Fiddy.

tunnel
Not mine yet – but soon!

My goal for 2016 was to cultivate discipline. That has proven to be as difficult as I expected.

When I was 20 miles into my 30-mile run a few weeks ago, things started to get difficult. Of course, putting one foot in front of the other is not a difficult process – but it becomes difficult when those feet are sore, and there’s really no reason to think they won’t be sore anymore. Also, knowing that I’ve run such a long way, but still have a considerable distance to cover is not easy. The only thing I had was what I had all day: Water, Tailwind, sweet potatoes, and dates. No magic pill, no rocket-powered scooter.

I felt myself sinking into that familiar dark place where pain is hard to ignore and running isn’t fun anymore. Trees, birds, rivers, big bridges over a dizzying expanse…none of it was doing anything for me.

But, I knew this was what I was looking for. I knew that this is why I train. Sure, I need a strong body and heart to be able to run ultramarathons, but perhaps more importantly, I need a strong mind. What can I do to keep myself from focusing on everything that’s bad and everything that’s left?

I suddenly thought to myself: Don’t think about what’s in front of you. Think about what’s behind you. The miles of this run that are over and done with… The miles (1,500+) of training I’ve done to prepare for this day… The hours spent in the gym – or perhaps more accurately in the grass outside of the gym… The support of my wife. I have so much more behind me – pushing me forward – than I do in front of me.

So, that’s my plan for Saturday. When the going gets tough, I’ll avoid thinking about what I have in front of me. There’s so much more behind me, and the miles to come will be a part of that soon enough.


In a few short days, I will no longer be a person who has never run 50 miles, and I’m incredibly excited about that. Many hours of hard work has gone into preparing for this, and I am ready to cross that finish line.

But first – the start line. See you on the other side!

Yamacraw 50k

More like 52.6k, amiright?

Yes, I’m right. It was 32.7 miles, instead of 31. But who’s counting? (I was)

Let’s see how much of this I remember…

The race.

It was cold when we rolled out of our tent at 4:30 a.m. The sky was insane with stars, which made it a little easier to stay out of the relative warmth of the tent.

Two hours later, I was standing in line to get shuttled to the start line with more than 130 other 50k runners. We all stood huddled in the wind, waiting to start running. Finally, the race director asked, “Are you guys ready?” (resounding yes) “All right! Ready? Set! GO!” And we ran off into the woods where I would spend the next 7 hours, 51 minutes, and 9 seconds pursuing a finish line 32.7 miles away.

Our course traveled through the deep ravines in Daniel Boone National Forest and Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area. At first, we dove downhill for a while, crossed streams left and right, and blazed through some rollers along Lick Creek. Then, suddenly, we were climbing out of the ravine to an aid station at the top of the world (or so it seemed – it was a big climb).

After some potatoes and PB&J, we eventually flew back down into the ravine for an outstanding 9 miles of gentle rollers. This was a beautiful stretch that included running under and slightly behind Yahoo Falls, one of the most ridiculously picturesque places I’ve run through. It’s what someone would build in their backyard if they wanted to seem outdoorsy. Only I guess quite a bit bigger.

After the pretty uneventful rollers, we crossed hip-deep Rock Creek and started climbing again. And by climbing, I mean, we went straight up for 700 years.

The trifecta.

Throughout the race, I had been generating a great amount of friction on my body in various places. I had some pretty uncomfortable chafing going on and blisters forming in a few spots on my feet.

Then, when I started climbing one of the steepest gravel roads I’ve ever seen, a muscle in my left quad cramped, arresting my ascent. While I massaged the cramp out, I thought it probably couldn’t get worse than this. It didn’t, so that’s nice.

Blisters, chafing, and nursing a cramp, I kept moving up the road and back into the woods. After a while, I came into a clearing at the top of a tall hill. In the east, serene mountains shrouded in shades of blue rolled along the horizon. This was what I came here to be a part of. The incredible beauty of nature will never get old, and will never cease to clear my mind’s cache.

I focused one last time on each member of my BCC trifecta:
– Blisters: They won’t go away. They may get worse.
– Chafing: It won’t go away. It will definitely get worse.
– Cramp: It’ll be a matter of time before my leg cramps back up.

I put all these inconveniences in the “this is a race” compartment in my mind, so they would just became a part of the race. Like the trail I followed and the trees around it, the BCC would be with me until the end. May as well be at peace with it.

The final stretch.Bridge

I make it a point to not ask anyone how many more miles there are until the end. To me, it doesn’t matter. They won’t take the finish line away; it’ll always be there, and I’ll get to it eventually. Why bother with those kinds of details? It may be farther away than I expect, and that could be hard to handle.

Other runners don’t feel the same way, and I unfortunately overheard someone say “You only have 5 miles to go!” and I couldn’t get it out of my head. My brain wanted to count down every time a mile ticked off. “Only four miles now! Just three left!”

When I got down to one remaining mile, I started looking for signs. I knew that the finish line was a really long bridge across the Big South Fork Cumberland River (see above). So when I thought I should be getting close, everything in the woods started looking like bridge stuff.

“Is that a cable holding up a bridge?” Nope. Grapevine.
“Is that wood on a bridge?” Nope. Just regular wood in the woods.

Then I heard Ashley whistling at me. She whistles to get my attention in the woods, and it’s very effective. I scanned the forest for her, and couldn’t see her. For more minutes than I’m proud of, I convinced myself that Ashley had come into the woods to finish the race with me. She hadn’t. It was a bird. And Ashley had already run her own 20k and was resting at the finish line. Not long after that, I saw the bridge in the distance. It was very far away.

Finally, a real person was on the trail and informed me that I only had 300 meters to go! I don’t know how far 300 meters is! But I picked up the pace and ran it out. Sure enough, I turned right, and there was a giant bridge stretching out in front of me. I started across and passed an older couple who were out sightseeing.

“How are you doing?” asked the man.
“Thanks,” I responded.

After I went through a little hut in the middle of the bridge, a cluster of people at the finish line started cheering for me. Cheering like I was finishing first; cheering like they had never seen anyone so amazing running across a bridge. My throat closed up and I nearly cried right there. A photographer was snapping pictures the whole time, and Ashley was there taking pictures, too. The race director shook my hand and with a huge smile said, “Congratulations, man, you are so awesome!” and his wife put a giant medal around my neck. I didn’t finish first. I finished 76th, but my heart thought I finished first. I couldn’t even look at my medal for a few minutes without getting choked up. These races can make your emotions paper thin.

Finish

#runstreak

On Friday night before the race, we were getting settled into the tent when I realized I hadn’t done my run for the day. I had intended to run 2 miles before we left town, and I just forgot. It was nearly 9:00 at night, and I was ready to get in bed. The wind outside was roaring and temperatures were falling quickly. I decided the run streak was over. I was too frustrated, and I didn’t really feel like going out into the pitch black, middle of nowhere campsite (where you have to store food safely away from bears) to run anywhere.runstreak_edited

Buuuut, Ashley convinced me otherwise. She said this isn’t how the streak should end. It should end when I’m ready, not when I just forget and get frustrated. So, I put on my shoes and shorts and headed out into the wind and dark. I’m still running every day, though they’re not much more than the requisite 1 mile this week. 107 days and counting!

 

Chafing: The gift that keeps on giving.

The chafing I had accrued during this race was the worst I’ve had and is definitely the most uncomfortable aftermath of any of the races I’ve done. However, and this is important if you have had chafing or plan to chafe ever, we have this magic ointment (thanks to our friend, Patti, who introduced it to us):

chafemiracle_edited

Buy it. Get chafed as bad as you can. Use it. Return here and thank me.

The season begins!

There are only a few days to go until I run my first race of 2016: Yamacraw 50k. I’m really excited to hit the trails of Big South Fork in Stearns, Kentucky.

I have been remiss in keeping this blog updated – and I’ve avoided the inevitable post that says “Boy have I not been updating much.” Kind of a stalemate. Perhaps the first step is to admit that I’ve been lazy?

While I have not been talking about what I’ve been up to, I have been up to a lot. Specifically a lot of running.

My run streak, which began inadvertently on December 29, 2015, and officially on January 1, 2016, is going remarkably strong. When I hit the publish button for this post, I had 94 straight days of running behind me. It has been a wonderful accountability tool.

“You could skip today’s run. The weather isn’t ideal,” says the lazy athlete on my left shoulder.

“Yes, but then your run streak would be over. Don’t want that, do you?” asks the ultrarunner on my right shoulder.

Lace up shoes; pound the pavement. 94 days and counting.

Smashrun

IMG_20160324_161158Since I use a Garmin watch (see below!), I primarily use Garmin Connect to upload and track my runs. However, I discovered Smashrun through a fellow blogger, and I’ve been having a lot of fun with it. Smashrun caught on pretty quickly that I was doing a run streak and started counting the days for me. Not only that, but there are all sorts of badges you can get when you upload your runs there. Check it out! It’s a lot of fun, and I’ve found the badges oddly motivational. They also send a weekly running report (like the one on the left), which is kinda cool.

New gear!

I have two new pieces of running gear! Usually gear comes one at a time because it ain’t cheap. But, one thing was free.

SPIbelt!
I’ve been interested in SPIbelts for a while. There are other brands out there (like Flip Belt), but SPIbelt was the only one (that I know of) giving them away for free on Leap day. SPI stands for “small personal item,” and I have taken that to mean potatoes (see below). Before the belt even arrived, I was already calling it my tater sack.

SPIbelt is a belt with a small pocket that you can put stuff in. They’re designed not to bounce around or be uncomfortable, which I can attest is the case for my particular belt (a black, standard SPIbelt). I crammed two potatoes’ worth of roasted potato wedges in my belt and went for a 22-mile run, and I barely noticed it was there. The heat from my body actually kept the taters pleasantly warm. Just kidding. That’s kinda weird.

Garmin!
I knew that the battery life of my old 410 was not going to cut it for ultramarathons, especially anything that takes longer than eight hours to complete. So I did some research and found a new one. I’m now the proud owner of a Garmin 230, which is so fancy and pretty, I can hardly handle it. Also it boasts a 16-hr battery life and loads of other features and data that give me heart palpitations.

  • Internal cadence sensor. I don’t know how it works, but it’s great to see my cadence. I muffinsshould be between 170-180, and I’m typically averaging 176. Yay fastfeet!
  • Smart notifications. This means I’m a little easier to get a hold of while I’m out running. Ashley has promised not to text me unless it’s important or motivational. (example right)
  • Live tracking. Ashley (or anyone who I invite to the party) can track me on my run. This is especially nice when I’m running 22 miles on generally not-runner-friendly roads. I haven’t tested this on the trails yet, but that’ll be next!

There are other things like V02 Max and recovery advisor, but I need to learn more about how to use that information before I get too excited about it.

New nutrition! (NEWtrition?)

There were a few weeks when I finished a trail run completely drained of energy. After a few runs with this experience, I started thinking I need to up my calorie intake while out on long runs. My first successful foray into calorie intake on the run included eating dates. Usually one date every 45 minutes. I also will drink a bottle of Skratch. This is how that breaks down caloriewise:

  • 1 Date: 23 calories
  • 16 oz Skratch: 80 calories
  • 18-mile trail run: ~2,132 calories
  • I would need to eat 92 dates to match that calorie burn. Not gonna happen.

So I’ve started bringing roasted sweet potato wedges on my long runs. It has made a huge difference. I eat two potatoes plus the Skratch, and it has kept me from bonking, and helps me feel like I can keep moving after my run is over, rather than laying down in the back of the car with a towel over my eyes.

Plus I get to eat potatoes while I’m running. Potatoes are delicious.

Reminders

6

In 2008, I started getting my health, fitness, and diet in order. Started means I took the first small step toward being healthier. But, it was a frustrating number of months before I saw any changes at all.

It’s was so disheartening to have to convince myself every day that going to the gym over my lunch break was what I wanted to do, that it was the right thing to do – only to stand on the scale or in front of a mirror in the morning and see no change.

A few years went by before I had to replace a significant amount of clothing with smaller, better fitting clothes. Over five years, I went from XL/XXL tops to L, which was incredible. Now, I generally get medium tops, which is something I never imagined I’d be able to do. My pants were size 42 and 44, and now they’re 34 and 36.

Even today, the benefits of small steps I made eight years ago become very obvious when I’m looking through my closet and think “hey, I haven’t worn this shirt in a while” only to be swamped in material from something far too large for me.

Big life changes can’t really happen overnight, and it’s not fair to yourself to expect that they can.

I still take small steps today. The training programs I undertake are built on small steps.

When Ashley and I decided we would go vegan, we didn’t throw out all our cheese and cow’s milk, buy hemp milk, and plant a garden. We worked our way through the non-vegan food we had in the house and started to find new ways to keep all the fixings on top of our pizzas without cheese. This, by the way, after a lot of small steps through being vegetarian.

Big life changes can’t really happen overnight, and it’s not fair to yourself to expect that they can. Unhealthy habits are constructed over years. When you’re priorities shift to being healthy, get ready for a long journey that will never end. The reward will be the strength of spirit that grows every day with each small step you take.

Rain(running)man

This - only wetter. And colder.
This – only wetter. And colder.

Last Saturday, I got up early to run 22 miles on the road. There was rain in the forecast, and I tried to get up early enough that I would finish my run before it started coming down. Not to be outdone, the rain started before I did. It stopped long enough for me to get on the road and get about 11 miles into the run. Then, along with turning south into a bit of a headwind, I started feeling drops of cold rain on my arms. These cold drops slowly turned into a chilly drizzle, which became a moderate downpour. It wasn’t terribly pleasant. A few miles later, I was soaking wet and pretty cold.

After three hours and 46 minutes, I walked up the steps to my front door. I kicked off my shoes, which were soaked through despite my best efforts. It’s funny that even when I’m running in a steady rain, I will still avoid tromping through puddles. There wasn’t a dry spot on my body, my shoes and socks were soaked through – but I was definitely not going to run through a puddle!

I opened the door into my warm house, and Ashley was standing there with one towel on the floor and one in her hands, ready to help me dry off. There was also a towel in the bathroom, which was toasty warm for when I got done with my shower. Fresh coffee would soon be brewing, and I would be dry and warm – and off my feet.

One of the biggest, most important elements of my burgeoning ultrarunning dreams is having Ashley there – when I get home, when I get done with a race, and when I reach an aid station. I don’t have to ask her to do that – she just does, and it’s amazing.


New Foot Buddies!

Showing their age.
Showing their age.

This long run was a milestone for my Altra Instincts. I crossed over the 300-mile mark with this pair, which means I’ll be pulling out a fresh new pair of shoes very soon! I’ll finish out 2015 with my current shoes, and wait to start using the new shoes until 2016.

Altra has definitely made my running an even more enjoyable experience. (No, I’m not paid for this…I just love Altras.)

I’ve talked before about my wide feet and my search for shoes that accommodated my leg paddles. When I first started buying high quality running shoes, I was getting Brooks Dyad in 4E width! I don’t think my feet are that wide, but apparently Brooks does. Regardless of the wide shoes, my toes would still get cramped. Not after all that many miles, my big toe would start to break through the top, and after a little longer, my little toes would burst out through the sides. I went through five pairs of Dyads, and I don’t think I got 300 miles on any of them. Also, despite the 4E width, my toenails would get bruised and fall off.

I was content with losing toenails and running through the tops and sides of my Dyads – I thought this was just the way things were. But, I was considering moving almost exclusively to trail running, and no one makes trail shoes in wide. No one! I looked everywhere, read loads of (riveting) shoe reviews, and found nothing.

Then I read about Altra and its Footshape Toebox and zero drop platforms. This is where, in the infomercial of my life, the black and white changes to brilliant color, and I stop falling all over the furniture.

Why wouldn’t shoes be shaped like feet? Sure the shoes look a little clowny, but they are so incredibly comfortable. I’ve run many miles over all sorts of terrain, and there is nothing better for me and my paddle feet than Altra. I run almost exclusively in Altras now, and have no plans on changing anytime soon. As a matter of fact, they just updated their Olympus (max cushion trail shoe, and my first Altra purchase) with new soles, more aggressive lugs, and some snazzy new colors. I can’t wait to get my feet in some of those!

In the meantime, though, I’m excited to start burning through another pair of Instincts on January 1. Scroll down to see them!

Merry early Christmas to me!
Merry early Christmas to me!

 

Yep. They're exactly the same. Sweet fresh foam.
Yep. They’re exactly the same. Sweet fresh foam.

Establishing structure.

Last week the fitness center was closed. So I couldn’t get my gym time in. This week I’m headed back, and I’ve built a more clear structure to my workout week to help me focus. This way I won’t be deciding what I’m going to do at the gym on my way to the gym.

Monday: Easy elliptical.

Getting on the elliptical helped me turn a significant corner in my fitness life seven years ago. After a while, though, it was hard to find a place for it in my routine. I haven’t very consistently used the machine for a few years now, but lately I’ve enjoyed getting back on the ol’ pedaler again. Monday is supposed to be an easy active recovery day following long weekend runs and cross training. Elliptical fits the bill quite nicely. I pull up some Netflix on my phone and get to relatively easy work.

Tuesday: In the weight room.

I’ve talked before about how strength training is a very important ingredient to running strong, fast, and injury free. I haven’t been completely ignoring it, but I also haven’t been spending much quality time in the weight room until a couple of weeks ago. It has felt really great to get back into some of those workouts, and Tuesdays will be a fantastic day to do them on the regular, to put it vernacularly.

Wednesday: Faster blaster.

I’m calling it this because it rhymes, and I like a good superfluous rhyme.

I love the 12 Minute Athlete workouts, but I don’t want to do them every day. It’s kind of easy to get burned out on them, since they’re high intensity and focused a lot on legs. Leg days are good though, so I’m keeping these in on Wednesdays. It’s far enough away from the long-run weekend that my legs will have recovered nicely. I’ll also be able to work on those fast twitch muscles, getting my heart and body ready for fast, technical trail races and explosive uphills!

Thursday: Core.

Sit ups, crunches, kettlebell, pull ups, and more! Using one day to focus on building those core muscles will benefit every other thing I do.

Friday: Rest and occasional race.

Ah, the rest day! I love it. I go to the salad bar and get a massive salad, which I eat in a little park. It’s a special day for eating great food and putting my feet up in preparation for Saturday’s long run.

However, the Full Moon Fever races I talked about last week are all on Friday evenings once a month. So, occasionally Friday won’t be a complete rest day. FMF is a fast 5k, and last week’s race taught me I need to be sure to have effective recovery foods on hand for when the race is over. Gotta be ready to head out on a long run first thing in the morning.

Speaking of which…

Full Moon Fever #1

On Friday at the series’ first race this season, Ashley won second place in her age group AND a brand new pair of Altra shoes. I’m jealous of both, but she busted it out there! She pulled out a course PR, so the shoes and award were well earned.

I did pretty well. I did not place in my age group, but I managed 25:03 finish time, so it was right around an 8:00 pace, which I’ll accept. I haven’t been doing any speed work, opting instead for keeping my heart rate at a Maffetone-approved <155, which will help me (slowly!) build a solid endurance base – great for ultrarunning.

It was encouraging to see my 5k pace unchanged from the last race I did (Laufenfest in July, 25:02), even though I’m not doing speed work. Laufenfest was also a road race, while FMF is a trail race.

My age group (30-39) is a competitive one. All the top finishers are crossing the line at least five minutes before me. But I did notice that those paces haven’t changed much from last year’s series, so if I can improve my time, I may be able to place at some point this year. Chopping five minutes off a 5k is not going to be easy, but it’s one of my goals for the year, so I’m keeping my eye on that 20-minute finish.

Excitement.

This week is the first week of training for my second 50k, and I am really excited to get started again! So, for this periodic installment to my blog (which occasionally updates weekly), I thought I would share all the things I’m excited about.

Cuz fun.


bell ringer

Bell Ringer 50k

I have three big races coming up, and instead of just listing all three of them, I thought I’d talk about this one. The Bell Ringer is in Montgomery, Tennessee, which is outside of Nashville, Tennessee – the country music capital of the known universe. There’s also a Trader Joe’s there. And an REI! I just got more excited. “Yeah, I’ll be running a 50k in December…but also going shopping!”


Untitled-1All the races!

I can’t help it. I love these events!

Last year was the first year for a night trail run series called “Full Moon Fever.” We run into the woods after dark for a flat, fast 5k. These events are put on by a relatively new event production company called 40 lb Sledgehammer, and they’re great people. They put on great events, and we love going either to watch or to participate. The FMF series is sponsored by Altra this year!

Of course the Rugged Red is coming up – and I’m so excited to get back on the trails of the Red River Gorge. It’s a beautiful, inspiring part of the country. I know the area a little better now, and I have a little memory of the course, so I think it will be to my advantage.

The Indian-Celina Challenge is another local run. It claims to be one of the hardest marathons in Indiana, and I find that pretty easy to believe. With long hills and beautiful trails, this promises to be a really challenging go for my third marathon distance.


5:00 a.m. wake up call!

“Really?”

Really.

I’ll admit, I’m not always excited at 5:00 a.m. when both alarm clocks start going off. But, when I’m out there running, the cobwebs slowly drift away, and it’s great.

I’ve tried to keep a positive attitude about waking up early, and it seems to be helping. I’ve kept the schedule for two weeks, and the benefits are outstanding. I even convinced Ashley to get up early with me, which is really nice.


Writing!

I’ve recently decided to start creatively writing with a little more structure. Finish the dozen or so stories that I’ve started, and get going on some other projects rolling around in the ol’ brain bank. I haven’t started doing this yet, but I will soon.


Bicycling!

We’ve been trying to get back on our bikes lately because we both miss it. I especially miss riding centuries, but I don’t think I’m in the right cycling condition to just jump back into one of those. We started slowly by riding our fixed-gear bikes around the neighborhood and out to coffee. Then last week, we went on a short (12-mile) ride with the Adventure Club, a local Meetup group that is a little more low-key than the cycling groups we’ve ridden with in the past. We used our mountain bikes for the easy-paced ride on the Greenway path. We’re going to ride with them again on Tuesday, and we’re really looking forward to it! This will be a longer ride out in the Kentucky countryside, so we got our road bikes out and tuned them up for this one. Let’s go ride!

Goals check in.

banner
Right after I ran a marathon last October, I set a few goals for myself. It doesn’t count to set goals if you don’t review and assess, right? Well, I’m going to get all vulnerable and review.

I set three goals:
1. Lose 20 pounds.
2. Run a 20-minute 5k.
3. Go vegan.

I didn’t really say what my deadline was for achieving these goals, but I’ve always planned on having them all checked off by the end of the year.

Here’s how I’m doing:

1. Lose 20 pounds.
When I set this goal, I weighed 207 pounds. I had stopped running and working out regularly following my October marathon and gained some weight. This wasn’t a surprise. There’s a lot of fluctuation of weight anyway, but especially when coming off an intense training period. I hadn’t weighed over 200 since I dropped below it two years ago, so I was really interested in getting rid of that extra luggage.

Have I lost 20 pounds? Not yet! It’s difficult, and probably not safe, to try to lose weight while training for an ultra, so this goal was not a priority. That being said, getting back into consistent training (and running four 100+-mile months) did burn away some fat. As of today, I’ve lost 13 pounds from that top 207 weight. I’m getting close! Currently I plan to have lost at least that initial 20 pounds (weigh 187) by the time I start training again in late July.

Status: Underway

2. Run a 20-minute 5k.
I set my current 5k PR in 2013 at 24:36 (7:55 pace). I need to cut 4:36 off my 5k race to reach my goal. Since I set that PR, I didn’t come near it again until a few weeks ago when I ran the Laufenfest 5k in Haubstadt. I managed to pull out a 25:07 race (8:06 pace). I was pretty pleased with this, since it’s the closest I’ve come to my PR in two years. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my Garmin turned on to track my run, so I don’t know what my splits are. This information would be really helpful to see where I might have slowed down slightly and where I could open up to try to cut some time. Oh well. Next time!

I also have not been training for speed. The ultra training I just went through was not focused on speed, but on distance. To me that makes my 25:07 race really encouraging. If I do some speed training, I hope to be able to nail that 20-minute 5k by the end of the year. It’s an aggressive goal, to be sure. But I’ve never been one to set easily obtainable goals.

Status: Underway

3. Go vegan.
Ah, sweet success! Going vegan has not been nearly as difficult as I thought. Really there were only a few things that we needed to change in order to make this happen. Namely, no eggs, no cheese, different mayo, and a few things like that. It really hasn’t been that difficult. Most days, I’m not hungry all the time. On the flip side, there are days, and there always have been days, when I can’t stop eating. Those are always interesting days when I just grab a tortilla, put whatever I can find in it, throw some Frank’s RedHot sauce on there, and get busy. While not very glamorous, peanut butter, banana, Frank’s, and a tortilla sometimes is just really the best thing in the world.

Status: Super duper did.

New shoes (to run my victory lap)!

IMG_20150329_125347
Guys, I got new shoes! My feet are now proudly paired with a pair of Altra Instincts, the color of which demands to be recognized.

An aesthetic complaint I had about the Dyads that I’ve run in for many miles was that they are drab. Standard black and white…sometimes a splash of subdued blue…blah. Plus, I had to buy super double extra wide in them so my paddlefeet could fit comfortably.

Well the Instincts are just as blue as can be. And they are the shape of paddlefeet.

As I mentioned before, Altras have appealed to be because they are shaped like feet. This renders them somewhat odd to look at, and according to the guy at the store, that turns some people off. They don’t want their shoes to be weirdos.

IMG_20150329_125250

Personally, I don’t care. As soon as I started reading about how wide the toe box was, I had to try a pair. First trail shoes, and now road shoes – I’m all set! My toes have all the room they need.

Another distinction Altra holds to is that their shoes are zero drops – allowing your feet to run more naturally.

Illustrations of this drop business so I don't have to use words.
Illustrations of this drop business so I don’t have to use words.

Dyads have a 10mm drop. The Altra Olympus also has a zero drop, but maybe I didn’t notice it as much because they have a lot more cushion, or because I mainly run trails with those (cuz they be trail shoes), I don’t know. But I was shocked at how much I felt the difference zero drops make in the Instincts. Not a bad difference – just quite different. Runners with a more aggressive heel strike might have problems transitioning to zeros from 10mm, so if you’re one of them (and are considering zero drop shoes), see if you can try out these shoes before buying them. You might want to be careful when transitioning.

Another hint is to keep an eye out for sales (as if I have to even say this). According to the salesperson I talked with, “Altra keeps coming out with new version after new version, but really the main difference is different colors and design.” I got both of my Altras on discount because they aren’t the newest version. I’m not really a shoe elitist, so I likely wouldn’t notice small differences between versions anyway.


Victorious!

Aside from running, I can occasionally be found playing floor hockey with an intramural team at the university where I work. I just finished my second season, and I’m surprised at how much I enjoy it, to be honest. I’ve never been a sports person, and have never really felt the drive to win, win, win. Floor hockey has apparently changed all that. The competition feels really good (and it’s a good way to get some sprint work in!). It’s a really tough workout some nights, since I fit it in with my regular workout. Anyway, our tournament just ended, and my team is the reigning champ! We tied, but our team won in a shootout. Hurray hockey! I busted myself up pretty good. Some highlights were me falling hard on my right knee almost immediately, bowling over several opponents, and diving headfirst into the goal to avoid smashing my team’s keeper (and captain). So I have a busted knee (swollen, tender…but run worthy!), a bruised middle finger, and a sore left arm. At least I have all my teeth.

Maybe we're old. Maybe we're ragtag. But we're definitely champs!
Maybe we’re old. Maybe we’re ragtag. But we’re definitely champs!

Thought for the week: Motivation

This week, I came across a Facebook post in a group I’m in (1000 miles in 2015). The post was a call for motivation, and the range of responses was amusing.
– Think of all the people who are immobile and can’t move even if they wanted to. (Kind of a bummer…)
– It’s not work; you just get to go play outside for a few hours! (There’s unicorns out there!)
– Go for it, you got it, ra ra ra! (Go find your unicorn!)
– Fine, don’t run. But you’ll feel bad later for skipping it, and it’ll be your own fault. (Unicorns aren’t real.)
– Screw motivation. Cultivate discipline. Discipline will get you out the door whether you “feel like it” or not. (Quit being a baby.)

That last one was my favorite. It’s true that I don’t always feel motivated to run. I have to do it a lot, every week, with increasing distances and difficulty. Discipline is the only thing that’ll get you out the door on cold nights after long days. Nothing else is trustworthy. Motivation is fleeting; discipline is dependable. Go find your unicorn, whether you feel like it today or not!

Sweat

use this gymbo copy

I’ve been working harder at the gym, as I promised – and it feels great, as I expected. I’ve even been reunited with an old flame, burpees. 12 Minute Athlete has been my resource for quick, effective workout routines, which are great for lunchtime gymtime! I get about 25 minutes of quality time after factoring in the walk to and from the gym plus a shower (you’re welcome, coworkers). The routines on 12 Minute Athlete are mostly HIIT (high intensity interval training) with some AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) usually within a 12-minute timeframe (surprise!). She always says “Work HARD!” – which is really the only way to make a short work out yield the most productive results.

I even “discovered” a new workout that heats up my quads like nothing I’ve experienced, short of actual downhill running, which I don’t get much of around here. Pike jumps! These will probably be really useful for attacking long and plentiful downhills that I don’t have much experience with.


run copy

As I write this, I have 308 miles behind me for the year, which is crazy. Last year, I ran 76.08 miles total in January, February, and March. Training for an early spring ultramarathon can really rack up the miles quickly – during some very painful months. I don’t like the cold very much, but it seems like we’re on the other side of that for the most part, here in southern Indiana. This past Saturday, I ran 17 miles under what was apparently direct, unfettered sunshine. I thought it was going to be colder than it was, so I started by running with a long-sleeve shirt, which I shed a few miles in. A few hours later, my face and shoulders were slightly burnt, and I was shamefully pleased. It could maybe not be winter soon!


A few weeks ago, we ran the Run of Luck 7k, the second race in a three-race series held locally. I needed to get five extra miles in addition to the 7k (which, according to my Garmin, is 4.37 miles). So I raced my heart out in the 7k, pulling out an 8:36 pace, which I felt pretty good about. I paused briefly after the finish line, had some water and a date, and then headed back out to run the same course, much more slowly, with an added mile on the end. I wouldn’t typically start a 10-mile run with an 8:30 pace or anything near it, but it’s hard to not race hard even though I know I need to run extra miles. I get caught up in the excitement of the starting corral and the energy of the runners around me. A few weeks from now, I’ll be running a 10k with an added 10 miles. I’d like to think I could do the 10 miles before the race and be done, but we’ll see what the day brings.