Saturday, January 12, 2019

Nothing to See Here, Move Along (Caution: Whiner alert!)

This isn't the blogpost you're looking for. Obi-Wan Kenobi tried to tell you that. Well, since you're far too powerful to be Jedi mind tricked and you're not moving along, let's get on with this post.

As I am already immersed in my running for 2019, I look back upon the previous year understanding that it was not the best running year I've had. It was not the worst either, it just seemed like it.

It began innocently enough with a five mile run on New Years Day. I wrote, "Not too bad - knee stiff and sore but loosened some." The next day, "Advil and Rock Tape helped knee a little."  Knee, knee, knee..... if I had a hundred dollars for every time I wrote the word in my logbook..... well, I'd have a lot of Benjamins.

It wasn't all bad. The first half of the year it actually seemed like I might approach 2500 miles for the year and get comfortable with this questionable joint whose name I will no longer type. I had runs of 13, 14, and three 16s just in March alone. I put together three weeks over 60 miles. Not bad for an old guy.

April was highlighted by a two week work sting in Idaho where I ran consistently well with good overall mileage. It all culminated with the Eugene Half Marathon (was originally running the full marathon) where I ran without significant pain or discomfort and did okay. May went pretty much the same and the annual Bolder Boulder 10K was decent. June began with the Dexter to Ann Arbor Half, a race that was originally fifteen miles (I know this because I ran that first one in 1974 - placed 14th, by the way). A terrible rainy, chilly day where everything felt lousy. The half year ended with 1250 miles, I hadn't missed a single day of running and I had the thought that I might be able to crank it up and get in 2700.

July went well until the San Francisco Half Marathon (which was also supposed to be a full marathon). I felt pretty darned good through 10 miles and then on a downhill heard/felt two pops in my knee (oops, I used that word, sorry). I jogged in. That moment of hyperextension on a downhill changed the year. The day after: July 30, I took a day off

For the next five months I would spend the time dodging the hyperextension. My mileage dropped, my pace slowed. The "normal" feeling was one of pain (felt like bone on bone) along with a sense that any moment that thing that connects my shin to my thigh might buckle. Sucked. Many log posts in August were reduced to how many "pops" occurred on a run. I repeat: it sucked. (By the way, I withdrew from the Chicago and Cal International Marathons in addition to those previously mentioned).

On November 8, I awoke with the Mother of all colds and decided to take the day off. That day became ten days. Why not? There was certainly no reason to run through a cold (the old me would have never believed I'd have that attitude, but I did).There would be three more days off bringing the total to 17. So, I ran 348 days last year. Most people would find that to be a good thing. I just stare at the seventeen 0s (glass WAY half empty on that one).

Long story short, I ran 2148 miles in 2018. The early ones went fairly well, the later ones not so much. It brought the grand total to 113,198.

After clicking "publish" in a few moments, I will head out the door. That THING will feel as its felt the last half year or so, lousy. Something's gotta change. We'll see what it is.

Run on.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

It's Been Two Years.......

On December 1st, my knee surgery "celebrated" its two year anniversary. The hope, as is the hope with any surgery, was that I would be good as new upon completion. Oh well, so much for hope in that particular area. You see, when you have run for more than 52 years, there are plenty of milestone type moments. Some are great, some only good, some not so much. PRs and great races or workouts land in the GREAT column (had some wonderful moments there), DNFs and DNSs land in the not so much side. This surgery was a significant not so much.

My knee's not terrible, mind you, it's just not good. I can still run, but the slow pace and complete lack of being able to go longer distances has dampened my spirits far more than moving up yet another age group might (and for some reason that continues to happen - Father time). And while my racing has been limited to when my mind is racing, each run is still a gift, still a moment to be savored.

Two things: the moment, and savoring. In his awesome book Athletic Excellence, Jim Loehr wrote: "When I say that my focus is the MOMENT, I guess what I’m really saying is that I savor the moment. Every moment of every performance is something to be totally experienced and totally enjoyed. I simply seize the moment for what it is and, whenever I do that, I begin immediately to experience a sense of calm, strength and energy that continues to amaze me."

Since the day in1982, when Loehr first enlightened me about the moment at a Track clinic in Phoenix, I have adopted the moment as my place to be. It is in the moment where all the good stuff sits: love, empathy, self-awareness, joy. Sometimes, however, the moment is not so hot, sometimes downright shitty. 

So what then? Loehr had an answer for that too.  "Don’t misunderstand, the feelings don’t always come, and I still lose them sometimes and can’t get them back. Even when I go to the moment, they can be a little stubborn. To help things along, I’ll start acting “as if” they were there and often that’s enough to get the feelings going again. As soon as that happens, I start becoming a performer again. I used to think those feelings came only when I played well. I really had it backwards. I played well because I got the feelings, and believe me there’s a big difference."

So, in the middle of this huge knee slump, in the middle of discomfort ranging from a pinch feeling to flat-out no support pain, I choose the moment. I choose to enjoy each opportunity to do this thing I love even though some of the "outcomes" are different. I choose to be, as Loehr masterfully wrote: "right here, right now, loving every minute of it." 

Run on.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Boston: Forget the Tea Party, Let's Run!

I was fortunate enough to spend a few days in the great city of Boston, Massachusetts this last week. It was, as it usually is when I travel, business. But like most trips, this one allowed for some good running and some great memories.

First and foremost, on day one of the trip, an easy 6 miles slid me past 1900 miles for the year. I always measure a good year of running, especially as I get older, by whether I can still manage to log 2000 miles. Baring the unforeseen, that is certain. Maybe even 2300. Cool. I also remembered that the last time I was DOWNTOWN was finishing the Boston marathon in 2001. Of course I made the trek to the finish line for old times sake.

Day two saw me on a rainy, wonderful 10 mile run on the Charles River. While my “surgically repaired” knee has been a problem the last month, it was great to get in a double digit run. It was chilly, windy, and as mentioned rainy: perfect. It was on this run, that I
passed another career milestone: 113,000 miles. At this point, every thousand miles clicking off is another blessing being able to continue running and still having the passion and motivation to get out there every day.
Only missed two so far this year.

Finally, day three of my visit, included a 5K “race.” The National Association of Realtors held the Realtor Relief Run this morning (Saturday) and even though I had some residual stiffness from the ten miler, I participated anyway. The results: a new PW for the 5K. Yeah, that’s PW: Personal Worst. The upside? The course halfway point was Commonwealth Avenue about a quarter mile from the Famous Citgo sign (one mile to go for the Boston marathon – in case you’re wondering what’s so famous about a Citgo sign). Also cool.

My PR is 15:09 in a race where the winner (Gordon Minty) ran 13:22 and I was soundly lapped AND placed somewhere around 25th. My reward, other than a nice PR, was a pat on
the back from my coach. Today, I ran seventeen minutes SLOWER, placed third in my age group AND received a big, hairy medal for my efforts (okay, actually it wasn’t hairy). Man….. times have changed.

The things that haven’t changed are interesting. I still have the same little excited butterflies before the race. I still go into pre-race anti-social mode, and I still do my warm up jog to Mozart (Jupiter Symphony, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Oboe Concerto mostly - yeah, I know: ROCKIN' IT!).

While not being pleased with my race time, I was happy that it was very easy and my knee was very good (and very good is the new awesome). I also beat the Tyrannosaurus Rex (he nailed me at the San Francisco half-marathon – different T-Rex, maybe).

So, I say to him at some point,
“Hey I have a T-Rex racing joke for you. Wanna hear it?”
He says, “SURE.”
I say, “How do you outsprint a T-Rex at the end of a race?”
He says, “I don’t know.”
“You go to your arms.”
Hilarious, I thought, since it came to me kind of spur of the moment. He didn’t laugh.

No wonder they’re extinct.

It's also New York City Marathon day. More great memories. Maybe another time.

Run on.

Monday, October 8, 2018

What Happened to Warm Up - Cool Down?

The gun goes off, who is ready?
My casual return to the world of cross country happened a hair over four years ago when my Grandson Mason, began running. Now, in the middle of my fifth season (Granddaughter McKenzie, now running and Mason running collegiately), I am wondering what happened to some very simple processes we used in the good old days: specifically... warming up and cooling down.

Maybe I'm old fashioned (HA! Proudly old fashioned), but what I see in so many cross country programs is this loosely assembled idea of getting prepared to race. Before going any further, there ARE teams doing it well, and miraculously they seem to be the more successful programs. Unfortunately, for most, we have lost some of the discipline it takes for a distance runner to get ready to race. Too many are embracing the quickie warm-up: a little jog and some cutsie drills.

In this world of instant everything, unfortunately (or fortunately), the human body takes time to ready itself for the stress of the 5K or 10K race (or any other one for that matter). Whether it's the impatience of youth, a lackadaisical attitude among coaches, or simply ignorance; the results of an improper warm-up are poorer performance, injuries, and basically a non-enjoyable experience. 

So, let's talk warm-up. With a few adaptations to exact exercises found to be good or bad, according to what's the latest in running's constantly changing landscape, here is a warm-up for a 5K/10K person before racing. I used it in high school and college, used it with great success in twenty years of coaching, and would use it today. Duration: 40-60 minutes.

Step One: easy running. The idea here is to get the heart and the rest of the system ready. I like athletes to get up and get moving. Walk a bit (maybe 5-7 minutes) and then break into an easy jog. For a 5K cross country person, I'm thinking a couple of miles is good. We should feel warm at the conclusion. Get the body engaged, get the heart pumping. By the way, jog with your team, preferably on the course (in cross country).

Step Two: Light ground stretching. I'm not sure when these cutsie drills everyone does became a substitute for actually stretching, but in way too many cases, it has. There's a place for cutsie drills, but not yet. Slow stretches, working on every major muscle group loosened. This can also be done as a team. AND steps one and two are done in your warm-up gear.

Step Three: Strides. Strides, or as I like to call them, Build Ups, are 80-100m beginning very slow and maxing at just below full speed 80-90% through. They should be a gradual build up. My tenth grade coach Al Pingel, used to tell us that every step should feel every-so-slightly faster than the previous. 2-4 of these let's you know how loose you are. I generally ditch my warm-up bottoms for strides, BUT might leave tights on, especially if it's very cold.

Step Four: Drills. Now we can do those fancy drills. The drills give a more dynamic stretch AND give you feedback as to which body parts might need more attention. WAY too many athletes just cruise through the drills without focus, often negating the goal of the drill. Coach Mike Smith, of the defending NCAA cross country champions at Northern Arizona, likes his guys to focus as if they were doing each drill for the first time and seeking to do it perfectly. After drills, it's off with the remaining warm-ups (I'm down to my uniform with a T Shirt over my singlet), and on with my racing shoes.

Step Five. Final Strides. A few more strides to insure that we're feeling loose, checking for spots that might need some last minute attention, and we are prepped and ready. Most often, we can get these strides in at the starting line as run outs. Then stay loose....

It's race time!

Once completed the race leaves us yet another task, cooling down. Muscles get taxed heavily in a race, and they need some "flushing." This is where a nice, easy twenty minutes comes in handy. FIRST, get out of the sweaty uniform top and into something dry, and if needed, warm. Then, grab a teammate or two, or someone you got to know in the race, and go for that nice easy cool down. The jog will not only flush the junk in your legs, but also give you an opportunity to review your performance in your mind or out loud and/or just relax. It will also make it much easier for you to get back to effective workouts and feel more recovered. Best, by the way, to get this started 10-15 minutes after your finish.

Warming up, cooling down. Easy things to do. Easy things to ignore. Your choice.

Run on.