recovery runs.  But I also want to hit the gym not only harder, but smarter. I want to be able to include home exercises like push ups and flutter kicks before bed, perhaps instead of beating up my upper body on Monday.  I was sore for most of the week because of it, so I just need to keep experimenting in order to get the right balance. Overall though, it was an extremely encouraging step back week.

~

 

Got a Clif Bar and Some Cold Green TeaHere is where I write about nutrition for the week – usually something that is working for me or an issue that has come up in training.

This week was punctuated by various social outings, a rare change of pace for me.  I visited my grandpa twice, saw some friends over the weekend, and ate out with my girlfriend on a few occasions which we usually don’t do.  

In situations like these, I am often pressed to have to deviate from what I normally eat when I cook for myself at home.  Not that I’m on any strict diet, but I was guilty of what can be considered a few “cheat meals” this week. And I am usually the hardest on myself when this happens.

But I was reminded that we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves after cheat meals.  The important thing is to not let that one unhealthy snack completely derail the progress you have made.  Enjoy it for what it is, and then go back after it the next day. Just don’t make a habit of it – continue to get after it.    

I don’t believe in a weekly cheat meal, because that is also unnecessary.  But when the situation arises or you are forced to make an unhealthy choice, it isn’t the end of the world if you indulge.  Sometimes it can remind us of why we enjoy living a healthier lifestyle.

~

 

Whatever You Do, Take Care of Your ShoesHere is where I discuss what shoes I ran in during the week – if I ran in shoes at all!

At ten and a half miles logged during the week, my Merrells were my most used shoe for this week – which is no surprise considering I went trail running on two occasions.  They shined on straightaways and easy trails, but became problematic on rockier sections. Regardless, I can’t even imagine not wearing minimalist shoes on the trails. It gave me so much more of a feel for the ground.  

The other three usuals during this training plan all assumed each of the roles that have slowly taken shape for them.  I used the Vibrams during the interval training where I wanted to focus on speed. I used the Altras on my long run when I wanted something more durable and with more support.  And I used my Brooks on my recovery run when I wanted to give my feet and muscles a little bit of a break.

~

 

If Life Were Easy and Not So Fast…Here is where I offer tips in mindfulness and staying present.  In running and in life.

I’ve been getting home from work with a lot on my mind, and it has been hard to shift gears and then go out for a run.  In order to recharge the batteries and give myself a mental reset, I’ve been taking quick twenty minute power naps. Not quite meditation, but it gives me the same benefit.  I feel awake, alert, and now have a purpose. I quickly get my chores, run, and do whatever else I need to get done.

~

 

…On the Soul PlanetHere is where I share thoughts on the encounters with other people along my running trails.

During my ten mile run, I ended up running the final four miles at the heels of another runner.  It was pure coincidence that we had the same exact route. He was clearly much faster than me, but I was able to stay with him for most of it.  When he realized I was keeping up with him, he would then go faster. I felt like we brought out the best of each other.

 ~   

 

Concepts I’ll PonderHere is where I discuss one pressing thought that has come up in my training – either in the middle of a long run, in the shower, as I drive to work.  Usually a large scale problem I am tackling.

At some point in the middle of writing this – I’m not sure if it was just thinking back to the freedom I felt on the trails or the freedom I feel now sitting on my couch while on winter break or the freedom I feel since I don’t have work all week – I decided that this is going to be it for the training notebooks.  

It doesn’t make sense for me to be fighting the shackles I feel in my everyday life while creating shackles of my own.  The notebooks and posts have given me a schedule to live by, but it has stifled and boxed in my thinking. I can’t just contain my innermost thoughts in this one section when they are what inform and fuel my running.  Thoughts don’t have a structure. I have to let them roam free.

Writing has felt like a chore.  And it has never been for me. I set out for this to be a journal so I can look back on this chapter when I’m ready to write my book.  But when I read my actual notebooks, everything is scattered and certainly not as neat or tidy as these posts. I need to be true to myself and stick to my formula.

There’s still many things I want to share.  They’re just going to look a little different.  Stay tuned.

~

 

The Writings of the Helping Friendly BookHere is where I provide a quote of the week.  Usually from whatever I am currently reading.

 

“Freedom requires constant vigilance.”

 

– Graffiti on a rock in Palisades Interstate Park

~

 

Scents and Subtle SoundsHere is where I serve up a jam of the week.  A song that pumps me up and gets me ready to run.

“All I Want is You/Where the Streets Have No Name” U2 – September 1, 2001

From their concert DVD “Go Home: Live From Slane Castle, Ireland”, I’m not sure there’s a better song(s) to retire this section of the training notebook on.  The transition is amazing, the build up is chill-inducing. This is just pure bliss. I can’t even imagine what it must have felt like witnessing this live.

~

 

A Picture of NectarHere is where I insert the photo of the week.  I hate taking my phone on runs, so usually there is only one contender.

bearmt

 

I couldn’t get higher up because of the ice, but this is the photo I earned on Bear Mountain that day.  Now, I have something to work towards. This is what I deserved. Nothing more.

I will work towards getting to the top.  But this is a good place to start.

~

 

The Final HurrahHere is where I conclude with a poem for the week.  Sometimes about running. Sometimes about something I thought of while running.  Haikus, tankas, sonnets, limericks – everything is fair game.

 

Marathon notebook

Is now retired, run its course

Get ready for change

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