Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Art of Losing

Many people say that winning isn’t everything, and some say that winning is the only thing. I definitely fall in the former camp and honestly could care less about winning. You may infer that by saying this that I am not very good at sports and therefore rarely win, hence the attitude. Well if we are talking about running, then perhaps you are right, because I will never win a race, hell, I may not ever even finish tops in my age group, and that’s OK with me.  But, I am not talking about running tonight; I am talking about PONY Mustang baseball (9-10 year olds).

So my son was asked to play on the All-Star “B” team following the regular baseball season. Don’t worry I was shocked too. To think that they would have an “A” team and a “B” team for 9-10 year olds is insane. Anyway, after some tough negotiations at home we decided that he would give it a try. In a word, it’s been terrible. A great bunch of kids no doubt, but they cannot buy a win (trust me, we parents have considered it)! They are terrible. First group of All-Stars that I’ve seen that can’t throw and catch.  Yes I realize that they are only 9-10 years old, but come on! Well tonight we had our first game in our third tournament. Coming out of the first two tournaments we were 0-5 with a guaranteed 4 game outing ahead of us. We were slated to play an “A” team from a surrounding city (apparently everybody has 2 All-Star teams; one city has 3 I think!) so the boys were nervous about playing tonight, but as we told them, “just relax and have fun,” and “who cares if you win or lose,” and “try your best.” Well it didn’t take long for things to get out of hand. At the end of 4 innings, the game was called with a score of 19-5 – them.
Obviously I left frustrated, but not because we lost. I was frustrated because it seems that in a span of nearly two months of practice and 6 games, we have not improved at all. The same kids that couldn’t throw and catch reliably are still playing positions where it’s pretty important that they be able to throw and catch reliably. We still aren’t hitting, spending most at bats with the boys praying for walks, but mostly looking at strike 3. So, who’s to blame? After all, that’s the world we live in right? This has to be someone’s fault so that we can all feel better about our kids right? Well, I’m not going there; it’s not my style. Instead, I’ll leave you with this. One of the reasons that I love running more than company softball leagues or over 30 basketball leagues is that the outcome is totally up to me. If I suck, then I can only blame myself. If I am slow, then perhaps I should have done more speedwork. If I don’t have endurance, then maybe I should have done more long runs. See, no matter what happens, it’s on me, and that’s just the way I like it.

Politics and Running

I’m not into politics. I do follow politics, but it’s not really my thing. Honestly, I have trouble making sense of the right and the left, liberal and conservative.  Politics are very frustrating to me, because I just cannot understand why all of our elected officials can’t get anything done. I think instead of them being thinky-doers, they must all be thinky-thinkers! In most cases, these politicians are highly accomplished in their pre-political lives and obviously are able to gin up enough support to get voted into office, but then something magical happens – they stop working for the people that voted them into office.  Perhaps I should rephrase that, maybe they are only working for their constituency, but unfortunately at the expense of the rest of the American public. I doubt this is true though, although perhaps I could understand our current predicament better if that were the case.  Anyway, earlier in the year, the government almost shut down (which would have meant no pay for me and many others, not to mention other terrible circumstances)! Now, our country is potentially facing dire consequences (if you believe the news) because we cannot get the debt ceiling raised. Unbelievable! What do these guys really do for a living? Seriously, this is insane. What ever happened to doing the right thing regardless of the consequences?

Politics really makes me love the running community, where anything can get done in a timely manner and an efficient one as well, because people still care enough to help one another out. I’m a member of the dailymile, and while still very new to this online community, I am impressed daily with the things I see on the site. Injured and need advice? Just ask. Want to know the best GPS watch on the market? Ask. Wondering how you should train to meet your goals? Ask. Need motivation? It’s all there for you right on the site, accessible to everyone, and free to boot! In fact, I posted a thread on the dailymile asking for motivating running books as well as greatest fitness accomplishments (also on the blog here) and I’ve been both motivated and inspired by the responses.

Perhaps more of our politicians should take to running and let the community of runners teach them a few lessons on working together for a common cause.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

It's hard letting go

Today I attempted to clean the office. I have promised my wife for more than a month (ok, probably several months) that I would clean the office of my clutter during summer break. Well summer break is almost over, so today it was time to make good on my promise.  

Real quick though, let me explain the situation with the office. Initially, my wife suggested that we set up an office upstairs with my books, computer, dry erase board, etc.. so that I would have a dedicated place to set up shop. Oh yeah, I have been presented with an excellent opportunity to go to grad school, hence the need for an office.  So anyway, I rarely use the office for what it was intended, instead using it as a temporary storage point for the mounds of readings I print off daily in order to meet class requirements.  As you can imagine, a few printouts here and there quickly leads to stacks of printouts leaving very little floor space over the course of the quarter. Did I mention that the office is a 6’x5’ space? It’s not all closet though, as it does have a window!
Back to the title of this post, why is it so hard to let go of printed out documents that I have already read (some multiple times) and that I have saved digitally? I’m sure the answer has something to do with a desire to “have things,” buts it’s frustrating to my wife to see the clutter, and to me to have to go through the clutter to separate the wheat from the chaff.  Regardless, I made some progress as I am one large trash bag closer to a clean office and a restored balance in the household. Next quarter will be different, you heard it here first.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Toxic Leaders vs Incentives to Excel

I read a pretty good article from the Washington Post courtesy of Small Wars Journal (that had an even better discussion beginning in the comments section) today that really made me think.  The gist of the article was about the presence of toxic leaders - "commanders who put their own needs first, micro-managed subordinates, behaved in a mean-spirited manner or displayed poor decision making" - in the military and the fact that the presence of leaders like this may continue to create even larger problems for the military.  While the presence of toxic leaders is unquestionably a bad thing, it got me to thinking about potential causes and other issues. One of these issues that concerns me is that there is little to no incentive to excel in the military, meaning that instead of keeping our “best and brightest,” we sometimes retain those who just won’t leave at the expense of those “best and brightest” we would like to keep.

This brings up another sore point with me: our military is not a meritocracy.  It is an “averagetocracy” that values those willing to “shut up and color,” over those who demand doing the right thing.  For example, if I perform poorly, I can (should) expect to be punished for my lack of performance (though admittedly in many cases this does not happen). On the other hand, the reward for good hard work is often more hard work with fewer resources to get it done. This is not necessarily the best tactic for keeping your “best and brightest” around.  While most of these “long-ball hitters” will continue to work above and beyond all expectations, it is due more to their DNA than the rewards they are getting for their work. In fact, many things have been written recently echoing Tim Kane’s Atlantic Magazine article where he states,

 “Why is the military so bad at retaining these people? It’s convenient to believe that top officers simply have more- lucrative opportunities in the private sector, and that their departures are inevitable. But the reason overwhelmingly cited by veterans and active-duty officers alike is that the military personnel system—every aspect of it—is nearly blind to merit. Performance evaluations emphasize a zero-defect mentality, meaning that risk-avoidance trickles down the chain of command. Promotions can be anticipated almost to the day— regardless of an officer’s competence—so that there is essentially no difference in rank among officers the same age, even after 15 years of service. Job assignments are managed by a faceless, centralized bureaucracy that keeps everyone guessing where they might be shipped next.”
In short, why should we excel when there is so clearly no incentive to do so? There is no accelerated promotion, no increased pay or benefits, no bonus for performance, and no better assignment for the “long-ball hitter.” Additionally, this is not just a problem affecting our officers; these issues are rampant among our enlisted service members as well.  It sucks to think that no matter how hard you work, the likelihood that you will be recognized for your accomplishments is pretty low (there is a post yet to be written about the broken military awards system as well). So in essence, the reward for working your butt off day in and day out (besides personal satisfaction) is the knowledge that you will get promoted right on time with your less performing peers once you have reached time-in-service/time-in-grade requirements. This is disheartening to say the least, and doesn’t reflect many incentives to perform.

We have the best military in the world, but it is not without its issues (just like every other organization).  If we hope to maintain our edge, we must figure out ways to get rid of toxic leaders and incentivize our “best and brightest” to stick around!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Weekly Training Update: Longest Run Ever!

Today I achieved a new distance PR, a 22 mile run! I was pretty  pumped to say the least, as now I feel like I am definitely ready to run a “good” first marathon. Additionally, while I am sure I will eat these words later, I still haven’t found the “wall!” This is probably due in large part to having a good training partner as well as a good mileage base.   I do have some reservations that I am training too hard though, but generally I feel pretty good. For example, my last several long runs have been at about a 9:30 pace which is conversational and feels very comfortable, but this would mean that race pace should be 8:00-8:30 and while I would love to run at that pace, I’m not sure it’s realistic and I don’t want to set myself up to “blow up” during the marathon. My fastest half-marathon was a 1:46, or about 8:16 per mile, so I know I can hold the pace for 13.1, but I’m just really nervous about going out too hard. I plan to log at least one more 20+ miler (24) before I taper in a few weeks, and may actually do one more as well so perhaps I will let those continue to inform me. After all, if I knock out the 24 at the same pace as the others with the same effort, then conceivably I should be able to push and at least do 9:00 per for the race.

Here are a couple of other notes about today’s run that are worth mentioning. The CEP compression socks (full review here) I bought a few weeks ago definitely make a difference. I have now worn them on runs of 6, 10, and 22 miles and they have kept my calves feeling far more refreshed than ever before.  Also, as far as nutrition goes, I ate two bowls of maple & brown sugar instant oatmeal and had a glass of coffee pre-run.  During the run, I consumed 48 oz of Gatorade, sipping intermittently, and 3 powerbar gels at miles 6, 12, and 18. Overall, the run felt great and I was amazed that I can pretty easily extend my long runs 2 miles a week.
So, to wrap up the week (data from my DailyMile account):

Mon – Rest / Weights
Tue – 5 miles @ 9:30 / Weights
Wed – 10 miles @ 8:30 / Weights
Thu – 5 miles @ 9:00 / Weights
Fri – 10 miles @ 8:01
Sat – Rest
Sun – 22 miles @ 9:25

Total miles for the week – 52

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Motivated by words

I like to read. Mainly, I enjoy non-fiction books, and of late, I have read several running related books, including all three of Dean Karnazes’ books (Ultramarathon Man, 50/50, and Run!), Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and The Running Life by Donald Buraglio and Michael Dove.  To say that these books motivated me would be an understatement.  These books have helped to keep my “running fire” kindled throughout my marathon training and were also partly to blame (I mean thank!) for me registering to run the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 miler in December, my first foray into ultra- running.  After all, if Dean can run across America in 74 days, then I can definitely run one 50 miler!

It always amazes me that reading about other people’s struggles and triumphs can have such a motivating force on my decision to undertake certain ventures or events.  Here are some links to some of my favorites:

The Running Life: Wisdom and Observations from a Lifetime of Running
Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen (Vintage)
Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner
Run!: 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss

What about you? What is the best running book you have read?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Ten for ten

Today I ran ten miles. Coincidentally, today is also my twins’ 10th birthday.  As I ran today, I thought about the last ten years and how quickly they had gone by; so many wonderful memories of so many great times. I have been very fortunate the last several years to have been home for them after I was away for much of the first half of their lives with work.  Seeing those two grow and mature has been nothing short of amazing. To say we are blessed would be an understatement, for they truly are great kids. Thinking back, some highlights: The wrestling matches with the giant stuffed cow when they were 1, playing in the pool on the patio when they were 2, hunting Easter eggs in PA when they were 3, flying to Hawaii when they were 4, watching them on the beach when they were 5, seeing them off to school at 6, watching them pick their rooms in our first new house when they were 7, having them promote me when they were 8 and going to Disney, and driving cross country with them when they were 9.  It’s been a great time, but all too short. As they continue to grow and become more independent all we can do is guide them and help them to make the right decisions. If the first ten years are any indication, the next ten will be just as fruitful.

Happy Birthday Goobers!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

In pain, in private

I crushed the hill today. Others may run it faster, but today was my day, and I crushed it. I also ran into my good friend the running jackalope today as I was nearing the end of my run. He is my normal running partner for long runs and also generally just a good dude (although he is running faster than me lately and it’s kinda frustrating, but in a motivating way!).  I hadn’t seen him in about a week cause he’s been a little under the weather. Anyway….so we met at the stop light about ½ a mile from our neighborhood and caught up as we waited to cross the road.  There are basically two hills to get home; one short and steep and the other long and sustained.  He likes the steep short one, while I prefer the longer climb. Even though I wanted to continue running with him and BS for a few, I decided to bid him farewell and finish alone.

See, I love competition. I won’t normally admit that freely, as I would rather not compete so that I don’t lose, but I really do love to compete. Ask those who know me and they will tell you that I don’t compete though unless I am pretty sure I can win. It’s a character flaw, sorry. Well the jackalope and I usually have friendly competitions up the short, steep hill at the end of our long runs. So far, he has beaten me every time; handily.  Today, I chose not to compete as I wanted to enjoy my pain in private.  The hill and I had a date and I was not gonna be the one that didn’t show. I had the hill my way, in pain, and the hill and I had our moment, in private.  It was nice.  After all, I’ll have another chance to try and beat the jackalope Sunday at the conclusion of our 22 miler.  Who knows, maybe this will be my week!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


What are you most proud of in regards to fitness? Maybe it’s a personal record (PR) of some sort related to running, or maybe it’s simply completing a race or a workout that you were not sure you could finish.  Perhaps it’s a workout streak like 30 days of running in a row or perhaps it’s losing 5, 15, or 50 pounds. Regardless, accomplishments are important and what keep many of us going. Today, I got an e-mail from my mentor and good friend regarding his latest accomplishment. Now mind you this is a guy who has done a ton of things from marathons, to triathlons to cage fights. Yes, I said cage fights. See, the thing is, when he sets his mind to something, no matter what it is, it’s gonna happen. Count on it. Bet on it. It’s as good as a guarantee.  Well anyway, back to his e-mail.  Over the last 10 months / 174 training sessions / 220 hours (but who’s counting right?) he has accomplished something really special. He received his blue belt in real Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  Not that local belt factories aren’t teaching real BJJ, but I mean, this is the real deal.  Anyway, the time and dedication that it took to achieve this are nothing short of spectacular. Trust me, I used to be his punching dummy, and it took a lot just to show up every day, and I know he took it way easy on me.

Anyway, I’m curious to know about your fitness accomplishments? What are you most proud of? For me, there are many things. First off, I have not always been fitness minded even though my company would prefer otherwise. In fact, I was a “6 mile a year” guy for a long time (meaning I only ran the bare minimum required). I am not proud of this, but it’s who I was. I was skinny, but I was not fit, and I really didn’t care. Last January, a buddy (and co-worker) of mine decided that he was gonna run a half marathon cause that was the most extreme thing he could think of at the time. Several of us signed on to run with him, including my mentor and friend mentioned above, and we all completed the race and had a great time. My wife ran too and it was the first half-marathon for the both of us.  Completing that race was a great sense of accomplishment and pride. Since then we have gone on and done several more races and are both currently training for marathons later this year.
So, now it’s time for me to choose. Candidates are:

a)      My first half-marathon
      b)      The half-ironman I did last summer
      c)       My half-marathon PR of 1:46
I have to go with “b.” To date, the half-ironman was the most intense event I have ever completed. 8 hours 20 minutes of swimming (1.2 miles), biking (56 miles), and running (13.1 miles).  Not only did I finish, but I got to do it with some of the best guys I have ever known.  So there you have it, my biggest fitness accomplishment to date.  I hope to update this post in December when I complete the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 miler!!!!

Now I want to hear from you.  You are out there right? What’s your biggest fitness accomplishment?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I'm breaking up with her...

Sure, she’s cute, she’s popular and she comes from money, but I’m done. I’ve loved her and I’ve lusted after her.  We’ve seen a lot over the 983 miles we’ve suffered through together.  There’s been good times and bad; fast times and slow, but today she cheated me for the last time. I’ve threatened to leave her many times before, but this time it’s for real. Besides, I’ve found someone new. She’s not as sleek or light – ok, she’s downright big and bulky, but she’s smart. Real smart. She’s also been pretty darn faithful so far. So good riddance Nike+ sportband and hello Garmin Forerunner 305!

So what led to all of this? Well today, I ran on the treadmill, so I naturally grabbed my old Nike+ sportband and strapped her on for a quick run. The Nike+ works with a sensor on my shoe that has an embedded accelerometer that measures your speed by the frequency/length of your stride (admittedly, this is my non-technical definition).  What this means is that as long as you run at the same speed with the same gait, the Nike+ can be tuned to be pretty darn accurate.  The problem comes when you speed up or slow down or change your gait (the length of your stride). On runs like this, she gets downright unreliable. Today she cheated me by nearly .3 miles and 2:24 seconds!!! That is huge! Basically, I ran 5 miles in 45:15, or 9:03 per mile, but she said I ran it in 47:39 or 9:30 per mile.  While I try not to take my times too seriously, I do want to “run fast.”
Anyway, I am done being cheated. I will now use my Garmin exclusively and if I run indoors (the Garmin does not work indoors because it tracks by GPS), I will just manually enter my input into the DailyMile.  The Nike+ was a lot of fun for a long time, but over the last 18 months, she has cheated me out of my fastest mile (several times) as well as my fastest 5K and 10K times (several times). Even though I know the times I ran, it did not get recorded in my training log as such due to the Nike+ cheating me. Additionally, I cannot imagine how many extra (or possibly fewer) miles I have run due to the inaccuracy of the sensor.

Please don’t get me wrong, the Nike+ system is a good piece of gear. It really is, it just has limitations. Until I found my Garmin on Amazon for $128, I was willing to put up with the Nike+’s inefficiencies.  After all, new she only cost me $60. It was a good run (many of them) while it lasted. Goodbye old girl.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Cognition Traps

This morning when I woke up, I had a breaking news alert from CNN saying that actor Ryan Dunn of MTV’s 'Jackass' had been killed in a car accident. Immediately I assumed that alcohol, or drugs (or both) as well as some form of “jackassery” was most likely to blame. What a shame I thought. Then I realized that I had just fallen into a cognition trap, letting preconceived thoughts, or biases, determine my judgments without fully evaluating the situation.  Cognition traps have been discussed by many, including legendary CIA analyst Richards Heuer in his book The Psychology of Intelligence Analysis and Naval Postgraduate School professor Zachary Shore in his book Blunder (as well as many more).  I also realized that I knew nothing about Ryan and it was pretty insensitive of me to immediately cast judgment on him.

I don’t know Ryan Dunn. I don’t know anything about him except for his public persona from shows such as ‘Jackass.’  He is the same age as me.  At 34, he may be more like me than different from me; he could be a devoted father, responsible provider, loving son, etc…  So downstairs I went to make some coffee and breakfast and check the latest headlines.  This morning, even though the headline was trending, actual news on the event was sparse, with most citing that he had been in a wreck in his Porsche, he had gone through a guardrail and into some trees, and that his car had been engulfed in flames. Maybe, well hopefully, my initial impression was wrong and that he had been the victim of a freak accident. Then this picture surfaced.  Apparently, he had tweeted it just hours before his fateful crash.  Sure looks like my initial impressions may have been correct (of note, the initial police report did not mention alcohol as a potential cause, but did cite speed). Additionally, statements from those at the bar he was at, including the manager’s, also surfaced confirming that he had in fact been drinking, but was definitely not too drunk to drive. One drink is “too drunk to drive,” but far be it from me to preach as I have been guilty more times than a few.  Unfortunately for Ryan and his family and friends, he was not lucky this time and he never made it home.
Anyway, this post was not supposed to revolve around drinking and driving, though it never hurts to bring the topic up in light of all of those who are needlessly killed by drunken driving (either as drivers or innocent victims).  Oh yeah, Ryan had a passenger with him who was also killed. So, back to the title of the post – cognition traps. Here was a case where a bias took over and made a snap judgment. Right or wrong, cognition traps happen all of the time. It’s important to recognize this and ensure that your own assessments take this into account. After all, no one wants to look like a jackass…

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Thank You Notes

Thank You…Jimmy Fallon for being the funniest dude on TV. For those of you who have not had the pleasure (or the stamina to stay up until 12:35am) you truly are missing out.  Here is the latest version of Thank You Notes, a weekly segment on the show and also the subject of a book that I got for Father’s Day.  Anyway, today’s run reminded me of one of his Thank You Notes in the aforementioned book:
“Thank you…slow walking family walking in front of me on the sidewalk. No, please, take your time. And definitely spread out, too, so you create a barricade of idiots. I am so thankful that you forced me to walk into the street and risk getting hit by a car in order to pass you so I could resume walking at a normal pace.”
So as you can probably guess, I went running today and as usual, found myself in this particular Thank You Note situation.  First, let me say that I am very fortunate to be living in Monterey, CA. It is absolutely beautiful here and the weather is normally perfect for outdoor activities. This means that the area is very hospitable for tourists and the recreation trail is a big draw for people to walk along or rent surrey bikes and pedal their way slowly along.  Secondly, I am not an elitist a’hole when it comes to running. In fact, I am far from it. I am always quick to smile, say hello, or excuse myself when passing someone on the recreation trail. The times when I use the recreation trail to meander about, I do it on the far right and am very cognizant of the runners and cyclists who frequent the trail to make sure that we stay out of their way, for their safety and ours.
My question is, why don’t other people adhere to rules of common decency?

I try to not take myself so seriously that I cannot slow down, or even stop if necessary to yield the right of way to other pedestrians, but many people do not. What makes it worse is that these recreation trail hoggers give me the “stink eye” as if I am the one exhibiting the egregious behavior! Really? Can’t we all just get along?  All I’m asking is that if you use the trail, be courteous to others. After all, I’m a firm believer that a positive attitude goes a long way!

For more Jimmy Fallon, check out his Neil Young impressions, his slow jam of the news with Brian Williams, and the best ever cover of Rebecca Black's hit song 'Friday' with Stephen Colbert.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Fear & Nerves

We are all afraid of something. No matter what we may tell ourselves or others, fear is a natural part of life. This is a conversation, or a variation of several conversations, my wife and I have been having with our son lately. He’s afraid. Specifically, he’s afraid of batting during his baseball games. Perhaps it just nervousness, but it has definitely worked itself into a fervor as of late.

To be honest, he’s pretty good at baseball; much better in fact than I thought he would be, and far better than I ever was (am). He is soon to be 10 and this is his 4th season playing.  He’s a natural infielder, but has played at nearly every position, including pitcher and catcher. Did I mention he’s got a knack for baseball?
Anyway, he hasn’t hit the ball in at least the last 10 games, and has pretty much stopped even swinging the bat at this point, as he stands in the box hoping for a walk. Sometimes he gets his wish, but most of the time he watches strike 3 sail past as he realizes that his slump just got one at-bat longer. It’s not a big deal. Well, it shouldn’t be, but it is. His hitting, or lack thereof, has become a common topic at home as we try to encourage him to have fun and enjoy the game and not let the pressure get to him. After all, he’s only 9. The conversations go from bad to worse though every time we broach the subject, with all of us feeling worse off for having even mentioned his inability to hit the ball after the fact. It’s not fun. In fact, it’s frustrating because we want to see him succeed and overcome his fear & nervousness. He gets himself so worked up about it that when he comes up to bat he has already assured himself of no hit. The fear has won. Or has it?
As I was watching from the stands today, wanting a hit for him so badly, I began to get frustrated that he would not face his fear & nerves and just swing the bat. I could see how nervous and frustrated he was himself and that only fueled my fervor, as I wanted to yell out to him to just “swing the damn bat!” Actually, I think I may have actually said that (a few times) and not just thought it. Regardless, he struck out; three times, looking.

As I lamented to my wife about his inability to face his fear & nerves, she said something profound (she usually does).  “Honey, he has already faced his fear & nerves by stepping up to bat.” It hit me. She was right. By stepping up to the plate he was facing his fears. He was facing the nervousness and telling it to “pound sand” as he stood in and waited for the pitch. Regardless of whether he chose to swing or not, he had already won. He had faced his fear and his nerves because he stepped up.
How many times in my life have I failed to step up? Unfortunately, it’s been more than a few times. In fact, I have failed to step up and face my fear & nerves many times and have regretted it each and every time. But in a cruel paradox, here I am as a Father trying to convince my son to be better than his Dad and overcome his fears, to answer his nerves, and to step up. To think, all along he had been. As I thought about how hard it was for him each time to step up to the plate, I became prouder and prouder of him and the fact that he hadn’t hit the ball in months didn’t matter. At 9 years old, he is already well on his way to becoming a better man than me.  In the end, isn't that all we really want anyway?

Happy Father’s Day!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Meeting new people

The hill beat me.  I knew it would.  In fact, I thought it might at mile 7.  By mile 10 I was smoked, and by mile 11 defeat was inevitable. I even walked for about 15 seconds on the hill. I’m not proud of this, but I am OK with it. I will bounce back. I will win.

All in all, today’s run was great; 12 miles of beautiful scenery at a perfect temperature of 53 degrees. Additionally, it’s always nice to run with someone, and that is the main point of today’s post.  While most of my Friday long runs are done with my buddy, today we picked up a third (and actually lost my buddy around mile 9, but that’s a post for another time). I do not know his name, or his age, though he is a few years older than I am. I know that he is a salesman and travels to this area semi-regularly and enjoys running here just as much as I do. He ran us down at about mile 5 of our run and while he did not ask to join us, it just sort of happened that way. 
See, on long runs our “pace guide” is whether or not we can hold a conversation. If we can, then we are running at the right speed, if we cannot, then we are going too fast. Today was just right. As we run, we cover nearly every subject imaginable: running, work, kids, spouses, new gear, politics, etc…you name it. Additionally, we are both pretty animated when we talk and that sometimes draws attention or comments.  Today, it drew a new friend.  As we hit the turnaround, he apologized for interrupting and assured us that he was not eavesdropping, but he was curious if we were military. We told him that we were, and that’s where the beauty of running comes in. As the three of us ran, he told us of his son, a high-school standout, a West Point standout, and an Army standout.  More than that though, as you can imagine, he was a standout to his parents.  In fact, after graduating from West Point he became a Ranger and deployed to Iraq.  Unfortunately, he was killed in action. As he questioned why his son had to push so hard and would want to be a Ranger, we empathized with him and told him that a Ranger is what any good Soldier wants to be.
Anyway, this isn’t a war blog and the point has nothing to do with the Army, or his son really. The point is that running is social.  The point is that shared pain brings shared experience.  The point is that even when you are running a PR, it’s probably worth the few seconds or the few minutes to stop and enjoy the scenery or say “hi” to an old friend or a new one. The point is that running is thinking and running is doing.  In just a few short miles shared with a complete stranger or an old friend, sanity is restored and you may just have a new outlook on things.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Introduction: So what is a ThinkyDoer?

A ThinkyDoer is someone that is not only inquisitive, but also has a bias for action. For example, some people are inquistive but do little more than think of things without ever doing anything about it.  On the other hand, there are people who are doers, those that do things without thinking.  It stands to reason then that a ThinkyDoer is someone who does both.  I am a ThinkyDoer.  I am proud to admit this, though it seems that being a ThinkyDoer is not always desirable, strange as that may sound, but more on that later. Anyway, as someone who is inquisitive and biased for action, I am finally taking the first steps to share some of my thoughts and actions with others. Hope you enjoy the experience!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Gear Review: Garmin Forerunner 305

This thing has changed the way I run.  I have always been interested in numbers, but now when I finish a run, I cannot wait to get in the house and download all the data to my laptop to pore over and obsess about.  Truth be told, I have wanted one of these since I first saw one several years ago, but could never justify the cost because I didn’t run enough. When I finally started running regularly last year, I didn’t want to totally geek out with the GPS just in case my running was just another passing fad, so I bought a Nike+ sportband.  While the sportband and I tracked a lot of miles together, I was never truly happy (see why here).  My next “tracking device” was the Nike+ GPS app on the iPhone. The app worked ok, though it would occasionally lose a run, and mine never tracked the pace correctly while I was running.  Also, this meant I had to carry my phone in a way that I could see the screen so that I knew how far I had gone and when I needed to turn around. Anyway, finally, last month, I read a review on the Garmin Forerunner 205/305 on runblogger and was hooked.  Additionally, I found it on Amazon for $128 with the heart rate monitor! I ordered it that night and couldn’t wait for it to come in.

When I got it, I immediately went for a run and fell in love. Right there on my left wrist was total time, distance, pace, and heart rate…and it was accurate! It was awesome! Additionally, truth be told, there are tons of features on this piece of gear that I have not even attempted to explore yet (but I will someday I’m sure). Alright, here’s my breakdown:

Pros:  - Accurate GPS distance
           - Display is easy to read
           - Heart rate monitor is easy to sync to the watch
           - Price!
           - Many options for reviewing training data (included Garmin Training Center, Garmin Connect (online), and most important – it sinks flawlessly with the DailyMile)

Cons: - Size. This thing is huge and not that stylish

To sum it up, buy this device, and buy it quickly! It is awesome and will change the way you train.

Gear Review: CEP Running Progressive Compression Socks

In a word, awesome.

Alright, initially I was pretty skeptical about compression socks as the only people I saw wearing them were total running badasses (at least they looked like elites).  Additionally, I wasn’t sure if I could really benefit from compression socks as my only reason for getting them was to try and prevent the soreness in my calves after long runs.  I’m proud to report that after runs of 6, 12, and 22 miles, mission accomplished. My calves have never felt better. Also, I have noticed that when plodding (I wish I could say running, but most of the time it’s plodding) up the hills my calves are definitely not as fatigued as they used to be.  So, to break it down:

Pros:  - They look badass and they make me feel fast
          -  They fit great (I used the sizing chart on the CEP website)
         - Significantly reduced soreness and fatigue in my calves as well as reduced swelling in my feet
         - They breath very well

Cons:  - Price.  These seem to be extremely high quality and the price is comparable with other products,  but it’s a little steep for me (I paid $59 on Amazon).
          -  You can break your hands/fingers/feet trying to get these things on and off!

Seriously though, these compression socks have performed flawlessly, feel like a high quality product (good material, etc..), and have been worth every penny.  If you are looking to get some compression socks, you can’t go wrong with these!

Gear Review: Saucony Kinvara

This is the first minimalist shoe that I have owned (besides my VFFs), and I am absolutely hooked.  In fact, I have two pairs of the Kinvaras; one in white/red and one in yellow/black.  So far I have logged about 200 miles in each as I switch them out every other day or so.

Last year I was training in Asics, which were like running on pillows; very comfortable on the feet over the long miles, but not so comfortable on my hips. Not sure if the shoes were entirely (or at all) to blame for the hip pain, as it could have been due to any other number of factors. All in all, I logged about 400 miles on the Asics before hanging them up early this year. 

So, back to the Kinvaras. In January, I went to one of my local runing stores, The Treadmill, to purchase some new shoes.  After a few quick "test drives" I decided on the Kinvaras. 

Pros: sharp looking shoe, very light, minimalist shoe, feels cushy even though there is not much there, mesh design makes the shoe breezy, feels like wearing socks.

Cons: tread shows wear very quickly (though after 200+ miles they are still in great shape), mesh design rips easily.

All in all, this is a great shoe.  Granted I am a novice runner, but since switching to the Kinvara I have had no hip pain whatsoever and the shoe provides enough cushioning that my feet aren't "beatdown" after my long runs. I will definitely run the San Francisco Marathon in these and am strongly considering picking up the Kinvara's trail counterpart, the Peregrine (after reading the review on Runblogger), for the North Face Endurance Challenge in December.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Race Review: Virginia is for Lovers 14K, Feb 13, 2010

Long sleeve tech tee and finisher's medal

First time running a real race and in the blowing snow no less (in Virginia Beach)! I signed up for this race at the last minute at the behest of a couple of friends who were running the race as a tune-up for the Shamrock Half-Marathon a month later. Mind you that this was my first race, so I had no idea what to expect.

As I woke up race day morning, it was cold! In the low 30s with snow forecast for the run.  I was a little worried about there being ice on the road, so this only served to make me more nervous! I drove to my buddy’s house so that we could ride over together, as he lived pretty close to the race site. As usual, he was running late, so I was getting more and more uptight, but he assured me that it was just a run and there would be plenty of parking, so I needed to relax; easier said than done. As we left his house and turned the corner, traffic was already backed up trying to park, so I was sure that we were going to miss the start. Fortunately, we did not miss the start and arrived with about 20 minutes to spare.  Since it was so cold, I decided to run in my windsuit pants with a tank top covered by a thin long-sleeve shirt, beanie and gloves. While this was a great combo for the run itself, I was freezing at the conclusion of the race as I had not thought to bring any other clothes for the post-race party.  Anyway, here’s the particulars:
Weather: F

Cold and blowing snow (though not sticking). Temp in the low 30s throughout and wind gusts to 29 mph!
Organization: A

J & A Racing does an awesome job putting on races. In addition to the VIFL 14K, they also do the Shamrock, Wicked 10K and the Surf & Santa 10 miler, so needless to say, the race was very well organized from packet pick-up all the way to the post-race party.
Course: B

The course was not bad, but had several transition sections from road to grass or sidewalk with lots of curbs to step up on and over.  With the amount of people out, this was somewhat treacherous, but not unmanageable, though frustrating at times. In my opinion, the course routing was insufficient for the amount of people that showed up, as in several sections participants going both out and back were sharing a sidewalk and the grass adjacent to it. In other spots though, the course was wide open with more than enough room to accommodate everyone. Also, you get to run through the Virginia Beach Amphitheatre just before the end of the race.  Being a big music fan, I thought that was pretty cool.  This was also the only hill in the race!
Medal: B+ A

The medal was cool, but nothing too large or too fancy. Honestly though, it being my first medal I had nothing to compare it to, so perhaps I’ll bump the grade up.

Schwag: B
Not too much schwag included in the race, but the race t-shirt was a long sleeve tech shirt. Being that it was white with red lettering and hearts and stuff all over it as well as the phrase “Run Passionately” on the sleeve, the wife ended up getting it.

Post-Race: A

The post-race party was pretty cool. They had a large enclosed shelter set up that was heated and inside was free burritos from Moe’s Southwest Grill and beer! I never knew that runners drank beer immediately following a race, and at 10 am no less! There was also music from Rock Star Parking and they were awesome!
My Performance: C

All in all, not a bad run for a first race, but nothing to brag about.  The distance was 14K (8.69 miles) and I ran it in 1:16:37 to place 39/121 in my age group and 451/2057 overall.
Overall Grade: B+

I will most definitely run this race again when I get back to Virginia Beach. After all, it was my first race, so there’s some sentimental value there, and I’d really like to run it with my wife and maybe put out a Valentine’s Day sign along the course for her.  So, if you’re ever in Virginia Beach in February, check this race out, it’s a good time.
For more info, or to register, go to:

Julie's scrapbook page

Posted by Thinky D.

Race Review: Dismal Swamp Stomp Half-Marathon

Race Report: Dismal Swamp Stomp Half-Marathon – Apr 17, 2010

Short sleeve Eastbay tech tee and race medal
First off, let me say that the Dismal Swamp Canal Trail is an awesome place to train. It is an out & back approximately 8 mile paved road with no traffic.  It is also nearly 100% flat, meaning that whether you are running or cycling, it’s a great place to go fast, though the wind does occasionally roar through some areas. You can also see some black bears every once in a while crossing the road or lurking on the road sides!

This was our second half-marathon, and honestly neither of us ran much following the Shamrock a few weeks earlier, and our performance suffered. Anyway, here are the particulars:
Weather: C

Hot and humid, even for April.  This was compounded by the fact that the course is surrounded by dense vegetation which just seems to hold in the sweltering temps. Granted we weren’t in the best condition to race to start with, but the weather definitely didn’t help either.
Organization: A

No complaints at all with the organization of the race. There was plenty of parking, plenty of porta potties and plenty of room to run without feeling overcrowded.
Course: B

The course was flat and fast, though felt like the road that would not end.  The route was an out & back that followed the canal, and there was plenty of on-course support provided by excellent volunteers.  Additionally, the registration numbers weren’t that high, so there was plenty of room for everyone to get out of the gate quickly and run their own race.
Medal: B

The medal was nice, but plain.

Cost & Schwag: B

At $50, the registration fee is a steal; however, you don’t get a ton for it. We got Eastside “technical” shirts (mine was ripped, but they replaced it the next morning no questions asked) and some coupons.  The finish did feature pizza though, which is always a plus in my book.
Post-Race: A

The post-race party was decent.  They had a large tractor trailer stage set up with a live band providing post-race entertainment. There was also a ton of free pizza and water available. We didn’t stick around for the awards ceremony, but we did see the awards and they looked quite impressive. 
My Performance: D

Would have been a “F,” but I got to run with the wife and I did finish, so therefore I give it a “D.” I ran it in 2:26:52 to place 359/422 for males and 609/859 overall.
Overall Grade: B-

It’s a good race for a good cause (supporting the local community) and I would definitely do it again, though with much better preparation. 
For more info, or to register, go to:

Julie's scrapbook page

Race Review: The Yuengling Shamrock Half Marathon

Brooks short sleeve tech tee, cotton long sleeve finisher's shirt, finishers running hat, bag, and awesome medal

Talk about a weekend event!  This race is hosted by J & A Racing and they do a fantastic job.  The weekend starts on Friday with packet pick-up and a huge fitness expo, followed Saturday by the Townebank 8K and children’s marathon.  Sunday brings the marathon and half marathon. 

This was our first half marathon so we were excited and nervous.  We arrived at the race super early and found plenty of volunteers pointing out directions to parking areas.  The temperature was in the 50s so it was a little chilly hanging out by the port o potties waiting for the sun to come up.  The race start is set up in corrals depending on what you put down as your anticipated finish time when you registered.  With the race weekend capping out around 24,000 participants the corrals were a bit packed so we just squeezed in where we thought we should be!  The sun slowly rose and before we knew it we were off and running!  There were a lot of people on the course but there was plenty of room.  The entire road was shut down as we made our way away from the strip and headed out toward Joint Expeditionary Base, Fort Story.  While running through Fort Story you pass the midway point and get a great view of the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Henry light house.  The course loops around and finishes on the world famous boardwalk just past the majestic figure of King Neptune.  There are hydration stations every 1.5 miles along the course offering water and Gatorade and some gels at the half way point.  J & A Racing is a huge race organization so the support for this race was amazing.  Volunteers and supporters were out on the course cheering us on the whole way!    
Weather: A 

It was chilly when we first arrived but we are talking Virginia Beach in March.  It’s chilly but once the sun came up and we got out there it was great.  The post-race party was also great because it was right on the beach with the sun shining and warming everything up!
Organization: A

J & A Racing is awesome and they do a great job putting on events.  If you travel to Virginia Beach on a regular basis check out the Live, Love, Run VB Challenge that J & A puts on.  Run their four races throughout the year and you get a commemorative item!  On a side note…unfortunately for us we have not been able to pull this challenge off yet.  We originally missed the Shamrock registration so we had to buy our bibs from some other people.  During the race I wore a bib with the name Colleen on it while my good natured hubby wore a bib with the name Amanda!
Course: B

The course is great as far as plenty of room goes.  It is very flat and the finish on the boardwalk and beach is awesome (make sure you check out the huge sand sculpture created special every year for this race).  Our only complaint was that running out to Fort Story is pretty boring and then running back to the beach is boring.  Not really sure how they could change this, maybe we are just picky!
Medal: A

This was my first medal and my hubby’s second.  I was pretty darn impressed with it and after accumulating more I am still pretty impressed with it.  It is not your average circle or square medal.  It is shaped like a Shamrock and is pretty hefty!  They change the design every year so for a race that is 40 years old that is saying something!

Schwag: A

For this race we received a long sleeve everyday tee shirt, a Brooks technical short sleeve, a running hat,  a cloth bag that we got at the expo with our bibs and lots of little treats (gels, beans, coupons), and finally the awesome medal.
Post-Race: A

The post-race party was great.  There was plenty or Yuengling Beer, Murphy’s Irish stew, and great music.  The party was on the beach which was nice because if the tent area felt like it was getting crowded you could just step outside and relax in the sand. 
Our Performance: B-

This was our first half and I am by no means upset about our B-.  We came in around 2:18.  I do realize now that I should have put in more training (I only did the long runs while hubby and his buddies were out there five to six days a week).  We did awesome until around mile 11 then I really started slowing us down.  We never walked though so that I am proud of!  We don’t always run our races together so I am pretty glad that we did run our first half together…how awesome is that?!!!
Overall Grade: A

We will run this race again.  Not sure if we will do the half or try the marathon but we will conquer that VB Challenge and get that commemorative item someday!!!
For more info, or to register, go to:

Julie's scrapbook page (we bought bibs from someone else since we didn't register in time)

Posted by the Head Thinker