Friday, August 31, 2012

Today it's steak knives and Lancer Day

Day 24 -- Aug. 31, 2012

Today I'm 193.4 pounds of rolling thunder. 

I've got to give a tip of the hat to the Runner's World butt kick of the day. 

"With ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable." 
-- Sir Thomas Foxwell Buxton, British philanthropist and politician

I'm not sure about all things, but many, many, many things are attainable if you have the ability to just keep your focus. Sometimes it's just a matter of outlasting and out-wanting your opponent.

Today is Lancer Day for the boys' school. On one level it's an excuse to escape the bonds of school an hour early on the Friday before Labor Day, and on another it's a great way to build camaraderie in the ranks as the teams and clubs join in a big parade.

Sometimes, it's all about the try. Tomorrow we'll find out how far our two intrepid runners have come in their careers. It's the first meet of the year and often times a scorcher. This year, however, Isaac promises to drop some much-needed rain in the area and hopefully keep the temperatures mild.

Last year, our older son ran 21:33.6 for the 5K on a fairly warm day on a mostly flat track. This is a 5-minute improvement over his time as a freshman two years earlier. Our younger son got his first taste of running competition and finished in more than 30 minutes. 

A year ago, the fastest junior varsity runner on the team finished the course in 19:31. While that's a lot of our older son to chop off from his 20:01 in last week's time trial, it's a within that attainable window. At least it's within the range of setting as a reasonable goal.

As parents we're glad that they're out there moving and having fun with their friends. Knocking down times is fun, but learning the passion for a life-long sport that will keep them fit, healthy and help relieve stress is the most important thing.

Our older son is definitely wired to set goals and obtain them. Although he may never admit it, earning his way into the top 20 on the team is a big deal. Beating down his times will be icing on the cake.

Oh, my run yesterday? Nothing special, except I found two steak knives along the side of the road. Who loses steak knives? Who runs with steak knives? Not me.

I just pound the pavement and pray for rain. Or listen to the radio to find out how bad the local teams will be this year.

It's Friday, so if you catch the slowest human out wrestling with Isaac in the rain today, give me a wave.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

I Don't Need A Stinking Odometer

Day 23 -- Aug. 30, 2012

Today I'm 193 pounds of rolling thunder.

Sometimes a run is a run is a run. It's like when bikers go out and pile on miles just to say they've gone out for the day. Enjoyable? No. Necessary? Maybe. But at the end of the summer their little plastic odometers read 3,000 or 5,000 or 10,000 miles.

Maybe that's just one of those goals I was talking about yesterday. Maybe that's the kind of low-key motivator we all need floating in the back of our head to remind us that we need to get out and put in the miles.

I'd like to think my running was more of a matter of routine than goal setting. I've never really logged the miles. It didn't seem all that important. The time on the road and the process of being able to think through challenges and problems through the flap, flap, flap of running shoes on pavement seemed to be more important than keeping score.

Besides, there wasn't a day gone by that I didn't see someone out on the road that I didn't feel those pangs of guilt about not being out there grinding through the miles.

But the one thing about running, unlike biking I can roll through an hour out on the road and feel the same amount of conditioning that it would have taken me three or four hours to achieve on a bike. Now biking is still great, but when you're limited on time, a good 45-minute run can be a lot easier to work in than a three-hour bike ride.

But yesterday, a run was just a run. It was supposed to be a long day but hot weather and heavy legs cut that short. I slogged up the hills on my usual long route, but my legs and lungs just didn't want to answer the call. And the heat was back up in the mid-90s, so I cut myself a break; got my 5 miles in and allowed myself the luxury of being done for the day and not worry about grinding through more miles.

I keep a running log where I write a few things down like weight and workout, but I never stress about it unless the weight number starts climbing. I've gone down the road of logging my food intake, but about all that does is restrict my eating so I don't have to write so much. Which I guess is good because you lose weight, but it's also easy to abandon.

I don't, however, have a little plastic odometer to record my running distance. It's just what I do. It's part of my routine.

So if you see the world's slowest human out in the sweltering heat today, give me a wave.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Do We Really Need 'A Kick Butt Thought Of The Day?'

Day 22 -- Aug. 29, 2012

Today I am 194.6 pounds of rolling thunder -- and proud of it.

Late last night while I was pulling in the last of the Hurricane Isaac stories for the television websites in New Orleans and Jackson, Miss., an interesting email popped into my in-box. It was my "kick butt thought of the day" from my friends at Runner's World.

Somewhere in all those little check boxes you go through to find something on a website I must have clicked the one that said, "Yes, send me kick butt thoughts of the day."

So Tuesday's thought was "Goals are the fuel in the furnace of achievement."

At about 1 a.m., Pop Tarts and Mountain Dew were the fuel in the furnace of personal survival.

Obviously, author Brian Tracy had a little more high test in his tank when he penned that thought then I did as I slogged my way through the final paces of my work day.

Maybe that's what's wrong with my running. I have no goals. I'm not planning on going to race. I've accepted my place as the world's slowest human. 

Or perhaps my goals are just couched in different terms. Yes, I'd love to weigh about 20 pounds less (I can feel that furnace heating even as I type) and running is a means to that end.

And yes, I'd love to be able to run farther and faster, but life will go on if I don't.

For years as a cyclist I'd set my training goals based on making a week-long 500-mile trip in early June. It was the kind of motivation that got you out on the bike in February and March when you were more like a rolling sleeping bag than a bicycle rider.

It also helped you keep mileage logs and back away from desserts as the first day of the trip approached. It helped you to work on defying gravity by losing more weight so the climbs would be easier (but gravity still sucks, no matter how low your weight gets).

So having the date on the horizon served as a much more tangible goal and a primary motivator as opposed to things like weight loss and general fitness which seem to be residual effects of my running.

My run on Tuesday took a little different track than usual. It had been a long time since I ran with weights. A lot of coaches don't approve of running with weights in your hands because it can affect your gait, form and strain your upper body.

I find it a good way to train your upper body at the same time you are working the lower half. I don't carry much weight, maybe a pound or two in each hand. But after an hour that weight can seem like a ton, especially out in the heat.

So I rolled through my workout, a little shorter in distance but a more intense overall body workout. 

I guess one of the things I love about running is the time you can spend solving problems in your mind. In some ways I guess that stokes your internal furnace in a different way.

I just wonder at what age I realized that cynicism is the ash produced when the fuel of hopes and goals have been burned away by the furnace of good intentions? Maybe I'll share this thought with my new friend, author Brian Tracy.

OK, you know the drill. You see the world's slowest human out running/walking, give me a wave.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

It's All About Isaac In The Long Run

Day 21

Today I'm 194.4 pounds of rolling thunder.

Of course not as thunderous as the hurricane that is currently taking aim at the Gulf Coast, but a rolling blob with ground-shaking abilities nonetheless.

Yesterday was a long day, both on the road and at the computer screen. 

I foolishly told my bosses that if anyone needed help with hurricane coverage, I was their guy. By morning there was a note, and I was in play. In play until 1 a.m.

Out on the road things were heating up. After a respite from the heat over the weekend, the burner was back on so my run was not as easy as it had been last week.

I walked and ran up the starter hill and then rounded the turn into the first downhill. Usually somewhere around this point I know if it's going to be a strong day or a weak day. If I roll down the hill with relative ease and then take the long, slow rise in the next block without trouble, I'm usually good for the day.

This time I labored through the rise but did not walk. But the big hill that followed involved considerable walking through the steep part.

I found my way fairly well through most of the first 3 miles, until I gave in to my nemesis long hill and walk/ran the rest of the way to the top. 

Usually, the 4.5-mile mark is where my legs start feeling the added distance. This is where I tell myself to push on through. I can cut the route and make a shorter day of it, but it almost always comes with a guilty feeling. 

So I pushed on allowing myself to walk on parts of the final steep hill. With the distance and the heat, I was OK with it.

By the time I logged on to start hurricane coverage the waiting game had begun. My work calls for me to help two TV stations that are directly in the path of the storm. Their editors were nervous and for good reason.

Everyone involved could remember the path of destruction that Katrina brought that way. It was sort of an eerie feeling to think that the giant storm hit the area almost seven years ago to the day that Isaac was expected to make landfall.

The good thing this time was people were taking the storm serious. They were getting their homes ready and making exit plans. Politicians both locally and nationally were focused on making things as safe as possible. 

Round one of my long day stretched well into the night as we prepared people with information about the upcoming storm. With the storm reaching hurricane status today, I'm sure my working long run will take on additional urgency but again stretch into the night.

So today, if you see a rather sleepy looking slowest human making the rounds, give me a wave -- and some caffeine.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Luke, I'm Your Lung Exerciser

Day 19 (or 20, depends on who's counting)

Today I'm 194.2 pounds of rolling thunder.

And after watching the "Biggest Loser: Makeover Edition," I feeling a little somewhere between guilty and grateful. Grateful that I didn't start at 300 pounds plus. But guilty that the dial on my scale hasn't dipped any faster than it has.

I guess grateful, too, that it didn't rise uncontrollably to an embarrassing level while I penned this blog.

So yesterday's run was another quick one sandwiched into my break from my editing work. Forty-five minutes of running without a stop. The temps were mild and the humidity was up but manageable. 

I climbed a hill that I've never been able to run all the way up in the past. It wasn't fast or pretty, but I made it.

Saturday afternoon, Darth Vader rolled into our house in the form of a package from Amazon. Inside the package was something called a lung exerciser.

Now before you go writing me off as a COPD patient or something dire, these devices also have been tested and approved for runners, bikers and endurance athletes.

Still, I couldn't help but feel a little bit like old Darth when I put the little breather in my mouth and it began hissing as I sucked air in and out through the mouthpiece.

I also couldn't help but feel a little bit like Kevin Costner in "Tin Cup" when he tried on all the golf gizmos he'd ordered from late-night television. I'm usually pretty good about steering clear of those gimmicks, and QVC and I parted company long ago.

So on the Saturday the grand experience began. Darth Vader is in the house (sans mask) and the wheezing has begun. The tiny instruction book said 25 breaths at a time, three times a day. It also said I won't feel the real effects for about a month.

Here's the deal. I'll keep you updated on my progress. I've never been a really strong breather while running, so what the heck.

In a month, if the thing works I'll tell you all about it. Or in 30 days, if you see a lung exerciser on EBay you'll know why.

Either way, you see the world's slowest human out on the street today, give me a wave and I'll wheeze right back at you.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Time Trials: A Race of Truth

Aug. 25-26 -- Day 18

Today I'm 194 pounds of rolling thunder.

Actually, I have no idea how many pounds of rolling thunder I am today. I was so busy yesterday I slept in today and forgot to weigh myself this morning. I was also so busy yesterday with cross country time trials and freelance work that I didn't get a chance to blog.

And, Oh yes, we were basking in the glow of the arrival of Georgia Violet, our new great niece in Oregon, who was born Friday happy and healthy. At least we think she's happy, you never know with newborns.

Anyway, Georgia is a peach, and we welcome her aboard the clan of misfit toys that is our family.

Saturday morning came way too early at our house. I pounded the keyboard until after midnight the night before doing my contract work and didn't really fall asleep until about 1. So when the dogs rousted my wife at 5:30 a.m. and the alarm sounded at 6, needless to say I was not about jumping up and getting the boys ready for their time trial.

Eight years ago we taught ourselves how to be football parents. The rhythms of game days. The bumps and bruises of practices. The team rituals. The real time versus coach time clock. We learned the elation of perfect seasons and the lessons learned by winless ones.

But going into our fourth year as cross country parents we're still getting the routines down. The correct time for pre-race meals. The equipment they need versus what they want. How the gains are gauged by personal time bests and not always race placements.

With two runners on one of the largest teams in the country (nearly 200 boys and girls; last year almost 300) it's a mix of social runners and competitive racers. The onus has always been a little more on the former, but the team likes it that way and so do we.

Our older son went down the cross country road because that's what his friends were doing. And it was a great way to find a peer group and explore his footing as he entered high school.

The first year was all about new things. New aches and pains. New challenges of personal endurance. And new challenges as a racer.

Somewhere in his junior year running became part of who he was. His times had progressively gotten better, but now he was enjoying the runs and what they could do for his health and fitness. He learned to push himself in races.

Like most teens, his younger brother is cutting his own path. His goals are more personal, and he's still in the mode of mom and dad not letting him come home right after school and vegging out. He's found the camaraderie of a team, but the love of exercise hasn't quite struck home.

So the two entered Saturday's time trial with different goals. One was hoping to just survive and qualify for the team. The other was hoping to start the year among the top 20 on the squad.

The day broke overcast and humid, so the rolling course would be a different sort of challenge that in years past when the sun was already beating down when the runners were on the course.

The parents all click their cellphone timers as the runners left the start line, and so the waiting began. Folks hustled to various points on the course to encourage their children and team members along the quest. Top 10 would be varsity; next 10 jayvee and those under 30 minutes for the 5K would be "C" teamers.

It was the first real race of the year and a winding, hilly course on deep grass. The first runner came in as predicted. Then lo and behold our older son rolled in among the top 20 as did one of his friends. At the end of last year and now again, he had found a way in those final couple hundreds of meters to go to that place where you put pain aside and just flat out run.

So then we turned our sights on his brother. He had assured us that sub 30 was doable this year. He ran his legs off in the choppy form that I'm sure he inherited from his father. Somehow he managed to do a personal best for the distance and right at the time limit.

He's still finding his way, but it's the journey that will be his destination. And hopefully the baton of running for enjoyment will be passed along.

So if you see the world's slowest human running today, give me a wave for my new friend Georgia Violet.


Friday, August 24, 2012

Of running on grass, Paula Deen and Lance Armstrong

Day 17 -- Aug. 24, 2012

Today I am 192.2 pounds of rolling thunder.

I'm not sure how long it takes for something to become an adage, but there is some logic to the old saw that says don't send a hungry person to buy groceries. 

So yesterday I changed up my routine and did some running on the grass at a local park. Our younger son has some toe shoes (for runners, not dancers), so I think I might try those next time I hit the grass.

It was a good change of pace from hitting the sidewalks and asphalt of the neighborhood. The soft surface was easy on the joints and the undulating surface gave running and balance an added dimension.

Post run it was time to hit the grocery store. I guess my post-workout sandwich wasn't enough because when Paula Deen's cherubic cheeks and elfin eyes hit me from the dessert aisle at the grocery story, I melted like a pound of Paula's beloved butter.

There was even time for the angel to land on my shoulder, before the devil on the other side had loaded something called a sour cream pound cake into my cart.

The boys need energy for cross country, I rationalized.

But there was no denying it. Paula had cast her spell and the demon calorie-churning machine was in my buggy and there was no turning back now. She had thrown down the gauntlet of temptation, and I had willingly swallowed the hook whole.

I didn't want to know that a slice was a mere 240 calories, about half of which come from fat. And that's a human-sized slice and not a late-night binge slice.

I knew in my heart of hearts that behind those big, glossy eyes Paula has the cool demeanor of a soul snatcher. I've seen her cook on the Food Network. I know what kind of spells she can cast with butter.

By mid-evening I succumbed to the pressure of the plastic container, which of course when removed from the plastic tray bottom of the cake could wake the entire house or at least let them know that, yes, dad was having cake. The seductress Paula Dean had worked her magic.

I realize that you need to fall off the diet wagon on occasion and not beat yourself up too badly. So as I was drifting off to sleep listening to sports talk radio (that has to burn some calories), I listened to the sad story of Lance Armstrong being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles.

Geez, I thought. He may have tarnished his image by using performance enhancing drugs, which makes Paula Deen's sour cream pound cake seem like a safe haven for a mere mortal like me.

So if you see the world's slowest human out running today, give me an extra wave for the pound cake and the fact that I'm going to be a great uncle again soon.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

How was that run? Meh!

Day 16 -- Aug. 23, 2012

Today I'm 193 pounds of rolling thunder.

Meh! is a word I hear a lot around the house these days.

How was school? Meh!

How was cross country practice? Meh!

Did you know your head is on fire? Meh!

There's a lot of meh in the average teenager's vocabulary.

So how was my run yesterday? Meh.
It started out great. It was a long day, so I did about 20 minutes on the Spin bike to loosen up and a few weights to bulk up (laugh track here). Then it was time to hit the streets.

I cleared the first hill with few worries. I huffed and puffed and finally the hill succumbed to my new-found running prowess. (Laugh track again).

So I stumbled to the corner on the flat and headed down the half-mile downhill where the next hill awaited. By this point in the day, the temps were in the mid-90s, but there was a breeze and I was mainly in the shade.

The second hill is a sharp upgrade. Not particularly long, but fairly steep. Again, running prowess saved the day and I cleared the hump gasping but without walking.

The next half mile I rolled down the hill and up the next roller and around the corner. I could feel the heat starting to take its toll. That and two days of hard workouts the days before had left me without much spring left in my step.

I made a brief walk to get to the stop light, and another stop to dip my running cap in a city fountain to cool down.

I struggled up the next big hill. There were starts and stop like I hadn't had in a week or so.

Finally rational mind won out over vanity, and I gave in to the walk. The combination of tired legs and hot weather were the winners.

So how was that big run yesterday? Meh!

And if you see the world's slowest human out pounding the pavement today, give me a wave and a meh.