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Archive for November, 2010

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I’m mad.

Okay, maybe I’m just a bit on the miffed side right now.

But the more I think about it, the madder I get.

Over the last year or so I’ve oscillated in my hydration between Nuun Water and my home-made Honey-Water™. Both drinks do exactly what they are meant to do, they hydrate without overwhelming you with sweetness and sugar.

Part of what makes Nuun Water great is that it comes in little tablets. “Portable Hydration” is what they call it, and that’s exactly what it is. You carry the tablets with you so you don’t have to carry bottles and bottles of the stuff; simply fill your bottle with water and drop in a tablet.  It’s that easy.  The only drawbacks are if you lack a source of water on your run.

My secret formula Honey-Water™ may not be as convenient (I don’t really see myself carrying a little honey bear with me on my runs), but when mixed just right, with my added secret ingredient, the flavor is light and refreshing, and the sugar gives you an extra boost of glucose to keep running hard.  I also find that I don’t have to drink as much per mile as I usually do with plain, old water.

Both are great.

I love them both and it pisses me off to no end.

Although I have run every marathon initially carrying my hydration (two with Nuun and two with Honey-Water™), the truth is eventually I run out before the end of the race.  The simple solution would be to carry more, but that means more weight, which means more work.  That doesn’t sit well with me, especially when I’m running for time.  Carrying 48 ounces of hydration is one thing on a LSD 20 miler, but it’s a completely different thing when you are racing a marathon.

The reason I’m mad is that Gatorade has cornered the market on hydration stations at just about every half and full marathon I’ve been too; if it isn’t Gatorade, it’s the ugly step-brother Powerade. Both drinks are heavy on sweetness and hit my stomach like a round of buckshot. I’m not a huge fan of either and I generally don’t drink the stuff.  Unfortunately, I’m afraid that I am going to have to start.  They don’t hand out cups of Nuun or cups of my Honey-Water™ at races.

I think that one of the contributing factors to my physical breakdown in New York was due to last minute nutritional changes – that included switching to Gatorade mid-race when I realized that I was going to have to find an alternate source of carbohydrates when I was unable to stomach the banana flavored honey stingers I was trying for the first time.  Though I don’t blame Gatorade completely, I’m sure that my stressed system didn’t take to it too kindly.

So what’s the solution?

Unless I can come up with a better plan, I am going to have to train my body to accept Gatorade.  Plain old water is not a practical choice.  When I run for distance, I sweat like a LeBron James before a Celtics game.  I need the nutrients and minerals that water alone can’t replace.

Honestly, it would be nice to not have to carry anything in a long race other than a few Gu’s or Honey Stingers (just not that damned banana flavor though!), but I wonder if Gatorade is really the answer.

What’s your hydration strategy at the half- and full-marathon distances?

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A Runner’s Thanks

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Tomorrow is Thanksgiving – a time to give thanks to those that have blessed you over the course of the past year.

I give thanks first and foremost to my family – my wife, who doesn’t get my running at all, but knows that it is important to me, and therefore not only puts up with it, but even takes the time to read this blog on a regular basis (talk about love); my girls, who cheer me on unconditionally, even if they don’t quite get my passion either.

I give thanks to my running friends – Mike, who has always been somewhat of a running GUIDE to me; to Pete, who was the first runner in the Twitterverse to reach out to me and introduce me to a WORLD of RUNNERS; to Brendan, whose bright spirit and kind words always encouraged.

I give thanks to Doug and Adam, who showed me what DETERMINATION looked like; to Alain, who showed me what TEAM looked like; to Steve and Caleb, who showed me what ASPIRATION looked liked; to TK and Michelle, who showed me what FRIENDSHIP looked like; to Lam and Kirsten, who showed me what HEART looked like; to Mary, who showed what GRACE looked like; to Chris and Chaz, who showed me what WISDOM looked like; to David, who showed me what friendly COMPETITION looked like; to Sarah and Brian, who showed what INSPIRATION looked like; to Sheila, who show me what MOTIVATION looked like; to Alett, who showed me what CAMARADERIE looked like; to Jennifer and Erin who showed me what STRENGTH looked like; to Josh, who showed me what KARMA looked like; to Paula, Judith, Jenn, and Alysia, who showed me what COMMUNITY looked like; to Rhonda, Sandra, and Gaby, who showed me what SHARING looked like; to Linda, Barb, Rachel, Sandra, Eva, Teresa, Bekah, Lauren, Melissa, Ryan and Magda who showed me what SUPPORT looked like. The list could go on and on. I know I’ve forgotten many, but please know that if we have crossed paths through running, I am thankful for it.

I give thanks to Vibram and Saucony, who protected my feet and carried me this past year to 7 minute improvements in both the 10K and Half-Marathon distances, a 35 minute improvement at the marathon distance and a BQ.

I finally give thanks to RUNNING, which has been my outlet and therapy. Would I be alive without running. Sure. Would I be happy without running. Undoubtedly, I’m a generally happy guy. But I do know that I would be neither AS happy nor nearly as healthy. Because of running, I am in better shape than I was 20 years ago, physically AND mentally. I am lighter, I am stronger, I am faster – I am better. Without running, I would not have met most of you! I am thankful that running has introduced me to a group of people that I firmly believe are the nicest, friendliest, least judgmental group of human beings in the world.

Tall or short; big or small; fast or slow; it doesn’t seem to matter to runners – as long as you run, you are one of us – and for that, I am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving.

If you are traveling this weekend, be safe and don’t forget your running shoes!

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Typical

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On Sunday night my family and I caught a show at the theater.  We sat as a family of four, Jess, Katie, Brooke and I, listening to actors sing and dance as they told their story over the course of almost 3 hours.  Nothing particularly unusual about that.  Actually, it was a dress rehearsal of the musical Godspell being put on by a local theater. For the background on this, please take a moment to read —>>>this.<<<—

***

The bottom line is that we were able to sit through an entire show…as a family. Little Brooke watched, completely rapt. After every song she would clap or make her little Jesus doll clap.  For three hours on Sunday night, life felt blissfully typical.  For three hours, autism took a back seat to Jesus, John the Baptist and the rest of the “Godspell workers”.

Jesus and Brooke

After the show, Jesus came down and handed Brooke a mini-poster of the show signed by members of the cast.  She introduced him to his mini-me.

It was a gift. A blessing. A glimpse into a different world from the one we know.

Interestingly enough, despite the fact that Jess and I sat not two feet apart from each other throughout the show, our experiences were dramatically different though both incredibly positive.  She did a much better job describing our magical evening —>>>here.<—

This week I have a lot to be thankful for, but I am especially thankful to my Jess for making this evening possible.  That we were able to experience this little piece of heaven, this little piece of what I imagined part of parenthood would be like, was all on her and the kind, wonderful people at the theater who let us come into their rehearsal and have our own show.

We have tickets for this coming Sunday with a live audience, but for now, I’ll take this private performance for our little family.

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***For those curious why Brooke’s “Jesus” doll looks like that, here’s a picture of Jesus from the movie Godspell:


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In recent months Brooke has struggled with her environment. The Fall transition has not been particularly easy. Brooke’s autism is infused with pervasive anxiety.  Over the last several months, her anxiety levels have increased just ever so slightly, leading small trickles to compound into crashing waves when the environmental conditions are just so.  A baby’s cry, a child calling for its mama, or even big sister Katie sniffing because of a runny nose – all these things can lead to meltdown.

Little things becoming big ones.

Glitches becoming catastrophes.

Jess and I are working hard to anticipate and re-direct, attempting to keep those trickles as just that…sometimes with success, sometimes in vain.  We’ve learned to identify some, but not all, of what induces the paralyzing anxiety.

I tell people that being the parent of a child with autism has made me a better father, a better husband, a better man. You learn patience. You learn compassion. You learn to suck it up.

***

What I never thought, was that being a parent of an autistic child would make me a better runner. Brooke has taught me perseverance, tenacity, and drive. She wants to be able to break through her walls.  The perfect example is when she insisted we get  a dog – this despite the fact that she was deathly afraid of them.  We spent the first three weeks of having a dog with Brooke’s feet never touching the ground when our dog was in the same room.  Today, she has overcome that fear and now loves dogs.  I mean she LOVES dogs!  Perseverance, tenacity and drive – I used all of those things at both the Smuttynose AND New York City Marathons. In one race I used those lessons to cruise to personal victory, in the other I used them simply to survive.

Something else I did not realize until recently that I learned from Brooke as it relates to running was anticipation.  I don’t meant the “licking you chops can’t wait for this dinner” kind of anticipation.  No, I mean preventative anticipation, defensive anticipation.  As runners we can often be hyper-focused on the training at hand.  We will pay close attention to the pace, the distance, the training, but if presented with a niggling pain we will brush it off as just part of the training.  Much of the time, that is just what it is, but how often have you suffered an injury and in retrospect known exactly when it happened?   Prevention is much more powerful than reaction. The time spent ahead of the curve packs so much more wallop than time spent recovering from disaster.  We (I) need to learn to anticipate which of those niggles are an indication of more to come.

In Chaos Theory there is something called the Butterfly Effect. Put in very, VERY simple terms, the idea is that in a closed system (like our planet’s environment or our bodies) we are all connected. Because of that intra-connection (and explained with a lot of high level math I don’t pretend to understand) the flutter of a butterfly’s wing in Brazil can initiate events in our atmosphere that eventually lead to a class 5 hurricane off the coast of South Carolina. The problem of course is that the math is so complex that in the end, the connections seems to be random, chaotic. Trying to determine which butterfly’s wing will cause the next Hurricane Andrew is practically impossible.

The math isn’t quite as complex when it comes to our running and our bodies. I am learning to filter out the normal aches and pains of running and focus on those that feel like they could be more serious; those that could be evil butterflies.

***

Watching my little Brooke recently, I’ve seen the little things that set off a chain of events leading to disaster. Our (Jess & my) job is to attempt to anticipate which little things, which butterflies will cause the hurricane. Sometimes it’s a single event; sometimes, like many pebbles thrown into a once calm pond, it is many events. The difficulty is knowing which pebbles to catch and which butterfly to squish.

***

Awareness makes us better people, in all things. The more we know, the more likely we can manage to stay calm in the face of adversity, the more likely we make the choices that lead to a desired ending.

Whether it’s protecting my little one or protecting my body from injury, it’s about looking out for the “right” butterfly – and squishing it.

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With New York in my rear view mirror, I can now firmly set my sights on Boston.  The New York Marathon was a bonus.  I hadn’t planned on running 2 marathon this Fall, but when the opportunity to run New York presented itself, who was I to say no?  The thing is, I trained all summer for Smuttynose, not New York.  It isn’t a bad thing.  It paid off in spades.  I was able to qualify for Boston at Smuttynose.

But New York taught me something.  Well many things, really, but it taught me this one thing in particular – you must train for the terrain.  I purposely spent the summer and early fall running on flat surfaces.  Every recovery, tempo, interval, marathon-paced, and long distance run was done on ridiculously flat roads or trails, or on the treadmill.  Training this way allowed me to cruise through Smuttynose with relative ease (I stress the relative of course because as my good friend Mike reminded me recently, a marathon isn’t supposed to be easy).

But when it came to New York, I suffered  Yes, I had some nutritional and GI issues, but I think that, despite that, had New York been a flat marathon, I could have managed a significantly faster marathon.  I may have even been able to come close to a PR.

Which brings me to this winter.

***

I look to Boston, with it’s early, deceptive downhill and it’s late, heart-breaking uphill.  Training starts either in December or January, but either way, I know there is going to be one “must” in my training.

Hills.

I must train for the terrain.  It will require doing runs of all kinds on the hills that are available around me.  Fortunately, being from the Boston-area, I will be able to drive over to the Newton Hills and do hill repeats without too much juggling of my schedule.  Heck, living in the Boston-area means that I can make sure my long runs make their way by those hills.  It’s not going to be easy; it may not be fun, but that is what I am going to have to do  if I want to take a shot at a 3:15 at Boston.

In Pfitzinger’s Advanced Marathoning he states several times that you must try to emulate the conditions you will face in your goal marathon.  What better way to emulate the terrain of your goal marathon than actually run on the terrain of said goal marathon?

I’m curious to see how my body will adapt to this kind of training.  Will it accept it as a necessity?  Will it rebel after a summer of flat running?  Will it adjust?

Train for the terrain.

That’s gonna be the mantra this winter.

Train for the terrain.

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A Good Day

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it’s all right

-the Beatles

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Yesterday morning I woke up with a sense of hope.

Hope that things were gonna turn around. Hope that the sun was rising.

In the morning I met with an old friend. Not getting into too much detail, but there’s a distinct possibility that I may be starting a new path in 2011. I am excited at the prospect. In the evening, on the way to have some sushi, the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” came on the radio. I smiled.

Yes, here comes the sun.

Over dinner, we ate a lot, shared some sake. I filled my belly with amaebi (sweet raw shrimp), deep fried shrimp heads and plenty of uni (sea urchin guts)…mmmmm!

Upon returning home, having put the kids to bed, I looked at my beautiful wife.

She was spent.

So, I sent her off to bed and…

…I ran!

As I stepped into the cool night air I could feel myself wake up.

My belly protested. Sake and sushi, especially my choice of sushi, aren’t exactly power running foods. Shoot! They are any kind of running foods!

My legs, though still a little creaky from New York, pleaded with me to let them go.

I forced them to start slowly…

…but I couldn’t hold them back for long. It was time to go. In the dark I couldn’t see my watch. I tapped it every time I hit what I knew to be a mile, but I was essentially running naked. It was a wonderful freeing feeling.

Returning to my front door, I tapped my watch one last time. 29:17 for 4 miles, with steady negative splits (8:00 / 7:27 / 7:07 / 6:40).

***

This on a half a bottle of sake and a boatload of sushi.

***

…yes, yesterday was a good day.

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6.5

<1.8%

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The average American sleeps over 106 days per year.

The average American watches almost 78 days of television per year.

The average American surfs the Internet nearly 30 days per year.

The average American eats for nearly 23 day per year.

How much time does the average American spend on exercise?

Less than 20% of the American population participates in regular exercise. Of those 20%, 65% spend less than an hour doing it. For 80% of this Great Nation, the average amount of time spent during the year on truly sweating is less than 1 day.

***

Sleep and food are necessary. Television and the Internet are not.

***

And no, it’s not just lack of exercise; it is also what we are doing with the time we COULD be spending exercising (staring at a screen, mindlessly eating). It’s a double-whammy.  Mindless eating is not about hunger or nutrition. It’s not even about pleasure, as a fine meal can be.  But junk/fast-food is not the enemy. It’s what we are doing with it that is – a topic for another post I suppose.

I digress.

***

So what’s your health worth to you? 20 days? 10 days? Would you believe that you could significantly help yourself with just 6.5 days a year? 6.5 days.

Can you spare 6.5 days?

That averages out to 3 hours per week.

I can already hear some people saying, “I don’t have an extra 3 hours per week.”

I hear you. Loud and clear. Time is precious. Choices have to be made. Issues must be tended to. But I take you back to the statistics above. How many hours per week do you spend in front of the television or the computer?

Be honest.

I have friends who are constantly traveling, constantly working and literally don’t have the time. They don’t watch TV and time spent on the computer is for work. For them, I’m not sure what the answer is. Some kind of multi-tasking?

But there are others. Other who complain or come up with excuses.

3 hours a week.

Not only are you receiving the benefits of physical exertion during that time, you’re getting the added bonus of not sitting in front of a screen, munching on HFCS (high fructose corn syrup).

So let me re-phrase – can you re-allocate 3 hours per week?

***

Isn’t your spouse/child/parent/friend worth 6.5 days?

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