Saturday, January 30, 2010

Combating that lonely time of year

*If you're hoping this post is a "how to" guide on combating SAD, I'm sorry it is not.*

I've always struggled with these next 6 weeks of winter. The novelty of the cold has worn off. There are no holidays from work in sight. Days are short. Races seem far off. It's so easy to miss a workout here and there and rationalize that it's no big deal. And it seems every year I get sick for the first 2 1/2 weeks of February (last year was even longer).

In college and later as a rowing coach the group suffering associated with being connected to a team helped quite a bit. We were still absolutely desperate to hit the water as soon as the ice broke in March, but winter training was at least survivable. The image of being in the weight room doing circuits with my mates and having "Lean on me" playing is something that will never fade. As an older, individual athlete the dank cold training location still exists (my cellar), but the camaraderie is gone. It makes each day really hard. As a member of a team you were always concerned with being the weak link; letting down your "boat."

Now there's nobody to let down but myself. I employ a good deal of self-criticism to feel the "pressure" to do the work, but this self-criticism is a very very slippery slope. It doesn't take much for "the voice" to become an unrelenting task master which forces me to do things my body can't handle, and chastise me for my shortcomings. Clearly I haven't found the magic formula for dealing with this. Once again being associated with a team is helping. We may not workout together, but the "support group" aspect of things is invaluable. Variety is also key: I'm getting my in-line skates out again this year. Ice skating with the kids is great. Get those rest days; one extra per week, but never more than that or the lethargy seeps in. And when I have to choose, hit my number of workouts in a week rather than go too long. When I'm too overtaxed the bad thoughts creep in and my health goes down that much faster.

Winter training is so key to racing success. If I can stay healthy this year I expect to be moving well this year. Hyannis, just the 10k, is in 4 weeks. If I'm snot and cough free until then I should make it to spring.

*Good luck to my buds riding the Harpoon Indoor TT, presented by Fast:Splits today. I'd love to be there riding it, but then again I'd probably hurt myself.*

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Winter Wonderland 5 miler

I had a good time today. About 2 days ago I decided that rather than doing mile repeats by my in-laws house in CT, I would look for a race. And there it was, about 15min away; the Winter Wonderland 5 miler. Perfect. I had no real expectations going in. I've been healthy and training consistently for about 2 weeks now, so things are beginning to gel. Given this I figured I'd set my goal to be matching my pace from the 10k in Newport in early December. That day I pulled off a 6:05 (and yacked 3 times!). Long story short: I ran 6:03 today on a much tougher course, and did not yack! I figure I left some time out there, but I doubt enough to have broken 30min.

The race was old school: no electronic timing, no aid stations, no coddling of any sort. Finishers did not get a medal. Instead we got a loaf (2 if you asked) of olive oil ciabatta bread! And soup. Looked like split pea (I passed). For the results board, there was no computer print out. Rather the pull tabs from our numbers were taped to a big piece of poster board with hand written numbers (your place and time) on it. Very nice. The first 1.5 miles were downhill, which had me ever so slightly concerned that this one was going to hurt. What goes down must go up! So I stayed very conservative and then kept what felt like a very consistent effort all day. I could have sprinted it out with a couple of guys and maybe grabbed 2 more places, but I didn't feel like hurling in the finish chute today, and that would have been a certainty. My race stats are here.

In the final assessment I didn't kill myself today. I ran hard and consistent and got out of it everything I wanted. I placed 11th overall, and 5th in my age group. Yes 5th. The old guys owned the top of the results. There were more than a few high school cross-country runners as well. Seemed like some fast Dads were running with their fast sons. Kinda cool.

Funny note: I thought I had lost my car keys just before the race, checked with the race officials and everything, but then I noticed a "lump" in the knee of my tights.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What a day!

Yesterday was one of those days athletes long for. Funny it didn't seem like that was going to be the case; Leanna was sick and Dylan had an appointment to get his hearing checked, so I had to call off from work on short notice. (Dylan's been having some difficulties hearing, but the Dr. gave us a protocol to follow to potentially help the "mechanical" function of the ear drum.) However, both kids were in school in the morning, I was picking up Dylan at 1:00pm for his appointment, and Leanna was doing okay at home. I was able to mostly juggle my work duties to other days, and handle anything I couldn't juggle with phone calls. This created the really unexpected circumstance of completely available, guilt free training time.

I can't tell you how long it has been since I had a session like this. In early January I had a "transcendent" training experience when I finally got my body moving and pulse elevated after illness. That experience was very primal. It stimulated those low level, animal instinctual, deep recesses of the body and soul. Yesterday it was the high brain functions that got some love. I was powerful and smooth on the bike. My run was fast, smooth and effortless. Despite hitting some really respectable paces on the 1st mile of the run (5:12max, 5:38avg), my heart never cracked 160bpm. That never happens. My paces were comparable with late May early June of last year. It felt sooooo great. I understand that it is unlikely to happen again soon, because physically I doubt I've "popped" yet this year (usually happens in early-mid March), but I'll take it. Focus is still on doing the right activities at the right intensities and being consistent. The goods will be there when I need them. However this sneak peek was very welcome.

These successes really carry over to the rest of my life. By making gains in one area of my life, in this case athletics, I can devote more energy to to others. I've been very calm today, despite craziness at work. And because the calm allows me to not be self-absorbed, I was attentive when Dylan said for the first time in 2 months, "Daddy, that (coffee grinder) is really loud!" I almost cried.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

So how's that training going anyway?

With all of these "other" and "reflection" posts some might be led to believe that I'm not "training." While it is true I don't have specific goals in mind for this year, it doesn't mean I'm not active. Hey, it's what I do. Keeps me sane and all that.

If you remember waaaayyy back in October I mentioned that I was going to try a different off-season routine. It was predicated on keeping the number of training sessions up, but duration way down. The focus was on things that I normally don't develop until the build phase. I thought "what if I keep functional strength higher and lactate tolerance up as well?" Well, the expected happened and that is that my durability, loosely defined as the amount of time I can maintain a certain effort at a certain level of exertion, declined. But that was expected and welcome because physiologically I seem to be able to rebuild durability much faster than strength. So here I am in mid-January and now that I've shaken the darn cold, I've been able to string together some workouts and get an idea of where things stand. Amazingly things are about where they should be. Sure durability is down, but with the return of consistent training it seems to be coming back well. Functional strength is up. How do I know? Well last year the data that indicated a tip towards greater functional strength as seen on the bike was as follows: higher max heart rates because there was more muscle available to work. In other words I'm not strength limited, or as strength limited as I was, so I can use a greater percentage of my available heart capacity. I'm seeing that effect running this year. I've hit max heart rates of 170bpm on numerous occasions this month. It was June last year before I even hit 169.

So signs point to a better ability to use what I have. The trick now is to rebuild the durability. Potential is one thing, execution another. Next weekend I plan to repeat the same set of one mile tests that I did last year on the same weekend. I'll be interested to see how they stack up.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Spirituality made easy

Wow, already 11 days since I last posted. I've had so many ideas in the interim, but of course now that I have time I'm drawing a blank, well almost a blank. Let's call it a sort of off-white, perhaps bone colored mental state.

I've considered spending a little time on how I arrived at my current state of spirituality and belief, but I'm not in the mood. It means reliving my childhood (son of a minister) and high school and who really wants to do that again! Instead we'll proceed from the end. I've come to believe that in essence all human behavior can be categorized in one of two buckets: You're being a d-bag or you're not being a d-bag. In fact I'm almost positive during the sermon on the mount Jesus said, "blessed are the meek because they aren't d-bags." Look it up...really! Yeah I could be wrong about the exact wording (my people were in the back row, so it was hard to hear), but that's kind of the gist of it. This concept of not being a d-bag also transcends all religion. It's really the core principal of all faith. Don't be a d-bag. If we'd all just focus on that, and worry less about the minutia, the world would be a better, happier place.

So there you have it. Deep isn't it! Well what did you expect? Faith/spirituality is not supposed to be difficult. Human beings have an infinite capacity for overcomplicating things. So I submit this simple thought: Don't be a d-bag.


"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Everytime you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing." - Mother Teresa

"We can live without religion and meditation, but we cannot survive without human affection." - Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama:

"A man's true wealth here after is the good he does in this world to his fellow man." - Muhammad

"An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind." - Mohandas Gandhi

"Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned." - Buddha

"Be excellent to each other." Bill S. Preston, Esq.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

I'm not sure of much...

...but I'm sure that living things can transfer "energy" to each other. Call it what you want, but moods, attitudes, overall outlook on life...this stuff is infectious. Consider kids: they are living breathing receivers of your energy. Yell at them during a tantrum and tell me what happens. "The beatings will continue until morale improves!" So in an effort to improve myself, I made resolutions with my daughter (Dylan got a pass because he's only 3 and doesn't really understand the concept yet). I promised not to yell if she promised to always tell me the truth (this has been a real issue since school started). 3 days in, so far so good. My mood has held fairly constant, and the kids have not melted down. Yes it is working. But it's not easy, and as someone who is chronically sleep deprived it can take real discipline to hold it together, especially when the kids are in moods (and as a 3yr old boy Dylan is ALWAYS in a mood). I'm thus thankful in lesser part for the discipline I've developed through sport, and in a greater part for those relationships which have arisen over time. Friends continually "lend" me positive energy when mine wanes, whether they know it or not! And folks, I borrowed LOTS in 2009! I strive to return this favor in 2010 and beyond.

"Do not let circumstances influence your thoughts and moods. By rising over them mentally, you will eventually rise over them materially."

"Positive energy breeds positive energy"

"Conquer the angry man by love.
Conquer the ill-natured man by goodness.
Conquer the miser with generosity.
Conquer the liar with truth."
- The Dhammapada

Friday, January 01, 2010

Out with the old...

...even if it is unfinished! This blog has recently become littered with unpublished drafts. Some had promise, but for one reason or another never quite got to the point where they said what I wanted them to say, and thus were unworthy of publishing. So with today being the first day of 2010 (and of course the rest of our lives), I'm scrapping the partially finished works and starting fresh.

Goals for 2010:
1) Contentment. This is my big one. It was a response to a Twitter poll and I like it, especially if you use the definition of "Santosha".

2) Post more to this blog. Twitter and Facebook are fine, but once in a while it's nice to lay out full trains of thought. I'm going to aim for once a week.

and 3) the more mundane "get a new job." Above all else I need to like what I'm doing. I don't "compartmentalize" well, so if work is making me miserable I'll be miserable everywhere and to everyone. I moved into management earlier last decade because that was what you were supposed to do. Well I'm a builder perhaps even a leader, not a manager. Managers maintain status quo. I need to create.

I'll conclude this post with a thought about Selfishness and Selflessness. Like love and hate they are not opposites. They are more like next door neighbors. Personally I think of selflessness as achieved when in the final assessment of a situation you postpone the selfish want. You have to have the selfish want in the first place or your act isn't all that selfless. It is a very thin line that I walk with these competing states. If they were opposites the gap would be huge, wouldn't it?

Boy I'd love a new bike, an Argon 18 E114.