Friday, December 30, 2011

My Friend Kurt...

Hanging out in trash bags before the 2009 Chicago Marathon to help keep warm from the 33 degree near freezing starting line temp.

I would not be writing this blog if it weren't for my friend Kurt (pictured on the right). Five or so years ago he prevented any polite way for me to say I didn't think I could do a half Ironman by deftly removing any excuse I could come up with for saying no: 
Rich, "I don't have a bike." 
Kurt, "No problem you can ride my old Fuji." 
Rich, "It's too far isn't it?" 
Kurt, "I did it! What...are you a wimp?" 
Rich, "I don't know about the swim." 
Kurt, "It's fun, you'll like it. Didn't you used to have your WSI?" 
So Kurt's Sam I am tenacity finally won me over, although I really did want to do it. I was just intimidated by the task if I remember correctly. Everyone should have a Kurt to show them what to do for a first time triathlon (or a second or a third). I remember seeing him wearing one of those long pointy helmets for the bike. To me it looked like moon-man fashion through my runner's eyes. I still had my number pinned to my chest, road race style, because I didn't know what a race belt was. That first 70.3 I also did the bike leg in toe clips and running shoes too. I counted only two other people with toe clips that year @ Steelhead. My feet were burning up! I soon learned that there was a reason behind every seemingly strange triathlon innovation. The next year of course I had my race belt and Speedplay pedals and cleats. Kurt and I ran cross country and track together in college and he is still faster than me. In fact, after doing Steelhead in 2009, he went on to qualify for Boston two months later that year in the Chicago Marathon! I have yet to qualify for Boston. Besides being a great athlete, anyone who knows Kurt knows how sarcastic and combative he can be. I thought maybe that was changing a bit as we both approach 50. A few days before Christmas this year I found a package in the mail from Kurt. He had sent me his old aero helmet. Later, on the phone, he told me not to get too excited, "I'm only giving it to you so I don't have to stand around so long waiting for you after I'm done." There we go, that's the Kurt I know. Now I can be a moon-man too.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Midfoot strike

So Exciting! But will I like them more than my Asics?
What with McDougall's Born to Run, the advent of Vibram five fingers, and a flurry of running methods, ChiRunning, Evolution Running, Good Form Running, etc all roads lead toward the midfoot strike. Four years ago when I did my first 70.3 I was noticing these shoe brands that I had never seen before. "The triathlete crowd even have their own shoes!?", I thought. Names like Zoot and Newton and colors that were reminiscent of  early 80's neon were fun and interesting. So, four years later, thanks to my parent's X-mas gift of "Universal Gift Certificates" (money), I finally bought a pair of  Newton's. My reluctance to buy them stemmed more from price rather than being sold or not sold on the science behind them. Since that first 70.3 I've also run a half marathon in my Vibram's (Speed) this past Fall. Everything that is promoted in terms of not having sore knees and a sore back checks out. My achilles tendons and the back of my calves DID feel like rolled steel afterwards, but no knee or back pain. When I treadmill tested the Newtons in the store I had already been actively trying to alter my running technique for over a year so they felt quite natural. Walking in them, however, is kind of like walking around in a pair of track spikes. I'm excited to run in them for the Lansing Marathon. I just can't see myself running 26.2 in my Vibrams, but with these I think the trademarked Newton "lugs" will help me keep good form even when I'm getting fatigued and form generally goes out the window. As far as trends go, the midfoot strike will most likely be around to stay. Now I need to go find my bee-pollen and DMSO.

Friday, December 23, 2011

My Friend Jon...

On the bus with the team going to some XC meet or other.
So when I began my XC coaching journey it was becasue of Jon (picutred left) who is part of my regular, once a week, running gang. He went to the athletic director at the high school we were both teaching in back then (2004, I believe) and said we would both be interested in taking the cross country coaching position that had recently opened up. The thing is we had never discussed it. I didn't even know he was interested! Nevertheless, when I found out, I was excited and of course surprised. Jon and I coached together for four years. His older brother had coached XC as well at another high school and I feel like he wanted to follow in his footsteps to some extent. I met Jon initially when we ran together on our high school XC team. Little did I know that we would be coaching together let alone both be teaching English at the same high school across town from where we went to school. In the end it was a great experience to learn how to be "the coach" alongside such a fine friend whom I've known for so long. I think my recent success in coaching my daughter's team at her school could not have happened so smoothly had it not been for my formative years learning how to actually be a coach with Jon. The picture says it all really. Two Englsih teachers who are having fun being XC coaches together. Who is Oscar and who is Felix? We still debate that one. While running of course. Here's to you my friend!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sarcopenia Anyone?

I learned a new word today: sarcopenia. It means age related loss of muscle mass and strength. Hmmm. Kind of a scary sounding word. I bought one of those muscle guy magazines the other day that had the banner across the top of the cover, "Look Awesome At All Ages".  Inside there was an easy to understand work out for the 50 year old crowd that included one of those fitness balls and a simple weight regimen. Apparently as we age we lose muscle mass. I didn't know that, but I have been noticing for some time now that I'm sort of "lacking in tone" in my upper body. I never used to be flabby. I know for a lot of years, in the military, doing morning P.T. probably kept me in shape better than I would've myself. The problem is there were professional incentives in the Army that don't exist in civilian life. I used to love doing P.T. tests. I suppose my desire to race is a good substitute for that but I was not prepared to be losing upper body lean muscle simply because I've been on the planet for awhile. So from what I've read, the medical folks are now paying attention to sarcopenia the way they have been looking at osteoporosis for years. Osteoporosis I've heard of, sarcopenia is a new one on me. They appear to be related. So the big cure for this type of muscle degeneration is to do some simple resistance training or working out with weights. Something I've been planning on doing for...oh, about three years now. I just have to go in the basement and actually do it.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Well I'm quite happy to be listed on one of the hippest triathlon sites out there. Real people with real jobs talking about what it is to live with Ironman dreams. I had run across the site before I started my own blog and noticed that it was populated with not only coaching and elite advice but also the reflections of people I've run into while doing triathlons. You know. That person you run with for 3 or four miles because you're feeling about the same way and you help each other along...and then either you or the other person breaks away towards the finish line. Or that person you talk to in the transition area next to you while you're both waiting for the event to begin, but your friend you came to the race with is two rows away from you where their bike is racked . I call them "mini-friendships". 

TriCrowd has interesting featured bloggers and good deals on tri-gear through their associated web site called Triathlon + Dinero). I haven't found another triathlon specific site out there that really fills the niche that TriCrowd does. Check 'em out! (And don't forget to scroll down on the right hand side of the page and look for the "More Triathlon Blogs," that's where I am.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Goodbye Diet Coke

I did forget to mention another thing in my last blog entry that I stopped doing which is I no longer drink Diet Coke. My particular habit was one can a day during the week at lunch and usually one day on the weekend I would skip the Diet Coke. I drank it for the caffeine and because it tasted better to me than regular Coke. There really isn't super compelling evidence on the web that should alarm people who drink Diet Coke in moderation. I do like what this fellow Blogspot blogger says. I gave up Diet Coke this Fall because I told my cross country team that I didn't want them drinking any soda during the season (we call it "pop" in Michigan, but I guess we're actually the odd ones in that regard) and that I would give up drinking Diet Coke so that I was giving up something too. It turned out to be easier than I thought and I do feel much better but I don't know if it contributed in any way to my weight loss or not. I just figured that all those chemicals on a daily basis couldn't be a good thing. I've replaced the daily Diet Coke with Naked brand "Green Machine" or Odwalla "Superfood" smoothies (in spite of seeing Soylent Green in the '70's) or those little V8 V-Fusion juice blends. I feel quite virtuous about this too. I feel like I'm doing my body a favor. So that IS one thing I neglected to mention last time. I doubt I could measure speed gain in my next race from quitting Diet Coke but it sure can't hurt. Plus it made my daughter happy.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Walden Pond Triathlon?

Breakfast this morning was a good triathlete breakfast I imagine. Hodgson Mill steel cut oats with blueberries and bananas with some milk. I also took my fish oil pills (must get that daily Omega 3) and a men's generic multi-vitamin. I'm not one for chasing food supplements. I'm trying to make my life feel as normal as possible while still building in habits that in the long term support being able to do long course triathlon competitions and marathons. I've also cut back on certain foods that I used to let myself go crazy on such as pizza. I can easily eat 1/2 to 3/4's of a large pizza quite rapidly but I now eat one or two slices and then wait awhile and usually I'll eat another one hours later if I still want to. I guess watching all those Biggest Loser type shows or Dr. Oz (wife TV in other words) have left their mark. I generally avoid cookies and muffins as well. I've never really had a weight problem until I started pushing 50. Really it's more of an out of shape problem. Still I've lost 16 or so pounds in the last couple months without any real drastic change other than what I've mentioned and this is my down time anyway between Thanksgiving and Christmas... the annual Shalom from any kind of structured training. In Michigan our winter season most likely contributes to being one of the top ten fattest states in the US. Of course that doesn't explain why Mississippi is #1 on that list. Regardless of why Michigan and Mississippi consistently share space on that list, my training begins again January 29th. In addition to the Lansing Marathon I'm also considering doing this 24 hour cycling event next year too. I've never done a cycling specific event (my least favorite of the three multi-sport disciplines).

I’ll let someone not known for his prowess in endurance sports finish this morning’s post:

“All endeavor calls for the ability to tramp the last mile, shape the last plan, endure the last hours toil. The fight to the finish spirit is the one... characteristic we must posses if we are to face the future as finishers.” Henry David Thoreau
I wonder if Thoreau ever had steel cut oats for breakfast when he was hanging out on Emerson's property on the north shore of Walden pond?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Algebra Class 1979

I was sitting in Mr. Hauser's algebra class where I usually read either Sports Illustrated (SI) or Hot Rod Magazine when I was done with my assignment...or maybe instead of it occasionally. On one particular day I was reading an unusually long article (10 pages) in SI about this new-fangled endurance event in Hawaii. It seemed really cool. I had just started running marathons and I wondered what else was out there to test myself against. There was the 100 mile Western States Run I had read about in The Runner (NOT Runner's World) and then there was this "other" thing called Ironman. I liked the fact that the trophy was just a little handmade nuts and bolts guy. Such a humble token for such a gargantuan effort. Anyway that "Ironman Dream" went into my head and heart and it has been residing there until the time when I could actively pursue it. It seems so strange how long you have to wait to do some of those things you've always wanted to do. I recently heard someone quip, "Make sure you chase your dreams while you're still young enough to catch them." Fair enough. Well Barry McDermott's article is history now but I never forgot it. Now of course, that race I read about in SI has become the Ironman World Championship: "Kona" and the Word Triathlon Corporation (WTC) has formed to push a "brand" etc. And I think all that is fine because I do appreciate my LAVA subscription and I've had nothing but good experiences from doing WTC sanctioned events but my dream came from 1979. Just a small group of people pushing themselves well beyond current norms and for some reason I've been waiting, ever since I sat reading magazines in algebra class, to do the same thing. I guess the '69 Camaro "Backyard Buildup" will just have to stay on hold a little longer.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Full disclosure

The main triathlon I've been going to every year for my annual gut-check is a wonderful event in Benton Harbor, Michigan called Steelhead. The first time I went in 2008 they canceled the swim which was good because I didn't have a wet suit. I was the ONLY one who didn't and I remember thinking "Wow, look at those white caps. Man, this water is cold." I seem to remember some people drowning at some other triathlon event the previous weekend elsewhere in the US too. I don't think I even did one open water swim to prepare myself, just pool work. So...God looks out for fools and middle aged men who regularly overestimate their own abilities to endure physical challenges. I remember also thinking that the whole "clip-on cycling shoe thing" was a little over the top for me as well. Of course I was wrong on both accounts. I post these times not as a badge of honor because really they're not terribly good, but just to show how much skin I have in the game leading up to Ironman Wisconsin. And of how far I have to go so I don't get yanked off the course. There are of course a few stories to tell about these races as well. In the end however I treasure these experiences for the valuable lessons they've taught me. Should anyone want a fantastic, well run, scenic 70.3 event to do, you can't do any better than Ironman Steelhead in Michigan. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lansing Marathon

I've got to say "Finally!" I don't have to drive to some other city to do a marathon. Lansing, Michigan is going to host its first marathon in April of 2012. I will be there. I imagine in an inaugural event there will be some glitches but whatever they may be, I'm so glad to have something like this in the Capital City. My daughter is planning on running it as well as other members of the cross country team. I will be following (or attempting to follow) Parker's 12 week competitive plan from the heart monitor book. This means I have to start a workout plan beginning Jan 29th of the new year. I did manage to take third in my age group once in the Saginaw Bay/Delta College marathon back in the early '80s. I ran a 3:25 (a PR for me to this day) and I just barely edged out the first woman in that race as well. I still remember her telling me "Good Job" as we were entering the track for the final .2 This of course made me feel kind of bad since I had been thinking unkind thoughts about her for the majority of the race. I think my chauvinism of those days actually spurred me on to get that time. Since those days however, I've been beat by so many women in so many marathons that I'm not going to say I don't care anymore....I care. I now realize these things happen and being a chauvinist is...just so tiring these days. So I'll be there April 22nd of 2012, ready to race. And I imagine I'll probably get beat by some female runners too. And I'll still be happy.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Success is counted sweetest...

Moving on to the State meet! October 29th, 2011.
This past XC season, my eighth year coaching but the first at my daughter's school, the girl's team took third at our regional in Allendale, Michigan. This qualified the team to move on to the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) state cross country meet. I was overjoyed of course but I did wonder about a comment made by one of the parents I overheard at the starting line of the race (not directed at me). The comment made me ponder for several days about whether I would've rather gone to the state meet as a coach or a runner. The "either/or" thing*. My team in high school won our league and went on to the state meet the year after I graduated. We failed in our bid my Senior year due to our top two guys being out for injuries although we still took second in our league. I have, after thinking about it, concluded beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would rather coach a team to the state meet rather than go as a runner. Probably a good thing since that's how it happened anyway. But still I marvel at my capacity to be so happy for others. Maturity is shocking sometimes. In any case I just want to share with blog readers an unforgettable group of girl's on one of the happiest days of my life.

*not an allusion to Kierkegaard

Sunday, November 27, 2011

George Sheehan

When I was in high school I read a book by George Sheehan entitled: Dr. Sheehan on Running. It really grabbed my imagination at the outset of my first years of running. Made me see that running could be something more than exercise. Well as I enter, or have entered middle age, whenever that happens exactly, I don't know, a friend of mine recently loaned me a copy of the last book Dr. Sheehan wrote called Going the Distance: One Man's Journey to the End of His Life. It is amazing to me in this life how friendly voices come back to you. Reading the chronicle of Sheehan's dying of Prostate Cancer, well of course it will be a bittersweet read. But one I would expect from him as well. I will echo the words of the introduction written by Robert Lipsyte. At the end of the introduction Dr. Sheehan was saying that "this book I'm doing is going to be good, but the epilogue is going to be a problem." The introduction goes on to say "And no problem on the epilogue George. We are your epilogue, all the people to whom you gave courage and inspiration, all the people who want to say, again, thank you." I guess maybe middle age is that time of life when you realize how much there really is to be thankful for. Thank you George Sheehan. For writing and living and dying the way you did...inspiring others.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Max Heart Rate

Well it's two days after Thanksgiving and I went out to do the Max Heart Rate (MHR) workout after warming up with my wife a couple of miles. I did almost what Parker suggests in his book but stopped after two hill climbs because my own breathing was freaking me out. I hate hearing myself pant audibly. It makes me think I'm worse off than I probably am. My Max after two repeats (Parker suggests five) was 177. My formulaic Max following the Karvonen method is 181. I'm pretty sure that's very close to what it is. I'll have to take it to the Track I guess and see what happens there. I've always disliked speedwork. Probably because it hurts.

My Resting Heart Rate (RHR) is 51. Taking that is a little awkward because you have to move to get everything in place (making your heart rate go up) plus I haven't mastered my Timex Road Trainer and I guess it was beeping and woke up my wife last night. So I've decided to track my weight, BMI and RHR and see if those three variables mean anything in the coming months. I really haven't had this much fun since I filled out my Jim Fixx Runner's Diary in the late 70's and early '80's (high school days for me).

Monday, November 21, 2011

Heart Monitor Training

I imagine I've been a little slow to take up heart monitor training. But in the end... I've heard, and agree with, the truism that distance runners are a little more traditional than triathletes. So anyway I bought Parker's Heart Monitor Training for the Compleat Idiot and, much as I dislike that sort of dummed down type of title....I really like the book. It works for me. And he's really funny. So in my road to IRONMAN Wisconsin when I turn 50 years old in 2013, I intend to keep this blog as both a record of my travails and reach out to a community of people to whom I can be accountable.