Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why not remember the good?

Isn't it funny how we vividly remember certain things or people?  An endurance friend related a funny story involving his running buddy while they ran a recent half marathon. When I heard the name of his friend I immediately wondered if this was the same person who ten years ago at a then popular running store sold me a pair Saucony Grid Triumphs that destroyed my feet. I don't use the word often but I hated those shoes. To this day I despise Saucony.

I don't hate the employee, not at all. Yet for some reason, I remember this guys name from our only interaction on a pair of shoes I cannot bemoan enough. Conversely, I have been going to Road Runners Sports for the last year and have bought two great pairs of shoes from a very knowledgeable employee and I couldn't tell you his name to save my life.

I decided to think about the last couple of items I bought that I 'wanted' or really liked. Trust me I don't have to go back far in my memory for that. Less than a week. Can't remember a single persons name that assisted me. Yet I know off the top of my head that when Jim calls me from the auto shop, he is going to tell me I need to pay $300 to fix the car. But he'll ultimately charge me $400 and somehow kick me in the nuts without me seeing it happen.

Do people tend to remember the traumatic instances in their life more clearly than the happy, joyous events. I don't remember my wedding very well, but I know my new bride almost killed me when I shoved cake in her face. My parents still recall the look of death she gave me.

Maybe I suffer that old American truism of loving the underdog. After all my races, I tend to remember the ones that were hard over the ones that were easy. The ones were I had bloody nipples or twisted my ankle. I recall the Ironman that I didn't finish over the ones that I did. I have watched every Superbowl for 20 years yet the one I remember the absolute clearest is when that a referee stole the game from the Seahawks and handed it to the Steeleers.

So I ask, do people forget good memories and recall bad memories because we are masochistic or there is a sense of being incomplete or unfulfilled that trumps happiness. I don't know about all that but I know I will never, ever, ever where Saucony's again. Man I hated that shoe.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fractured foot. All things considered....

Is it surprising that I am fairly ambivalent regarding a stress fracture to my right foot?  Ever the optimist, at least it is not a knee injury. Those suck. 

As far as injuries go, as far as fractures go, it is more of a nuisance to me than a limitation. The pain is not intense, it is that numb, pain in the bone hurt that never seems to leave. Not really painful but it never really leaves. The fracture I had on my tibia a few years ago hurt more. As long as I stay off the foot the swelling and pain stay down for most of the day. As the day goes, if I don't get it up and iced it will start to hurt more but if I have been down for a bit, like I was over the weekend or when I wake up, it doesn't really hurt much. I've already stopped babying my foot and moving my toes around to stretch out the area to get that 'hurt so good feeling.'

I am on crutches for a few days.  I am rocking leopard print padding for my arm pits and hand grips. I can pull it off. And its funny. C'mon. It is. I am not really upset that this happened. Injuries happen. Especially repetitive use injuries like this. Its not like I fell off a roof or gave myself a(nother) concussion. I'll work around it. 

Call it the survivor in me. Call it a good disposition. But I am not in a cast. I am not in a hospital. I can reasonably move around. I still have time to sort out a winter training plan. A marathon in January is probably out of the question. Some of my longer races and hikes are currently on hold. I don't think I can turn this around that fast but it doesn't mean I can't look for ways to keep moving forward. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Superman had a phone booth but he was fast

I love afternoon runs around the town lake but seldom do so from my office which is just down the street. Of course I could do so, I am not precluded from lunch time runs, however I like to keep my reasons for coming and going places somewhat private.

To take it one step further, when I drive to the lake to run I make sure I stop somewhere else first to change into my running clothes. That way when I park I can pretty much grab my pack, lock my door and head out. I consider changing at the park or loitering around my car before running invites people an opportunity to break into my car.

I don't even know how many car break-INS happen there. I'm simply over various regarding my comings and goings. Perhaps I am being overly secrative or cautious. It's a fair critisicism. But the lake is a transient area and I'd had to return to car with thing taken, especially as I have all my items in the trunk.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Are there caveat's to a Personal Record (PR)

I ran my fastest marathon twenty years ago. There is not much of a chance that I will ever be that fast for that long again. I ran my fastest half marathon over twenty years ago. A few years back I gave it a serious challenge but was still over a full minute slower per mile than my PR. The same could be said for almost every race distance I have done. Although at Pat's Run, I did set a PR of 29:52 at the 4.2 mile race (7:06) simply because I had never raced that specific distance before. 

That's the rub, isn't it. After hundreds of races at distances from 1 mile to 140.6 miles, the only PR I can claim today can come from a distance I haven't done under the clock already. Although I suppose I could beat my 8k race time of 40 minutes because I have only done that event distance once a long time ago.

Do I have to live in the shadow of my twenty year old self? Couldn't I, or can I, start telling people I PR'd because I aged up, or I came back from a 'never race again' injury? It would certainly make my race reports more interesting. We live in a bite sized, sound bite world now. I could write a thousand words on the what, when, where and how I did at a race but nothing is as sensational or would receive as much response as writing, "I got a PR at X event this weekend". 

There is some sense to making the claim that I PR'd a distance based on my age and not over my lifetime. I might not be as fast as I was two decades ago, but if I regularly run half marathons or 10ks over the course of my 30's, I can show a PR based on that decade. 

I think most of use us this way of thinking already. If I during my 30's, a course of ten years and two age groups, I raced fifty 10k runs and can show that my fastest time at the distance was when I was 38, can't I say I had a PR for 10ks while I was in that age group, or for that decade in my life. I'd like to think so. 

Till then I will live in the glory of my youth or the advantage of a ridiculously easily race course. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

What's on your race card counts

Prior to my long distance racing being sidelined by injury, I planned my races on a 18 month cycles. Thats a lot of commitment to training and racing. A lot of conversations and sacrifices with the family regarding time for vacations and bake sales, obligations for chores, and communication to keep relationships moving together. 

Now that I race so infrequently I pick and choose my events almost at will. I train and recover as hard as I can yet always have this medically induced and matrimonially enforced limit to what is considered normal and what could be considered suicidal. Mistress does a great job at keeping my feet on the ground. The mere mention of an event of any significance triggers a litany of questions probing my reasons and intentions. 

As all men do, I think of myself as I used to be. We laughed at Al Bundy's oft mentioned four touchdowns in the championship game of Polk High because Al really believed he was still that good, or lucky.  And yet like Al, if I were to work out at the same level today, I would be grasping my back and crying, "Peggy!". 

This doesn't mean that I couldn't go out run a half marathon or ride fifty miles or swim a mile or two this weekend. I can. Heck, I did Tough Mudder a week ago, so my current level of fitness is not totally in question. What has to be questioned now is what will I do if my body decides to fail me because we know that increased distances and increased effort equal increased rhabo and kidney issues for me.

In the last year since being able really get into post injury training, I have good record of completing hard events like the Grand Canyon, a 50 mile run, a marathon, Tough Mudder, Pat's Run, Flat Iron hike and now want to take the real race events more seriously. 

The word is out and people take me more seriously again as a competitor, which is cool. Well at least they are not seeing me as a potential liability. Once per week now I am being invited to participate in some race or event as a teammate. I of course have some of my own ideas on what I want to do.  Around the beginning of November I will be able to figure out the amount of time I can devote to training and racing at least for the next few months and could possibly put together a great winter of endurance pursuits. 

What is on your race card is very important but more important is your commitment to yourself, your family, your friends and your team.  My race card has been a bit light for a reason lately, but I think it could get full fast. I consider the requests humbling. The events are certainly worthy if not epic.

It's not enough to exist. I am going to live.   

Friday, October 15, 2010

Manly gift for a manly man. Pocket Knife.

A man really is a simple creature in terms of receiving a gift. It is classified as Classic or Technological Accelerator. I have decided to devote a few posts a month for shoppers to buy gifts for men based on the two aforementioned categories. Today I will discuss the most classic of gifts, the pocket knife. 

A knife is a timeless gift. Men have been creating bladed tools for almost three million years. Large or small, even today a knife will immediately invoke a shared and implied ancestral history where life and death was defined by such a simple object. However it is within the last two hundred years that the pocket knife has become less a backup survival weapon and more a utilitarian tool of urbania.  

A pocket knife or if you prefer a gentlemen's knife or clasp knife is generally one or two blades set into a handle and swivel out. Blades vary from two inches to six inches though I would suggest staying under a three inch blade as this will meet almost all laws concerning concealed weapons and as a smaller, lighter item more likely to be carried in the pocket.  In a classical pocket knife like a Barlow or Peanut (made by Case), the blade(s) rest on a spring when opened, this is termed a 'non-locking' blade. More contemporary knives are of similar design but use a locking mechanism that must be deployed in order to close the blade. 

Here is a list of knifes that any man would appreciate receiving as a gift. 

Case Knives. W.R. Case began producing knives like the Peanut and Sodbuster (shown left) over a century ago. A true pocket knife brand as identifiable in the American psyche as denim jeans and Cowboy hats. Grandpa probably carried a Case knife in the Big One, World War 2. Small, simple and easy to carry. Why would any man want to suffer the indignity of opening a box with a car key when a Case can be deployed? The nostalgia alone makes a simple looking blade like the Sodbuster an immediate family heirloom. 

To state you own a Buck, is enough in most manly circles. While Buck knives is well represented with their fixed blade line, their Cadet and Canoe lines are traditional masterpieces. Buck pocket knife tend to have two or three blades which can add weight and width to a pocket knife. Do not let this deter this item as a gift. The difference in blades while subtle are significant to a true appreciator of the this line. 

Long before Apple created products designed with a beautiful streamlined seamlessness, Kershaw gave us the Plain Pocket knife. An all stainless handle and matching blade create a unique and classic look. 

For those that prefer a multi use knife set, Victorinox and Wenger have been making Swiss Army knives for generations. Every man, and woman, should own a Classic or Esquire, respectively. These micro knife sets include pen blade, file, scissors and generally a toothpick and the best tweezers on the market.   These are also great for fishing kits and purses. For the larger size pocket knife the Swiss Champ is a do-it-all. 

There is never a wrong time to present a man a traditional pocket knife. Its a oft overlooked or over analyzed item. There are certainly pocket knives with bells and whistles but the best is always the one in his pocket and is a light, simple and dare I say elegant for the rugged individual. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Race Report 2010: Tough Mudder NoCal

Described as Ironman meets Burning Man, Tough Mudder is an event series quickly becoming a destination event amongst endurance athletes and thrill seekers. A dramatic twist on the usual  race, Tough Mudder does not use a clock and is very transparent in proceeds going to the Wounded Warrior Project. This firmly places the focus of the participants on enjoying the course and helping others in a spirit of cooperation. Looking for a different experience for my 2010 races I participated in the inaugural Bear Valley, northern California event. 

Each Tough Mudder event has a different course based on the location of the event.  Bear Valley was a 7 mile route up, down and around a popular ski resort. Along this route are 18 obstacles of varying difficulty from required assistance to required gut check.  This event was touted as having many snow or ice obstacles and while the weather did not cooperate, it was actually quite warm, it did not detract from the difficulty of the course and the water obstacles were shockingly cold enough to remind you that winter is right around the corner. 

The obstacles are too many to discuss individually, a previous post describes them point by point. Instead I will give my personal report. 

Simply standing in the parking lot oxygen deprived at 7,500 feet and taking in the view, one realizes the course will not so much be an aerobic process or an anaerobic process. I dubbed this course a hypoxic run sure to have road runners gasping for air and crying for momma. Not only was I correct, it happened far earlier than I imagined. 

The race begins with each wave reciting the Tough Mudder pledge, listening to the national anthem and finally a bagpiper, then running down a 45 degree hill, making a sharp turn and running up an access road only to crawl under low strung barb wire. This is where I began a process of bruising my knees into crippled, bloody submission. From there Mudders run down a 1,000 feet and then up 2,000 feet of freshly bushwhacked single track. This is within the first two miles of the course. It was at the beginning of the 2,000 foot climb, with no switchbacks, that I witnessed the first person crying and ready to quit. 

Along the way to the top, Mudders had to stop and complete more obstacles than just breathing, footing and elevation. Recalling correctly the only obstacle that required a queue was called Dragon Teeth, climbing over large construction spools. For most, the first spool was impossible to do alone or with a running start. My own attempt less resembled a high jumper than Wile E. Coyote running right into a wall at full speed. The laughter from those watching was not as loud as my own and certainly not mean, but illustrative of the shared misery we were paying for. Reaching the top of the 2,000 foot climb, though not the highest point of the course, required a plunge into freezing mud, being sprayed by high pressure hoses and climbing a sixty degree slope, which had the weather cooperated would have been a glacier. 

Along the ridge line, Mudders found the mud pit from which most pictures are taken and the obstacles that involved true cooperation and assistance to complete. Of course, more climbing.  My legs at this point were tired but I was passing people fairly easily. I have thousands of miles of hiking and trail running under my feet and while I am not fast, my body understands off road movement. Road runners and Cross Fit teams (of which there were several) suffered from the lack of balance, foot placement and pacing required to tackle some of those climbs without serious struggle. 

Perhaps the funnest part of the course was the swim portion. Crawling, falling, rappelling down a steep slope into 45* water, then walking a 150 yards across. An obstacle in the middle of the crossing had Mudders submerging underwater to get past barrels. The coldness sucked the air from the lungs. A rope climb out of the pit, then a freezing water assisted slip and slide back in. Like many I chose to go head first. Then a swim around a buoy and another climb out.  By far the icy water area was my favorite portion of the course. 

The remainder of the course headed downhill, though not easily and the obstacles were more muscular than aerobic. 

Keeping the streak alive, I am known amongst my training partners as being able to find a free beer somewhere along a training route or race course.  Just before the finish line I passed a spectator with a cold one and asked if he had an extra. A moment later I was continuing my downhill run to the finish enjoying a cold beer and slurping the escaping suds from my wrist. 

Throughout the race and the weekend, I spoke with Leadville and Western State 100 finishers, ironman finishers, triathletes, road runners, Cross Fit's and gym rats. All agreed that the course was above average in it's challenge and worth the investment. I agree. This race was a significant investment of money (as any destination race is), and travel time, (24 hours round trip driving), but those two considerations would not deter me from doing another Tough Mudder venue. 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Putting your fitness to the test

When was the last time you tangibly used your fitness to help you or someone else in a tough spot? 

I was able to use mine when the car I am driving developed a gas leak on the way into the office.  I was able to rearrange my schedule so I could drop off the car a trusted auto shop near my house, loaded up a stack of documents and my netbook, crossed my fingers and drove off. I called up my wife to see if she could pick me up and while more than willing to do so, baby Mae was going down for a nap. The baby had a rough night and need a good nap so I told Mistress I would just run home. As I hung up the shop foreman said, 'No don't do that, let one of my guys drive you home." I when I declined that as well, I got the 'weirdo' look. 
We are told to exercise because it helps our heart, keeps us near our ideal weight and even relieves stress. We measure the time it takes to run a distance, we log our sets, reps and weight amounts looking for that one rep max or personal best set. We weigh ourselves and say silent prayers into the mirror as we put on our goal pants. And yet, when can you point to any of that investment giving you a dividend?
Here I am, a grown man in comfortable clothes, the same I wore to work, cinching up a rather thick 20 lb day pack and lowering my sunglasses over my eyes, prepared to run home. It looks like the most natural thing in the world to those around me. And off I run.

Fitness is not just a chore or a release or a means to a good race. Sometimes, hopefully when it counts, it allows you to do things that help others. Like letting my daughter get the sleep she needed and my wife not have to drop her work to rescue her husband. 

So I ask you again, when was the last time you tangibly used your fitness to help you or someone else in a tough spot? 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Upcoming Race: Tough Mudder

Next week I travel to northern California for a race called Tough Mudder. It is actually an event with proceeds going to the Wounded Warrior Project. It is a 8 mile run at a ski resort with 18 obstacles placed throughout the course. A track of uphill, downhill, over, under, wet, snowy, muddy fun. 

I chose this event for a few reasons. First, destination races are very cool to experience. Then, it does not have a clock for time. As the course is very challenging, and the proceeds to the charity that at its heart of the race is about teamwork, the Race Directors would rather competitors help each other with the obstacles than try to muscle people out of the way. I can respect that. It also keeps me doing fun things without mentally losing it trying to kill myself on the clock. I also get to do this with a few of the managers that I have, which makes it a nice road trip. 

As stated the route is 8 miles up, down and around a ski resort. The obstacles that will be presented on the course are in order:
1. mass Start with Braveheart style war cry.
2. mud crawl under 8" high barb wire.
3. run up a red grade ski run
4. crawl through tire tunnel
5. climb over/under 3 giant spools lined up. 
6. run up the snow boarder half pipe getting high pressure hosed.
7. scramble up a black grade ski run. 
8, climb 100' glacier
9. knee high mud run
10. climb over a series of 8' high hurdles
11. climb over and jump off a school bus. 
12. climb over a series of 12' walls. 
13. down hill slide into mud
14. walk through freezing water, ducking under obstacles on the surface.
15. up and down a ski slope carrying a block of wood.
16. crawl through cargo netting
17. up and over a 8' fence, 4x
18. Mystery obstacle.