Tuesday, January 14, 2014

And now for something completely different . . .

It rained almost all day and the alley stunk.

Ralph picked his way around the trash, doing his best to avoid the puddles even though his jeans and leather boots were old and stained all ready.  He didn’t figure it was worth getting all sloppy before meeting up with his friends.  The moon ducked behind thick clouds as they passed by in the cool breeze.  It had gotten dark early with the thunder storms, but now night had fallen and it was tough to see anything.

Well almost anything.

Ralph could make out the cat just ahead crouched outside the entrance to the bar.
“Crap,” Ralph thought to himself. “This guy’s huge.”
Ralph moved a little closer and pressed tightly against the far wall.  Even from this distance he was looking up at the massive hind quarters.  Being a mouse meant that all cats were bigger than him, but this one was really big.  Really fat.  And really twitchy.  The thing kept trembling and shifting its weight on it’s hind legs.

“Fat, stupid, and probably slow,” Ralph smiled then started scanning the garbage around him.
Cups, food, all sorts of stuff randomly strewn and soaked from the rain.  There had to be . . . and there it was.  A straw laying loose on the ground.

Ralph gently skirted his way around a shredded cardboard box, never letting his eyes leave the cat.  He zipped up his bomber jacket over his t-shirt and lifted one end of the straw, then slowly raised it until he had it straight up in the air.  He turned towards the cat and paused.

“If you’re gonna go . . .” he mumbled as he trotted then accelerated towards the fat feline, “go . . .” out loud now as he hit full speed, “BIG!!” Ralph shouted just as he planted the tip of the straw against the pavement in time to slam into the fat ass of the cat.  Leaping towards the back of the beast the straw bent and propelled Ralph straight up.  He tucked his knees to his chest and pulled with all his might as the cat sprang forward and shrieked.

Ralph knew without looking the cat would jump straight ahead.  He had to out of reflex.  And Ralph was on his way diagonally across the cat’s back towards the far wall, releasing the straw and twisting himself so he would land back first in whatever garbage was piled there.  But this wasn’t just any cat.  He was a mean, quick behemoth that had caught and shredded many a mouse and in the instant he sprang forward, he jerked his head to the side and back to see just what had prodded him in the butt.

And there was this straw!  Just sort of standing there quivering in slow motion as the cat’s backside spun around in a 180.  That’s when he caught the movement of a bomber jacketed mouse in blue jeans rotating through the air and their eyes locked.
Ralph thought,  “This could get ugly.”

He saw the glint in the cat’s eyes as he tucked into a ball to take the impact just as he slammed through loose paper and rotting food.

Ralph twisted and wriggled to go as deep as he could knowing the cat would be on him any second.  He almost got through to the pavement when he felt the crush of weight just to his left as the cat pressed down hard where Ralph had landed.  He was pinned by the side of a coffee cup and couldn’t move if he wanted, but Ralph wasn’t about to move.  That would just let the cat know where he was.  Instead he fought the urge to panic and glanced down and saw wet pavement, gravel, and then something he could use.  A couple of shards of glass.

The cat pulled up and pounced back down a little further away, then paused trying to feel for a squirming snack.  But Ralph held still barely turning his head to look at the broken glass again.  One was huge, easily half his size and cracked in the middle but the other was perfect.  A little flat on one edge then tapering to a nice sliver on the other.  But it was too far away.  He couldn’t get to it without blowing his cover. The cat shifted and uttered a throaty growl.  He was going to start digging and Ralph would be done.

“Here we go,” he sighed and thrust himself towards his only hope.

Snatching it in both paws he pulled it towards his chest and torqued himself around feeling the garbage sort of lift as the cat pulled back to tear Ralph out of the pile.  The moment the trash began to crush back down Ralph thrust the glass up.

“MEOOOWAAARRRRR!!!” the cat howled as the glass shard sliced through a black banana peel and deep into the pad of his foot.  Ralph just about had the air knocked out of him as the flat side of the glass slammed against his chest but tragedy was avoided as the cat recoiled and fell away from the pile.

Ralph scampered to his left, up and out of the goop and glop and hit full speed in four strides.  He leapt through the crack in the bricks and flew along the side wall to make the turn; leaving bits of paper and debris behind him.  Even though he knew he was safe Ralph wanted to make an entrance so he kept up his sprint as he burst into the light, threw his arms wide and hit his knees in time to slide across the dance floor of the bar!

The crowd erupted.

A couple of vermin had been calling out the play by play from their viewpoint through a dirty alley window just above where the cat had been hiding hoping to catch a drunk rodent on his way home.  A rotund, brown rat waddled up to Ralph with a shot glass of tequila outstretched and said, “you’re one crazy son of a bitch, Ralphie boy.”

“I wasn’t aware you knew my mother Bobby boy,” Ralph grinned as he stood up and wiped smeared banana and coffee grounds off his face.

“You’ve got blood on your jacket,” Bob pointed out.

“Fortunately,” Ralph mused as he flicked some off his sleeve, “it isn’t mine.”

“I’ll drink to that,” and together they raised their glasses as the juke box was Raining Men.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

My friends know that I am an ass@#$%

I'm taking the cue from my friend Jennifer today and am writing something.  She wrote a blog post today and had not for a long while.  It was raw and honest.  I appreciate that.  Jennifer hates when I call her Jennifer.  Because her name is Jennie.  I call some of my other friends names they may or may not like.  I think that is my true test of knowing that I have a real friend.  If I am comfortable enough to be an asshole.  My real friends know my inner asshole.  How does that sound?  It has been a while since I have.  Who cares?  No one, I'm sure.  Lest I sound bitter and insecure, let me explain.  I think some people do care, but I have gotten to the point where I have just thought how silly it is to write about me running.  It is just something that I do.  Running that is.  Meaningful to me, meaningless to others.  Running is one of the hardest things I do.  Okay one day, horrible the next...great on occasion.  Other than fitness, the best thing that has happened is the friends I have made.  I used to call them running friends.  Now I just call them friends.  Our common bond is running.  Or is it?  Could the bond be the stories, problems and discussions we have had while running?  Solving the worlds and our problems within a 5 mile run?  Maybe not solving, but just making everything seem better during that time.  Sometimes you just know someone is going through shit and no discussion is necessary.  Just running and talking about other things or nothing at all.  Over time, you realize who your friends are.  Just as in life you realize the same.  You also get to know who isn't really a friend.  They will blow smoke up your ass on occasion but you know the world revolves around them and their needs.  Even if you don't ask for anything, they are not there.  Yet they want attention.  They need it.  They disappear until they need again.  I've said it before, with true friends all you need is a "you okay?", and that is it.  Answer "yep" and run on.  The knowledge that someone actually gives enough of a shit to ask is sufficient.  Simple.   Enough of that.  I appreciate my friends.  The people in my life that this applies to, I want to say thank you.  I hope I have done the same for you.  I'm keeping this short and sweet.  The end.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Setting a Goal: Making a Plan

The first, and arguably the most important, step in achieving something is to set a goal.

I do it all the time in business and life then build plans to help me get to where I want to go.  Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don’t, but I have learned that due to my ADD if I don’t have a goal and a plan, then I’m not going to get anything accomplished.  I’ll just look around at stuff and be busy as all get out then look around again and realize I’ve gone nowhere.  It’s like going to the grocery store without a list to get milk and cereal.  I’ll come back with four or five items but no milk.
The longest memory is a short pencil.  I live that.
Some of the goals I set are beyond what I really think I can do, but I’ve found that helps me do more than I actually thought I could.  Especially when dealing with physical things like weights or running.  When I set those stretch goals I also have secondary ones that I plan to hit “on the way.”  That way I build in successes so I feel good and keep working.  That’s worked really well the past two years as I try to run a mile in under five minutes.

Only about ten people a year in my age group, or the one above or below for that matter, do that in any given year.  The air is rare up there.  Those guys are fast, fast, fast and I’d like to be up there with them.  Of course I haven’t run a sub-5 mile since I was 18 but, pffft, I don’t care.  It’s a stretch goal! 

I’ve already hit several of my secondary goals and had some great races along the way, plus I’ve learned a great deal about training and perseverance.  I’ve also had the good luck to be able to share a lot of those learning’s with other folks and hear about their successes, too.  So today I want to do some more sharing and give y’all some basic pointers for accomplishing any racing goals you might have.

First: Set the goal


Write it down, tell someone about it, and talk about.  Those things will help make it real to you and keep you working towards it even if you hit some setbacks.

Second: Have a plan


Things that are worthwhile don’t just happen.  They take effort and you work for them.  With the limited amount of time we all have, we can’t just be wasting it if we want to do something big for ourselves, and having a plan will help us be more efficient and improve the likelihood of reaching our goals.  Think the plan through starting with the finishing point.  If you’re goal is a PR in a Half Marathon, start with the race date and work your ways backwards understanding that you’re not going to be able to run the needed distances at the needed speeds if you don’t build up to it!  Knowing where you need to be and when will help lay out what you have to do to get there.  And be smart about it.  Don’t just go throwing big numbers out there like running 6 days a week 10 miles a day if you’ve never made yourself do it before.  If you’re a three day a week runner, stick to three days.  Play to your habits and strengths if you can.  If you do have to change something do it in small steps.  It’s really easy to get discouraged so it’s important not to plan for discouragement.  Plan for success and go after it in little, manageable steps.


Third:  Vary the plan


We all know shit happens.  Sometimes it’s self-inflicted; sometimes it’s not but you know it’s going to happen, so be ready to go with the flow.  Missing a workout isn’t going to be the end if you gave yourself the leeway when putting together your plan.  The other key point here is the “variety” in the “vary.”  Regardless of what you’re training to do, just going out and running several times a week is not going to get you very far.  When I began my training I first looked at what the world class “elites” do.  No, I’m not going to be one of them, but they obviously know what they’re doing so I imitate them!  Which brings up a pet peeve of mine: training plans where you don’t ever run the distance you’re going to race.  Please.  To me that’s just a plan to help you FINISH a distance, not race it.  Now, obviously, finishing is the goal for many people.  That was my goal when I ran my one and only Marathon.  I did pretty well even though I hit the wall hard at 23 miles, but I’d never run more than 18 leading up to that so what the hell else should I have expected?  Elite marathoners do 30 mile runs in their training from time to time.  Those of us who want to really race a marathon should think about doing that, too.
But back to the “variety.” 

A good training plan addresses lots of different systems and muscles in your body to help you get the most you can get out of yourself.  Marathoners do speed work, and sprinters do long slow runs.  Just in varying quantities and speeds.  Here are the pieces I suggest everyone needs to do when training for any distance.  There are a gazillion variations on these workouts as well as cross-training opportunities that make a difference but these are the ones that will give you the most bang for your buck.  Read that: give you the most benefit in the shortest amount of time. 

Sprint Work:  Short, 40 to 80 meter, full-out-hard-as-you-can sprints with about 4 to 5 minutes rest between each rep.  Those build leg muscle and help you learn to move your feet faster and faster. 

Speed Work:  Distances from 200 meters up to a mile.  Intervals, where you run at a fast pace then rest and repeat, work the best here.  One of the most used workouts anywhere is a “10 x” where you run ¼ the distance you’re going to race at your goal race pace, then rest for about a minute or jog for about a minute and a half then hit the rep again for a total of 10 times. 

Stamina Work:  Distances ranging from about 1/3 to the full distance of your goal race.  The iterations that exist here are also numerous but think Tempo Run since that’s the most used workout.  These runs are done just a little slower than race pace and usually for a distance a little shorter than your goal race.  These are the workouts the Kenyans (a generality, but there’s some merit there) focus on most.  Supposedly it’s almost all of their training and that makes sense since this most closely resembles your goal race.  If you’re training for a 10K then 2 to 5 mile Tempo Runs will be what you’re doing. 

Endurance:  Distances as long, or longer, than your goal race.  These are really important just so your body is prepared to do what it needs to do for a given period of time and distance.  It’s going to be very difficult to race for an hour if you never run that long in practice. 

The balance and focus of these segments depend entirely on your goal race and secondarily on your physical capabilities.  My goal race of the mile means my time is spent on Speed, Stamina, Sprint and Endurance in that order.  If you’re training for a Marathon then it’s going to be more Endurance, Stamina, Speed and Sprint.  But all of the pieces should be there. 

Plus one more:  Easy Days. 

One of the best things you can do for your body is have a day where you run, but it is short and very easy.  This type of run gets the fluids flowing through you to speed up healing, elevates your heartbeat and breathing so there’s a little cardiovascular benefit to it, but it doesn’t stress your muscles and joints at all.  Very, very beneficial. 

That variety of training will not only improve you physically faster than doing just one type of running, it makes running a whole lot more interesting and fun!  And those two things, interesting and fun, bring me to the last word on a training plan.
You're the designer, so make the plan fit YOU!
One size does not fit all in the running world and while a plan by Higdon might be a good one, it might not be good for you individually.  The same goes for any plan out there.  I've got books and articles you could read on the subject, but I realize not everyone is as geeked about running as I am.  Just think of yourself and your goals when you lay out a plan to reach them.  Play to your strengths and deal with your weaknesses in ways that you CAN and WILL deal with them.  If you hate rigid things, then it doesn't make much sense to have a 7 day a week plan complete with the time of day you run, rest, stretch and eat does it?  No.  Just make a list of three or four runs you're going to do that week.
Interesting and Fun.
If you keep those things in your running, you will do it more and do it better.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Winter Running and Finishing Strong

It was cold this morning!

Not the first frozen morning of the year, but 22 degrees is right chilly.  Makes you realize men have nipples, too.

That first step outside was coooollllldddd,

Since it was Saturday I slept in a bit and didn't head out until 7:00 am.  Other than the temperature it was a gorgeous morning.  Very sunny, not much of a breeze and a bright blue sky.  With the right gear it wasn't bad at all really.  I had my hat and gloves, a couple of long sleeve shirts and my Nike track team running tights.  Those things are incredible.  I don't care how cold it gets I'm comfortable in them.  If it gets down below 15 degrees I'll wear two pairs of tights, but if it's any warmer I'd burn up.  I also wore my running jacket, but even with the underarm zippers undone it got kind of hot towards the end of the run.

Saturdays are my long runs and last week's was done as a Progression Run with a Fast Finish, so it was a hard workout.  This is supposed to be an easier week, so today was to be 10 miles at a relaxed pace.  The purpose of these runs is to keep the aerobic capacity up, maintain good endurance, but also let the muscles have a little break from the hard stuff so they can heal and get stronger from the work in prior weeks.  Most coaches advise having one "easy" week out of every four.  I put that in quotes, because your mileage will still be fairly close to normal and there might even be a hard workout in there, too.  But not as hard a week as others.  Think of it as the flat part of a stair step.  The hard work is moving you up and you use the flat part to position yourself to move up again.

That being the case I brought my phone for tunes and to take pictures.  I didn't look at my watch a whole lot and decided to do a video for the blog!  Once again I found out that I have no discipline when it comes to pace.  I kind of just run until I realize I'm getting too tired and then either back off or more often than not, push a little harder.

Yeah, I'm a dufus.

I realized after cutting off the camera that I was also running up one of the long hills while I was recording.  It's one of the few times I'm on a sidewalk and in this case next to a pretty busy road.  Because it was late I only saw one other runner and we high fived as we crossed paths.  That's so cool.  I've never seen this guy before that I know of but we both pointed at each other than high fived like we'd done it dozens of times.  It's a club.  A very cool club.

I exercised a little bit of discipline after this and brought the pace down somewhat, but not by a whole lot.  I just felt fine so I kept trotting along.  I still pushed the last mile a little because that's just a good habit to have in training.  And today's tip!

So there you have it!  Finish strong each and every time to train that kick into your races.

One last thing.  I can tell my shoes are getting "old" which means they have over 400 miles on them and the cushioning isn't quite there.   My calves were getting tight and actually hurt a little bit towards the end of the run.  Looking at the soles there's some good wear there, too.  So it's time for another pair!  Now where should I go to look for a good deal on shoes?   I wonder....