Tuesday, July 30, 2013

More Running, Less Thinking = More Fun!

Back in my teens and early twenties I loved bowling.  While I despised most sport activities due to my lack of ability, I had become pretty good bowling.  This was more because of the amount of time and practice I had put in.  Let’s face it, when you live in rainy Western Washington, it was one of the few activities you could do year round. 

Because I was good at it, I enjoyed it, as simple as that.

Well, a couple of weeks back I participated in a company team build event.  This year it was bowling at the Presidio Bowl.  And while I felt competent, I was quickly tagged as the ringer.  With this added pressure, I began the first game with the humble goal of breaking 100 which I achieved.  Really, my thought was to use the first game as a warm-up, getting the cobwebs and dust off of my game, and then bowling at least 150 on the next two.  My best game ever was a 265 with most games hovering between 185 and 210.  However, that was over twenty years ago!
First 50K, pretty fun day!

Early on I quickly found my analytical side kick in. The side of me that focuses on the mechanics of the sport: weight of the ball, the angle of the ball rolling down the lane, am I lining the ball at the right spot on the lane guides, what is my stride, where do I begin that stride, etc.  This is constantly going through my brain.  And thus I lost the enjoyment of the game.

Everyone else on the team was having fun though.  1 pin hit, a round of high fives.  Two gutter balls in a row, woo hoo!  Meanwhile I was grimacing at every 9 pin set.  I reached the point where I had lost the fun of the sport.  On the third game, I finally realized what I was doing and just gave in to the fun.  While our team had one of the lowest accumulations of points we won the trophy for the team that clearly had the most fun.

One of my greatest Achilles heels is my analytical nature.  I can’t ever shut it off!  This especially happens in activities where there is the opportunity to improve.  See, while above I stated that I despised most sport activities, I put very little effort or interest into those activities.  This played a bit into my self-esteem since when I was asked (required) to participate I failed miserably.  To prevent further hurt, I would try to analyze how to improve to the point where I would overthink the activity which would further increase the likelihood of failure.

That said, running and cycling has typically been the activities that I have had no problem shutting my brain off and just participate.  In fact, I have really enjoyed this aspect, until recently.  I now find that I am again back to overthinking every aspect of these activities.
Nothing more fun than eating cow pie on a run!

The greatest drivers have been the slow creep of my weight gain and the use of programs like Strava to really see how I am failing. It was just two years ago I was running a 1:51 half marathon, now I would be good to run a 2:10 flat marathon.  Also, training also for the Diablo 50K and running more with “the guys” during that training further highlighted my insecurities.  Finally, changes with work, starting a new industry, and unlearning my old job for a new job further heightened those anxieties. 

It is funny how these insecurities have manifest themselves, especially through this blog.  I have found that my writing has migrated from the fun of running and exercise and conquering past weight issues to writing about things that I have only an analytical understanding of.  To further feed my insecurities, I have become handy with Reddit, LinkedIn, and the Runners World forums to drive readers to my posts.  I have become neurotic at checking my StatCounter (sometimes on a minute by minute basis) just to see how many page views I can accumulate.

The problem is that now running is no longer fun but something I do. 

That was until I ran the Dirty Dozen 12 hour event earlier this month.  Without a mileage target, I no longer could come up with an overly analyzed strategy.  I had to turn to forums to find out my answers instead of using them to drive traffic.  I ran with folks at the event that were just there to enjoy running.

My wife for the last few months has been asking when I just will stop and enjoy running like I used to.  At this race I finally was able to do it.  I slowed down, even took an hour just to rest, eat a hot dog and a Mexican Coca Cola, and push for the final miles.  

Canyon Meadows 30K, I love running with my wife!
So expect fewer posts from me in the coming months.  And when I do, it will probably be more about the fun of running, maybe a good run that happened, or some of the ups and downs of training for the next big event.  I will continue to use Strava but as it is meant to be for me, a training tool instead of a comparison tool.  And I will use the forums, but more as resources instead as an ego booster.

Running is definitely my best way to shut off my brain and have fun, which I will be doing more of going forward.  I will be enjoying my runs going forward.  I will always have insecurities, but I do not need to bring them to the run!  And you should see me more on the trails on those early morning runs going forward.

Time now for more running less thinking……a lot more fun!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Greater than 26.2

Change in focus

You will notice that the title and subtitle has changed. Whereas most of the post for the past year has focused more on running centric “taking care of future self now” type stuff, the blog got lost in its own “self-importance” instead of just having fun running and cycling and the journey of living a healthy lifestyle. 

While my wife and I have had an amazing journey loosing tons of weight while learning our new found love in running, the past is the past.  Thus the change in focus.

I was listening to my Ipod Shuffle when I was running theDirty Dozen a couple of weeks ago (which I rarely do on trail runs), and fun’s “CarryOn” started playing.  I loved the above line because it really sums up the journey my wife and I have been on.

So expect less “self-importance” posts and more about just the enjoyment of running.  

More on that in a couple of days

Monday, July 8, 2013

Dirty Dozen 12 Hour - 40.42 Miles Completed!

Running twelve hours on a 3.37 mile loop along the San Pablo Bay and a Eucalyptus tree forest hasn’t sounded like my cup of tea.   This was a race though that my wife has wanted to do for the last few years; however our schedule never matched up.  Needless to say we signed up for it this year and I have to admit I had a lot of fun!

The Dirty Dozen 12 Hour Endurance Race is a wonderful way to run as much mileage you can for 12 hours in somewhat controlled circumstances. The party like atmosphere is electric and the comrade between runners made the event very enjoyable.
Beth braving the cold and wind before the race.

We got to the start/finish at 6:15 A.M. to get our crewing station setup, which included a couple of chairs, our drop bags, and a cooler of Coca Cola and water.  Gale force winds met us but that didn’t squelch our enthusiasm.

My wife’s strategy was to go out slow and stay slow to get at least 10 laps or 33 miles in.  Here strategy was a success and made that goal in 8:40.  In fact she hit the 31 mile mark at 8:03.  She ended up with just over 41 miles
Sums up the first three laps!

For me, I was afraid of going out too quick.  I thought if I ran with a heart monitor and keep my heart rate a below 137 which I did effectively for the first 15 miles.  However, this strategy backfired with my first 5K time at 34 minutes and 10K at 1:11.  Keeping in mind that I had also hit the port-potty 3 times I was going too fast.  It was really evident that when I hit the half marathon at 2:33 (my Lagoon Valley pace was 2:27 and my PR is 1:51), my pace way off and inside desire to drop that I really needed to rethink what I was doing and just enjoy the run and push and see how far I could go.
Source: Allen Lucas

Once I reached that decision, the run became much more enjoyable.  The monotony that I feared on the run was non-existent.  The only problem I had was a section right after the aid station on the course where I was feeling the pebbles through my Cascadia 8’s.  At mile 23 (my traditional nemesis mile), I switched out to my Adrenaline ASR 7’s.  A much stiffer shoe but tougher, I didn’t notice the rocks again until my last big loop.

Allen going "Karnazes"!
One of the most enjoyable laps was at lap 8, where I caught up with Mr. Notthatlucas!  While I was changing out my shoes I caught Mr. Notthatlucas going all Karnazes downing a slice of cheese pizza!  While I was tempted, I had been on a regimen of watermelon, potato chips, and Coca Cola, and having made three trips to the bathroom was not feeling that adventurous. After taking a break, he and I both set out.  I would have to say this was the quickest feeling lap of the race up to this point.  It was really nice to enjoy the conversation and I never thought of how I was feeling or over-analyzing my running the whole time.  Thanks Allen, it was really a highlight of the run!

Beth and I running our lap. Source: Allen Lucas
At the end of my 9th lap, I checked with Sam, race director, where my wife was and he let me know that she was also on her 9th.  I hit 30.33 miles at 7:40 and wanted to cross the 31 mile mark with her so I waited and took a break.  She was only 12 minutes behind me and she took a little time with her before we made lap 10 together.  Like I said above, we crossed the 31 mile mark at 8:03.  Mr. Notthatlucas caught up with us on this lap, and passed us.  I think the cheese pizza must have really kicked in because he was really going a great clip.  Again, I haven’t run a race with my wife in a while, so running this lap, her reaching her ultra-distance was awesome.  I am so proud of her.

The Eucalyptus Hall.
After the 10th I made the educated decision to sit for a bit and I let her go for another. I started feeling a twinge on my Achilles and did not want to push it.  I bravely walked over to the food tent and ate a sausage and a Coke.  This was a good decision, since after 30 minutes I felt good enough for another lap.  At this point I knew I could reach 40 miles and maybe 42.  I waited a little bit to see if Beth would show but decided to get going.  

Source: Allen Lucas
Lap 11 was my last big lap and it felt good.  I was able to run large parts of it and made it around in 45 minutes.  I made it back just in time for the baby loop to open up.  My decision was not to risk not getting back in time and get my final three miles on the loop.  Beth showed up after my first loop to secure that she had reached 40 miles (have I said she completed 41.11 miles) by doing one mini loop.

All said, I completed 40.42 and finished mid-pack (50 out of 91 finishers).  I am so happy that I set realistic goals on this one, because if I had solely focused on the 50 mile target I would have been crushed.  But keeping in mind that I ran this with really no formal training schedule (more minimal than anything else) and weighing 30 lbs. over my best running weight I am extremely pleased with the results.
Beth didn't know about the other picture! Source: Allen Lucas

Things I learned

I have to admit I enjoy this style of race and Beth and I have talked about doing it again next year.  Things I will be doing differently:

  • I will pace myself better!  Yeah, the heart monitor helped keep me from going out too crazily; however, I need to go out slower.

  • Don’t fear the food! I felt so much better after eating real food and probably could have covered farther distances if I would have nailed this.

  • Have a proper training schedule! My training since last year’s Napa Marathon has been more haphazard than anything else.  This has been partly due to the stresses of starting a new company as well as a new schedule.  This has also been the primary reason for the weight gain. I have to get back to a proper training schedule.

  • Just enjoy the race and the atmosphere!  This kind of race is so different than the seclusion of the point to point races (like the Diablo Challenge 50K).  Once I settled into enjoying the event I was much happier.

Source: Brazen Racing Volunteer
  • Stop Obsessing! Ok, this one is hard for me to do.  I have a hard time shutting off my brain, so when I am running by myself I can be pretty hard on myself.  Even leading up to the race I was psyching myself out obsessing on the details.  When I was running with Mr. Notthat and my wife, my brain was shut off and I enjoyed the run.  While running endurance races are 90% psychological, I can lock my brain into finishing, but I need to learn to enjoy the run.

So two ultra-distance events are down for 2013 and this year is looking a lot like 2009/2010 where we completed 4 marathons in 13 months.  While I won’t say what events are on the horizon, I can say that there are a lot of fun runs coming up. Oh and Mr. Notthat beat me by 0.02 miles so it is definitely on like Donkey Kong for next year!  On to 50 miles!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Need to Run....Ready to Run!!!

Western Pacific Rattlesnake
This Saturday will be the Dirty Dozen 12 hour endurance run.  Needless to say I haven't run in a week and am really anxious to do some running.  That, combined with the BART strike limiting me to working from home and 100+ degree weather has forced me to be fully rested for the run on Saturday.

This post is more to get some of the running frustration out.

So for the last couple of weeks I have been doing some runs close to home.  Since I do a lot of my runs in San Francisco, I have been trying to get up early and run through Crystal Ranch up through Lime Ridge.  These have been good runs with some elevation gain.  Needless to say, one stretch of the trail is a narrow single track with high grass.  I have been a little concerned with this area because it is prime rattlesnake territory.  We have seen snakes up on Lime Ridge before, so I have been over cautious though there and it has been uneventful.

That is until my wife took our girls up their a couple of days ago.   Our oldest was running lead on full rattlesnake patrol and came across this beauty at the single track trail head.  Of course it was in no hurry to get out of the way but as an adult had as much respect for humans as we of it. Unfortunately this is the one entrance to Lime Ridge from my home, so I will be taking precautions going through this stretch.

Overall though, there is some pretty grasslands and fire trail to run.  You are not secluded with Crystal Ranch on one side of the ridge and Walnut Creek and Arbalado Park on the other.
Tim Olsen in the lead!

Also, last week I volunteered at Western States 100 at the Forest Hill Aid station.  My assignment was basically crowd control, making sure there was only 1 pacer and one crew member in the aid station.  At mile 62, this is the first location where pacers can join their runner, so it could easily become crowded if these limits were not in place.

Hal Kroener playing catch-up

Cameron Clayton dropped earlier due to injury.  He came down to cheer on the runners.
The Forest Hill aid station is run like a well oiled machine by Lon Monroe.  Everything went on without a hitch and the runners and their pacers and crew were well taken care of. It was amazing to me, since it was so hot, how the runners leaving the station were dowsed in water to bring their core temperatures down like they had just come out of a swimming pool!

Amy Sproston looking strong.
I got there early to here the directions and was rewarded by seeing the lead runners come through.  It is always amazing to see Tim Olsen run, and at mile 62 he looked strong.  Followed 20 minutes later by Hal Kroener and then all of the rest, it was really motivating.  Keep in mind that at our location the temperatures were over 100 degrees and these guys ran the entire length of the course like the elite runners they are.

Ian Sharman picking up his pacer/crew of one!
I stayed until the close of the aid station.   To see the runners at the back of the pack was truly inspiring and watching Lon jump into action when a runner was wavering on the decision to keep going was truly impressive.  Everyone has so much respect for this race and the privilege of being selected, so the decision to drop weighs very heavy with every runner, especially the back of the pack.

Mt. Tamlpais in the distance.
So today, we braved the heat for a short 2 mile hike with the kids in Tilden Regional Park up at Grizzly Peak.  It was a nice hike with a fair bet of technical single track.  I had to show a lot of restraint running it, knowing that I would pay for it in a couple of days.  We have never hiked this part of the park and it is beautiful up there.  You easily can see much of the Bay, Mt. Tamalpais in the distance as well as Mount Diablo.  By the time we finished it was hot, but not as hot as it was back in Concord, where again we were at 105.  Oh well, cooler temperatures ( in the mid-80's) begin tomorrow.

So I am really ready for this run coming up in the couple of days!  I know I can run the full 12 hours, it is just I am not sure how far.  I know I have to keep my pace down because I easily can see me running for the first 10 to 15 miles at a fast pace  for the first couple hours to succumbing to walking for the next 10 hours.  This is going to be an interesting experience for sure!
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