Sunday, November 30, 2008

I never did mind about the little things

Today's small victory was achieved the second I set one foot out the door on today's run. We have almost a foot of snow from the past 24 hours and it was still coming down. While staying inside and just doing treadmill would have been easier, I tried to keep myself warm with the idea I was somehow tougher for going into the elements.

I'm reminded of today's title as I slogged along through the neighborhoods trying to find the best path of packed snow. Bridget Fonda used that line with a smile in Point of No Return when confronted with a decision that was do or die. Today required full winter "clobber" as my pal Keith would say. I even needed my run glasses to keep the snow from feeling like little pins hitting my eyes.

Although I feel a little tougher for the effort, it only got me about four miles before I came back in for a few miles on the treadmill. I could have handled more but my hamstring began to get a bit tender from the uneven running so I didn't want to have a relapse again. After reading Keith's blog and giving him advice on listening to his body I couldn't very well beat myself up. I'll be off running for a few days but that doesn't mean I can't become a better runner. Fortunately, I have so many areas to improve I could probably take a week off and be better.

For my first steady week in almost two months I made positive progress and am closer to the goal than last week. I start December where I had hoped to be and with a trip to Portland in mid-week I will get a nice break from winter and some good runs as well. Boston is so far away that I'll focus on having continued good days that will hopefully turn into weeks and months.

Keep working towards your goal and you will always be closer to your goal today than you were yesterday . Lucy MacDonald

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Where it's so white as snow

Today was one of those days where you make the right choice of when to run. I chose early this morning instead of later in the day and was given mostly packed snow and calm conditions. If I had waited until the end of the day I would have run through 8-10 inches of snow. For that, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Snow get credit for today's title.

Because I chose wisely this morning it was a fairly uneventful day for training. I met up with John Wirum for our usual Saturday run and we pumped out a nice steady 7-miler. I'm hopeful  I can keep John doing more runs with me as that will go a long way towards helping him prepare for Boston. Now is a good time to catch me as I'm not going too far or fast for him. I think he runs much better than he gives himself credit for when we train. I'm predicting great things for him at Boston this spring.

Legs felt good today and I could have run another 3 miles but I'm satisfied with what I got. I can feel the bit of pop in my stride that means I'm somewhat light on my feet, especially through the loose snow. I've been focusing more on my ankle strength and flexibility by doing the balance disc in our shop and on the Bosu ball at the club. I believe the ankle is hugely important towards helping with balance, flexibility and explosiveness.

I remember reading Lasse Viren's coach commenting on ankle power when I was a sophomore in college and it has stuck with me since. Most runners don't think of running as a balance activity but you are always on one leg at a time. Good balance takes the stress off the muscles that go up the leg. Explosiveness in the ankle also allows one to pop off the ground more quickly, thus spending more time in the air and less on the ground. Notice how the Kenyans seem to always be off the ground when running?

There are many ways to work on developing spring in your ankles, but the simplest is just jumping. As I get stronger I'll be adding more plyometric work to my routine. But a very easy way is jump rope as a warm up and focus on being light on your feet. However, if you get tired - stop. You want to train yourself to always be light and loose. Getting tired and slower will help you develop those skills better. I already know how to run slow, so I stop when I feel my form slipping.

Keep it light and loose

Friday, November 28, 2008

Slowly breaking through the daylight

Today was my first cross country ski in almost two years. The last time I skied was December of '06. I've had the best intentions of adding more skiing to my training but seem to have missed out for a variety of reasons each winter. Either the snow wasn't there when I could ski or it was too damn cold or I was so deep into my run training I didn't want to ski right before I left town for a race.

Cross country skiing is great if you live in a small country.

None of those reasons/excuses were available today and I knew yesterday's run/race would leave me a little sore. It was nice to be on the boards again gliding around the trails at Kincaid Park. Having nice weather and adequate snow was a big plus. I was surprised that my balance and technique were there for me. Strength and ski endurance were another story. It became pretty evident that while I do have arms, they were as hollow as a drinking straw. Yes, I have some work to do to regain some semblance of ski strength.

For the first day, however, it was all good and leaves me motivated for more. As I skied I kept reminding myself that one of my best summers of road running came after a good winter of skiing and a few long ski races of 25-30 kilometers. I set two road PR's for 5K and 10K the summer after winning the 25K at the Tour of Anchorage. I just need to find a way to get my skis waxed occasionally as I gave up most of my ski prep tools after I stopped coaching in 2000. One of the things I don't miss about skiing is the damn equipment and driving out to the trails. Once you're there its fine, but the process is more time intensive than running.

A good training day that kept me from beating my delicate legs and out of the damn gym. I look forward to more opportunities like this.

I created a seperate page for my training each day with specifics so I don't clutter this spot up with details. Click on the upper right or here.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I just keep rolling, rolling

One of the best things about Thanksgiving are the Turkey Trot races. I've run the local race almost every year whether fit or fat, fast or slow or warm or frick'in freezing (-25 below in '94). The obvious advantage is creating more space for dinner but also getting your ass out the door on a day it would be easy to sleep in and camp in front of the TV watching football.

Today was a good day as I fall between the above two levels and the weather was also similar. Last year I was in good form and managed to outkick the 2nd place finisher at the state XC meet. This year I had no illusions of greatness, just run strong, steady and feel good before, during and after the race. Mission accomplished. Things went better than expected as I timed 19:05 for the 5K. Splits were 6:26/6:24/6:15 for 1.05 mile loops. I tried to run like I had to go 4 laps instead of 3 and if I hadn't picked up slightly on the last lap I could have done it.

More than anything it was the feel of having good rhythm and no pain. I was 10th at the start and each lap passed one person ending up 6th and just 45 seconds out of first. I was probably 30+ seconds out after one lap so I was running as well at the end as anyone. Running a bit harder and finishing a place or two higher would not have yielded any more benefit and likely done more damage. Where I place or how fast I run in the Turkey Trot will have no bearing on my results when it matters next year. Having a small personal victory will, however. I'll take it and put in a little pile I'm starting and see how high and far I can build it before next spring.

If you are looking for some good Thanksgiving advice I can think of none better than from this Olympic marathon gold medalist. Joanie is one amazing individual and ran 2:49 at the Olympic Trials this past spring at age 51. She just loves to run and challenge herself. I had a chance to talk with her two weeks ago when I was in Dallas. Such a gracious and inspiring individual.

If you feel like eating, eat. Let your body tell you what it wants. - Joan Benoit Samuelson

Eat on

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

In a haze, a stormy haze

There aren’t many good sides to getting out of shape but the process of climbing out the rabbits’ hole does have some minor consolations. For one thing you don’t have any trouble knowing that you are actually improving each day.

That process of seeing the improvement each day or each week is a motivating process. The key is not falling too far down that portal. One of my goals is to not get so far down that I can’t see where I’d been. It was okay when I was younger and I could go on a crash course and beat myself into shape over a few weeks. Because of a bet 10 years ago, I was “required” to go on a self-imposed diet and training crash course. By some miracle I lost 13 pounds over 8 weeks and ran a sub-33 10K and won the bet.

The process was quite painful. Especially being one those runners unsure of whether they eat to run or vice versa. That experience inspires me today as I know it would be far too painful to go through that at my age. I also remember my usually toned, muscular (i.e. skinny) legs actually rubbed together for the first time. In the search for appropriate photos to go along with that image I found a song called Legs Rub Together by The Graves Brothers Deluxe. Amazingly it's on iTunes but mistitled as Let's Rub Together. I'd pass on that download if I were you.

As my legs don't yet rub together, I can still enjoy a nice dinner. Tonight I joined friends Kim and Jason for dinner at Ginger, an Asian Fusion restaurant. It reminds me of a pair of excellent spots I experienced in New York earlier this month. I wish we had more of these type of places in Anchorage. Kim and Jason just finished their first Ironman distance event four weeks ago. Both did outstanding and are in the process of recovering before getting back to work. Anyone that puts in 2.4 miles of swimming and 112 miles of biking before running a marathon have all my respect (and sympathy).

A big shout out to Joleen Smith who joined the running blogosphere today. Joleen is going for her first marathon in January and trying to conquer the challenges of training and her self-doubts. I know she'll do great but she needs to trust herself more. Check out her blog and give her some positive words or quotes. Here's mine from one my former runners, Kaarin Knudson, a former All-American star at Oregon and one of the nicest people I know.

Be confident. Success lies in the decision to believe in yourself.

Happy Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Walk 'til you run

Today is my walk day as I have realized that I am allowed a good run but need to give my legs a break for a day. I should be better for back-to-back runs by next week. Today's title is gleaned from U2's song Unforgettable Fire from the same titled 1984 album. I am definitely in that "walk" mode between the days I can run.

Unforgettable Fire contains tributes to Martin Luther King Jr. and Elvis Presley. I was in Memphis this past May and had a chance to drive by the Lorraine Motel where King was assassinated on our way to Graceland. I expected Graceland to be a bit cheesy but was moved at how Elvis continues to touch lives and what a seminal figure he was. If you are ever in Memphis it is well worth the trip.

Today is gym day again and I still struggle to develop the momentum that came much easier last winter. Fortunately, I have begun to refine my goals and achieve some small (very small) victories. Some friends are surprised that I have trouble with motivation. They expect that if you run relatively fast you have some innate drive built in. No, it is still hard to push yourself even when one is in great shape, but it is certainly easier when you have gotten into that routine where it feels strange to not workout. Right now the opposite is the case.

"One way to keep momentum going is to have constantly greater goals." Micheal Korda

I am also trying to develop that momentum in my daily postings. Just like running, writing takes practice and becomes easier when you get in that rhythm. I'm trying to find the rhythm and the voice to produce content that is relevant to those willing to read. Please give feedback and let me know, honestly, if you enjoy or are bored. My goal is to have something that is of more value than just taking time out of the day that otherwise would have been wasted on TV or fantasy football.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The pillars of patience

One of my great weaknesses is patience. Like all things, running requires time, patience and hard work. Inevitably, all runners realize that there are no shortcuts. The runners that accept that continue on, the few that refuse to believe either quit or are eternally frustrated by not being able to out think simple hard work.

I am currently on my version of a literary marathon reading Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth. Because I lack the patience to invest in reading long novels I generally don't take on many books. I was a voracious reader when I was young, but now I just want to plow through a book and will generally read through the night once I attack a novel. Pillars is not one of those read in a weekend novels. I received the book from my friend April for my birthday and it made trips to Boston, New York and Dallas without a single page read. On the trip back from Dallas, however, I made the first step.

I just reached the 1/2 marathon point of the book last night at about 2 a.m. I am struck by how patient people needed to be in the mid-12th century. Jobs would take lifetimes or more to complete. In fact, it was a dream to have a job that required a lifetime. Trips that would take 15 minutes today required the better part of a day. It was just accepted that things took time.

When it comes to running my lack of patience is a huge liability. It's even worse when it comes to marathons. I think my mind and what little talent I have are better suited for 1/2-mile or one-mile races. Being patient enough to properly set the pillars of successful training is my constant challenge. After 20+ marathons I have yet to get it quite right but I am looking forward to the day I do.

Today was a good follow up to Saturday's run. Had another solid effort (7 miles) with our adidas rep, Ben Evans, who is a frequent visitor to the Raven. Ben is a former stud runner for Michigan State and ran 2:29 in his first marathon at Boston this year. Despite his Spartans getting a major beat down by Penn State on Saturday and missing out on the Rose Bowl, Ben still kept a positive face and got a run in with Jerry in the a.m. and p.m. with me.

"Patience is waiting. Not passively waiting. That is laziness. But to keep going when the going is hard and slow - that is patience."

peace out

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Waste another mile now

After a good run yesterday and hopes of another today I awoke to legs that not only are protesting yesterday's effort, but are positively not interested in another repeat. Fortunately, it's only general fatigue from lack of running and slogging through uneven grip and loose snow. Rather than ruin yesterday's good vibe, I'll keep it inside and do a bit of cross training and some light weights.

Now is the time to put together a foundation that has been slowly eroding since last spring. My most recent injury was partly a result of building too high off a shallow base. Now is the time to be doing the little things that are easy to ignore and sometimes not as fun or quantifiable as pure miles. It's very easy to fall into the mileage trap and not take confidence in a good strength or plyo session that does more for your results than an extra 10-20 miles of slow running. In my advancing age my goal is to not let my stride length get as short as my memory. Too often I see a runner's stride shrink and shrink requiring them to have to turn their legs over faster and faster to maintain the same speed.

This common sense moment is reflected in today's title pulled from one of my recent downloads. With some embarrassment I found this group through an Apple TV commercial. Asteroids Galaxy Tour is the group and they come from Denmark. Not bad as I'm reminded a little of a B-52's sound minus the girl-guy conflict. I must also admit I have a soft spot for Scandinavian music which is probably a result of overplayed ABBA songs on the radio during my formative years. In fact, I have a soft spot for all things Scandinavian, especially Norwegian women. While I'm baring my soul I may as well admit I saw the ABBA tribute movie Momma Mia this summer. It wasn't my choice, but the date I went with more than made up for having to suffer through Pierce Brosnan's "singing". Mr. 007 does have a certain Nine Inch Nails quality to his voice - nine-inch nails on the blackboard that is. Do see the Broadway version of Momma Mia - I did enjoy that experience.

Off to the gym to do that stuff I'd rather not be doing. There will be plenty days like this to come, but lot's of positive results because of it.

"It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard... is what makes it great. " Tom Hanks, A League of Their Own

Going, going, gone

Saturday, November 22, 2008

2000 miles is very far through the snow

One of the places I want to visit on my never ending trip is the Boston Marathon this coming April. Today represents one of the first real steps in my mind towards that as I had my first pain-free run since the first week of October. Though I said yesterday I wouldn't use music as a theme, I can now see that it will bear many parallels on my journey. If the Pretenders song 2000 miles doesn't fit today, none other will.

2000 miles is very far through the snow
I think of you wherever you go
She's gone 2000 miles, it's very far
The snow came falling now
Get's colder day by day...

Coldplay also did a cover of this song too, but credit must go to Chrissie Hynde and her band's 1984 album. I loved hearing her voice when they were in their heyday when I was in college.

As for today's relevance it was my first true snow day of running and had to bundle a bit more as I have not quite toughened up to the winter. I've spent far too much time cross training (or not training) as my leg has been very slow recovering. Today was very positive on many levels. Not feeling the injury and even having a modest amount of spring in the stride given the lack of running and poor footing. I seriously doubt I'll get 2000 miles before Boston (yes, I did the math) but the run totaled over 8 miles -1992 miles to go. They went by faster thanks to running mate, John Wirum.

John is also getting going on his road to Boston after qualifying this past summer with his wife, Polly. I got to know the Wirum's this summer after Polly essentially trapped me and forced me to help coach them. I never expected to have so much fun and have really enjoyed getting to know the Wirum family and friends. It was also great to be able to help people who benefited from my past coaching and marathon experience. Definitely the highlight of what would have been a lost summer given the various maladies I dealt with after running London in April. Seeing the group work so hard and chase their goals was very inspiring to me. It's so rewarding to work with runners that want to be inspired. It also forced me to not be casual about my own achievements and be excited about doing the best I could for whatever I did. Given my health problems I ran several races much slower than in the past but had more fun (in most cases) and was just happy to be able to participate, something I definitely take for granted too often.

I'm thinking of having Polly become my coach. I learned later that in a previous life she had been a nurse in the delivery room and became very good at getting women to push large objects through small openings. She may not know a lot about training for running but she knows the most important thing - it's going to hurt anyway, so push harder and get it over with!

Please check out the most popular man in Ireland this side of Bono, Keith Kelly, if you want to catch up on his hip take on music, East Coast style and running very, very fast. The long-legged Lephhruchan from Drogheda is a former NCAA Cross Country champ for Providence (2001) and from the looks of his blog he is well on his way to being the best expatriate writer from Ireland since James Joyce. He is also the most fervent supporter of Radiohead in the known universe witnessed by his several tattoos. I just got a shout out from him today on his blog plus a promo for Skinny Raven so I'm obligated to add that Keith is also in the early stages of bringing Reebok back to the ranks of relevance in the competitive running market.

Cojelo suave, JC

Friday, November 21, 2008

Can anybody fly this thing?

After being inspired by Ireland's favorite son, Keith Kelly, and his urging that I stop talking and start writing here I go. I draw a bit of inspiration from Keith in that I used music to find my page title and address. Taking that one step further today's title follows the same theme. Rather than risk being a second rate version of Keith and lacking his knowledge and ability to run with an iPod I will limit my musical comparisons. For today however, Coldplay gets credit for getting this page off the ground. Inspiration comes from the song High Speed on their 2000 album Parachutes.

Confidence in you is confidence in me
confidence in high speed

Nice idea that we gain strength by believing in another. If you trust the other person, you can trust yourself. We could certainly all benefit from applying that more often in our lives. Cheers to you Keith for the confidence in me!

Day 1 of JCHighSpeed comes one day after learning that a very difficult decision, that would have required leaving Alaska and my position at Skinny Raven Sports, was decided for me. It was a very positive situation as I have developed a greater appreciation for all the positive relationships I have here and the great life that exists in Alaska. I faced a similar decision nearly 20 years ago when I was up for a coaching job at the university and would have required me to leave my high school coaching position. Not getting the job helped reinforce that I really loved working with high school runners. Not getting this recent job has reinforced the same again and today's start of my blog is a byproduct of that.

It may also be a byproduct of too much food and one too many margarita's last night at the Bear Tooth. The Bear Tooth is undoubtedly my favorite place to eat here in Anchorage. It is the place guests invariably end up when traveling here. The occasion was a send off meal with Brent Knight before he heads off for a Nordic training/racing stint with fellow Raven shoe stud, Mark Iverson, in West Yellowstone. The boys have been putting in hundreds of hours of training over the past several months and its finally time to see what they can do. As for dinner I was deluded by my low weight on the scale in the a.m. that led me to believe I could compensate by eating like Kobayashi.

After chips & gauc., potato burrito w/ beans/rice, creme brulee, two margaritas, a diet coke and water I felt positively ill. Brent and I were forced to stay at the table an extra 30 minutes before we felt well enough to go home. Nothing says good eating like having so much you feel ill, does it?

In the spirit of the father of Taoism, Lao Tzu, I mark the start of this long journey with the first step and with no goal of getting to a certain point. Please check in and see where it heads to.

“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” Lao Tzu