Thursday, August 30, 2012

Insomnia...I've Been Expecting You.

I haven't slept very well this week, but that's not really anything new. I suffer bouts of insomnia. What's new is that I haven't taken any ambien this week.

I try to abstain from sleeping aids the week before a race - even if it means I get very little sleep the entire week. It's odd, but I think I do my best running on very little sleep. It never fails: I feel rested and ready to run on race morning despite sleeping poorly leading up to the run.

Earlier this year, I ran a 50k in Bandera. I drove to the race at midnight, got there at 5am, ran the race (ran a PR, by the way) and drove back home immediately after I finished...and STILL had a difficult time sleeping that night. 5k, 10k, 30k, 60k, 50 miler...same result: no sleep that night.

I like coffee. I really, really like coffee, but on race day (and starting a few days before) I don't drink any. It's even more surprising (to me) that I don't feel tired race day considering I slept very little AND had no coffee.

Nerves leading up to the race? Possibly, but I don't think so. Psychological? Maybe.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Boot Camp Fitness

Several weeks ago our running club, iRUN, was invited to participate in Tactical Fitness & Bootcamp training session offered by Fred Alvarado III. He's a former Marine and law enforcement officer, in other words, the dude's a bad ass.

We began by doing some group stretching (if you’re a regular reader, you know I really dislike stretching) led by Fred and his awesome assistants. Once we were nice and stretched, we were divided into 2 teams.

The 1st challenge involved about 50 orange mini-traffic cones. We were told that 1 team was supposed to knock the cones over while the other team had to place them upright. Oh yeah, if you were the team knocking them over, you couldn’t use your feet. At the end of the 2 minutes, which ever team had the most cones knocked over/still standing was the winner. Let me tell you - this was harder than it sounds.

Little did I know that this was only the beginning, I should have known I was in for a butt kicking...

The rest of the workout consisted of timed stations - similar to a circuit training.

We worked out using: a speed/agility ladder, crunches, tractor tire, barbell, push-ups and some combination of a bear crawl using dumbells (don't ask me to explain further because I cannot).

I have never worked out so hard and had so much fun.

I'm a runner, and I consider myself in pretty good shape, but Fred took it to another level. It was an extremely tough but FUN workout. Beginner or advanced - it's for anybody and everybody.

Do you have what it takes?

I just happen to have a free week (3 x 1 hour sessions) of Tactical Combat Fitness to give away. Yes, absolutely free. Comment & subscribe to my blog and I'll randomly pick a winner from those that do so.

What the heck - I prefer comments on my blog, but you can comment on the fb link & be eligible to win.

**Sorry folks, this giveaway is limited to people that live in the RGV.**

Sunday, August 26, 2012

20 (miles) : The Magic Number

"If you don't have answers to your problems after a four-hour run, you ain't getting them."

                                                                             ~ Christopher McDougall

After having gone back to work this past week (after the entire summer off), I was really looking forward to this weekend...I had a long run scheduled - a 20 miler.

There's something magical about 20 miles. Maybe it's the number 20...nice & even. I've always loved a run of this distance, and I don't think I'm the only one.

I was a little worried, though, heading into Saturday. I was still fatigued from my 14 mile bike commute to work (what was I thinking, doing that a few days before my long run?). I also did not eat very well the last few days leading up to the weekend. The last couple of days I felt like I was (as Jackson Browne sings) running on empty. Finally, I hadn't slept very well lately, but what else is new?

But, I got it done.

I ran the 1st 7 miles with some of our running group, iRUN RGV. The next 3 miles I ran with my blood brother, David Z. The next 10 miles were my "me" time. The dreaded (by some) solo run.

I love running with my running friends. The fun, the zaniness, the jokes and the comaraderie. Just as much as I enjoy running with every single 1 of them, I also sometimes enjoy running by myself.

I'm sure I'm not the only 1 that feels running is therapeutic, especially, during a long run. The feeling afterwards is like no other - physically AND mentally. The endorphins. The fatigue. The clear mind.

It's incredible the things that went through my head during my run: what I was going to do this weekend, this coming week, how will my son do in school this year, how will my school year be, etc.

Running alone gives me time clear my head. I use this time to think about what is bothering me (yes, some things bother me). And you know what? After my run, it all felt better.

Coincidence? I think not.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tour De McAllen / Edinburg

I’d decided to ride my bike to work at least once a week…ok, maybe every couple of weeks. I moved a couple of months ago closer to work, only 14 miles each way – totally doable. I should mention I am a rookie. I have a 7 year old mountain bike that cost me approximately $150 at Sports Authority – it’s not the best bike, but it it's not the worst 1 either. 

Today was THE day. My bike was ready, and, more importantly, I was ready.

Last night, I looked over my checklist: headlamp (plan was to wear it around my chest with the light facing behind me), gloves, helmet, clothes in my backpack, water, phone, wipies, deodorant  – check. I was pretty confident I was prepared for every and any emergency.

I decided to leave 2 hours earlier (6am) than I had to be there. This would give me enough time to deal with traffic (there was none) and hygienically “compose” myself at work.

The ride itself was very serene: very little traffic, no dogs and no mishaps. The perfect dark & cloudy morning. Perfect opportunity to...just think as I rode. 

I wanted the commute to be a workout since I wasn’t planning on running today. I didn’t want an easy slow ride, but at the same time, I didn’t want a sprint to work either. Besides, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect physically - would I be sore all day? Would I stink all day? Would I be sweaty all day? Yes, no and no.  

I averaged 5 minute miles the entire way while working up a pretty good sweat. Early on, I could see the sweat glistening on my arms - I knew it was quickly becoming a good workout. 

I made it to work in 1 piece. And just in time: it started raining as soon as I walked inside the building. Just a quick unexpected shower (note to self: check the weather forecast next time).

Finding out that the coach’s restroom shower head is actually functional - priceless. A quick shower and presto!!!

There are several things I learned for the next time because there WILL be a next time:

     1.  Work clothes should be in a plastic bag inside my backpack. The sweat went through my  pack and got them damp (fortunately, I threw them in the dryer at work).
     2.  While my headlamp as a back light worked, I really need to get some of those flashing lights for the back and a light for the front of my bike.
     3.  It’s a good idea to have wipies, soap, towel and deodorant at work. This, being my 1st time, I carried all these items in my backpack.

There are also several things I need to learn for the next time:

     1.  When stopped at a traffic light and there are no cars (since it was early in the a.m.), do I stop? Do I go? I assume the same laws that apply to motor vehicles apply to bicyclists.
     2.  Is it possible to add a cup holder to my bike? I missed my cappuccino this morning for fear   of being late to work late.
     3.  I wonder if I can fill my camelback with coffee???

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Headsweats - Velocity Visor

When I was asked to do a review of the Velocity Visor, I was a little hesitant. I’m a cap guy - always have been.  I’ve never  worn a visor before, but there's a first time for everything, right?

When I got the visor in the mail, I opened it and immediately put it on and checked myself out in the mirror.  Yes, I'm a little vain, but aren't we all? I was still a little unsure, but ready to give it a try.

I’ve used it on 2 runs, and it's nice: lightweight, coolmax fabric, adjustable velcro closure and terry cloth inseam.

Both days that I used the velocity visor the temperatures were between 98 & 100, and the humidity was South Texas brutal (the heat index chart should have a 'South Texas Brutal' section). This is where its best feature came in handy:  the terry cloth really absorbed all the sweat from my head and kept it from going into my eyes.

It'll take a while to get used to the sun hitting the exposed top of my head, but, in fairness, I have a buzzcut, and I always run with a cap - so its never really been exposed to direct sunlight.

It's not uncommon for me to pour water over my head/cap mid-run, so getting it wet was another concern of mine. Not to worry - I ran it under the water to "clean it out," and it looks as good as new.

The only thing stopping me from wearing the velocity visor on a regular basis is the size.  It was a tad too small for my big head, even with the adjustable velcro. I should mention that I wear my caps loose, because the slightest snug fitting cap gives me a headache, so maybe that was part of the problem - I wanted it too loose.

Nevertheless, I'm going to put it in my regular headwear rotation, and, you never know: it might just become one of my faves.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Back To The Grind

It was a great summer, I was off for 50 consecutive days - one of the perks of being a teacher. I was very productive: spent a lot of time with my son, traveled a bit, finished up with my move (and everything that comes with it) and I upped my running…quite a bit.

Most days consisted of 2-a-day runs. Yes, I had all the time in the world for it, and I have to say that I really enjoyed it. But, then again, I had time to relax and nap in between the runs. No more.

It’s time to get back to reality. Today, I become a working stiff again.

The challenge will now be to prioritize working, coaching, spending time with my son, getting my running/training in and any other blips that come my way. I’ve got 2 major races on my calendar that I’m focused on: Cactus Rose 50 in October and Rocky Raccoon 100 in February (Rocky is my main focus).

I’m determined to make time to get it all done, and I have a tentative plan: I’m prepared to get up early, really early, and get my runs in first thing. In the past, I used to get up at 4am and run with  friends. Today, I have no idea how I was ever able to do that. Nevertheless, I’m going to get back on track (pun intended). Ok...I'm compromising and starting at 5am.

Some days (most, actually) will call for me to run immediately after work at 4:15pm when temps might be scorching. Ni modo.

My weekends will be strictly reserved to complete my long runs. And, yes, I’ll be getting up early for those too.

Let me know if you're up for a 5am run.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Me And My Garmin...Has Our Relationship Come to an End?

I’ve always loved my Garmin. I used to have a giant-oversized one. I think it was the Garmin 305. It was so big that people would ask me what that thing on my wrist was or why was I wearing a laptop on my wrist - you name it: I heard ‘em all. Non-running people, at least, would ask or make those jokes. I’m sure all you running nerds know what I’m talking about and can relate.

About 2 years ago, I "upgraded" and purchased the Garmin 110. It looked sleeker and looked to have everything I could want: pace, distance & time. Nothing more - nothing less. Like a minimalist GPS watch. When I’m running, all I need to know is how fast I’m going, how far I’ve gone and what my time is.

The biggest reason I switched models was because the 110 was smaller, and I could wear it as a regular watch all the time. Simply put: it looked like any other watch anybody wears. I remember thinking: "Eureka, I have found it!" WRONG.

I’m so glad that I purchased the replacement plan/warranty. DISCLAIMER: I actually had to pay for the replacement plan again after the 1st time I exchanged it - apparently, the warranty is voided when exchanged. Nice.

I’m on my 3rd exchange within 2 years. Today, was the last straw. This morning, it was dead. - it wouldn’t turn on. I didn’t exchange it for another model because the limited selection they had was really pricey, so I simply exchanged it for the same model (yes, again, but for the last time).

The same problem plagued all 3 watches. Before I tell you what that was, let me admit something: I’m a running nerd. I always upload my runs to nerd-out to them; study them, evaluate them, the elevation (or lack of it), I ran too slow, I ran too fast, the tempo was fine, I fartleked here - you name it.

But I regress…slowly but surely, Mr. Garmin stopped uploading my runs. I would clean the metal prongs/clips, give it some TLC, but it would still happen. I might be ok being unable to upload and view my runs, but the one I just returned simply stopped charging.

I guess the Garmin 110 is an ok watch if uploading runs is not a big issue for you. It has no bells and whistles - just the time/pace/distance. It's pretty low maintenance (like me) - just press start when your run begins and press stop when your run ends. It might do the trick if you’re a newbie runner interested in a no-frills watch and/or don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for a fancy GPS watch. Keep in mind, though, that (in my experience) my previous one would no longer charge.

As for me, this will be my last garmin (at least until it dies out again). I’ll probably spend a little more for a more durable/reliable watch/model. I’ve got time to convince myself that it’s for my running and I deserve it - the same way I had to convince myself that I needed to dish out the big bucks for my Hokas - which are working out great, by the way.

So between know and then I’ll on the lookout for a new GPS watch. Know of any good ones?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Getting My Benergy Back

Race recovery, to me, used to mean that I’d rest on the way home after a race (while someone else drove) and be ready to run the next day. I still like to do this to train my body to run fatigued (in preparation for my longer races coming up) but sometimes, it’s nice to allow the body to recover.

I’m usually ready to run very soon after a race - maybe take a day off and then hit the road running (pun intended) pretty hard.

The last several trail races have physically worn me out (probably because of the increased mileage), so I’ve changed my post-race recovery approach in several ways:

     Diet :     I’ll be the 1st to admit that I have a terrible diet, but I’ve been eating very well before and after my races lately. I owe this to the suggestions of several of my friends (thanks, Laura, Marcos & David). I’ve noticed that my appetite after an ultra goes through the roof. My response to it has been to let myself eat what I want and as much of it as I want. My reasoning: I just put my body through a tough and grueling race - it’s time to reward it. And, yes, they’ve been foods that previously were nonexistent in my diet: chicken, meats, veggies & fish. Nonexistent no more.

     Recovery Run:     I’ve let myself “go with the flow” during my runs after a race. My “what I want” rule applies here too. I’ve started running what I want (distance) at the pace I want. I’ve let my body dictate almost all aspects of it.

For example, yesterday, I was still tired from Saturday night’s race, but I was itching to go for a run. All day, I was toying with a distance in my head: 3 miles, no, 6, wait…8 sounds good. When I got to the trail, I said “self, just run easy until you are done. Not exhausted done but done finished.” I ended up doing just a bit over 10. It was an excellent run. Not too fast, not too slow, just right. I probably could’ve gone a bit more but (wisely) decided that was enough.

I’ve always enjoyed pushing my body because I’ve always thought that if I pushed it, it'd respond. I still believe this, but i'm realizing i'm older and must take care of my finely-tuned (at times) machine of a body.

What's your idea of recovery?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

An Epic Weekend of Firsts

This was an epic weekend of firsts for my son & me: it'd be his 1st time joining me to a race of any kind (as a spectator) AND we had decided to camp out. It's difficult relating to your own angsty/moody teenager sometimes, so I was so happy he'd be joining me that i almost decided not to run. I think the main reason he went, though, was because a fellow trailer (John McDonald) had offered to pay him to watch his three dogs while he ran the 30k. You might remember my son - he was the 1 that was being walked by 3 dogs (instead of the other way around). He loved dogsitting although I could tell he was a little nervous once the introduction to the dogs was made.

Eventually, I decided to run the 30k instead of the 60k. I wanted to run and hang out with him before midnight as opposed to finishing sometime at 5am when he'd be asleep. A big thank you to Mari for keeping an eye on him (shhhh, he doesn't know I asked her to do so). 

The following are some highlights of our great weekend.

1. Camping is great.     This was our 1st time camping, and we both loved it. We cannot wait to do it again.

2. Showers are underrated.     We camped out on Friday/Saturday, and our only shower was the hose on the fish cleaning table as you enter the park. If you wanted to shower, that was it…So we showered.

3. Camping rule # 1:     DO NOT LEAVE FOOD (especially candy) OPEN IN THE TENT. After my race ended, I went into our tent to crash. Immediately I felt the unmistakable stinging of ants. For the record, my son denies that he left any food open. I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume ants just liked our tent.

4. Squirrels make odd noises.     We awoke Saturday morning (at 5am, no less) to a weird huffing or puffing sound coming from the trees. From my tent, we looked up and saw a squirrel was the 1 making this sound. I was intrigued. We both agreed that nature can be very noisy. Cool but noisy. What can I say - it’s the little things.

5. Friends sitting in the dark under the stars is priceless.     Friday night, we were 1 of a handful of campers (of what would be a tent city by race night). We spent several hours until about midnight sitting in the dark gazing at the sky and shooting the breeze. Added bonus: getting to watch shooting stars.

6. Cows are badasses.     We were among 4 vehicles making the long & winding drive into the park when all of a sudden we all came to a halt. Once the dust cleared, we saw there was a cow that had stopped in the middle of the road. After what seemed like an eternity, it went along its merry way across the street. It moved when it felt like moving. It didn't care that we were in a bit of a hurry. Cow, you da man!!!

7. Hokas are the best. The best.     After any trail race, 1 thing is certain - my feet will be sore. A little sore or quite a bit sore, but they WILL be sore. My feet felt incredible during the race, and they feel incredible right now. This was the perfect terrain to test how well they’d protect my feet, and they performed really well. I rolled my ankle a couple of times, but I have a feeling that would’ve happened regardless of the shoes I was wearing.

8. The tripping & falling streak continues.     I fell 4 times during the race Saturday night. This might have been the most times I’ve fallen (and can get up) during a trail race (day or night). My previously broken hand is a little sore but no serious damage - just a couple of scrapes and bruises on my hand, elbow, side and back. It has become a tradition for me to fall at least once during a trail race.

9. Maybe glasses are a must.     I’m near-sighted. The only time I wear my glasses is when I drive at night (or go to the movies). I have never used my glasses during a trail run - even a night run. It may just be me, but I’m thinking there might be a direct correlation between running at night with no glasses and falling. I have planned a scientific experiment during my next 60k night race on 09/01. I will wear my glasses during the race. Stay tuned…

10. 2012 Capt’n Karl’s Colorado Bend 30k kicked my butt.     I started a little faster than I normally would and that was planned. By mile 4 or 5, I knew it was quickly becoming spent, but I decided to continue with that pace. I figured: it’s only 18 miles so I’ll be ok not worrying too much about hydration and/or calories. WRONG. I barely finished and was suffering the effects of dehydration from 11:20ish pm until 6am this morning. I am used to getting sick during the latter stages of a race, but I’ve never gotten ill (and continued being ill) after a race. I was finally able to hold something down at breakfast this morning. Lesson learned (but, of course, I’ve said that before).

Overall, the best part of the weekend was having my son there with me. Not only do I love him, but I actually like him and am proud of the young man he's become.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

...middle of the night musings about Saturday's 30k race, camping & river monsters.

Tapering is always difficult for me to do, and I don’t like doing it. I feel like I must run right up until the day of the race. I know there are two sides to the question of whether to taper or not - I choose to listen to the side that says don’t change your routine.

Nevertheless, I am making myself taper this week. I am exhausted like never before. I’ve done two long runs this week and I am beat. The only reason I am making myself take the rest of the week off is because my goal is to run my 30k this Saturday night (Capt. Karl’s @ Colorado Bend) pretty fast (by my standards), and I’m in danger of being able to do so at my current level of fatigue.

My exhaustion isn’t helped by the fact that after a couple of months off, I have two inservices/trainings at work this week. After an 8 hour day yesterday, I was super duper tired. I’m a little concerned how my Cactus Rose training will go once school starts and I have to juggle my long runs, work and life - but more on that at a later date.

I am definitely looking forward to this weekend’s race for a reason that has nothing to do with my running: it’ll be the first time my son and I go camping. I’m really looking forward to spending time with him (which is why I decided to do the 30k instead of the 60k). I can tell he’s a little concerned, tho, for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, a teenager’s life is his cell phone, and it appears that there will be no phone/internet access out there. I’m thinking being “off the grid” will be a good thing…for the both of us.

Secondly, I have to share a convo I had with my son last night:
     Me: I can’t wait to go swimming this weekend.
     Joshua: I’m NOT going swimming!!!

     Me: What? Why not?

     Joshua: I don’t want a little fish crawling up my pee stream!!!

     Me: Pee stream? Where did you hear that?

     Joshua: River Monsters on TV!!!

It’ll be an interesting weekend, alright.

Damn you, Jeremy Wade!!!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Everything's digital ~ I'm still analog.

When my summer began, I decided I was going to read a few books that’d been on my reading wishlist. I figured I had all the time in the world (2 months off, actually), so it was as good of a time as any.

A friend allowed me to borrow her kindle, so I quickly downloaded Born To Run. I had been wanting to read it again (yes, it’s that good) for a while and this was my perfect opportunity. This would be my first attempt at reading an e-book. I say attempt because I only managed to get through a couple of pages. I quickly discovered that reading an e-book is not the same as reading a "traditional book."
I  quickly looked through my closet and found the soft cover version of the book. Much, much better. There’s something about an old book: the smell, the feel of it in your hand, you name it: it’s better than the virtual thing. Flipping the pages with your fingers as I fan my face - ahhhhhhh!!! I love the physicalness of a book.

Besides, why do everything at/from home? There's nothing like going to a bookstore - especially an old bookstore and just spend an hour (or two) looking around for the right book to buy/read.

I don't think I will give the kindle (or any other e-reader) another chance. Some things just do not go out of style. It could be just me, though. I may just be an analog guy in a digital world.

Where do you stand on the e-reader vs book debate? An inquiring mind wants to know.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Coffee, I love you...

When my cappuccino maker starts percolating, something within me happens. I get excited and nervous at the same time. I anxiously sit in front of it (as if that will speed up the process) awaiting the liquid gold. I just can't get enough of cappuccinos.

I love everything about coffee - making it, the aroma, the taste, the warmth of the cup in my hand, etc. Most importantly, I love the effect coffee has on me. I know. I know. I know - it’s the caffeine. I love that I am suddenly alert, awake and ready to take on the day. Crash? Well, I’ve been lucky that I don’t really crash once the caffeine has leveled off - so no problemo there.

My latest thing has been to (try) make some funky 'art' w/ the milk foam. I've got a looooong way to go. Usually, what I set out to make and the finished product are totally different things, but I will keep on trying.

I usually only have several cups of cappuccinos in the morning and that’s it. I think I’ve conditioned my body/brain to only want/need it in the morning. Besides, I am fully aware that if I were to have one later in the afternoon/evening, for sure I wouldn’t sleep (I mean, it’s not like I do much sleeping now, anyway but that‘s a different post for another day).

Gotta go. You hear a noise coming from my kitchen?

What's YOUR liquid energy???

Thursday, August 2, 2012

If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It???

For the entire time that I’ve been running, I think I can count in one hand the times that I’ve stretched - before or after. I’ve been lucky that I can just hit the ground running (whether it was a 5k or a 50 miler). Get out of my car - start running. Finish running - get in my car. I should also mention that I’ve been lucky to have been injury-free my entire life.

I’ve had to lead a stretching/warm up routine for our running group (because I know they always do), but I think I was just ‘going through the motions.’ As a matter of fact, the few times that I’ve stretched, it has resulted in a little nagging injury - nothing serious but something that ends up bothering me for a few days. In my mind, this tells me - don’t stretch. And , hey, it’s worked for me.

I don’t want new runners to pick up my bad habits, so I have always made my CC runners stretch before and after our workouts and put them through running drills (which I also pass on).  Plus, I don’t want 7th and 8th graders who are just picking up running to get hurt and give it up before they, really, even get started.

I’m not saying that I will never stretch - I do, after all, want to become more limber and/or flexible but I think I’d rather not mix/combine the two.

What are you’re thoughts on stretching before/after a run???