Friday, April 30, 2010

My hero, Jeff!

I am often accused by my wife of not divulging all of the information and gossip that I hear in a day. I can often be found saying something about one of my coworkers or news of the world and Katie says, "You never told me that." And I can agree, I never did tell her that, but when I try to recall all of the events and information in a day, some things are just edited out. Not intentionally, but I either forget to retell the information or see the information as inpertinent. Considering the exact detail that I get about my wife's daily life, I had assumed that I was receiving every minute detail of information that she receives in a day. However, I was shocked to discover yesterday that this is not an accurate portrayal. Because twice in the last 24 hours, other runners had complained to my wife that they suffered from IT band discomfort in their legs and my wife never once mentioned it to me.

You see, in my post yesterday I complained of a possible hamstring injury while I was running. The injury had me very concerned, first because of its effect on my fitness goals, and second because no amount of stretching was giving me any relief. The injury seems to run down the side of my leg rather than directly in the back, and no amount of toe touches seemed to get to the problem area. When I got home last night I checked the comments to the post and there was one from my friend (little did I know, soon-to-be hero), Jeff. Jeff had recommended that I stretch my IT band. I don't mean to sound too ignorant (I am), but I seriously thought Jeff was making a joke about masturbation or something; I had never even heard of such a thing. You must understand that Jeff is a comedian and if you read his blog, especially the DWTS posts, you can understand that he has a penchant for innuendo. Before sending a reply about how I had already "stretched my IT band", I Googled it, and low and behold this thing really exists. Not only that, but the internet is full of information about IT (Iliotibial) band syndrome, who typically suffers from IT Band syndrome (me), and stretching maneuvers to help with the problem. I got down and did a couple of the stretches and could feel an immediate impact; it was amazing! I ran (yes, ran again!) upstairs to tell Katie all about it, and that's when I found out she was withholding this information from me all day (We just now are back on speaking terms). Later in the evening we were at our neighbor's house and D (another runner) gave me a couple of more stretching moves. And today, while I am still not at 100% (I took today off from biking just to give the leg some more rest), I feel sooo much better.

So, today I am pronouncing Jeff Ford as one of my heroes. Heroism is not unfamiliar to Jeff. He has an uncle that is an astronaut, and a father, David, that served loyaly for many years in Indiana state government and courageously fought pancreatic cancer (I tear up now thinking about David's speech at Jeff's wedding). Obviously, Jeff has come by it naturally. But he did not have to comment on this little blog; Jeff took time out of his day of being a husband, a funny mo'fo'ing blogger, and improv comedian (he has another job, but nothing as cool as these) to help me out. Thank you, Jeff; you are a true hero! I owe you one.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Since my last run, my muscles have been extremely tight. So much so, that I stretched for 20 minutes yesterday just to relieve some of the tension. My left leg had been giving me a lot of trouble. My calf was really tight and my plantar faciitis had been causing me some discomfort. So before my run this morning, I stretched really well, and my shoes really help with the faciitis.

The run started off great. Today was my 2 mile speed training, and I decided to push it pretty hard. Again, my breathing was strained for the first 500 yards or so, but eventually I calmed down and settled in. The first mile went by quickly, 6:32; I was really flying. At about 1.5 miles, I began to feel some tightness in my left hamstring. I was concerned, but I often have little pains while I run that usually go away if I just push through them. That was not the case this time. The hamstring continued to stay tight, but as of yet was not causing any real pain. I came to the last quarter mile and tried to really push the last bit; I wanted to get a sub-13.5 minute 2 mile. When I finally finished, my left leg really tightened up, like it was cramping, but different.

I finished in 13 minutes and 10 seconds. I felt great about the time, but as I was trying to cool down, I found myself limping pretty badly on my left leg. When I got inside I asked Katie to help me stretch it out, but nothing we did seemed to get to the right spot. I struggled with my ab workout, especially since so many of the maneuvers have your legs in the air. I didn't even do the rest of my strength workout. And the leg is still giving me a significant amount of trouble.

I am freaking out. I have never injured a hamstring, but I understand that they are difficult to recover from. I got a icy hot patch on it right now, I am going to buy an ace bandage this afternoon, and I plan to rotate ice and heat this evening. I think I am going to take tomorrow off from biking to give the leg another day of rest. I had upped my running workouts because I thought I might be running a leg in the marathon relay on Saturday. Originally I was disappointed that did not work out, but I have to admit I am thankful not to be doing that now. I question what I should do on Saturday; I am sure I will simply listen to my body, but I don't want to lose the momentum I have been gaining as far as distance and speeds are concerned.

I am beginning to wonder if I have some weird tendon/ligament disorder. I have had tendonitis in my right arm for almost 3 years. It runs from my wrist to my shoulder. I went to physical therapy for several months, but never really saw any relief. Then it was the faciitis (I had that bad enough a year ago, I thought I had broken my foot), and now the leg. Maybe I should start doing more yoga, but I feel like I spend a lot of time stretching already.

Until then I'll just have to keep stretching and treating with heat and ice. If anyone has any other suggestions, please let me know!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

You Reap What You Sow

Our wonderful neighbors, The McGregors, hosted a party for the neighborhood last night. It was a lot of fun. There was good food (plus a really interesting menu for dinner, check out Katie's blog for more info), all of our wonderful neighbors, and a ton of alcohol. June, one of our hosts, had purchased a bunch of good beer from the New Glarus company and she had some Jim Beam (my favorite). I had probably 5 Beam and diets and 4 beers, plus appetizers and dinner. Needless to say I was feeling pretty good and we had so much fun.

Why am I talking about all the booze and food I enjoyed last night? Because I had my long run this morning, and I have paid dearly for my indiscretions last evening.

Katie and I did not get into bed last night until almost 11pm. Not too late for many people, but when my alarm went off at 4:45am, I knew it was going to be a long day. It was too early to be hungover, but I could tell my head was just waiting for the right time to split open and gray matter to simply ooze out. I popped a couple of Advil and headed downstairs to stretch. "Wait, what's that rumbling in my stomach?" I raced to the bathroom in the nick of time; maybe it wasn't too early to be hungover! The thought of just returning to bed was becoming a serious consideration, but I was determined to get my run in. So I stretched, hit the head a couple of more times, and dragged my tail outside.

I have bumped up my run training ever so slightly (more on that another day, I'm still a little nauseous) and today's run was 5.35 miles. Over the first 400 yards I talk to myself about turning around or cutting the run short probably 40 times. My stomach was settling down though, and again I was fairly determined to keep up with my training. So I pushed on.

It was sort of funny, but my mind just kind of shut off. My iPod was on, but I wasn't hearing the music. My eyes were open, but they didn't really see anything. I just went into autopilot and kept putting one foot in front of the other. I do remember the mile marks, because I kept checking my pace. My goal is to run 7.5 minute miles, and I was doing a good job of keeping up.

When I hit the bike path east of town, I started to get into unknown territory. Literally, I had never run this route before and I was nearing my furthest distance for running. Then I saw a nice pile of poo from some animal on the path and nearly lost it. I did not step in it, nor did I lose my lunch. I did shut my brain off again and just kind of stared straight ahead.

As I neared the finish, I tried to push out a little extra effort, but there was none to be had. My sweat reeked malt and bourbon; not always a bad smell, but not a good one this morning. I supposed my legs were tired, but nearly as much as my eyelids. When I finally crossed the finish line, I looked at my watch, 40:39. Not bad, just about 7:37 per mile; I'll take it.

And I am wasted today. My stomach is dancing around and my head is killing me. I am no idiot. I know that last night was nothing near proper pre-race nutrition, but I feel like I have been hit by a train. I am gonna go vomit in my shoes now. Hopefully you will hear from me again soon.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

You got smited (or smoted, it's debatable)!

Consider this your Public Service Announcement for the day: Do not for any reason challenge, either publicly or privately, the gods of wind! For if you do, you shall pay dearly.
This lesson was learned by yours truly on Friday. Immediately following my last post, and its obviously contemptuous language towards the wind, I headed out for a 30 mile bike ride. The weather had been pleasant most of the day. Sunny, with a few clouds and 65 degrees. What I failed to realize is that a low pressure system had been moving in (yes, I dabble in meteorology for fun), and the winds had picked up significantly. Before I headed out the Weather Channel was saying "15 mph winds from WNW, with 30 mph gusts." Shit!
I went out anyway and for the first 5 miles I was flying. Stupidly enough, I attributed my speed and success to my superior training, caring nothing for the 15 mile an hour wind at my back. When I turned towards the north, I was quickly struck from my high horse.
The wind was battering me from an odd angle, kind of right into my left shoulder, and I could hardly hear myself think. This particular stretch of road is almost entirely uphill for about another 5 miles, and then things really started to get interesting.
I had decided to take a new route on this trip. Nothing spectacular, but a little change added a couple of miles and took me through an area which I had never been. What I failed to realize then, and now know very clearly, is that my new route takes me through a 1/2 mile stretch of freshly laid loose gravel. I am terrified of gravel and biking anyway, and with this fresh stuff my tires were really sinking in. I finally had to actually get off of my bike and walk my ass (and my bike) to some decent asphalt. It sucked.
When I finally got back on my bike, BAM, right back into the wind (or so I thought) for another couple of miles. Then I turned to the west and was almost thrown from my bike as I came face to face with a massive headwind. For the next 4 miles I was giving it everything I had and could barely keep my speed above 10 mph. When I finally turned back to the south, I was spent. I scarfed down a protein bar, drank some water, and prepared for my next turn into the wind.
Another 3 miles into the wind and I was ready to call it quits. I actually debated getting off my bike and calling Katie to come pick me up. I found myself apologizing to the gods for my harsh words. I admitted their superiority to my infinitely small abilities, and begged for their mercy upon me. The gods were not home (or at least not finished with their lesson). The winds continued to toss me around like a rag doll, and I negotiated a slightly quicker way home.
When all was said and done, I biked 27 miles, but I felt as though I had ridden a hundred. It was an unfun ride and a serious knock to my ego. But I got out yesterday for another 20 miles, spent some time yesterday evening tweaking and cleaning Roxanne, and I have a new found humbleness about my biking abilities. Lesson learned!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Headed for a Showdown

Riding a bike in central Illinois does not really present that many obstacles. Sure there is the occasional dog chase and there are a few little hills here and there; small inclines lasting, at most, a few hundred yards. Which is nothing in comparison to the mountain roads some people climb for miles. And we do have to compete with some poorly paved roads, but really overall very few obstacles for the average rider such as myself.

There is one inescapable obstacle that has plagued my rides all Spring, the WIND! It seems as though every time I have ridden this Spring, the wind has been punishing me. Sometimes it's a moderate 10 mph, but on occassion it has been 15-20 mph. I don't know what the equation looks like, but the effort that I expend versus the speed that I can ride in winds like this is not a fair ratio. You cannot seem to get away from it. Sure you could pick a path that has the wind at your back, but you would still need to ride against it the whole way home. Another tough part about the wind is that you fight it in 3 different directions; it is either in your face or beating you from either side for most of the ride.

On my last ride, I found myself cursing the wind for its torment. As I said in my last post, there came a point in my ride where I really needed something to eat. I didn't want to stop in the middle of the ride to sit down and eat, but it would have also been impossible in the wind to maintain upright while trying to ride with one hand. It got so bad that I thought the wind had actually changed its direction during my ride, so it was in my face both going and coming. I did eventually hit a short stretch with the wind at my back, and I got the chance to scarf down a protein bar. And I am glad I did because the last 4 miles were dead against the wind again. If I could have, I would have raised my fist to the skies, cursing the wind gods for their punishment, and daring them to challenge me further. Seriously, I felt very similar to this:

Okay, maybe the weather wasn't quite that bad, and there wasn't any shrimp (though I did look for some, I was starving), but I think you get the point. All I want is a nice calm day to ride. I would take 67-72 degrees, clear skies and NO WIND. Is that too much to ask for? I think not.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Not only my favorite category in Jeopardy, but it is a pretty good description of the brain dump I have for today's post.

First, this morning I ran my fastest 2 miles, EVER! I had been doing really well with my speed training on Thursdays and this morning was no different. When I got out on the road, I decided to really push it. For the first 200 yards, I thought, "This is going to be easy." Then my heart started to race a little bit and my breathing became somewhat erratic. But I got my breathing under control and I really concentrated on taking long, fast strides, 3:32 at the half mile. My body finally really settled in, I was still pushing hard, but my form improved and everything just seemed to be falling in line, 6:50 at Mile 1. Holy crap, a sub-7 minute mile! Everything was continuing to go well. I began to wonder just how long I could keep this pace; at that point it seemed like awhile. As I turned the corner for the last 200 yards, I picked up the pace just a hair. My legs felt good, but I got that "I-think-I-might-puke" feeling in my stomach and chest. I kept it up and hit the finish line thinking, "That was a really fast time!" And it was, for me at least, 13:38.97. A sub-14 minute 2 mile run; I was pumped. I calculated later that I was running an average of 8.79 mph, and it felt good.

Weight loss: I haven't really lost any more weight. For a couple of days I had actually gained a couple of pounds. I didn't weigh in for a couple of more days, and then this morning I got on the scale and BAM!; I was back down to my low weight. Which makes almost no sense, since I ate like crap yesterday, but I'll take it. On somewhat of the same subject: I may not be losing any weight, but my body is changing its shape. I can see it in my face and neck, and I have been sliding into the last notch on my belt with increased ease. I am certain that it is due to the workouts, and it is really a lot of fun. While I don't look quite like Leonidas yet, I think it should happen any day now (I can dream dammit!)

In-ride nutrition: A subject of increasing importance. On my 30 mile ride last week, at about mile 25 I started to get really confused and just kinda "cloudy". I knew I needed to get a bite to eat, but the wind that day had required almost constant two handed driving. Finally, I got to a stretch with the wind at my back and gnashed on a kashi protein bar (I was using Pop tarts for awhile, but these little bars have really changed my mind). It was exactly what the doctor ordered. Immediately after eating the bar, I was re-energized and my head was back on my shoulders, instead of in the clouds. Now, I know each individual is different, but I feel like I should be able to ride further than 25 miles without feeling that way. Fat Cyclist said recently that for a 2 hour ride all one needs is a couple of liters of water. If I ride for 2 hours with just water, I would be in a coma. Again, I know it is different for each individual, but are there any suggestions for how often I should be eating on my rides?

That is all I have for now, but I got a few more ideas kicking around, so be on the lookout.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I remember when a buddy of mine was teaching me how to ride a mountain bike in the hills of North Carolina, him saying, "Don't look over the edge because the bike will go where your head goes." Good advice when you are faced with the prospect of plummeting down a 50 foot cliff face. I came to realize what he was talking about was balance.

Balance is essential in all athletic endeavors. I was taught how to achieve balance through position in high school football, basketball, and baseball. Balance is essential to riding a bike, for riding a straight line and increasing efficiency. When running it is important to have good balance to avoid injury and improve endurance.

To improve my balance I implement some core work into my strength workouts twice a week. I have continued to use the Ab Ripper X video and I do my seated dumbbell maneuvers on an exercise ball. I think it has all really started to help my balance.

Outside of my fitness life, my everyday life is feeling extremely out of balance. Work has SUCKED. I still have the same job, at least in title, while I am continuing my search for new employment, but all of my responsibilities have been stripped from me. In the name of transition, I have relinquished all of my supervisory duties, and now answer to some of the same people I was supervising last week. The working relationship is fine, but it is extremely damaging to my dignity. I come to work now with absolutely now idea what I should be doing, and I am literally waiting around for the next schedule to come out so I know when I will be working next month. It is extremely humiliating, and when I requested to speak with one of my bosses about it, he refused because "he is just to busy". So busy in fact that he had to have somebody else tell me he couldn't talk. While this situation should technically "lighten" my work load, it has weighed on me with increasing significance. So much so that it is throwing me completely out of balance.

In an attempt to bring myself back into balance, I concentrate on my job search. While some inquiries have been promising, the entire process takes so long and can be extremely exhausting.

So I focus on my fitness, and I have had some great runs and rides. In fact, last Saturday I officially ran further than I had ever run in my life, 4.5 miles, and this Friday I will bike farther than I ever have before. And I feel great while I am participating, but afterwards, after the "high" wears off, I find my mind preoccupied with work and schedule.

We live in a great neighborhood, where all of our families play and socialize outside and in each others' yards. I play with my children and I converse with my wife. But all to often my mind goes back to work. It is terrible. I have all of these things to be happy about, and all of these things to distract me, but what I keep coming back to is the same shitty thing. I got screwed at work, my supervisors wouldn't know what professionalism was if it was smacking them in the face (pause for pleasure-filled fantasy), and I am the one running around pleading for a decent job with a reasonable salary and good benefits. F%#K.

So needless to say, I need to find a good life balance workout. In times like these I used to turn to food to fill these little holes. I still occasionally self-medicate with a good beer or a glass of wine, but I need a good workout that I can rely on for the long term. Any thoughts?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Pimp my Ride...for Multiple Schlerosis

I have been talking quite a bit about my upcoming run and biking events, and I am still training hard for my 10k race and 46 mile bike ride on May 15 and 16, respectively. However, I am writing today, about one of the bigger events I have coming up this summer, and I am asking for your help.

For a few years now, pretty much since Katie and I started having children, my family and I have been making more of an effort to make a difference in our communities for the betterment of our world. Some of that has been focused on volunteering (I serve food on occasion at a local homeless shelter) and fundraising (we organize support for area service projects on our birthdays, check out Alaric's latest b-day party). With my new emphasis towards health and fitness, and this desire to give back to the world, I have been looking for ways to combine both efforts. Most runs and rides go to support some sort of organization; the proceeds from my 10k go to the local hospital, and my 46 mile ride goes to support the local Lions Club. I had also been looking for something a little bit bigger. Fortunately, I have found one such opportunity.

On June 12-13 I am participating in a 175 mile bike ride, Bike MS: Tour de Farms, in and around Dekalb, Illinois. I am riding as a member of the YMCA Lake View team, captained by my good friend, Mira Kaiser. As a rider in the event, I have committed not only to riding the full 175 miles, but I have also committed to raising money to go towards research, education, and support for multiple schlerosis and ms patients. And I really need your help. Please visit my Bike MS personal page, click_here. You can take a look at some information about the event, read up on some of the information about the fight against multiple schlerosis, and you can donate to my efforts and team by clicking "Donate to Brian!". Any support that you may be able to give would go a long way in the fight against this terrible disease that affects so many people locally and around the world.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Bunnies, Beasts, and Roxanne turns 100

With the upcoming Easter weekend and the Fulton family's typical travel schedule, it is going to take some creative manuveuring to get all of my workouts wedged in between family and travel time. I hopped on the web and mapped out my 4 mile run for Saturday morning in Iowa City. I have run once before in IC and I must tell you, it is much more difficult than running in central Illinois. The hills in that city can be extremely taxing, but I must compliment them (and believe me, compliments to Iowa from me are a rare thing) on their tremendous running and biking paths. Iowa City is honeycombed with wide, paved sidewalks that go on for miles in and around the city. I even think they were voted one of the healthiest places to live in the US, for reasons such as this (obviously disregarding personality and the fact that it is full of Iowans). I hope to get the run in right before we head out to an Easter egg hunt and then brunch on Saturday.

Even more difficult to fit in was my 25 mile bike ride today. The family and I are leaving for Iowa right after work this afternoon, so I knew if I wanted to get my ride in, it was going to have to be this morning. Planning for such an event actually started yesterday. I packed an extra lunch, change of clothes, and some Kashi protein bars, and brought those to work yesterday, so I wouldn't need to bring a backpack on this morning's ride. I got up at 5am, had a well-rounded breakfast with no coffee (a serious sacrifice), and got ready to ride. I was planning on leaving at 6am, allowing ample time for the ride, but when 6am came it was still really dark outside. My biking gear is darkly colored and my bike is black, so I thought I would wait for the sun to at least start to shine before I headed out. Twenty minutes later I was on the road. This was the first time for me riding at sunrise, and it was a really beautiful morning. There were still a few clouds in the sky that turned purple and orange as the sun began its ascent. There were still a lot of birds chirping their morning song and frogs whistling thier tunes in the river and creek beds. While I was on the ride, I had an encounter with another kind of wildlife. I guess not really "wild"life, but a giant sheep dog came charging out of a farmer's yard right at me. This happened to me once before last year, and I must tell you it is very frightening. Dogs have a knack for taking the most precise angle of pursuit, and while biting is a very real concern, my biggest fear, especially with my new shoes and pedals, is the dog knocking me from my ride, a very real and very painful possibility. So when I saw the dog charging I stood up and started really pumping hard, managing to narrowly pass by the beast. I was also very fortunate that the dog did not continue to chase me, because I think I would have just given up on the bike and had it out with him.

The remainder of the ride was pretty uneventful, and I think I was okay with that. The most monumental event that did happen was, just as I turned into the park where I work, Roxanne turned 100 miles old. Not exactly a huge event considering that I have over 300 miles scheduled in the next month, but important to Roxanne and I nonetheless. I especially find it exciting that I did it in only 5 or 6 rides. So in honor of this occasion, I will now post a song just for this special little woman in my life:

Happy Easter!!