Monday, August 29, 2016

How I Spent My Summer Vacation: the Final Post

The final post? Where are the others?

Confession: the other posts of How I Spent My Summer Vacation have yet to be posted. They include excitement ranging from the Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon to the USATF Junior Olympic Track meet in Sacramento. All good stuff, and way overdue, but last things first.

Last Friday, I went in for a lower lumbar MRI, without contrast (which I have no idea what it means, but it sounds cool). The problem was/is, my butt. Around early July, I began to notice a nagging pain in the ass (not other people, actually in my glute). Being an experienced runner, I self diagnosed Piriformis Syndrome, an ailment to which I have been subjected on several occasions in my running career. Being a veteran, I opted for self-healing and began the injury evasion dance. Restaurant chairs were bad, but airplane sitting was the worst and I will confess that after a flight to San Diego ten days ago, I could BARELY walk off the plane. 

After missing the San Francisco Marathon as well as my 50K debut in Squamish, British Columbia (mucho dinero down the drain), it was time for some professional intervention. It was time for the incredible Dr. Carly May. Carly has cured me through an earlier Piriformis episode, Plantar Fasciitis, Popliteal inflammation, Hamstring problems, and most any other running related injury you can imagine. Three visits, several rope flex tortures, countless dry needles, and a lot of cracking later, Piriformis left the list of causes of my never-ending pain. 

What was left? What could be causing my extreme pain and discomfort, especially after sitting for any period of time? She decided maybe, just maybe, a herniated disc. SO, the MRI. Results: after significant trauma surrounding the noisy MRI tube and my mild claustrophobic moment, it was found that all I have is "very mild degenerative changes of the lumbar spine without significant spinal canal stenosis or nerve impingement."

My reaction? That's nothing. If this is all my spine has going on after almost 65 years on the planet, 50 years of running, and nearly 110,000 miles pounding the planet's surface, then BRING IT ON (I owe it all to good feet)!

So what is wrong? Well, I have to tell you that we're not sure. BUT, it's getting better. I have begun a vigorous routine of deep water running, the elliptical, my strength and core workouts, along with some targeted stretching and I'm feeling pretty darned good. Lost in the treatment was the discovery that my worst pain came after sitting, as previously mentioned, for long time periods EXCEPT when the sitting happened in my car. Huh, my car, a sports car that sits me back and drives my knees up. SOOOO, now I have my little rolled pad that I can tuck under my knees when I am desk or table bound. So far it is testing well, as the researchers might say. Today, I sat for 25 minutes and no pain.

Running? It's coming. With less than ten weeks until the New York Marathon, there is no time to be wasted. By the end of the week, I hope to hit the soft trails and we will see where it goes from there. 

Like every tight distance runner, I vow to stretch, lift and do all those exciting things to take care of my body, hopefully preventing a relapse (or some other injury). Vow, a funny word meaning promise. We'll see how that goes. Anyway, I am looking to a future being back at what I love.

Run on.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Track and Field Kind of Summer

The three ring circus has nothing on Hayward Field

I've always been a sucker for a good track meet. Well, even a mediocre one too. Since my first one, the Huron Relays in March of 1967, I'm hooked.

When P.T. Barnum added the third ring to his "Greatest Show on Earth" in 1882, he indeed invented the three ring circus. He was, however, a little behind in this whole three ring thing as the first Olympic Games were held in 776 BC in Olympia, Greece. The Greeks expanded the circus to include the pentathlon and everything went big time when the Romans picked up track and field around 200 BC. Talk about a three ring circus....

Don't get me wrong, a circus can be pretty fun, and a football, baseball, basketball, or hockey game can be extremely sensually stimulating. But in today's "modern" world, a well oiled track and field meet could have as many as seven events going on simultaneously. While the schedule rolls through the running events, spectators can also get their full of throwing, jumping, and vaulting in every corner of the stadium. I loved running in them, I loved organizing them. I digress.

Spring (and summer) is track season. This one has been very special.

First, my Grandson, Mason, had a fabulous season running mostly the 1600 and 3200 meters for Eaglecrest High School. As a sophomore, he regularly competed with the best distance runners Colorado had to offer and became an outstanding runner with an exciting future. Each meet was fun, each meet was personal. And as you get to know the other kids on the team, every event becomes a little personal as they try to summon the best they can give.

Next, I spent four days watching the NCAA Championships on the television. Collegians attempting to become National Champions and All-Americans is very cool. I remember the Penn and Ohio State Relays in college. Fantastic atmospheres. 

Last weekend, Mason ran in the USATF (track and field's governing body) State Junior Olympics. He won the 1500 and 3000 and qualified for the regional in three weeks in Albuquerque. The hope is that he will make it to the Nationals in Sacramento at the end of July. 

If all that isn't enough, tucked in the middle is a trip to the USA Olympic Track and Field Trials at historic Hayward Field in Eugene, OR. Linda and I set it up as a "reward" for Mason's great season tagged onto a present for his sixteenth birthday. Of course, there could be a bit of selfish motive behind the choice of the gift as I have never attended the Trials. Oh well.  

So, it's a track and field summer. Pretty exciting. Somewhere in the middle of that, we might sneak in the San Francisco Marathon. That's a topic for another time.

Run on (in circles, well, ovals).

Monday, May 23, 2016

A For Accomplishment

Lately, my running has provided few highlights and fewer accomplishments. This past week marked the end of that trend. Four, count 'em, FOUR things went very right this week: mileage, long run, weight loss, extra sessions.

First and foremost, I didn't travel this week so it allowed for some focused mileage. The total for the week was 57. This followed a nice 48 week. This one we'll back off a little (46 ish). In my younger days I tended to build for three weeks and recover for one, now I move to a two/one ratio. So 45-46 this week and then back up.

Next, the long run. I went 14 yesterday. Granted 14 is not 20 or something, but I haven't been that far in a while. In fact, the last long run of a similar distance was the 15 on Magnolia Road back on March 6 (see: Don't get me wrong, it was not easy, smooth, or anything like that. It was, however, 14. I'll take it. 12 this week and then up to 16-17.

In 2015, I lost a lot of weight. Unfortunately through an injury, the holidays, and a complete disregard for any semblance of discipline, it has all come back. Last week, however, I dropped 7 pounds (actually 9 in the last 10 days). Understanding that this kind of rapid loss is not sustainable, and while I am not believing that slimness is just around the corner, I like progress and am happy to have made some dietary changes that reflect my concern for my well being for the future.

The "Workout Room"
Finally, I hit the strength and core program. Like most other workout oriented things, consistency takes discipline. The thing is this: I have no idea what makes this particular thing so challenging. All I have to do is walk downstairs. Everything I need is there. No trip to a gym, no fighting for a machine. Worse yet, once I begin, I love it. So three workouts down, I strive for consistency.

That's it. A rare good week. Hoping to make good weeks the norm.

Run on. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Struggling With Juggling

There are just a little more than thirteen weeks until the San Francisco Marathon. Three weeks after that is the Squamish 50K. I should be firmly entrenched in some serious base training, ready to begin a strength phase. I am not. I am struggling with juggling.

The last four weeks and the next nine are some of the busiest ever. Teaching and prepping classes, traveling, and marketing for the fall schedule seem to take huge focus and much energy. Add in Mason's track meets, a McKenzie feis, or Kim's recitals, AND trying to be a husband and all around nice guy...... Yikes. Fitting in productive runs is challenging, especially when there are so many opportunities to do otherwise.

So, what is the answer AND is the question so unique?

Let's take the second question first. Everyone is busy (just ask them). My issue is not unique. Everyone does some semblance of juggling their lives to meet the demands of everyone and everything in it. It becomes a matter of expectations and priorities. 

You (and I) might think that if these "races" are important I will find/make the time to train adequately to prepare. In the real world, however, there are only 24 hours in a day and only so much energy to fill them. Noted sports psychologist and author, Jim Loehr said, "energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of peak performance." So let's find me some energy.

The answer may be a focus on quality over quantity. It's entirely possible that last year's string of fifteen weeks of 70+ miles per week might not fit this time around. Less mileage means less time commitment, right? Of course, we're not factoring in the reality that I LOVE to run. It's my BEST time of the day. So less may not be more. Less may be less.

Of course, if I were "motivated" for these races, the time and energy might take care of themselves. With the right motivation, I'm all in, right? Maybe not. After nearly 500 races and close to 109,000 miles, I have learned two things: motivation is a moving target, and REAL motivation doesn't come from the race, it has to come from me.

So, maybe the answer lies in expectations. If expectations were lowered, I wouldn't feel as driven to train with the same amounts of vigor and commitment. I could look at these events as just that: events. Maybe I might even take a day off once in a while. 

Wait, wait, wait, I know how this goes. While I am completely able to consciously lower expectations today, I know that when I reach a/the starting line, I want to GO! Lowered expectations be damned. Then, and almost fifty years of running and racing tells me this, when my performance is disappointing, I'll be kicking my proverbial ass all the way home. That is not going to work. My ass is sore from self-kicking most of the time anyway.

So, what's the answer? I don't know but I feel a little better acknowledging that I have a problem (that's half the solving, right?). 

My name is Rich Sands and I am struggling with juggling.

I guess I'll go for a run.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Worst Race EVER, So I Kept Going Anyway

The start, where it's always okay.
Forty-Four years ago, I placed 14th in the Florida Relays Marathon. 2:58:24. Today, amazingly, I ran roughly the same time for a half marathon. And I'm not sure which makes me prouder.

In 1972, I had just run a very comfortable 1:50:00 twenty mile tune-up. It meant I was ready to run under 2:30. So, while 2:58 is an okay PR to have in my basket, I was neither proud, or happy about the race. Today, while I am embarrassed; borderline humiliated, I am also proud. Cliche time: proud that I finished.

It didn't begin well at all. Last night after a day in flip flops I noticed my left arch was bugging me. Not wanting to risk further issues, I contemplated not starting. But I did anyway. Upon arrival, I had wild stomach cramps. Hadn't noticed it when I awoke, it just sort of evolved. Two puke stops prior to the start and I thought I might be good to go.

But there was something just not right. Standing around, my heart rate was 115-120. Should have been 65-70 pre race. Immediately after what seemed like an easy enough 9:30 ish first mile, my HR is north of 170. Not a good sign. But I kept going anyway.
Me, #125 Circa 1972

I thought I settled in a bit in miles 2 and 3. Stomach still bugging me, but hey, my foot was alright. Then, it hit. The stomach went all off and any semblance of energy left my legs disappeared. I had bonked at like 3 miles!!!!! NO way! I could run through this. I hear about people who literally pull a Lazarus in the middle of a race. Why not me?

At mile 4, I took some water and immediately could not keep it down. "This is going to be a long ass 9 miles from here," I thought. So I decided to pack it in. I stepped off the trail and began walking back. I would do that two other times.

"Where are you going, stupid? You've felt plenty worse than this before? AND did you notice it's a long ass way back AND it's not your car, it's Brian's car and he won't be back for a long ass time." Argument 1; won (or maybe lost - ask me again tomorrow). So, I kept going anyway.

I thought the next four miles sucked. I mean, I never felt completely dead, but never got back anything close to a decent feeling. Some where around mile 8, my calves felt really tight and my right hamstring was cramping. "Really? Are we at the 22 mile mark of a marathon, here?" I began to look for every opportunity, to leave the course, catch the Light Rail and call it a day. Problem is the train is at least a mile away. So, I kept going anyway

Then it set in: the walking. My hamstrings didn't cramp when I walked, my stomach felt okay when I walked. So I would walk for roughly a minute, run for two. I began to notice that my mile splits were in the high 13's AND my heart rate was still sky high. It's going to be a long ass way. So, I kept going anyway.

Me, Angela and Brian. I am so blessed to have
wonderful family.
Somewhere after ten, I began looking for friendly people that might give me a ride to the finish (never actually ASKED anyone, I was just hoping someone would offer). Brian and Angela have surely finished by now and who really needs one more medal. I should just stop. So, I picked up the pace anyway. 

What I also noticed was the people running near me were not my usual racing cohorts. It was a much different crew. As each person passed by, I thought, "I will never not appreciate the back of the packers again." Each had their own saga, their own pain.

At 11, I was done. Completely. I could run some going downhill, but the ups seized and cramped my hamstring WAY beyond what was comfortable or even tolerable. But, there was only two miles to go AND in a mile, I would hit twelve and at that point, as my Mom used to say, "Anyone can run a mile." See? Sometimes math and a Mother's advice are counter productive. So I kept going anyway.

I couldn't drink, cuz I couldn't keep it down and I was now working on 2 and a half hours with no fuel. No wonder I was cramping, no wonder I was a little dizzy. And at twelve miles comes the big uphill, a bit more than a half of mile of nastily placed elevation. BUT anyone can run a mile, right Mom?  So I kept going anyway.

The finish was uneventful, except that I made it. Didn't look at the time, didn't stop my watch (and had removed my heart rate monitor back when I decided my HR was never coming down no matter how slow I ran/walked).

After finishing I must have looked like hell. I could not eat because I couldn't keep anything down. I couldn't drink for the same reason. I just wanted Scottie to beam me home. The train ride back to the start area was a dizzy, crampy, nauseated journey. Angie and Brian were patient saints. Several times a nice guy named Michael asked if I was alright. "No, but I'll be okay."

No comment.
I was given a medal at the finish. At the time, I was embarrassed to take it. Now, I'm kind of proud of it. This was my worst race EVER!!!!!!! (can't over exclamation point that). But I was kind of proud I had fought through and made it till the end. 

Please understand, what runners go through out there sometimes is often referred to as suffering. We don't suffer. People in third world countries suffer, people in the inner city suffer, military prisoners and people with cancer suffer. I never confuse the pain and discomfort of what I CHOOSE to do with suffering. 

I could rant about all of the mistakes I made, how I let 6 months of great weight loss go down the tubes during the winter. I could complain about a lot because I brought this on me. In August I will celebrate 50 years of being a runner, I've run over 108,000 miles and these 13.1 were some of the worst. Yeah, I could complain, but I'm not going to.

I'm going to keep on going anyway. 

Hug a back of the packer today. They deserve it.

Monday, March 14, 2016

See You In New York! Schedule Re-Revisited

With some very good news last week, my "race" schedule is once again revisited. It was Tuesday when my email arrived proclaiming I was accepted into the 2016 New York City Marathon. I have run New York in 1993, 84 and 98 and am extremely excited to do this one as 1) it's been a long time and 2) race day is my 65th birthday.

Latest schedule as set (registered races in red):

April 10               Platte River Half Marathon
April 24               Cherry Creek Sneak 5 mile (maybe 5K)
May 30                Bolder Boulder 10K  (redemption)
June 18               Leadville Heavy Half  (still 50/50 on this one)
July 3                  Vail Hill Climb (7 miles)
July 31                San Francisco Marathon  (Looking for a Boston qualifier)
August 6             Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon  (love this race)
August 21           Squamish 50K   (never been to British Columbia)
September 10     Imogene Pass Run (17 miles. Revenge sought)
October 4            Hot Chocolate 15K Denver
October 16          Denver Rock n Roll Half Marathon  (Probably for sure as NYC tuneup)
November 6        NYC Marathon  (it's on my 65th birthday for crying out loud)
November 19      Nike Cross 5K  (this looked like a blast)
December 3        North Face 50K or 50 mile

On other news, last week was a recovery week with only 43 miles. This one may be the same as it seems I've caught a cold (and there's no cure for that, you know). I guess I'd just as soon get the spring cold out of the way now rather than May, which is my usual time.

Also saw that Lance Armstrong competed in the Marin Ultra 50K. Placed 14th overall. That's one tough cookie especially on those hills. Good on you, Lance.

Run on.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Magnolia Road Lives Up to It's Reputation. Jenny Simpson's the Bomb!

Coming off the Boulder Canyon
I saw the Flotrack workout. I read Running With the Buffaloes. I heard the stories. I'd never run Magnolia Road.

Sunday, in some sort of a cross between self-sacrifice and stupidity, I decided that my long run should be up Mags. I had my wife, Linda, perform familial last rites, packed my car with the essentials and headed to Boulder. 

The key word here is Sunday. While I lived in Boulder for a decade, and loved it, I need a really an incredibly good reason to make the drive from SE Aurora to Boulder during the week as the traffic is usually horrendous. Yeah, I am aware that U.S. News and World Report ranked Denver as the best place to live in the USA. Obviously, the rankers did not drive around any time other than the two hours a day that are not rush hour and they never drove to Boulder (moral of this side story: despite the rankings, stay away from Denver and Colorado in general, it's a terrible place to live...). I digress.

Upon arrival in the Emerald City (I prefer that over the standard name; The People's Republic of Boulder), I found my way up the Canyon to Magnolia, negotiated the twists and turns of the early paved portion and arrived at the most important sign on the road:
Cars as far as you can see
Pavement Ends. Greeting me were no less than 20 cars and a sizable collection of runners getting ready to tackle the route. Obviously the CU Buff Sunday run was beginning. The common threads uniting the group? Young and thin.

I parked my completely out of place Boxter between two groups of young men rushing to make a 9:00 am group start. Feeling WAY out of place, I emerged from the vehicle in my completely out of place body, and began readying myself for the task at hand. Then, it happened, eye contact. "Have a great run, fellas," I said. "Thank you, Sir, you too," relied two of the guys. (Did he say SIR? While being very polite, was he calling me old? I'll bet he hasn't run 108,000 miles in his dreams.)

I said, "This is my first time up here. I'm hoping to just survive."

The reply was both smart and dooming: "Well it's an out and back, so you can turn around anytime you want." Ouch. They darted off. I greased up and headed off well behind the group.

And it begins
Two things about the beginning of this run: It's gorgeous and it's downhill. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE downhill. It's just that I didn't just fall off the turnip truck and I know that if I'm going downhill on an out and back, that part is uphill on return. Nonetheless, I set out to log my long run.

When you read about this run, it is commonly reported, and geographically confirmed, that there is a net uphill from the start to Highway 119 (the common turnaround). I, and my Suunto Ambit2, confirm that. I will also confirm is what Paul Harvey might have called, "The rest of the story." You have enough downhill stretches while climbing to sort of dread the return. It will not be up and then back down. In fact, I'm not really sure there are more than just a few flat parts to the entire run.

My downhill start is conservative. I; 1) have not run 15 miles since September, 2) Have not run this hilly a course since September and 3) have gained 20 pounds since September. The self conversation begins: "Let's see how it goes. The kid was right, we can always turn around. A ten mile run would be great. Or a six, or a four...."

After a mile, I settle into to a decent pace and while I dread the final mile upon returning, I am somewhat pleased for this opportunity to get into a rhythm before heading uphill. As I roll past two miles, I begin to see groups coming down. While I realize I am going slow, it's
Getting passed all over the place
difficult to imagine they have been to the top and are coming down. There must be some variations to the route to which I am not privy. Turns out, some begin at the top.

Then it happens. Moving strongly and quickly a figure emerges from the curve ahead. It's Jenny Simpson, World 1500 meter Champion. I wave. Jenny waves. "Well, that's cool," I am thinking. I think about snapping a picture, but decide that cooler is a better reaction than fan-boy. I pick up my pace.

The miles are actually ticking by. While continuing to contemplate an early turnaround, I'm also feeding myself a steady diet of you-can-do-it. Then it happens again. Jenny comes along side (heading back, I surmise) and says, "Looking great, keep it up." I decide two things: she's lying about how I look and I will keep it up. Very soon after, the guys from the parking area come flying down. "Way to go, sir." "Looking great, way to go." "Nice job, you're almost there."  I glance at my watch. Liars!

Turnaround ahead
Somewhere around 5.5 miles, I run out of Buffs. The road becomes long and lonely. The hills get steeper (not just in my mind, for real too). I'm thinking, they are finished. I'm not even halfway through and everyone else is finished. I was young and fast once....

Right when I need it most, I sense the close presence of Highway 119. Upon reaching the turnaround, I am drawn by the false promise of past up/down runs. I kid myself into thinking it's all downhill from here. Sometimes a lie gets all through your mind before the truth can put its pants on (sorry Mark Twain).

The run back is okay. The missing element of my story thus far, however, was the wind. STRONG headwinds on the way up. Could this mean....... TAILWIND COMING BACK?


I have to confess that my pace was steady on the return. The miles seemed to pass quickly (in my mind, not on the watch). With about three miles to go, I decide I needed a diversion and pulled out the earbuds choosing to listen to Bob Babbitt interview Suzy Favor Hamilton about running, depression, mania, and sex. Coincidentally, I am experiencing three of those right now. Not a bad diversion.

Happy to be done
Finally, the fourteenth mile is passed and I look ahead. Yep, I was right. What goes down must come back up. Where is my chauffeur when I need him? Expectedly, my pace has slowed considerably and the final hill is the worst. I could walk it in, I suppose. But I don't. Then, three hours after I began, I finish. I'm thinking three things: change my ratty shirt, get some solid food (starving), and tweet Jenny. I do all of those.

It was not an easy run, but I have to confess, I've had worse. I enjoyed the terrain, the views, and especially the fantastic verbal support from the young and the thin. I have always been a CU cross country fan and now I have reinforcement; they're just a bunch of good kids (and fast).

The rest of the day brought some stiffness. I spent the evening trying to track down my son, Ryan, to wish him a Happy Birthday (mission eventually accomplished), at an Irish Step
dance show in the Tech Center (GO, McKenzie!), and waiting to see if I had really seen Jenny or if she was a figment of my imagination. Then, like she did on the road, she emerged....

Cool. Thanks, Jenny!

55 miles for the week. Beginning to lose pounds again and looking forward to a return to Magnolia Road in a few months. Maybe after winter finally comes to Colorado (yeah, that's right winter is coming. Don't move here people no matter what US News and World says.)

Run on.