Tuesday, February 26, 2008

February Sucks (and other musings)

It's almost over. The worst month of the year is ending.

Besides running issues, February is the epicenter of the mid winter blahs around our house. I love how you get a few inches of snow, followed by a thaw and some sun, then - YOINK! - another couple inches of snow again. Cruel, cruel, cruel...
As Sinclair Lewis so aptly put it: "Winter is not a season, it's an occupation."
However, my Wii tennis and bowling skills have become really strong over the last several weeks stuck inside the house. So, I have that going for me.
Anyone remember the film Meatballs? Really, pretty bad. I caught this on cable over the weekend. But I did appreciate the trip down memory lane with the lovable, stereotypical nerd, Spaz. Who could forget Spaz?

Also, congratulations to Rudy for winning the intercamp Olympiad trail race at the end of the film. Bet you don't consider Meatballs a running film do you?
This past Sunday, I tackled 13 miles for my longest run since the Goofy Challenge in my slow, behind schedule build up to Boston.
13.03 miles
1:37:54 time
7:31 pace
This is cutback week for me. Really, about the only one in the schedule. From here on out, it is full steam ahead towards April 21st!

Happy trails.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Steers Nation, Unite!

There are two relevant definitions for "steer".

The verb:

direct the course; determine the direction of travelling
be a guiding or motivating source or drive

The noun:

castrated bull

I'll let you, the reader, pick your favorite definition.

You've probably seen the Steers logo pop up on a few blogs, namely here and here, in addition to mine. But what is it? What does it mean?

Well, I'm a second generation Steer. I was not there at the founding fathers creation. I do not know all the ins and outs of how the group came to be. (I have an idea but will leave that story for someone truly in the know). Rest assured, the Steers are not steeped in secrecy like the Freemasons or as mysterious as the druids.

The name has stuck through many Gus Macker basketball tournaments and other events where a team name is required. There have been several members that have gone to war under the Steers banner at one time or another. It has become a loose affiliation of friends and allies working together for a common goal. Yes, basically, the Steers kick ass. *

The group has slowly transitioned from basketball to running over the years. Now, the Steers Long Distance Project has come to being. We expect to challenge the Brooks-Hanson team, another cross state running group, for supremacy within a few years. **

It appears there will be at least 3, possibly 4, Steers present at the Bayshore races in May. We expect a wave of new enrollees shortly thereafter.

We are but a seedling, being cultivated and nurtured before the blossom.

Run with the Steers! Or get the horns.

* As much as one can with a lifetime near .500 record in basketball tournaments
** Only if all of their members join us. We offer no compensation of any kind.

Last night, 6 2/3 miles @ 7:20 pace. Each mile was progressively faster starting at 7:29 and ending at 7:09. Each week I'm trying to mix in at least one outdoor faster paced run.

Note: I have recently become aware that anonymous commenting was not supported on my blog. I have now enabled this feature. So, you Steers out there without a google account, make yourselves known!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Core, The Core, The Core

Master: You must concentrate on the tan t'ien. Only then will your arms and legs relax and allow you to succeed.

Grasshopper: Yes, master. I will concentrate on my core and my arms and legs will be like cotton moving effortlessly with my running stride.

So, I'm reading Chi Running (shown to the right) which promotes the principles of T'ai Chi and how it relates to running. I'm always open to new ideas. Many times I cherry pick a thought or concept here and there from different books/studies I read and absorb it into my own collective knowledge database. Rarely do I embrace an entire concept, in whole, and live it. I have a bit too much of an independent streak for that. Though I am not quite through with it yet, Chi Running is one of those books where I can realize some benefits but will probably not embrace the entire concept.

So far, I have really latched onto the idea that the most efficient, effortless, injury free running comes when you shift the focus off your arms and legs and instead concentrate on your core. The book suggests that most runners mistakenly think about their running stride and each foot fall while in the act of running. Or spend too much time worrying about building leg or arm muscles to propel themselves forward. Chi Running, using concepts from T'ai Chi, proposes that the best running comes when you forget about your arms and legs and instead concentrate on your core (the area behind and slightly below the navel) and allow that to become the energy force that moves you forward. It sounds a bit abstract and hard to define. I'm struggling with exactly what it means myself (though, again, I'm not entirely through the book yet. Patience, grasshopper, patience).

The idea is that your core, or tan t'ien (or dantien), is the basic center of your gravity/energy. By using that energy force to move you forward, your legs and arms simply become appendages to carry out the running motion. The pressure is relieved from your legs particularly and you develop a more natural, relaxed stride. Running injuries, the book suggest, are the result of too much muscular pressure on the legs to move the body forward.

Cotton and steel: All movements originate from your center, which should be strong like steel while your arms and legs remain soft, like cotton.

I have gone on a couple runs recently, albeit treadmill runs, and have focused on my core and completely forgot about my arms and legs and let them do their own thing naturally. I have to say, I did feel a lot more comfortable while running. I felt quicker. And I had minimal post-run hamstring soreness which I had been experiencing quite a bit of over the last several weeks.

I'm going to keep giving this technique a shot. I can't say that I've been concentrating on my legs previously. But I know I was NOT focusing on my core. Maybe the change in mental focus will lead to a better physical performance. We'll see. Stay tuned.

I wonder what else is in the book?

Right now, I'm still waxing the car...wax on, wax off...and not seeing the whole picture.

12 treadmill miles Sunday.
4.5 treadmill miles last night.

I'll do 6.5 miles tomorrow and 13 on Saturday (possibly with Mike). Hopefully, those will be done outside.

Nine weeks to Boston!

Happy trails.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Best Laid Plans

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

From the poem "To a Mouse" By Robert Burns


My plans for the Boston Marathon are coming together. Hotel is booked. Flight is booked. Maps are googled. What could go wrong? Or, what could 'gang aft agley'? What does that mean? Is that English?

Ahh, the magic of google. "Gang aft agley" is Scottish for 'often go awry'. So, there you go.

It appears everything is set to go but the training itself. I am proceeding slowly but diligently. I expect to get only one 20 miler in before the marathon. This will be my third marathon in 6 months. A feat I hope NOT to repeat. I really feel two a year is enough and will be the plan going forward. However, the whole Goofy Challenge plans were made and then the BQ occurred and I couldn't afford NOT to go to Boston and risk not qualifying again in the future. So....

I'm trying to balance keeping the legs fresh while getting in shape for Boston. I probably won't be in peak condition but I hope to be in healthy, energized condition if you know what I mean.

These are the plans. I hope they don't gang aft agley. (No? Not working for you? How do you work eighteenth century Scottish slang into every day conversation??)

Fun facts: Robert Burns is most commonly known as Scotland's national poet, the Ploughman's Poet, or, simply, The Bard. He is revered. You may know him as the creator of the New Year's poem/song Auld Lang Syne.

Update: Nipple-gate

A quick word on my last post. I am still basking in the after glow of working a nipple photo into my post. A prouder accomplishment one could not have. However, my wife did want me to make it clear that the nipple was not hers either. Nor anyone we know (as far as we know). It was simply an anonymous nipple found through a google search of 'areola'. The wonders of the web!

Happy trails.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Zero Degrees and Wind: A Hate Story

Just in time for Valentine's Day...

If I had to list my two least favorite conditions to run in they would be:


I hate them. This Sunday? Check. And check. The thermometer was dancing between zero and negative 2 degrees with every icy blast of wind. What a horrible, horrible day to have to run 10 miles.

So, I did what any sane, non-Grizzly Adamish person would do. Yes, the treadmill. Inside. Warm. TV.

Of course, you can't really hear the TV at the gym. Nor see it so well with all the heads bopping up and down in front of you on the ellipticals. And the please-oil-me sound of the mill, well, GRATING comes to mind.

But at least it's not out in the freezing cold. There is simply no way my nipples would have survived. Sure, they serve no purpose. I don't plan to nurse any babies any time soon. But they're nice to have around and make a nice focal point for the rather obnoxious looking areola. So I'll do what I can for 'em.

Not mine. Rest easy.

(Yes, I am congratulating myself for finding a reason to get a photo like this into a blog post!)

Ten miles at around a 7:40 pace. Nice and easy if you pleasy. No hamstring soreness to report (I said I was no longer going to dwell on various muscle issue but I'm allowed one in 2008 aren't I?)

I've come to grips with the fact that I'll probably be heading into Boston a bit undertrained. I won't be chasing the 3 hour mark or probably even a PR as I once planned months ago. I'd be content with a second best time ever. For that, I merely need to avoid the "c" word. Yes, cramps.

In other news...

My son's basketball season wrapped up. We now have about a month of uninterrupted time where there are no after school activities to go to. Woo-hoo!

The best TV show you've never heard of on F/X: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. With episodes like "Charlie Gets Molested", "The Gang Exploits a Miracle", and "Mac Bangs Dennis' Mom". How can you go wrong?

My dishwasher crapped out on me. Before it did, it rumbled, shook, groaned, caused a slight buckle in my wood laminate floor, and died with a most horrific metal screeching noise (think train and sudden braking). At least, that's what I was told. I was at the gym running, see above, and unable to be at the kitchenside vigil. R.I.P. Kenmore Quiet Wash II, R.I.P.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Tuesday Ramblings...

Good responses to my Let 'Er Rip post. I appreciate everyone's two cents. It's always nice to get some perspective from others that are not, well, me.


- Srod commented that maybe I should look at lightening my race calendar. I took his advice. Or, rather, I was forced to take his advice. I had every intention to sign up for the Bayshore Half Marathon over Memorial weekend. As I look this morning, half marathon registration is closed. This is too soon after Boston to consider the full marathon so....I may (and probably will) sign up for the 10k that weekend instead. I've never actually run a 10k race before which is why it doesn't appear in my personal bests column to the right. So, guaranteed PR!

- Russ wondered if I completely missed the intention of his original comment. I think I understood what he was saying but it led me down a different path than I think he expected. For me, running for time/PR's = FUN. Restoring the fun in running means pushing harder.

- Doug provided a nice quote on running against the stopwatch. Love it.

- Book Update #1. Don Quixote. I'm pushing through this but it is a bit of a difficult read for me. It's been awhile since I read a book where it takes 4 pages to describe how you rode away from a village on horseback. It's good. Humorous. I'll be reading it for another couple months though I expect. I'm averaging a paltry 50-60 pages a week due to my schedule. And it's over a thousand pages long.

- Book Update #2. Roasting in Hell's Kitchen. This is an autobiography of Gordon Ramsay, the world class chef. You've probably seen him throwing around f-bombs on television's Hell's Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares. I love reading stories about people who are so passionate and obsessed with perfection in their chosen job/activity. I'm envious of people who have found their life's calling and are pursuing it with every fiber of their beings. Personally, I feel like I'm spinning my wheels...biding time...paying bills...in my career devoid of all passion or interest. I love to live vicariously through truly driven people. Good read. Now, if I could just find something I care about half as much as this guy...

- Post mortem Book Update. 1776. I completed this historical book by David McCullough on the critical first full year of the American Revolution. It steps you through a battle by battle, month by month account of the keys events and decisions on both sides. Washington made very severe judgment errors. The British were too passive and could have destroyed the rebellion early with a more aggressive plan. In 1776, Washington's army merely lived to fight again. And that was the mistake the British made.

- I really wanted to see history made with a 19-0 Patriot team. However, the Giants did deserve to win. They won the battle in the trenches. Who didn't know they were going to score that TD after Manning's miracle sack escape, heave, and reception?

- February is my least favorite month of the year. Gray. Wet. Snow. Rain. Snow. Repeat. What's to like about it?

- Has their been a better franchise in all of major sports in the last 15 years than the Detroit Red Wings? Player retirements, coaching changes, etc. the Wings continue to (usually) lead their division and challenge for the Stanley Cup EVERY SINGLE YEAR since 1994. It's time to win one again this season though.

- My son's 8-0 basketball team heads into their end of the year tournament this weekend. Double elimination. A champion will be crowned.

- 11 weeks to the Boston Marathon?? I better book those airline tickets.

Happy trails.