Inspiration

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Vacation

I’m going on vacation this weekend… 7 day cruise with the family… and all I can think is, “How am I going to get my workouts in?” This can’t be normal. The fact that the only thing I really wanted to know about the cruise was whether or not they had a running track on board and how long it was (1/3 mile by the way) is a sure sign I may be becoming a little obsessed about all of this running, swimming, biking stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I look forward to all of the family activities and the moments spent building lasting memories… blah, blah, blah… but really, I just need to figure out a way to get good run miles in and maybe a couple of swim drills… the family stuff will happen no matter what… but my miles won’t unless I make the time. So despite the endless buffets of everything delicious, I’ll still be in training mode… vacation or not… Just need to make certain I work time in every morning... afterall, vacation is no excuse.
By the way, why does anyone think it’s a good idea to require a black suit or tux for dinner on a cruise? How is that appealing in any way to anyone on vacation?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Rest week...

I’ve been feeling a little sick… slightly under the weather. I blame my wife and kids who all managed to bring home a hack and sniffle. I held out a few days, but I think I’m done for… I’ve got it… whatever “it” is… no swim this week… no bike training session… I don’t suspect I’ll get a run in either. I’m sunk this week. My body is enjoying the rest I’m certain, because there’s not a single ache or sore muscle… but mentally, I’m in panic mode. I feel restless… anxious… and a little worried that whatever gains I had made in the past few weeks are gone by now. The speed I thought I had in the pool… gone… the extra fire in my legs during the run, squashed… the extra layer of fat cells coursing through my body probably found a place to settle down and rest… I’m certain of it. In fact, I think I feel some settling just above my belt line… Yes, I’m a mental wreck. I feel my arteries hardening and my fat cells increasing with every letter I type… That’s how I feel anyways…

Honestly, I know none of this is actually happening. In fact, every book I read on fitness tells me that rest is critical, especially after any strenuous activity… so why do I feel so crappy? Well… I know this is all completely normal. I’ve read that anyways… apparently, when you’re so used to training and being active, that any unexpected time off can cause some form of depression… maybe this is true… maybe the anxiety I feel is me feeling like I will lose my fitness… maybe. I guess it could also be the cough and sore throat that’s making me feel less than 100%… Heck, who am I kidding… it’s probably that bag of fries I ate earlier…

Yes… we all make bad choices on occasion… but this week is now officially rest week and I wanted something salty and fried… terrible mistake because I think my body is rejecting it… Unfortunately, I’ll have to work this off sometime this weekend… The punishment to fit the crime? I think a 17 mile run is calling my name… that is, if I’m rested enough…

Monday, January 17, 2011

Setting a new PR

I did it! I set a new PR (personal record) this past weekend… 1:58:15… So why do I feel a slight sting of disappointment? Why do I have such mixed feelings about it? After all, I hit a long standing goal that just a few weeks ago seemed so difficult to achieve… Why do I feel a little let down?

Since entering half marathons so many months ago, I’ve targeted time goals for every race I’ve entered. Even for my first, although most people tell you the goal should be to merely finish… I set a goal to run it in less than 2:15… which I did, 2:11! For my second race my goal was to break 2 hours, which I didn't come all that close to.... finished that one in 2:07. I cut myself some slack though as I underestimated the hills in San Francisco. Okay, my focus was on race number three, Long Beach. I trained well for race number three. Despite a minor injury in a local 5K, I still felt like this was my chance… I thought for certain I would break the 2 hour barrier…I ran with determination and spirit... but that only lasted until mile 10... I finished in 2:00:13… 13 seconds too slow! Utter disappointment… Race number four I threw out the window… horrible finish time of 2:04, but I gave myself an out because I ran this race one week after running my “almost sub-2 hour” race day and PR at the time.

This was the weekend for me... this weekend’s race was supposed to be it for me… the run that would set the bar for my goals and finally put me in a respectable category of a “sort-a-fast” runner. I used everything I had learned from my “almost sub-2 hour” race to train for this one. Lessons like, using the port-o-potties before the race not during or taking energy gels at mile 5 and 10, instead of just at mile 6 so I don’t die on mile 12… I trained smart… I ate well for this event… I did everything right… The result? I did it! I broke that elusive 2 hour barrier. But this is not what I thought I would feel life after hitting this mile stone number. Don’t get me wrong, I felt great when I crossed the finish line… but that was it… I felt good… too good. I may have left way too much in the tank… I may have held back too much. So now that raises the question for me… could I have done better?

Depite my mixed emotions, most of me feels pretty good about it. In fact, in thinking about it now, I feel pretty good… running 13.1 miles in 1 hour 58 minutes and 15 seconds is something to feel good about… I guess my expectations of how I would feel or the experience itself seemed far more glorious in my head… There was no dramatic music… no applause… I just ran… but I guess it fitting. I run for myself… my competition is really against myself… and for now, I can say I won… I beat the younger, slower me… heck, a few months from now I'll be beating the younger slower me again... well, I can hope and plan anyways...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Race Weekends

I can’t say I’m ever nervous before a race… anxious maybe… definitely excited. It’s not overwhelming by any means, but the build up to race weekend after weeks and months of preparation can be a little like the night before Christmas morning for a ten year old… decidedly wonderful… and I always have someone to share it with…
Race weekend is an event in our house. We make it an event… and I appreciate my wife so very much for joining in on the fun. We prep together weeks in advance… hotel stay, meals, course map, mile markers, energy gel reminders… gear checklist. No matter the distance from home, we make it a weekend. This weekend is a prime example. I’m running the 13.1 series in L.A…. Venice to be exact, and instead of driving the 50 minutes up to Venice the morning of the race, she insisted on staying the night to make our travels easier… after all, it’s a given that the entire family will be there rooting me on… no matter how brief the “dad” sighting is. So, why not make a little trip out of it? After all, it’s not only me who has sacrificed time and money on doing this or any event… it’s my entire team… my wonderful support crew… otherwise known as… the family.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Goals

One of my goals for 2011 was to start my triathlon journey. In part to test the boundaries of my body, but also to test the limitless possibilities of my faith. At what point do I say, “I can’t do this?”… And at what point will my faith need to transcend my own physical abilities? I intend to find out.

Like so many people, I’ve watched and have been enthralled with the annual Ironman World Championships held in Kona, HI. I make it a point to watch it every year. I watch in complete awe at the accomplishments of people I do not know. I am moved by the extraordinary feats accomplished by the ordinary man and woman. I am inspired by their testaments to the pure power of the human spirit. To watch someone move their bodies for hours in order to travel 140.6 miles from start to finish… pure beauty. But despite what I would watch on TV, none of it was entirely personal to me… moved, inspired… yes… but enough to get me actually moving?… no. I guess it was because no matter how ordinary these athletes seemed, they were still a world away… heck, they were a universe away. What they do or were doing is not in me… deep down, I was limiting myself and setting my goals low. After all, not trying and wondering “what if?” was easier than trying and knowing… right? That was my thinking anyways… subconscious or not, I still wasn’t moving.

But this year was different… I started to do. And for the first time, I believed I could. That is the power of setting a goal and meeting it… So I decided that I would set a goal. A goal that is far beyond comfortable… something that will require an abundance of faith and determination… and of course a very supportive wife. I will sign up for the 2012 Oceanside Ironman distance event! Half Ironman distance of 70.3. Still a little scary, but still so very exciting.

First things first though. I have to actually know what I’m doing and myself into. My first step? Signing up for my first triathlon… which I did today! The Los Alamitos 30th Annual Race on the Base that will be held on 2/26/11. It’s a sprint distance event that will cover all of 15.35 miles. A far cry from a half Ironman distance of 70.3 miles… and even further from a full Ironman distance of 140.6… but I’ll be 15.35 miles closer to experiencing a true Ironman distance. This will be my inaugural event that will hopefully lead me to finishing 5 times this distance a year from now…

What steps of faith will you take to reach your goals this year?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Personal Mantra

“I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run I feel his pleasure.” – Eric Liddell (Chariots of Fire)
I love this quote. It doesn’t describe my running ability or speed though. I wish I could say I was fast… but anyone who has run with me can attest, “fast” does not describe me. But I love the quote nonetheless. It’s simple and poignant. It speaks of deep faith and hope… a mantra that can keep my legs turning when it seems most difficult. I don’t personally use this quote though… the whole “fast” thing doesn’t apply, so I would just be lying to myself if I tried… But I do have one. This is one that I use when my body is running on fumes…
 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. -Phillipians 4:13
My mantra holds deep significance for me… it gets me by in not only difficult stretches of a run or race, but also in difficult stretches of life. It narrows my focus and gives way to strength that is beyond anything I have.
I think it important to hold onto a mantra… to call upon it to keep you moving during the most difficult stretches of a race… or life. Something to use to get you started… something to get you through the setbacks… something to use to reach your goals.
Nike coined “Just Do It”… Lance Armstrong created, “Live Strong”… What motivates and keeps you going?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Milestone...

I ran 14 miles this morning. This is officially the longest distance I’ve ever run… by approximately 0.9 miles. I know it doesn’t seem like a lot in comparison, but it’s a milestone number. The only other time I’ve made the 14 mile attempt was a week after running my first half marathon… and that was utter failure. During that failed attempt, my body was done at mile 12. Legs aching and energy low, I had to painfully walk the final two miles back to my car. Demoralizing in fact, as I distinctly remember being passed by an elderly couple… walking… and I think he uttered, “On your left!” as he strolled by… with his cane.
This time was different. Although a little anxious, I was determined to run the full 14… and I did. Outside of a moment of slight dizziness, I felt great! So great in fact, I hammered it home for the last half mile with plenty of energy left to spare. But the accomplishment for me was greater... I did it... one run closer to running my first marathon.
14 miles may or may not seem like a lot of miles to run. It’s relative to your own activity or fitness level. But it all begins somewhere… my 14 miles today began with 1 mile many months back… and as I gradually add a mile every week I will think the same thing. The point is… your most important step is your first… Will you take that first step?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I suck at swimming...

Some weeks back I hired a swim coach. I can swim mind you, just not well. I’m more of a cannon-ball, doggie-paddle kind of swimmer that could survive out in the open ocean for all of 10 minutes before I would go sadly under. I used to think I could swim anyways… that is until I met my swim coach for the first time. She analyzed my swim for about 30 seconds and deemed my ability a notch above beginner… that is, I can survive if I were thrown into the water… barely. So she’s been teaching me slowly… technique… drills… but it wasn’t doing much for me… even most of my session last night, I seemed to flounder more than swim, seemingly swallowing half of the water in the pool… and that weird curly hair I found in my mouth surely didn’t come from me… But last night, something happened toward the top of the hour. The drills were working… and before I knew it, I was taking long swipes with high elbows with minimal effort. I was gliding through the water… I felt comfortable. A couple of weeks ago, I could only swim 2 laps straight… last week, I swam up to 4… last night I went 8 laps without a pause. I know, doesn’t sound like a lot… but for me, it’s proof that the training matters… the time matters. I suspect I may be up to 12 laps next week… anyone want to join me?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Motivation

So I don’t have much will power. I am terrible at self discipline. I’m inherently lazy and without motivation for most physical activities… After years and years of failed attempts of getting myself off the couch, I finally found the motivation I had lacked for so long… a reason for my exercise. This came in the way of running events. Signing up for that first half marathon a year ago kick started something I had lacked in my many attempts before… purpose for my activity. The word exercise was replaced with the word training… waking up and running mattered. The calendar motivated me… a target date for a race kept me honest… it kept me moving. Each step I run is for a reason.

What’s your motivation?

This has been a discussion point with some close friends I keep in contact with through chain emails. We don’t get much chance to see one another, but we keep on-going email chains going... and going… and going. Each one of these friends were high school athletes, me being maybe the worst athlete in the group. They were all football players and/or top tier wrestlers. Varsity lettermen that excelled in sports. I wrestled, but I can’t say I was very good… average at best. Anyways, our group of friends have grown older and wiser… definitely older. We’re hitting our late 30’s and most of us have come to accept the fact we will never feel like we did back in the day. Even the way we look… although some seem much further removed from our glory days than others, still we all know time is not our friend. We’re obviously not that old by any stretch… just aging… but with that age comes the difficulty to motivate ourselves against our own personal and professional obligations. But one of our friends, who we’ll call “Joe” is trying to practice what he calls “tough love” with our friend, who we will call “Sam”.

Joe was slightly overweight for several years until he found weightlifting. And not just weightlifting in the gym, but power lifting. Outside of the health benefits, he found a very real and measurable way to keep himself motivated… the weight he could lift. Just like in my running, he developed a schedule and stuck with it. Week after week, and month after month he dedicated himself to keeping this obligation. It became part of his normal schedule. Joe is succeeding because he doesn’t measure his success by what he looks like, but by how much he can lift and by how many times. The weight loss and health improvements are simply the benefits of what he is doing. Now, with his newfound love of this active lifestyle, he’s trying to get everyone on board… namely Sam. Sam acknowledges his need to be more active, primarily for health reasons, but he also has an inherent desire to be active because he was a star athlete in high school. The problem is finding that motivation or passion and keeping it. Unfortunately, Sam has to find his own motivation… otherwise, the exercise program will be just that… an exercise program that will be short lived. One man’s passion is another man’s chore…
What will keep you going?

I look forward to my runs… I’m beginning to truly enjoy my bikes… I tolerate my swims. Training for my first triathlon is tough… training for my first marathon in tandem is tougher. I know, it doesn’t seem smart… Some people think I’m crazy for taking on both… maybe that’s what I like about it. I was on the couch a year ago… today, I can proudly say I lead an active lifestyle. What keeps me going? Knowing my body and mind can do more than I ever gave it credit for…

You can do this too!

Monday, January 3, 2011

First post... a little background

I’m not a natural athlete. I’ve had to work at being able to compete in athletics most of my life, using the word “compete” loosely here. But of all sports or activities I could not stand, running was above and beyond the worst activity. I know I’m not alone in thinking this. Running was a chore to me and something that felt more like a punishment than it did a sport. I would try it on and off again through the years. Doing a half mile here and there with the occasional mile thrown in if I felt the need to be get my physical health back in line, which was usually around the first of the year. Of course, I could never keep it up. Running was hard. Motivating myself to get up and run was uncomfortable. Simply put… I hated it. To me, the “Runner's High” was a big fat lie. I swore that the “high” was completely made up. Positive thinking for runners… a way to dupe others into buying into it and spend money on something they’ll eventually give up. After all, the running shoe market couldn’t be that big… right?

Well, I was asked to run in an event by a co-worker. I was asked to join a small group of fellow colleagues to run a half marathon back in January of 2010. I said “maybe”… but what I was really thinking was, “no way… me run? You’re out of your mind!” A week later that “maybe” turned into a reluctant “yes”… and I was signed up on the spot. Target date was May 8th, 2010 the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon. I was now locked in. No turning back now. But instead of starting my training right away, I spent the next several days thinking about how far 13.1 miles really is. I started to measure mileage during my drives. To and from work… from the house to the grocery store… to and from church. I was shocked to see how far a mile really is, let alone how far 13.1 miles will be to run. I mapped out 13.1 miles from my house and found that it is exactly the distance from my front door to the beach… I felt a little sick to my stomach considering I always thought the beach to be anything but close. “I signed up for this?” I thought… I actually tried to think of ways to get out of it. I shared my concern with my wife, to which she asked something that stuck and kind of motivated me… “Why not do it?” She was right… Why not do it? Why not go out and run a little? I’m physically able… I have all of faculties intact. I have no excuse to not give this a try… and so I started training.

My first training run was about a mile. I felt like crap… just terrible. I was gasping for air like an out of shape pig… I was drenched in sweat… my feet hurt. But I kept at it. I started running more…  With every step, I felt myself getting more and more fit. The spot I could barely run to a few weeks back seemed easy to get to now. The first mile I ran soon became running two... then three... then four… etc. My lungs felt less heavy… my legs felt less fatigued… was this it? Was I really doing this? Honestly, I wasn’t enjoying the running itself. It was the feeling of accomplishment that I enjoyed… keeping to my schedule and commitment… but, still no “runner's high”… So I trained. I went from barely being able to run one mile to being able to run 10 miles straight a couple of weeks before the race. I felt great… I was doing it.

May 8th, 2010… the excitement of the morning was almost overwhelming. I was nervous and anxious. I barely slept. I didn’t know anything about starting waves or gear check and all I could stomach was some water and a banana. So there we waited at the start gate… nervously stretching. Was I really doing this? Then the horn went off… the race started and off I went. I ran almost all of the run… walked a few uphill portions of the race, but I kept going. I got toward the finish line and I started running again… I had nothing left, but the crowds kept me going… and there toward the finish was my family cheering and screaming… I was doing this… I raced across the finish tired… sweaty… aching… but I felt great! I got it… the “runner's high”… the training, the race weekend, race day, the finish, the medal… all of it led up to that feeling. I had just run 13.1 miles… and I couldn’t be happier.

Signing up and training for that event back in January 2010 led to completing four half marathons and two 5k’s by the end of 2010… this coming from a guy that could barely run a mile…

So I thought I would start to chronicle my training and events… regardless of who does or doesn’t read this… I’m willing to put it out there in the hopes I can inspire in some way, someone’s first steps to an active lifestyle…

Here’s to 2011 and beyond… my plans for this year?

January 16th, 2011      - 13.1 series Half Marathon
March 20th, 2011         - LA Marathon (my first full marathon)
April 17th, 2011            - LA Tri Series Sprint Triathlon (my first triathlon)
May 7th, 2011               - Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon
June 5th, 2011              - San Diego Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon