Archive for December, 2009

…I finished with a world record shattering time of 1:59:59. The first sub-2 hour marathon in history…AND I did it in my signature Luau VFF’s.

The Highly Anticipated Luau VFF

Get yourself a pair today at http://www.vibramsfivefingers.com.

Okay, so no I didn’t. I didn’t even qualify for Boston last year. Shoot, I barely ran a sub 4-hour marathon in my first (and so far only) try. But, somewhere, and I mean that, I did it. I not only won the Boston Marathon, but I won New York, Chicago and London as well.

The coolest part…

-wait for it-

…is so did you!

Of course, it didn’t happen in this universe, but if you are familiar with quantum physics (of which I am – just enough to make a fool of myself) you may also be familiar with the Many Worlds Interpretation (MWI). In a nutshell, MWI states that for every decision we come to in life, both/all choices are in fact made and reality branches off in two or more directions instead of just one.

For the infinite number of choices we could have made since the beginning of time, an infinite number of not-quite-identical worlds have branched off into existence. Infinite worlds – infinite possibilities, all occupying the same space, just not the same reality. This is not fantasy. It is scientific theory that is actually gaining support in the scientific community.

In one of these worlds, all of the right choices have been made to turn me into a world-class marathoner. I am simply the best there was, is, and ever will be. There is also one where YOU are the number one marathoner of all time.

Looking at the glass half empty, I could ask: Why am I not in THAT reality? Why am I stuck here as just an average, every day runner? I point this out not to tease us or make us feel bad. No, I choose to look at the glass as half full. This other me is still me – the other you is still you. We are connected by the fact that we are essentially the same person. So when I am out there pounding the pavement, feeling the legs tire, I can reach across the ether, mentally touching that other reality and channel the world-class me. He’s/I’m out there/right here – occupying the same space, often running the same routes.

The next time you feel yourself lagging, draw on some cross-dimensional strength. I’m sure the Olympic medalist you would be happy to lend a hand.

***I also have a best-selling book, Run Luau Run, available on Amazon and at your local bookstores. Well, somewhere I do.

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I don’t make resolutions.  If it’s something I need to do, I do it.  I don’t wait until the New Year.

– Alice White

What is it about the turning of the calendar that makes us want to make New Year’s Resolutions?  Why is it that we feel the need to make promises we are unwilling to start today?  Why wait until January 1st?

We should make Arbitrary Day Resolutions. Whatever and whenever it is you are thinking of changing (eating better, exercising more, quitting smoking), don’t wait for the artificial day on the calendar to make that move.

Obviously there are certain resolutions that require a calendar:  Michelle’s Quest for 1000, Pete’s Dashing Through December, my goal of qualifying for Boston.  But many of the resolutions that we make every January 1st are things that we wish we would do every day.  If your resolution is one of those, then why wait for January 1st.  Be it.  Live it.  Do it now!

What are you going to start to do today?

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As runners, we often find ourselves chasing that ultimate feeling in running: the runner’s high – when our feet barely touch the ground and we feel as if we are flying through our workout.  I achieved that high this weekend, but it came from a completely unexpected source.

I first met Rhema and Hope here. I met them through the incredible network of blog moms that my wife is a part of. I then met them in real life when we had the wonderful opportunity to have the two of them and their parents over to our house. Their dad Brandon is a soldier stationed in Iraq doing what he does so that I have the privilege of being a stay at home dad. Their mom Jeneil and Jess (my wife) are part of an incredibly diverse group of strong, intelligent, caring women who were united by the common bond of autism, but now share so much more. You check out each and every one of these great women by linking to them through Jess’ blog roll.

I can only imagine what our military families go through during the holidays when a spouse is stationed overseas. With that in mind, we asked Jeneil if it would be okay for our family to bring a little Christmas early to their home.

Jeneil’s older daughter’s autism is very different than my daughter’s. I have never heard Rhema speak a word and I have never been sure that she noticed whether I was in the room or not.

That was until last weekend when our family went to their house with me dressed like this:

Little Hope was in shock that Santa had decided to stop by and make an appearance in her home.

After opening up a few presents and sitting on my, er Santa’s lap for a few minutes

she went off and made me, er Santa, a half a dozen beautiful drawings.

But the real magic happened on the way out. Rhema had been playing with her presents, giving little if any notice to Santa. But as I got up to leave, she came over to me, threw her arms around my shoulders, climbed up like a koala and wouldn’t let go. She looked me right in the eye as if to say, “you can’t go yet, Santa!”.

It. Was. Magical.

I thought that I was the one coming bearing gifts.  I left with more than I had arrived with.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays!

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∆U = Q – W

The First Law of Thermodynamics

Fuel – without it our engines don’t go.

When I first started running, I thought it really didn’t matter what I put into the tank as long as I put in something. I had long been a proponent of the idea that in order to maintain or lose weight, it was question of straight math – a matter of calories in vs. calories out.

I still believe that – to a degree. The first law of thermodynamics states that energy cannot be created nor destroyed, simply converted. You eat what you eat – you burn what you burn. So if you eat 2500 calories a day and burn 2500 calories a day, you will maintain your current weight. It’s simple math really: run a deficit, and the body has to come up with the calories from somewhere else (your fat stores – stored energy); run a surplus, and your body will have to find a place to store the leftover energy (your gut and/or thighs). There aren’t going to be any extra magical calories that pop out of or into the ether.

However, there are a couple of problems I see with this simplistic view.

First of all, the more efficient our engines become, I would assume the less fuel we actually need to accomplish the same activities. This would explain, in part, why some people I know actually gain weight when they are approaching the end of a marathon training cycle (literally 10 pounds). I understand that there is increased consumption from the intensified training followed by a taper, but I don’t believe that can account for all of the weight gain.

Second, I wonder just how accurate are the various ways we count calories. Do I personally really average about 140 calories per mile? Is the 200 calorie post-workout drink really 200 calories? Why does the treadmill tell me one thing and then dailymile tell me another? Truth is, we all burn our calories differently – some of us much more differently than others.

Finally, I’ve come to realize that the quality and/or form of fuel can make a huge difference. This last point could be its very own post, but suffice it to say that not all calories are created equal. Some will let you know when you are full, others will not. Which ones you eat will go a long way in determining how many calories you actually pour into your body.

The bottom line is that it is still a matter of calories in vs. calories out, however, the true, detailed formula is a lot more subtle than ∆U = Q – W. Each person must figure out how he or she burns their calories and then adjust accordingly.

*it was pointed out to me that psychology can have a huge impact on one’s fueling habits, and though I agree with this statement, I feel that if one is serious about the health benefits of exercise and healthy eating, one has to be willing and determined to conquer whatever psychological demons stand between him and his goal. Easier said than done and the topic of a stand alone post.

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[tweetmeme source=”luau” only_single=false http://www.URL.com]

Why do you lace up your Brooks or slip on your Vibrams and hit the road? Why do you get up early or stay up late to put in an hour on the treadmill? Why do you put in the miles?

Whatever your reason, the word for what drives you is motivation. We all come to (or I hope will come to) running from different places, and therefore many of us are motivated by different reasons. We have all had the on again off again spurts of running/exercise. Whether it was because we felt we needed to drop a few pounds or our doctor told us we needed to get some exercise, we have all dangled the carrot in front of ourselves to get our feet moving.

And it works – for a while. We achieve the weight goal or bring down the bp. But the all too often truth is that we quote our last President, telling ourselves, “Mission Accomplished” and go back to our old, not-so-healthy routines. Chasing and achieving our goal is gratifying, but then we are left with a void that is usually filled with the very things we were trying to leave behind. If you are only running and exercising so you can fit into a pair of pants or a specific dress, I can pretty much guarantee that you will eventually end up back where you started.

Now I am not saying that the carrot doesn’t have its place in the overall fitness of the general population. It can be a very powerful, if flawed, tool. It gets people off the couch to the treadmill or the road.

It is a start.

Eventually though, we have to be willing to re-frame what it is we want and desire. We need to look in the mirror and ask how that triple helping of Breyer’s or the entire cheese pizza really makes us feel. It feels so good at the time, but what about 10 minutes later – 60 minutes later. Do the bad habits really make us happy in the long run?

I am not one to say there is no place for indulgence. I have and will continue to partake in my share, but if it’s something I do every day, it’s not much of a treat.

Early on in our relationship my wife and I had a conversation about long-term vs short-term profit. If we go solely after the short-term profits we tend to lose out in the long run – just check the economic health of America’s auto industry. She was talking about business, but that principle can be applied across the board in life. Your body is the temple that houses your soul, your well-being. Taking care of your temple for the long haul is more likely to bring inner happiness.

The bottom line is that we need to take that carrot, use it initially to get off the couch and then throw it away.

That is what happened to me last November. My carrot was that my wife declared to the world that she was going to run a half-marathon, on the Cape, in the dead of winter. I wasn’t going to let her do it alone, so I said I would train with her. For two to three weeks, this motivation – this carrot – got me out of bed and onto the treadmill. I would run 2 to 4 miles at a time and not really enjoy myself at all. It was a chore.

The internalization happened when I woke up one morning with a, um, “headache” from card playing the previous night. I dragged myself to the treadmill and started running. Lo and behold, after three miles I actually felt better. I added on a mile, then another and then another. I had to jump off at 6 miles when I realized I had to pick up the kids from school. It was the farthest I had run in memory and I felt GREAT! That was the moment for me. I had discovered that running could make me feel great. I no longer needed the carrot. The motivation to run became a need and has been ever since. Before I knew it I was running 10 – 13 miles a session with a smile on my face. The increased running then led me to eat more healthfully. I already ate well, but as I got into better shape, my engine began to demand cleaner fuel. The better I ate, the better I ran. The more I ran, the better I ate. It was a virtuous cycle*.

It didn’t hurt that I could see the benefits of running and eating well in the mirror and on the scale. I never felt that I was fat or overweight. I wasn’t. But since dropping from 205 lbs. to 175 lbs. I feel noticeably faster and generally happier and healthier. I also don’t get sick nearly as often nor as severely as I once did. I feel great and I don’t want to change that.

The desire – the motivation – needs to come from within. Find a way to do that and I guarantee you’ll find a new level of happiness.

*That’s the best I can come up with for the opposite of a vicious cycle.

***Note: I do find actual carrots to be a wonderful snack. Dipped in a little Sabra hummus, they can be a great healthy and filling midday/late night munchie.***

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Shortly after Thanksgiving, my friend Pete posted a challenge via the dailymile. Could each of us run 120 miles in the month of December? If 10 of us could, he would donate a decent chunk of change to charity. Truth is, whether 10 of us make it or not, he’ll probably give to his charity anyway, but I loved the idea of a group challenge.

Several day later, my friend Michelle sent out a cry for help via Twitter. She had set a goal back in December of last year to try to run 1000 miles in 2009. She was 105 miles short and was looking at trying to cover that distance in 25 days. She asked if we could help by running with her.

She is in New York. The rest of us are scattered all over the country, so she knows that we will not be able to literally run with her. However, the idea that each day, many of us will be running to accomplish 105 miles in 25 days is giving her the incentive and strength to accomplish her goal.

“We” are a group of runners loosely tied together through our associations with the daily mile, runkeeper street teams, Twitter and other social networks. Do I know these people? Not really. I have met Pete once (at the Manchester Marathon) and have never met Michelle. We’ve found each other through these networks looking for advice, information and motivation. We have found a bond in running and all (and I mean ALL) are welcome. I love that these social networks are using the emerging technology of today to bring together people who love the most ancient of all sports.

I hear over and over again that our dependence on technology has made us a nation of couch potatoes – a nation of obese, lazy people. We no longer have to get up to change the channel on the TV. With smartphone technology we don’t even have to go to our home offices to check email. We can do it right from the couch with the TV remote in the other hand. Dinner? A phone call away. Video games have taken our young and not so young off the playgrounds and streets and sucked them right back to the couch.

Well I’m here to tell you it’s time to re-frame it. Technology is what you make of it and the emergence of social networks can make us a fit nation again. Both Pete and Michelle are using technology to get people to run; to do some serious running. 120 miles in a month or 105 in 25 days is nothing to sneeze at. Before you non-runners tune out and say, “you speedsters don’t get it!” I would like to point out that “we” are runners of all speeds, shapes and sizes, ranging from the beginner who runs a 20-25 minute mile (most of you can walk at that pace) to the racer who is in the mid-5’s. We all cheer each other on. Your challenge doesn’t have to be 120 miles. How about 7 miles this week. Go walk a mile a day. Start where you can and then build on it. But don’t do it alone. Join a network and get motivated!

The point is that all of these people are here and they are together, using technology to improve their health.

In addition to the social networks, there are other technologies that are helping me and others run and stay fit. Runkeeper Pro is an app for the iPhone that I have been using since July 1st. It uses the GPS in your iPhone and helps track your route, pace, elevation and calories burned. You can program it to give you audio cues as you run so you can zone out and just enjoy your adventure. After your run it automatically sends your data to your web profile so you can review it later. One of the things I like most about Runkeeper is that the designer of the program is always looking to improve the app, which he has done time and time again. And, he has incorporated the social network concept into the web side of it. He gets it. The convergence of these technologies can make us strong again. But you don’t have to have an iPhone or a Garmin “watch” to map and keep track of your run/walks. Google has a perfectly good mapping program that allows you to input your routes yourself.

In this day and age, when most of us are trying to negotiate our way through tough economic times and the Congress debates the pro’s and con’s of health reform, running could be considered a patriotic thing to do. Raise the health index of our nation – lower the cost of care. And depending on your running style (barefoot anyone?), it doesn’t cost a lot.

Come join the party!

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I thought I was going to a friend’s charity’s wine tasting event.  Instead I walked into a surprise birthday party for me!  One of the many highlights was this amazingly awesome cake:

I  love the details of the heel pull and the VIBRAM label on the sole.  My wife had the cake “imported” from Connecticut.  It was made by our dear friends at Sweet Lisa’s. You may have seen them once or twice on the Food Network!  They are awesome and can make anything…ANYTHING! Oh, and it was delicious!!!

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For my friend M

Continuing my treadmill theme, here is my Top Ten* list of shows I like to zone out to while running on the treadmill:

Prison Break (Fox – no longer on the air)

Chuck (NBC – returning in January)

24 (Fox – returning in January)

Numb3rs (CBS – Fridays at 10)

Rome (HBO – no longer on the air)

Fringe (Fox – Thursdays at 9)

Heroes (NBC – Mondays at 8 )

Lie To Me (Fox – Mondays at 9)

30 Rock (NBC – Thursdays at 9)

The Mentalist (CBS – Thursday at 10)

Last fall I would set the DVR to record my shows (4 of them aired on Mondays and 1 on Tuesday) and I was set for the week.

Some of you who know me may be asking, “Uh, dude? Where’s LOST and BSG? Aren’t you always going on and on about those two shows? How they are the best ever?” That is true. My two favorite shows of all time are LOST and the new Battlestar Galactica. But these two are far too involved to be put on the list – too much fumbling for the remote to rewind to hear a missed line or clue. I see Flash Forward joining this special list very shortly.  When I’m on the treadmill I tend to want fun, easy, popcorn entertainment. My wife calls it Pringles for the brain (though she’s usually referring to books).

Sadly, some of these shows are no longer on the air (Prison Break and Rome) and only available on DVD, but if you haven’t seen them yet, they are totally worth it.

I would love to hear what you would recommend when stuck on the treadmill.

* In no particular order.  The new V series may be joining the treadmill list, but with only 4 episode aired and the show not returning to the screen until February, I am withholding judgement either way.  Since Rome and Prison Break are off the air, it would probably replace one of those.

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Oh no!  Not the dreadmill…

– My friend Mollie when asked last Spring if I should run outside in the rain or on the treadmill

It’s been about a year now that I have been running regularly.  During that time I’ve had an on again off again affair with the treadmill.  The treadmill is what got me into running.

Last November when my wife proclaimed that she had signed up for a half marathon…on the Cape…in the middle of February…I decided that I was not going to let her run it alone.  Up until that point in my adult life I had run in fits and starts – a month here, a few weeks there – but never more than a couple of months at a time.  I was in relatively good shape.  At six feet tall and weighing in at 205, I was doing okay for myself.  I exercised sporadically but ate well.  The idea of 13.1 miles, never mind in the dead of winter, was daunting to say the least, but if my wife was going to do then I was going along for the ride.

So I started running.

I looked at the treadmill we had bought when we first moved into our house but decided to run outside.  A good friend from down the street had told me about a 3 mile loop in our neighborhood so I decided to give that a try.  I reached the halfway point in just under 15 minutes, gasping for air.  The realization that I had to do that all over again was awful.  Once I got home, I very quickly decided that until I got my legs under me, I was sticking to the treadmill where no one could see me.  It didn’t hurt that the weather was starting to turn and the fall television season was kicking into gear.  So I ran – 2 miles here, 3 miles there.  For about two weeks this was my training – 2 or 3 miles, 3 days a week.

Then something happened.  I woke up on a Wednesday morning with a mild headache (too much poker and tequila the night before) and contemplated skipping my run.  I thought of my poor wife running that half marathon* alone and dragged myself down to the treadmill.

3 miles in and I was actually feeling kind of good. 

Huh – maybe I’ll do one more mile.

After which I felt even better.

Let’s see if I can do five.

Wow!  I was feeling great. 

Alright, just one more.

Just as I finished the sixth mile I realized I had 5 minutes to pick up the kids from school.  Who knows how far I would have run that day.  Point is, something clicked.

I was hooked.

I very rapidly – too rapidly – went from 8 – 10 mile weeks to 20 then 30 then 40 mile weeks.  That 10% rule?  Yeah, completely ignored it.  I would eventually pay for my speedy rise in miles months later, but in the meantime I had found something that I loved.  I couldn’t wait to drop off the kids and then go home and pound out 6, 8, 10, 12 miles on the treadmill.  I would put my favorite shows on the TV and just zone out (it actually helped that at the time my wife was into shows like the bachelor and such because I’d end up having to record my favorites and watch them later).  On the DVR my favorite dramas would last about 44 minutes which turned out to be the perfect amount of time for me to log in 6 miles.  Double feature of Chuck and Lost?  Perfect for a 12 mile day.  I loved the combo of the treadmill and the DVR.  It didn’t hurt that in 3 months I lost 25 pounds.

But then Spring returned and the television season ended.  I finally discovered what running outside was all about.


Having built up the leg strength and stamina didn’t hurt either.  How peaceful and meditative it was to be able to glide 6 – 10 miles outdoors.  Soon thereafter I discovered the Vibram Five Finger Unshoe (as my wife calls them) and that was it: the treadmill and I were officially broken up and I wasn’t ever going back.  The one place that I have found difficulty running in my Vibrams is on the treadmill.  It just doesn’t work for me.  So that was it – no more treadmill.

I ran all summer outside in my Vibrams.  I became a Vibrams/Born to Run apostle.

But then the swine flu decided to pay a visit to my house last week.  Just in time for Thanksgiving.

Oh, joy.

My wife was down for the count.  Kids were home from school.  I managed to get out of the house for one short run, but I was afraid to leave the house for a much needed longer run.

So I peeked downstairs and looked at our old treadmill.  I checked the DVR and whaddaya know, 2 new episodes of Numb3rs.

What to do, what to do.

I had recently done a short 5 mile barefoot run on the treadmill, but the mechanics of it just didn’t work for me.  I went to my closet, opened the door and stared at my old running shoes.

Ugh.  Really?  Am I going to put those clunkers on?

I did.

I felt somewhat ashamed putting on regular running shoes, but I had no choice.  If I was going to stay well I had to run, and I had to stay close to take care of the sick family.

In 7 days I put in 63 miles.  Yes, on the treadmill, in regular running shoes.   I know….the horror!!! It was a perfect storm of sick family members and early bedtimes for the wife.  If I was going to sit and watch TV while everyone slept, I might as well do it on the treadmill.  63 miles in 7 days and no pain.  I’m pretty sure that running barefoot style has finally fixed my form.

So are the treadmill and I back together?  Heaven’s no! But at least now I know I can fall back on her if the world conspires to keep me off the road…and maybe the regular running shoe isn’t quite as evil as I thought it was.

*We never did run the half marathon on the Cape this year, but with a couple of half’s and a full under my belt, I’m seriously contemplating doing the full.  Stay tuned.

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