Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Note: To those teens googling for information about Ecstasy, just say "No!"

So last week Katie and I started a different workout routine.  We started doing the P90X program in the mornings to give Katie's plantar faciitis a break from the rigors of running.  Prior to the start I had a few preconceived notions about the program. My week of personal experience has given me few more insights.

1. P90X is very difficult
I figured the program would be difficult, mostly because of the cardio intensity.  The advertisements show a lot of bouncing around and jumping.  I was pretty sure that some of the work would be difficult as much of my fitness is for endurance sports, not for intense cardio.  However, I considered my self to be a fairly fit individual.  I am NOT fit by P90X standards.  Not only is the intense cardio difficult, but the strength exercises are also very difficult!  The workout includes tons of lunges, planking, push-ups, and any other number of body resistance exercises.  We did the Kenpo X workout yesterday and my arms are more sore than they have been in years.  Who would have though that throwing hundreds of punches at imaginary opponents would work your biceps so much?!  I thought with all of the biking and running that I do that my legs would be the good part of my workout, but there are so many lunges and squat positions that you hold for great lengths of time that my legs actually give out!  I did wall squats for the first time since high school and I thought I was going to start crying!  My legs were shaking and the sweat was poring down my face.

2. I am not flexible
I know that I am not the most flexible of individuals, but I thought I was about average.  I can stand with my feet shoulder-width apart and touch my toes.  I was concerned about the Yoga X workout, but I never thought it would be the workout that did me in; it was!  The workout is 90 minutes long!  And if I had to guess I would bet that I was in plank, downward dog, and runners pose for 45 minutes of the workout. The workout has you do these "vinyassas" over and over and over.  At one point, I didn't think I would be able to take it anymore.  Finally, we halted on the vinyassas and started these strength poses.  I thought it might be a bit of a reprieve for me, but the poses had me falling all over the floor as I attempted to contort my body into these arrangements all while remaining upright.  Honestly, the workout made me feel very inadequate and my attitude got really shitty!  Sadly, the only person that I had to take it out on was Katie.  Not a good idea, but thankfully she has forgiven me!

3. Tony Horton is annoying (see above)
I had seen Tony from the commercials and actually witnessed him in action on the Ab Ripper X workout.  All of these experiences were just short spurts of Tony, but even still I found him to be kind of dorky, somewhat conceited, and sometimes a pore instructor.  After having spent several hours with Tony this past week, I now find him to be VERY conceited, confusing as hell, and he seems to have some strange aversion to commitment to romantic relationships.  Thankfully, in the next couple of weeks as I gain more experience and familiarity, I can turn the sound off and just use the visual cues for the workouts.  Katie's distaste extends beyond Tony as she actually became annoyed with one of the other participants this morning.  " I hate Dreya.  She is too [darn] eager!"  I couldn't agree more, Honey!

All of these points aside, I think it is a good workout program, I am glad that Katie and I are doing it together, and I think it is doing the trick. I hope I get better at some of the coordination and balance, and I for damn sure want to get better at that Yoga, or at least do it without crying like a little girl!  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Another Half-Marathon Sufferfest, and How I Learned to Love It

There has never been a question that my first half marathon was not what I would have considered a success.  I struggled and suffered my way to the finish.  When I was done I doubted that I would ever do another half again.  But my attitude quickly renewed and I signed up to run another half, in my hometown, in Galesburg.  Sadly, my second half marathon results were about the same.  I struggled and suffered and in some ways the run was not a success.

It didn't start out that way.  I drove myself to the starting area, as my family had a plan to catch me out on the route.  No sooner than locking my car door, I heard someone say, "Brian!"  I turned to find Shawn.  I almost did not recognize him at first.  It had been probably 18 years since I had last seen him.  Shawn and I played baseball together most of our young lives.  He was a year younger than me in school.  I had his father as a teacher, and I knew his now wife, Melissa, very well also.  I caught up quickly with Shawn, his wife, their lives, their 3 sons, and Shawn's Dad, who I got the chance to talk to for a few minutes. I left to go and stretch and found one of my best friends Matt, who was helping to organize the race.  I had seen Matt the day before at the running store, but had not figured on seeing him today.  He asked how I was feeling and I responded, "Good."  The weather was temperate, about 70 degrees, sunny.  I felt rested and ready.  Soon I ran across Mike and his wife Terra, then April, her parents, and her new husband and baby.  We all quickly caught up with our lives, where we were, what we were doing, and how our families were. 

Before I knew it, it was time to line up and run.  I got into the crowd near Mike and asked what he thought he would be running today.  He said about 8 minutes per mile.  I responded that that was my goal as well and settled into the idea of sticking near Mike.  The gun went off and we were going.  The crowd was nice, not too big, and I saw quite a few familiar faces.  As I attempted to stay up with Mike, I felt like I was moving pretty quickly, but the legs felt good and I was having no trouble breathing.  By mile 1, I wondered if I had made a mistake.  I was still feeling pretty good, but I had just run the first mile in 7:20, not at all what my race plan had been.  I watched as Mike continued to push forward, and attempted to reel myself back in order to conserve some energy.  I still crossed mile 2 at exactly 15 minutes, way too fast.  Pretty soon we exited the city and headed out a county highway.  At that point we turned directly into the sun, and what I had thought was temperate weather turned out to be pretty damn hot.  There was no shade to be had and the sun was really starting to heat up the country blacktop.  On the way out the route took you into a small subdivision on the north side of the road. This was the last place that I saw Mike, o the turnaround, and I yelled, "So much for 8 minute miles, Mike!"  To which he responded, "I am feeling good!" Mile 4 went by at 30:15, still too fast, but it did feel good to see that I was definitely in the early part of the pack.  I headed back out to the blacktop and soon came across my family at mile 5.  Katie, the kids, my dad, my cousin, and her boyfriend had all come out to cheer me on.  It felt really good to see all of them, and considering that there was literally no crowd cheering us on this far out of town, they were like a little oasis for me.  I stopped to hug the kids and I took my first official walking break to hydrate and fuel.  The sun was brutally hot and I took my headband off to release some heat and to avoid an embarrassing tan line.

The stretch between 5 and 7 took a lot out of me.  The wind was at our back, headed straight in to the sun and all one could see was road, cones, and runners.  It was a bit demoralizing.  My speed had begun to lag mightily.  I pulled into mile 7 at exactly 56 minutes, so I was on target, but I was deteriorating quickly.  I grabbed a GU gel and shot it into the back of my throat, first to avoid vomiting from the texture and second in the hopes of gaining some much needed energy.  Mile 7 to 9 were on Blaze Road.  We finally had the sun at our backs and there was a gentle breeze in our faces.  there were a few spots of shade, but all of these pros were soon outweighed by the fact that Blaze Road is freaking hilly!  I continued to trudge up and down the hills.  By mile 8 I decided to take an unprescribed walking break.  I was burning up bad and my legs were really beat.  I knew my family would be at mile 9 again so I bucked up and pushed on.  It was in this shirt stretch that I came to a few realizations.

I was sucking at this particular half marathon.  I was already 4 minutes behind my goal time split and my tank was empty.  I considered a few things.  First, should I ever run a half marathon again?  Experience would tell me that I am not very good at them. Second, should I ever consider running a full marathon?  If I have this much trouble with a half, how bad would I be at 26.2 miles?  Third, I am not having very much fun, and I like to enjoy myself especially when venturing into athletics.  If I am not having fun, should I just quit? It was that last thought that stuck with me.  I struggled with the idea quite a bit.  Should I just tell my family that "I quit, take me home!"?  What kind of example would that be to my kids?  So, I hatched a new racing plan.  HAVE FUN!  I went through the plan in my mind.  I would jog when I could and walk when I have to.  I would enjoy the last 4 miles instead of making myself sick with suffering.  And most importantly I would not quit.

So, when I reached my family, I stopped for a minute, talked about how tough the run was, how hot the sun was, and how much I was struggling.  I thanked them for coming out and being there, and I told them how good it felt to have them cheering for me.  I also said, "Take your time getting to the finish because I am."  And with that I was off again. 

Over the next few miles, I walked a lot.  I also jogged some, but very slowly.  I saw an old classmate and runner, Heather, on the side of the road.  I said, "Shouldn't you be out here?"  It took her a second to recognize me, but it was nice to see her smile when she did.  I joked with a few more of the fans as I got back into town.  I told the other runners how well they were doing as they passed me. I saw the funniest sign of the race and told the 2 young kids holding it "Thank you!"  The sign read, "No Candy?  Worst. Parade. Ever."  It still tickles me.

By mile 12 my legs were cramping and I was walking a lot more than I was running, but I kept moving forward.  About a quarter of a mile form the finish line, I saw Matt again.  This time he had his fiance with him.  I had never met her, so I stopped, introduced myself, and gave her a hug.  she was obviously a bit surprised to be getting a sweaty hug from the runner she just met on the street, but I was having fun!  She told me to keep running to the finish, and I told her I would get there eventually.  Finally, I saw the finish line.  Right before I left my family that last time my son said to me "Dad, when you see that finish line, you sprint to the end!"  It was my words to him during many of his training runs and definitely during his first 5K.  It really touched me that he would say the same thing to me today.   So, when I saw the finish line I "sprinted" or at least what I could do to resemble a sprint.  I finally crossed the line at 1:59:56, not even close to any of my race goals.  But you know what?  That is OK because I definitely learned to have some fun!

Friday, June 1, 2012

No Fear

So I haven't talked about it much, but I have a half marathon this weekend.  On Sunday, I will be participating in the Galesburg Half Marathon Express.  This will be my second attempt at a half marathon and I have a lot of thoughts running through my brain.

Will I bonk again?
In my first attempt at a half, I did not reach my goal in large part because my in-race nutrition fell apart.  This time I have been training with a fuel belt and I will be wearing it during the race.  I have been using a sport drink that has a significant amount of calories and should avoid any low blood sugars.  But still I have the fear.

Will it be too hot?
On my first half, the weather was almost ideal for a long run.  The temps were around 45 degrees and it was overcast (it rained and hailed after I had finished; I was glad not to be a full marathoner that day!).  On Sunday, it could get as hot as 85 degrees.  That is not a terrible temp, but it is much hotter than my last attempt.  I worry about dehydration.  I know that there will be water on the course, but I am just not good at working that into my races yet.

Will I be able to sleep the night before?
Last time, my mind was racing the morning before the race and I had a terrible night's sleep.  When it got to race time, I felt fine, but I wonder if a little more sleep would not have helped.  Considering that I am writing about how much is on my brain already, I have a feeling that sleep will difficult.

Have I trained enough?
The early part of my training went very well, but the last few weeks I found that I was not getting the miles in that I felt that I needed because family obligations and a lack of motivation got in my way.  My eagerness to follow a training regime wanes as the race gets closer.  I have been able to rest my legs this week, but I wonder if I have rested too much and I won't have the stamina come Sunday.

Have I been loading too many carbs?
I started taking in more cards around Tuesday and have begum to peak today and tomorrow.  Since I don't usually eat too many carbs, I have been getting a bloated feeling.  When you add the lack of exercise in favor of rest, I just feel fat and bloated.  I am carrying a couple of extra pounds over what I weighed at my last half, and I question if it will be a strain on my performance.

What is my goal time?
I want to beat last year's time of 1:51.  I have a safe goal of 1:45, but I would really like to beat 1:41.  I get so worked up about how to run a race to meet these goals.  I plan to go out running slightly less than 8 minute miles.  That may be difficult if I get swept up in the start of the race and my legs feel good from the rest.  However, part of my problem last year was that I went out of the gates way too fast.  I will have to tone it down a bit at the start.  About mile 6 I will begin to evaluate how I feel and hope to pick up the pace until about mile 10.  At that point, after evaluating my body, I hope to really pick it up and finish the race strong.

Will I get a poop out before I start racing?
Pooping is a constant concern of mine.  All too often I have had to stop training runs to find a restroom.  I have to get a good poop out before I start, but if I am nervous I wonder if my body will rebel against me.

As you can see I am very fearful of what this race may hold for me.  I hope to calm my nerves and have a good race.  Honestly, I just want to have a good time!