No training recap from last week (or this week), since there hasn’t been much training to, well, recap. A couple of bike commutes and a few measly runs. I’m going to blame my travel schedule for work, but only because I want something to blame other than myself. Truth be told, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking the last few days about this upcoming half-marathon, as well as previous races that I’ve run.
I’ve mentioned before that I am not a prolific racer, and it should be obvious by the lack of race reports on this blog. The last time I had what I would consider to be a race was the Lost Soul Ultra 100 miler back in September, 2011. Yup, well over a year and a half has gone by. In 2012, I ran two events, both 5k’s. I don’t really consider them races because I didn’t prepare for them – I just ran them with no pressure, in my current state of fitness at the time.
When I reflect back on the races that I actually trained for and raced, I can note a pretty common pattern. My training (and attitude about how well I’m going to finish the race) starts off great, and then as the event draws near, my training tanks along with my expectations. It’s hard for me to go back and revisit all of my thoughts from previous races that were part of this downhill turn, but I have been analyzing the crap out of my attitude the last few weeks. And here’s what I’ve come up with:
I self-sabotage myself because I don’t feel like I’m deserving of what I’m capable of.
Twelve weeks ago, at the rate my training was going I felt like a sub 1hr 20 min half-marathon wasn’t out of the question. It wasn’t guaranteed, but it was potentially within reach. But I don’t feel like a sub 1:20 runner. Most days I don’t feel like much of a runner at all.
As I read through various blogs, I see a common theme amongst nearly all of the “fast” runners out there – they have athletic pasts. High school track, college cross-country, whatever. They were always runners, or at the very least, they were always athletes. Me? Fuck, I hated gym class. I was the fat kid that got picked last for team sports (or, if it was a particularly good day, second to last). I was the kid that picked up my tennis ball and waddled ran home in the middle of a street hockey game when the neighborhood kids would make fun of my weight. Even into adult life, I remember being on vacation and seeing people running in the mornings at the resort, and wondering to myself, ‘who the hell would want to do that when they’re on vacation?’
I started running mid-2008, as a means to improve my poor health. It doesn’t matter that five years later I’ve completed a 100-mile ultramarathon or that I’ve run a sub-18 minute 5k, I still don’t respond confidently when others ask me, “are you a runner?” (ironically I do get mildly offended if people call me a jogger).
When a race is far off in the distance, it’s easy for me to dream about my finish time. As the race draws closer and becomes more reality than dream, I don’t have the confidence in myself to believe that my dream finish times could be a reality. Well, maybe that’s not entirely true. Perhaps it’s more of the feeling that I’m not worthy of the finish time that I want.
Sitting here right now, I honestly believe that I am capable of running a sub-3 hour marathon (with the proper training, not tomorrow, obviously). And I also honestly believe that I could reach that goal this calendar year. But I believe that I can do that because running a marathon is an event that’s in the future. I’m not actively training for a marathon right now. I haven’t registered for one yet, and I don’t even know for certain when I’ll run one again. So it’s easy for me to look at the tempo paces that I can pull off in training, or how quickly my body recovers from a long run. I can plug my paces into the McMillan Running Calculator and have ‘professional’ confirmation that my dream of a sub-3 hour marathon is a reasonably attainable goal.
When I started training for this half-marathon (now a mere 8 days away), I was pulling off tempo runs at just over a 6:00/mile pace. I felt that with the added speed & endurance that I should gain during the training cycle, a finish time close to 1:20 wasn’t going to be out of reach (~6:06/mile average pace).
The closer the race has become, the less confidence I have in myself. I started looking at previous race results, and quickly realized that a 1:20 half-marathon puts me right near the front of all of the finishers at these non-elite events. “I don’t belong near the front. That’s where the real runners are. That’s not me.”
Boom. Just like that I started put less and less emphasis on my training. A few missed tempo runs, avoiding long runs, and less weekly mileage. It wasn’t a conscious decision I made, but in hindsight it has been a pattern that I’ve repeated before essentially every “recent” race.
As my wife and I look to expand our family, this isn’t exactly one of my finer traits that I’d want to pass along to our kids. Hopefully now that I’ve become more aware of my self-sabotaging, I can try to make strides to stop it (without going into an unnecessarily long story, let’s just say that I have a history of sabotaging my dreams in other parts of my life too). I know that overcoming this is going to require an increase in self-confidence and self-esteem, neither of which have been a specialty of mine, ever. I’m just not really sure where to begin.
In honour of National Bike To Work Day, here’s a time-lapsed video of my 10-mile commute home (although I cut it short at the end – no point showing you exactly how to get to my house!)
My average moving speed on this ride was about 22mph, but you can see that I spent a decent amount of time stopped at lights (enough to drop my actual average down to 17mph – which is pretty normal).
Random thoughts in bullet point form. Just cause that’s what I feel like writing today.
- I’m sitting at the airport in Jackson, MS, one of my least favorite airports that I work with. Nothing against Jackson or Mississippi, but since I typically never leave the airports when I travel for work, my entire opinion of the city is based on their airport. And Jackson has basically nothing for me to eat at their airport. French fries and Coke, that’s what’s for dinner. Anyone who thinks that vegan=healthy needs to travel with me.
- I picked up a triathlon magazine before I left the Dallas airport this morning. I’m saving it for the next flight that I have to ride on the flight attendant jumpseat. I’m not allowed to sleep when I’m riding on the jumpseat (go figure?), but I am allowed to read. I only get forced onto the jumpseat if the flight is completely full. Last week I rode there from Fort Lauderdale to Austin, which is a long time to be sitting in that uncomfortable position. Instead of sleeping, I had to hold a conversation with the flight attendant for most of the flight. If you’ve ever met me in person, you know how much I suck at small talk. Perhaps if I have my face in a magazine, I won’t be doing as much small talking.
- Next week is ‘National Bike to Work Week.’ I’ve been thinking of doing a series of posts on my bike commuting – my gear, my route, logistics, etc. Bike to Work Week seems like a logical time to actually get those posts out. I bought a helmet camera a little while ago, so I may post a video of my commute (time-lapsed, of course).
- My legs have been sore since Monday’s 12-mile run. It’s been a long time since I’ve had soreness for this long afterwards. I even busted out my foam roller last night – I don’t think I’ve used it since we moved to Texas.
- Speaking of legs, now that I’ve signed up for my first triathlon my wife has informed me that she prefers that I don’t shave my legs. I can probably live with that – I can wear shorts to work and I’m not sure how comfortable I’d be walking around the office with silky-smooth legs.
I’ve been in a little bit of a funk lately. I have struggled with depression in the past, and I sometimes feel it start creeping back in on me, particularly when I am chronically overtired or when my thyroid meds need an adjustment. I have nothing in particular to be sad about lately, just sort of feeling not myself, and well, sad.
I got home from work a little early today – I flew to St. Louis for a quick meeting, and arrived back in Dallas during that wonderful time period where it’s too late in the afternoon for me to go to the office and be productive, but early enough for me to have some extra free time. So I went for a run. 12 miles.
I pushed myself quite a bit. It hurt. A lot more than it should have hurt given the pace I was running. I got home, and my muscles were quivering, even my arms. I was covered in sweat, save for a random spot on the front of my shirt. I hunched over the kitchen counter, knowing that I needed to start refueling, but struggling to move.
And it felt glorious.
I forgot how good it feels to come back from a training run completely spent. I strangely welcomed the mild sick feeling that ensued, knowing that I gave to the run all that I had to offer. And in return, the run gave me back some happiness.
Three weeks until race day.
This week pretty much just sucked for me in terms of training/mileage. Wish it was an intentional rest week, but it wasn’t.
-4 easy miles @ 7:36/mile
-30 minutes bike trainer
-4 miles @ 6:54/mile
-10 miles bike commute (one-way)
-3.5 easy miles @ 7:25/mile (in Orlando, FL)
-10 miles bike commute (one way)
-nothing but traveling
-4 miles @ 6:28/mile
-10 miles bike commute (one way)
-poor attempt at swimming
-Biked 15 miles (middle 10 @ 20.9mph)
Totals: Run 15.5 miles, Bike 44.5 miles
This was one of those “life got in the way of training” weeks. Tuesday evenings, for the next month+, we have foster care training sessions. So, Tuesdays will be one-way bike commutes for a little while. This past Wednesday/Thursday, I had some more intensive travel for work. In under 36 hours, I flew from Dallas to Houston to Nashville ( for a quick meeting) to Orlando (for the night) to Key West (but got diverted to) Fort Lauderdale to Austin and then back to Dallas. Thursday morning I had every intention of going for a run at the hotel, but when my alarm went off it was raining pretty hard, and the thought of running on the hotel treadmill was more than I could handle. So I reset my alarm and went back to sleep.
Saturday, I hopped in the pool for another attempt at swimming. Swimming might not be the appropriate word for what I do – maybe I should call it “floundering.” It was pretty discouraging, not only because of my poor swimming, but also because when I put on my wetsuit, it instantly became obvious that I have put on a couple of pounds the past two weeks – not surprising given how poorly I’ve been eating. I planned on going for a run after the swim, but I started feeling light-headed after I got out of the pool. I imagine this was probably a side effect from the large amounts of tequila I had Friday night (we went with some friends to tailgate at a Jimmy Buffett concert – had no idea that people start partying 36 hours before the concert even starts! It was an interesting experience!) So instead of running, I just sat on the couch and felt bad about myself. That was fun.
Today I went out for a short bike ride. I can’t remember the last time I actually rode my bike without needing to get somewhere (ie. commuting). There’s a side road nearby that I frequently see cyclists on, but I’ve never actually driven or been on it. Turns out to be a great place to ride, although it does make for a short loop (1.5 miles round-trip). It’s good a decent hill (for this part of Texas), and so it makes for a good workout. Plus, there’s minimal traffic, and two lanes in each direction. I think it might be my new go-to spot for a short workout on the bike.
With only three weeks to go until the half-marathon, I’ve realized that I need to temper my expectations. My long runs haven’t been going so well, and I’m just not sure what kind of time I can pull off. I’ll probably dedicate a separate post to my expectations closer to the race.
In happier news though, I signed up for my first triathlon! It’s a sprint, and so I’ve got until August to learn how to swim 350 metres without having a panic attack in open water. There is a local tri group that does open water swims real close to our house, and I can drop in for $10. So, I’ll definitely be taking advantage of that opportunity, but I will probably want to go to the lake and at least put my face in the water before I attempt an open water swim with strangers. If I have a complete anxiety meltdown, I’d rather do it on my own first, rather than having that happen in front of a group.
I jumped in our pool yesterday after work, for my first attempt at swimming this year. The water is still cold, so I put on my wetsuit (really, I was just looking for an excuse to try it out).
Our pool is shallow (a little over 5′ at its deepest) and is relatively small. It’s designed for leisure, not for training. Not to be discouraged by its size, last year I rigged up this really redneck device that allows me to swim in one place, kind of like an endless pool (translation: I tied a rope to the fence and tie the other end around my waist).
The setup actually works quite well. Unfortunately, I didn’t fare so well. According to my stopwatch, I lasted 48 seconds before needing a break. I wasn’t really tired, I just struggle a lot with breathing. My second attempt yielded slightly better, although still shameful results (a little less than 2 minutes). Let’s just say that I didn’t do enough for me to write it down as any sort of workout.
Needless to say, I’ve got a lot of work to do this year!
Four weeks until race day.
4 miles @ 6:39/mile
20 miles bike commute
9.5 miles @ 7:48/mile (run to work)
50 minutes on the bike trainer
30 minutes on the bike trainer
4 miles @ 6:21/mile
20 miles bike commute
4 miles @ 6:43/mile (progression – 7:24, 6:33, 5:41, 7:14)
20 miles bike commute
3.5 miles @ 8:09/mile (unplanned midnight run)
10 miles bike commute (one way to work/airport)
12 miles @ 7:43/mile
Totals: 37 miles running, 70 miles bike commuting, 80 minutes on the bike trainer
This was somewhat of a rough week for me, particularly this weekend. Saturday we needed to head up to Kansas City for a family event, and I flew up on an earlier flight than my wife in order to take care of a few things in KC. Friday night, however, we pull into the garage and I heard a sizzle from the engine. I popped the hood, and could see a small leak in the radiator. Knowing that my wife needs to drive to the airport in the morning (I was biking in early), I went and picked up a new radiator at the auto parts store. Around midnight I realized I needed a new hose clamp, and a butterfly bandage (one of my tools slipped and put a decent cut on my forehead – many profane words ensued). Since the vehicle was still out of service though, I ended up running (literally) to the store to get what I needed (note: I hate that I actually shopped at that store – you know, the only place in town where you can get a hose clamp and a butterfly bandage at 1 o’clock in the morning – I pride myself on avoiding it like the plague but desperate times called for desperate measures). I could have taken my bike, but I didn’t want to lock it up outside in the middle of the night, nor did I want to be riding on the road after midnight on a Friday night, so I just ran instead. Shortly thereafter the vehicle was fixed, but I only had time to sleep for about 3 hours before I had to get up and ride my bike to the airport. Good thing I’m a professional airplane sleeper!
As a bonus yesterday, my wife and I were actually on the same airplane back in to Dallas! We both fly a decent amount, and we have crossed paths in the air (often heading opposite directions) more times than I care to count. I think that this is only the second time since we moved to Dallas 16 months ago that we’ve actually been on the same plane. It’s not like it was quality time together though, since I I still fell asleep quickly, but Natasha started laughing at me when I twitched so hard that I woke myself up. At least I provided some inflight entertainment for her.
It’s taken me longer than I wanted to finally sit down and write this post, but whatever, you get what you pay for. It’s a longer post, and hopefully everything makes sense. Keep in mind I have no formal education in exercise physiology, so my interpretations of the testing/results may be wrong (although, let’s be honest, that’s highly unlikely – I know everything – just ask my wife).
I had the metabolic test done at a local tri shop. After filling out some basic health information (height, weight, age, etc) and signing my rights to sue should I die on the treadmill, the testing began. The testing was broken up into two parts, and I had to wear a neoprene face mask throughout. The mask was hooked up to some hoses, which fed into the New Leaf metabolic testing system. I specifically sought out a facility that used the New Leaf system, because the system creates a special profile that can be uploaded to a Garmin watch (more on that further down the post).
The first part of the test gathers my resting metabolic rate (RMR), or basically how many calories I burn if I were to literally do nothing but lay in bed all day. I basically just had to sit down for 15 minutes and breathe normally. It was real tough, obviously. You can’t eat or drink (except water) for six hours or so leading up to the test, but since mine was scheduled for 6am that wasn’t an issue. My understanding of the New Leaf system is that it essentially measures the concentrations of oxygen and carbon dioxide that your expelling, compared with the ambient concentrations. From that data, the number of calories that your burning, as well as the source of those calories (glycogen or fat) can be calculated.
The second part of the test is a little more fun, and a lot more work. I was asked what my 10k race pace was, which I had to guess since I haven’t raced a 10k for years. But since I knew my recent 5 mile pace, we just bumped that a little to get my 10k pace. After a short warm-up, the testing began at a 10:00/mile pace. 60 seconds later it was sped up to 9:00/mile. Then 8, then 7, then 6. After 60 seconds at 6:00/mile, they added incline. First 2% for 60 seconds, then 4%, then 6%, and I finally crapped out after 60 seconds at 8%. Here’s a video from the test (I sped it up, otherwise it would have been incredibly boring):
On the treadmill, you run a little bit past the point when the machine detects that you are no longer burning any fat, and that all of the calories you’re burning are coming from glycogen. That point is essentially your anaerobic threshold.
My daily calorie requirement, without any exercise, is 2704 calories. This factors in very minimal activity during the day – essentially walking to/from the bathroom, sitting all day long, etc. In order to just keep my organs running, and not have my body start breaking down muscle for fuel, I need to consume at least 2087 calories. So if I wanted to lose fat, eating 1500 calories/day would be unproductive in the long run, since my body would need to eat away at my muscle.
As for running (obviously the most important!), here are a couple of graphs I put together (nerd alert!) to illustrate some of the data that I was given.
I love that the New Leaf system gives me the fat calories burned along with the total calories burned. This will be most helpful during endurance events (like ultramarathons) so that I know how many calories I actually need to replace to avoid bonking. I have a limited supply of glycogen stored in my body, but an essentially unlimited storage of fat (in terms of completing an event, anyway). I will need to take in the glycogen calories that I burn, but I don’t need to replace the fat calories during the event. From the graph above, you can see that my body is a fat burning machine at around 145bpm. Depending on temperature and how I’m feeling, that’s been right around an 8:00/mile pace for me lately.
There’s some other data that I was able to get from the results, including my heart rate zones and my anaerobic threshold. I’ll write more about my anaerobic threshold in another post. Maybe. For now, though, I want to get to the fun part of the results – seeing how many calories I actually burn while running.
The New Leaf system creates a profile that, when loaded onto a Garmin device, will provide a measure of calories burned that is about as close to accurate as you can get. I’ve always thought that my Garmin Forerunner 410 overestimated the number of calories I was burning. I wear the heart rate monitor religiously, which is what the 410 uses to determine calories burned (based on some formula involving your age, weight, and heart rate).
I decided to do a little experiment to see how far off it really was. I loaded the New Leaf profile onto my old Garmin Forerunner 305, and didn’t change anything on my 410. I then sync’d both devices to the same heart rate monitor, and logged a couple of activities to see the difference. I felt mildly like a d-bag running around wearing 2 Garmins, but something’s are worth the humiliation in the name of science.
The final results:
On any given day, between my bike commuting and lunch break runs, I’m burning a grand total somewhere between 3600 and 3900 calories. Bring on the (vegan) bacon!
I appreciate the comments on what I guess could be called my adoption announcement. I will likely post a few random updates as we go through the process, but those posts will be the exception and not the norm.
If you would like to read more about it though, head on over to my wife’s blog, particularly this post where she shares some initial thoughts on the adoption. She is a far more eloquent writer than I ever will be, and is much better at putting her thoughts down on paper (or on blog). She also posts more about our life together on her blog (there’s more to me than running and bike-commuting, although not that much!)
No pictures this post. Sorry!
Saturday night, I had a company dinner to attend. While I work for a large company, the team I’m a part of is small. As in, there’s five of us including my boss. This dinner was with a bigger group though, as it involved spouses and several people higher up on the totem pole than my boss. I’m not the best small-talker in the world, and I was somewhat nervous when I found myself in discussion with one of the Executive Vice Presidents (number 2 in the company). Somehow the topic of running came up (I can’t remember who brought it up, but it wasn’t me!), and it came out that I had run a hundred miler. I’m quite sure that this VP won’t remember my name a week from now (and I’m ok with that!), but I’m confident that when we cross paths again he’ll remember that I’m the crazy guy that thinks its fun to run stupid distances.
Although I had sworn off ultras after my hypothermia episode earlier this year, I forgot how much I like being “that insane guy.” And so I started looking into some ultras that I could fit into my schedule this fall. Even before this ultra-reincarnation, I had begun to create a bucket list, so-to-speak, of things I want to do this year. Not because I plan on dieing (sp?) before the end of the year, but because my wife and I are anticipating a pretty major life change.
For years, we’ve talked about expanding our family, but the timing never felt right. Everything has started to align though, and we are now in the beginning stages of adoption. But, we are doing things a little untraditionally. First, we’ve decided to adopt through the foster care system. Second, we’ve also decided to adopt an older sibling group. So, we’re essentially going to be going from 3 dogs in the house, to being parents of multiple kids (possibly as old as teenagers).
Let me just give you the answers to the most common questions that we’ve already received:
1. Yes, we are crazy.
2. Yes, we know that it will be hard.
3. No, we are not dealing with infertility issues.
I fully realize that I have no experience in parenting. I also fully realize that kids don’t end up in the foster care system because they’ve had an easy life. I know that I will make a sh*tload of mistakes. Thankfully though, these kids don’t need a perfect parent. They need someone who isn’t going to give up on them. Someone who isn’t going to write them off like most of the world has. I can do that.
Adoption is something that we’ve discussed since before we were married (which was 11 years ago). It has been something that both my wife and I have felt strongly about. Evidently, I’m learning that we are in the minority in that adoption is our first choice for kids. It’s never been our backup plan in case of fertility issues. Even our initial adoption application asked “what fertility treatments have you sought?” and not “have you struggled with infertility?” Now that we’ve started the adoption process, I scheduled my vasectomy for after my half-marathon (tmi?) It’s important to us that we can look at our kids and tell them that they were our first choice. We chose them. For kids that have already faced a life of rejection, we both feel like this is an important message for us to send them. You are not a substitute for something else that we wanted but couldn’t have. It is you that we want.
(I don’t care that people adopt because they can’t have kids of their own - I have a family member that has adopted multiple children for that reason. I’m just trying to say that for my wife and I, it was never important that our family be born from our DNA).
I know that life doesn’t end with kids, but I also know that my life will not be the same. I already struggle to find the time for quality training, and I’m not sure how I’ll fit in in with kids around. And that’s why I’ve been spending so much time lately thinking about goals I want to accomplish in the near term. Starting the adoption process has been the impetus for me to work towards my first triathlon later this year. It’s gotten me thinking about trying for a sub-3hr marathon. After this past weekend, it’s also made me think about another hundred miler. Not because I can’t do those things after we have kids, but just because it will be harderto make the time to train adequately (especially at first).
I’m not sure how much I’ll actually talk about the adoption process on this blog, as it doesn’t really jive with the whole “bike-commuting and running” theme. I’ll obviously post about it again once we have the new members of our family, but in between now and then the mentions of it will likely be sparse. Unless I get royally pissed off at people’s comments and need to vent.
Until then, I’m going to focus on knocking out a triathlon. And cleaning up my potty-mouth. Sh*t, that’s going to be hard for me.