Monday, April 30, 2007

Change Direction. Keep Going.

Well, I could easily be on the verge of a deep depression right about now. I have been looking foreward to the Cleveland half-marathon for months. All of my short base building runs this winter were geared towards this race. I began increasing mileage in in March to get ready. It was the only big race on my agenda for the early part of the summer, my first half-marathon. At this moment I am sitting at my computer after my second failed attempt to get a short easy run in over the last 4 days due to my calf stain. Maybe I'll be able to get a run in next weekend, but after having to take 2 weeks off so close to the race I'm not sure I'll be ready. I'm not sure I'll be running through downtown Cleveland pushing myself to reach my goal of a 1:35 in my first half. 1:35 won't win me any prizes and at this pace there would be plenty of people ahead of me. But I want to prove to myself I can do it. If my calf does heal and I am ready for the race next month it is quite unlikely I'd be able to reach this goal after my 2 week hiatus. Right now I'm just hanging on to my final hopes that I'll be able to rapidly get back up to par, but with each day of giving the calf a rest I'm taking one step away from the starting line in Cleveland....

But, I've been spending the lost running time on the bike. So, plan B consists of rapidly getting ready for my first century ride by early June, at the good 'ole Sunday in June ride put on by the Cleveland Touring Club. I was figuring I'd be up for the 100K by this time, but since I've gained all of this extra bike time with the calf problem I might as well move along to another goal to mark off the list and do the 100 miler. I've still got the end of summer goals to set and have to make some decisions between a late fall marathon, my first double century on the bike, or a longer distance triathlon. The tri depends on 2 things: 1)how my swimming progresses and 2)how the calf holds up. #2 is obviously the big factor for a fall marathon.

Believe me folks, the idea of having to postpone my first half marathon is a hard pill to swallow. Lucky for me I've got a giant glass of other goals to help me wash it down.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Things going up, then coming down....evidence of the cliche.

Over the last week or so I was fighting off some sort of chest cold or something. In my day to day activities (i.e. work, school, etc.) I didn't notice it much other than feeling a bit tired. When I'd run or swim, however, I'd have a nice burning sensation from time to time in my chest. So, I took it easy last week which worked out pretty conveniently since it was a recovery week anyways.

On to this week and my cold symptoms are gone and I had a 10 miler on tap today. Thursday I put in a 5-miler @ around 7:30/mile and felt pretty good, and was anxious to get my LSD (that's long slow distance for you hippies) run in today. I chose to run on the towpath trail for a few reasons. One is the scenery, our beautiful crooked river with it's meanders, waterfowl, snakes, and turtles. Other important factors include the "soft" crushed limestone surface and the fact that it is flat; perfect for the long runs when increasing mileage. The spring weather brought many folks down to the towpath which never helps with the serenity of the run, but can be good for the ego when you see many a family out for a leisurely stroll and you run by all of them sweating profusely with water rations attached to your hips. It is an interesting quirk of human nature, and my personality, that running past walkers gives the psyche a lift.

As I set off on my run I felt a little sluggish. My legs were a bit heavy and joints a bit stiff. I figured I hadn't fully recovered from Thursday's run as I typically train at a slower pace. All would be fine, I thought, as I was taking things nice and slow today..."I'll loosen up," and I did. Throughout the run my legs still felt a bit heavy but overall I felt OK and was glad to finally rid myself of the chest cold. Then I hit mile 6 and......ouch! Mild pain in left leg and it is getting worse by the the point where.....I've got to stop. What just happened??? I felt fine up until this point? Maybe a bit tired, but....

So, I stopped at the nearest tree that didn't have poison ivy roots wrapped around it and stretched a bit. As soon as I stopped running the pain subsided. I thought maybe after a short stretch I could get back to the run.


Started running and the pain returned. So I walked. I was 4 miles from my car and 4 miles from finishing my planned run. After walking 2 miles I tried to run again.


Sharper pain this time and I knew I wouldn't be running anywhere for at least a few days. ugh!! My self-diagnosis (it's an easy one).....another minor calf strain. Always in the left calf in which I have bad circulation and also suffer from sciatica pains and have a bad varicose vain just below my knee. Always after a long or fast workout. I need to be smarter!!!! Lesson learned: if increasing mileage then NO runs at anywhere close to race least not yet. Slow, slow, slow LSD runs when increasing mileage for me.

For all 4 miles walking back to the car and the couple mile drive home I was feeling a myriad of emotions, and none of them had any association with happiness. Not doing what you set out to do can work on the psyche in an manner that opposes running past walkers, I guess you could say.

Tonight I've been looking on the bright side of things which is something I've had to learn to do in this life, considering my personality trait of the inability to ignore the dark side. I will ride my bicycle and swim next week. Tomorrow I will be visiting the Cleveland Zoo and riding in the "bike for the earth." I am trying to pull of my first 4.0....ever. It may have happened prior to 3rd grade, but certainly not since. If I do, or even if I make the dean's list (which I plan to) I'll be announcing it to all of bloggerland. You can think of it as something like hanging a test, or better yet, a report card on the refrigerator.

Tomorrow is earth day. Hug a tree, or something.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Would Cloud 10 Be Higher Than Cloud 9??

It's safe to say that when I made my last post I was still floating on cloud 10 after the spring classic. My battery died in my watch while I was waiting in line at the 'ole port-o-pew, and as I was approaching the finish all I heard was 19:30. My "official" time in the spring classic.....19:42. Still a PR. Still over a minute and a half faster than my previous PR. I'm still happy. I'm still trying to conceptualize the idea of running Boston in the future. Stay tuned....
If you haven't seen it yet, Saint Ralph is a fun and inspirational story of the journey to Boston. I'm still trying to find the time to watch Running on The Sun.

After a recent conversation with Charlie about the difficulties associated with peace on this grand planet of ours, has had some insightful articles posted online over the last couple of days about Iran's nuclear program.

In light of this maybe we should listen to Einstein:

"Peace Cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding."

"I know not with what weapons WWIII will be fought, but WWIV will be fought with sticks and stones."

"You cannnot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war."

Ok, my insight of the day is that pesimism and fear of our impending battles with the forces of "evil" in the Middle East will only compound the problems that face the Western world and their relations in that region. Optimism and acceptance is the only path that will lead us to a place where no one fears for their life, or takes that of another for the sake of their political agenda or spiritual leader. Think, for a second, of the role of the television in this war and our perception of it. What comes to mind when I mention Northern Africa? What comes to mind when I mention the Middle East? My friends, they are the same place and are home to some of the most ancient cultures in the world. What seperation do the names Northern Africa and Middle East have in your mind? What emotions do the words Middle East evoke in you? Do you trust your TV? The media? What role to they play to perpetuate fear and contribute to thinking that will not allow us to find peace with our neighbors overseas? Do Middle Easterners face the same skewed thinking? Where can we buy a pair of glasses to help us see through the shit and see truth....and peace?

Do you want to gather with folks all across the country to promote renewable energy? Then Step it Up already. This will be one great event and I want to see you there...

Sorry if this talk of war has been getting you down. I seem to have a knack for failing to ignore the painful truth. Maybe this will brighten your spirits...."bombing for peace is like fucking for virginity." I don't know who to give credit for that one. If you're still upset/worried about Northern Africa, visit here (ice cream makes everything better.)

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The lengthy process of the turning of a leaf.....

You could probably say that I'm turning over a new leaf. The process of flipping this leaf from one side to the other has been going on for some time, and as life keeps dictating, it ain't completely flipped yet. The whole process started about three and a half years ago. We went to war. The price of gasoline skyrocketed. Some of the wealthiest and most powerful oil families in the world were running our country. So, I bought a bicycle. For piece of mind, I would ride it around town; to work, the grocery store, the library, the coffee house, and the pub.

I loved riding this bicycle, my new 2003 specialized hybrid, so much that I quickly began to ride it simply for fun. From my apartment on West Hill in Akron, I would ride down into the valley and go as far as my legs could peddle me at the time....10, maybe 15 miles. The weeks and months passed and I kept riding and the climbs began to get easier; and I could ride further.

Then, the Akron Marathon rolled around and a few of my favorite people in the world needed someone to run a 5K for their relay team. Out of despair, they decided to ask me if I wanted to do it. Julia first mentioned it to me, the infliction in her voice already accepting my percieved way! But rather, my first response was...."how far??"

"5K, just about 3 miles. We need someone to do it so we all can run."

I started thinking and responded, "so, all I really need to do is jog for about a half hour, right?"

"For sure," says julia. "You'd be done with your section in less than a half hour."

"How much time before I need to do this?"

"You've got about 3 weeks."

"Yeah, I'll do it," I responded, while simotanously giving this "leaf" a giant push towards it's backside.

I trained for my first 5K. I ran small loops around the neighborhood that ranged from 1.5 to 2, or so, miles. I did not find these runs nearly as fun as spinning on the bike, but I had to be able to finish my 5K. I made sure I ran and was prepared. Race day approached, and after one run per week, totaling 3 training runs altogether, I was ready.

My portion of the relay was up Sand Run Parkway, through the metroparks, along a beautiful stretch of road that was gently uphill the entire way. The uphill grade didn't matter to me though, I was pumped, surrounded by hundereds of people all gathering together to do one thing, run as far as they could. I breezed through my 5K passing many runners along the way and logging a time of approximately 26 minutes. I was content. I had finnished my leg of the race.

That was 2005. Yestarday I set out for another 5K, the "spring classic" through the Cleveland Metroparks on the west side. I have, of course, been running ever since that first 5K. I still ride my bicycle; in fact, I now own 2 of them. And I also swim, of course, which is my newest addiction.

For this "spring classic" there was perfect Cleveland spring weather, 25 degrees and plenty of snow. The 1/2 marathon that day drew many more runners than the 5K. In 6 more weeks I'll finish my first half marathon and I'm sure I'll have something to say about that race as well, but today, it was a measly 3.1 miles for me. The 5K start was 15 minutes after the half marathoner's start and my head was drifting to the end of May in downtown Cleveland when the half marathoner's took off. As the 5K start approached I became more focused on what lay ahead, 3.1 miles.

As the race began I set out at the front of the pack and as the leader pulled away, I settled in next to the nearest runner in front of me. Side by side we ran for nearly all 3 miles. I knew I was running much harder than I had since I have taken up this running hobby (addiction?). The 3 miles flew by and as I approached the finish I knew I would have a new PR, and I did.

Second place overall, first in my age group, and a new PR of 19:30 (give or take a second or 2). That blew my previous PR out of the water by almost 2 minutes!! And it was cold as hell. And I still don't inclued speed workouts in my training. So, I was stoked, to say the least. My training this winter was producing results, big results.

After such an improvement, I had to venture over to the McMillan Training Calculator and see what sort of goals I should set for myself this summer. I looked at the projected marathon time for a runner with a 19:30 5K and I saw the magic number...3hrs. 10min. No, something must be wrong. I plugged my 5K time in again and brought up the chart and it was still there....3hrs. 10min, which is exactly my qualifying time for the Boston Marathon. Now, I'm not packing any bags, thats for sure, but just last summer a BQ time seemed Certainly much faster than I was capable of running. And now this calculator is telling me that if I train properly for the distance it is very feasible.

After my first 5K we talked about Boston, the most famous foot race in the world. At one point I think I even said, "if you qualify, you've gotta run it." After my 26 minute 5K on that fall day in 2005, keeping a 7:16 pace for 26 miles seemed impossible; but today, I know I can do it. I never thought it would seem feasible so quickly. When the price of oil skyrocketed and Baghdad turned into a blood bath I bought a bicycle, and turned over a new leaf. Today that leaf is a little closer to finally being flipped over and, much to my suprise, I'm starting to wonder if the Boston Marathon lies on the other side.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Does Glue Work on Hair??

I guess I was a bit premature in shaving off the 'ole winter beard (again) this spring. My exposed face does not like the brisk winds that are blowing around Northeast Ohio. If I thought it would work, I would collect the hair out of the wastebasket and glue it back onto my face; at least for the weekend. As I was finishing up a gentle 4 mile run tonite old man winter was making another apprearence, and cold wind and snow was blasting me directly in the face. All winter long I enjoy the cold and snow, until I shave that is.

As I have mentioned I have been slightly discouraged by my ability to adapt to the 50M lenghts @ the pool. Maybe I should not be so discouraged by my progress, because there may be other factors leading to my swimming induced depression.

DISCLAIMER: Experienced swimmers should only continue to read this blog entry if they are not sensitive to the stereotypes attributed to swimmers. The author of this blog is not as image conscious as he may seem based on the words that follow. He is only trying to get a laugh out of his readers that do not swim and release some frustration.

So, I'm at the pool for the first or second day after they increased the distance of the lengths, and needless to say, I was struggling a bit to adapt. Arriving at the same time as me and claiming the lane right next to me was an older man....say at least 65 or 70. He shows up with a giant collection of tools to swim with and laid them in a giant pile just above his lane. Above my lane was my water bottle. This guy had flippers, paddles, a pull bouy, a kickboard, food and water. Then the 'ole chap gets ready to dive in....

He is sporting his speedos (the kind that resemble underoos), goggles, and a swim cap and he is tan in May in Cleveland, Ohio. Months ago when I decided to try this swimming thing I wondered why anyone really needed goggles (maybe this helps to explain how strong of a swimmer I was this fall) so you can imagine how I feel about speedos.

I was in the water just before this guy, struggling with each length, when I watched him hop onto the little platform at the end of his lane and dive in. And off he went. His first couple of lenghts we were cruising along at about the same speed. Then he was warmed up. I was swimming freestyle and this guy was smoking me while using a pull bouy. Then, we would be wading at the edge of the pool and he would take off for another length while I struggled to catch my breath and wait for my heartrate to drop. There he goes while I have my hand on my neck checking my pulse and staring at my watch.

As if a senior citizen in speedos with a tan at the end of winter swimming circles around you isn't bad enough, the guy was loving the fact that we both knew how much of a stronger swimmer he was. At one point, I was hanging onto the side of the pool and the old guy finished his length, stopped, looked over at me to tell me he needed to take up golf because, "swimming was too hard, and if he was a golfer he could be drunk and happy like everyone else." We both knew that he was truly happy at that moment.

So, after the afformentioned events I was feeling not so hot about my swimming ability (maybe the 'ole bastard would be up for a foot race!!). But, an amazing thing happend yesterday during my workout. Things were going along as they have been, my heartrate was skyrocketing every 40M and I was taking way too long of breaks between each length. Then, a miracle occured. I had completed 800 slow ass meters and suddenly I was gliding through the water with nice smooth strokes and my heartrate was under control. I would swim a length, take a couple seconds, and swim another length. I felt like I could have swam forever. Once I reached my 1200M mark I wanted to keep going, because I was so estatic about how I felt, but I knew that I have to get in other workouts this week, so I stopped. Tomorrow I will be back at the pool and I cannot wait. I even hope that my "old" friend is there.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

You Remember Biz Markie??

I was thinking about the 'ole hip-hop artist Biz Markie today. He had that song "Spring Again" and also "Just a Friend." If I think about the album cover I have to laugh as Biz was dressed up as a scientist making some sort of concoction. The title of the album (I had the cassette) was "The Diabolical Biz Never Sleeps." Good stuff...

My calf has been holding up well over the last week or so since I have resumed running. Today I logged an 8 miler on the towpath and felt great with the sun shining down on me whilt running past many walkers and occasional photographer/cyclist/fellow runner. I watched some geese or something apparently fighting over a bit of dry land as I ran past the oh so crowded beaver marsh near Bath. Watching these birds made the concept of mortage rates and landlords not seem so bad.

Now that swimming season is over the pool at CSU has went from 25M lenghts to 50M lengths, which is a good thing. I realized, however, that I am not quite as good of a swimmer as I had hoped. My heartrate is spiking pretty high with each length. I have to spend quite a bit of time hanging on to the edge of the pool waiting for it to fall so that I can swim another length. I plan to to most of my swimming this summer @ Monroe Falls Metro Park where they rope off lengths that are 200 or 250 meters. I have quite a bit of work ahead of me to get this swimming thing worked out. I don't think I'll get breaks to catch my breath in the open water swims this summer I plan to endure in my first season of triathlon's. I am optimistic though because this fall when I started I couldn't even swim 25M without my hearrate going through the roof.

I cannot experess in words how good it feels to spend some time with Amaterasu again, after another long Ohio winter. We spun to the post office that is on the other side of downtown Akron the other day. It was the first time I had ever riden a road bike in city traffic and it, to say the least. My current commuter is a hybrid, but I think I may have to make a change sometime soon as the road bike makes my enjoyment of racing cars a more concievable task, albeit a race that I can really never win....but that doesn't stop me.

Time for me to catch some Z's as another week begins with the dawn. It will be a busy one as I have another research paper coming due soon. Tomorrow should bring springtime weather (of the sunny variety) and I'll be out spinning on the bike after work and I may be looking for a 10K to run next weekend. So my friends, these are the day to day details of my life. If you have read this far either you are terribly bored or truly are a friend and gain enjoyment from the details of my life. Stay tuned as I have a funny story about the fellow swimming in the lane next to me last week that I do not have the energy to type about tonite......